Happy Thursday, book nerds! I just had two snow days from work, which never really happens, and I got so much done. Unfortunately I didn’t make much progress on any of my reading, but you win some, you lose some.
Today’s post will feature my guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, my favorite part of the Universal Orlando theme parks. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is amazing. Like I mentioned in Part One of The Book Lover’s Guide to Universal Orlando, the Wizarding World park feels authentic, like movie sets. These parks could easily be a theme park all on their own, with tons of great rides, shows, shops and food and beverage vendors.
Visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando – you won’t be disappointed. But first read the rest of this blog post so you’re fully prepared for your day (or days) at the park. Because trust me, you don’t want to miss a thing.
This post is part two of my two part series The Book Lover’s Guide to Universal Orlando. You can read part one here.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
Hogsmeade can be found in Universal’s Islands of Adventure park. On the morning of our visit Hogsmeade opened early for Universal Resort hotel guests. We entered the park right around 8:00 am and hopped in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, one of the few rides that guests are unable to use their Express Pass on. Unfortunately the ride was down so around 8:45 we gave up and looked around the shops for a while.
One thing I didn’t know before our visit is that the Express Pass lines don’t open until the whole park opens. As soon as the Express Pass line opened we rode The Flight of the Hippogriff. It was a fun, easy ride and the line was less than two minutes with our Express Passes.
The next ride we queued up for was the Dragon Challenge roller coaster, which I rode on my first visit to Universal during my freshman year of high school, back before it was a Harry Potter attraction. This ride experienced a short delay while we were in line, which was frustrating but only lasted ten minutes. It is important to know that Dragon Challenge is one of the Universal rides that allows nothing to be carried onto it. This is for safety reasons, and if you follow the rules you’ll have a much more happy experience at the park. There is nothing worse than watching a jerk berate the innocent Universal employees trying to enforce the rules that help ensure that our eyeballs stay in all of our heads. Don’t be that guy. It is equally important to know that there is an epic view of the Hogwarts castle from the early part of the Dragon Challenge line. Too bad you can’t bring your phone up there with you!
Although it was closed when we first tried to ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey reopened during our park visit and so we were able to get back in line. Again, Express Passes can’t be used on this ride and although the line gets long, in my opinion it’s a must. The long line is kept more manageable via sets and decorations, with the queue running through the Herbology Greenhouse and into and through Hogwarts castle. I loved the classic magical portraits which talked and moved as in the books and films, and the holographic characters conversing with the park goers. The ride itself is near the top of my list, as you go on a journey through Hogwarts, the Quidditch Pitch and even the Forbidden Forest. Just watch out for the Whomping Willow!
There are two shows performed at different times throughout the day in Hogsmeade, The Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally. It can be hard to get past the stage area when the performances are happening because so many park goers stop to watch. I can’t blame them, though, as the bits of the shows that we caught were great. The performers were professional and completely embodied their characters.
Grab a drink at Hog’s Head or sit down to eat at The Three Broomsticks. We didn’t eat at The Three Broomsticks on this trip but I did try it on my first visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2015. It was 100% worth the line and cost, and the fish and chips I got were stellar. The line can get prohibitive, sometimes stretching outside and through a series of rope dividers. The wait can be over an hour and a half. This time when we went to have lunch the wait was an estimated hour and 15 minutes which was just too much for us when we had been on a bunch of rides and were super hot and hungry.
The last thing we did in Hogsmeade was board the Hogwarts Express at Hogsmeade Station. The ride can only be taken by those with park hopper tickets because it is a trolley type ride which ends at King Cross Station in the London area of Universal Studios. If you’re a huge Potterhead, take the Hogwarts Express in both directions as the magical windows offer a different experience depending on the destination.
Rides We Enjoyed:
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge, Flight of the Hippogriff and Hogwarts Express (that’s a list of all of the rides, folks. we enjoyed them all).
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
Diagon Alley can be found in the London area of Universal Studios. It was my family’s first stop after we disembarked from the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station. While you’re at King’s Cross Station, don’t forget to visit Platform 9 3/4. We didn’t remember to stop, unfortunately.
After we emerged into the sunlight, we simply turned left and walked along the London streets for a short distance. When we came to an open brick building we walked through a winding series of walls and emerged in Diagon Alley.
Diagon Alley is so different from London that the effect is stunning and magical. Once again the park goer feels like they are walking the same streets as Harry and Ron, off on their own wizard adventure. The streets are lined with shops whose windows are filled with magical wares – books, pets, broomsticks and wands. Diagon Alley visitors can shop at any of an exhaustive list of wizarding shops: Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Magical Menagerie, Ollivanders, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Scribulus, Sugarplum’s Sweetshop, Wands by Gregorovitch, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.
These shops are amazing and although many of the souvenirs are costly, they are hard to resist as a Potterhead. There are affordable souvenir options as well, which makes me happy as an often-broke twenty something. What puts Diagon Alley over the top, though, is when the dragon perched on top of Gringotts Bank breathes fire.
The only ride in Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. It’s my favorite ride in all of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, although the Express Pass can’t be used. Even the queue area is fantastic, as the animatronic goblins working the desks at the bank are lifelike and true to the goblins featured in the films. These goblins, one of which talks and all of which move, help make the often long line more bearable.
Big Potter fans would enjoy going through the Ollivander’s wand ceremony. There is an Ollivander’s location on both sides of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so whether or not you have a chance to visit both parks you have the chance to go through the ceremony and get your wands. The new interactive wands available for purchase at Universal can be used to perform magic in the shop windows of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, with the help of friendly witches and wizards employed by Universal.
There are a number of choices for food and drink in Diagon Alley. Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, Leaky Cauldron, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment and The Hopping Pot offer a variety of food and drink choices, including six types of Butterbeer.
Knockturn Alley features interactive windows (for use with the wands) and the expansive Borgin and Burkes shop. This dark, dismal corner of the Wizarding World can be found in the back of Diagon Alley, beyond the cheery shops and Gringotts bank.
Two shows are performed in Diagon Alley. I saw The Tales of Beedle the Bard my first time at Diagon Alley but missed it on this trip. I did, however, see the majority of the last performance of Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees for the night. It was a sparkling, joyous show with fun music and talented performers. It’s worth taking a break from the rides and shops to relax and watch one of these short shows.
On your way out of Diagon Alley, stop by the Knight Bus in the London area of the park. Talk with the driver or get your photo taken with the tall purple bus.
I am sad to admit that I didn’t try any of the many versions of Butterbeer during my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (except for the tiny bit I licked off the top of my brother’s Butterbeer ice cream). My brother, however, had an amazing Butterbeer taste test with my parents at the end of the night. He first stopped at Sugarplum’s Sweetshop and bought Butterbeer fudge, grabbed Butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor and then headed to Leaky Cauldron for the three beverages – regular Butterbeer, frozen and hot, – and potted cream. Do better than me and try some Butterbeer!
Rides We Enjoyed:
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Thanks for reading Part Two of The Book Lover’s Guide to Universal Orlando, and for visiting the Erynn Loves Books blog.
Are you a Potterhead? Have you visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando before? What’s your favorite ride? Restaurant? Shop? Let’s talk about this awesome park!
Perhaps most importantly, what’s your favorite iteration of Butterbeer? Does anyone have a super delicious DIY recipe they’d be willing to share? I’ve got to fix my mistake of missing out on the classic Harry Potter beverage, and I’d love to make my own.
What are your thoughts on the new types of graphics and images I used in these Book Lover Guide posts? Do you like the new photos and think I should continue to utilize similar images on this blog?