Last month we spent 5 days in Orlando and hit every Universal Studios theme park from top to bottom with my 8 year old niece and 10 year old nephew (and their parents of course!) The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of those things where it doesn’t really matter if you’re a diehard super fan or a total newbie, you’re gonna love it!! It’s appealing to everyone which makes it a HUGELY popular portion of the parks as well as extremely busy. If you’re not staying at a Universal Orlando Resort then you should be! You’re seriously missing out. We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort which granted us early admission to the parks. And…. it’s literally a life saver! Early park access allows you into the park one hour before the gates open. Translation: You’re in line ahead of everyone else!! Have I gotten your attention yet??? Keep reading…..
Ok so early admission is only available for a few select rides, BUT two of those rides are Harry Potter themed! So what better place to start the day, than the Wizarding World!?!? We made a beeline to Diagon Alley!!! You’ll be tempted to stop and gawk at all of the marvelous details, but don’t! There will be plenty of time for that. Put your blinders on and head straight to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts for a ride full of thrills and excitement. We raced right to the front of the line and got on with less than a 15 minute wait thanks to our early access! Look for the gold statue of the Goblin Gringott, the bank’s founder. Ok now it’s time to take in all of the gorgeous over the top details!!!
Next swing by the Gringotts Money Exchange and chat up the goblin behind the counter. Ask him a question and he’ll interact with you accordingly. We asked him if he was a house elf and he gave us quite the response! And again thanks to our early park access we felt like VIPs. We were the only ones in there with him at the time. Try this later in the day and I’m sure you can expect to wait in a crowded line and shouting park goers.
The kids absolutely loved exchanging their Muggle money for REAL Gringotts bank notes! You can spend it ANYWHERE in Universal Studios, keep it as a souvenir or switch it back to Muggle money at the end of the day.
The theming in Diagon Alley is unbelievable!!! I mean seriously like every little detail is taken into account. Diagon Alley is home to Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, the Leaky Cauldron, the Fountain of Fair Fortune, The Hopping Pot, which all serve the very best authentic Harry Potter themed food and drink selections. As well as iconic shops like Borgin and Burkes, Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, the Magical Menagerie, Quailty Quidditch Supplies, Scribbulus, Sugarplum’s Sweetshop, Wands by Gregorvitch, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, and of course Ollivanders for all of your wizarding souvenir needs! I think I better grab some more Gringotts bank notes ASAP!!! You could literally spend a whole day here! Early access allowed us to enjoy all of this without the shoulder to shoulder crowds that you’ll find as the day goes on.
Early park admission also allowed us to get into Ollivander’s Wand Choosing Ceremony with just a five minute wait! REALLY!!! If you’re planning to purchase a wand, you absolutely MUST partake in this one of a kind and possibly life-changing, interactive experience. One lucky audience member receives a truly magical moment when a wand chooses them to be their wizard! If you’re standing in the front or wearing Harry Potter themed gear, your odds are increasingly better to become the chosen wizard! Once you have selected your wand, you’ll be outfitted with a map that shows you where all the spells can be found. Nathan and Ellie reached master spell casting status in record time! Spells can be cast at any of the gold plaques found throughout the area. And don’t worry if your kids mangle the magical words like “wingedium leviosa”, it’s more about the hand motions.
Every Harry Potter fan knows that a trip to the Wizarding World would not be complete without grabbing a Butterbeer! We snagged ours at The Fountain of Fair Fortune. Obviously you can never have enough Butterbeer so we tried both the original and the frozen. Our groups of wizards agreed the frozen was our favorite, especially with Orlando temps in the high eighties during our visit! You’ll be tempted to gulp it down, but drink slowly and enjoy it. Even wizards aren’t excluded from brain freeze! You can also find Butterbeer flavored ice cream, fudge and potted cream throughout the parks!
If you hear a low grumble while in Diagon Alley, be sure to look up! The massive fire-breathing dragon perched atop the Gringotts Bank spits real fire across the sky every 10 minutes or so! It’s truly spectacular!!
Drop into Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop and marvel at the drool-worthy confections! Even the most traditional Muggle won’t be able to resist a sweet treat! Cupcakes for breakfast are totally ok on vacation. I said so! We gobbled down a chocolate cauldron in record time. The plastic cauldron can be used to make more at home. So cute! And remember if you’re staying at a Universal Orlando Resort, you can send your souvenirs directly to your room (or the front desk). That’s pretty magical in itself! So grab an extra chocolate frog to take home with you, without the worry of it melting.
Head into the phone booth in Muggle London outside the King’s Cross Station! If you dial MAGIC (62442) you can get the Ministry of Magic itself on the line! The phone is an old fashioned rotary so we had to show our little Weasley doppelgängers how to use it! I’m not old, you’re old!! Jump inside before the crowds arrive! The Knight Bus is nearby as well. Make sure you meet the conductor and talk up Dre Head while you’re there!
Enter the King’s Cross Station and jump aboard the Hogwart’s Express! You’ll need Park to Park admission to board this ride. This train will take you from London (Universal Studios) into the British countryside (Islands of Adventure). It’s a great way to venture from park to park without all the walking.
Again no detail is spared when it comes to authenticity here! Be sure to look for platform 9-3/4, the disappearing platform, and the perfume billboard similar to the one in Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince.
The coolest part about the Hogwart’s Express aside from the fact that’s it’s saving you at least 2000 steps on your Fitbit, is that fact that it’s a different ride each way! Make sure you do both!!
Snow-capped roofs and dramatically curved chimneys line the streets and lead the way to it’s main attraction Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You’ll find a whole slew of attractions in Hogsmeade! Grab a bite to eat at Three Broomsticks or a drink at Hog’s Head. Shop til you drop at Dervish and Banges, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, or Honeydukes. You can even mail a letter from the Owl Post complete with a special Hogsmeade postmark to your favorite Harry Potter fan at home! You just might even hear Moaning Myrtle wailing from the bathrooms! As you can see the crowds pick up a bit in the afternoon which is why we made it a priority to spend our early access in these areas.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is an absolute MUST!!! Join Harry and his friends on the most unforgettable ride as you soar across the sky on broomsticks and come face to face with magical creatures. If the line is under an hour, stop what you’re doing and run to this ride! Heck even if it isn’t, make sure you take a spin…or five…..or six! The theming while you wait is enough to keep you entertained all day. From talking portraits to an impromptu snow storm, you’ll be amazed at every turn. This was by far not only the best ride in the park, but the best theme park ride I’ve ever been on!! Absolutely mesmerizing!!! You’re gonna love it!!!
There’s so many things to see, do, and eat in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It was amazing to be in there early before the crowds and the hot sun in the afternoon. I can honestly say that it was totally worth it and made our trip so much more enjoyable and stress free!! We really didn’t have to wait very long for anything AND were able to cross off everything on list! But…..I still can’t wait to go back!! If you’re headed to Orlando be sure to check out our Top Ten Things to Eat at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Our Incredible Day at Volcano Bay!
Shop this post! Get your Harry Potter gear ready before you hit the parks!