The Ultimate Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando

Whether you’re a diehard Potter-head or just a casual fan, everyone can appreciate all the details at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. This Harry Potter guide will cover everything you need to know to make the most of your visit.       

Growing up in Florida, anyone will tell you that everyone has a preference between Disney World and Universal. I’ve always considered myself to be a Disney girl at heart. The parks are known for their incredible detail, but Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter can compete with the best of them. Expect large crowds for this area and long wait times, but it’s absolutely worth it! 

This guide will cover everything you need to do, eat, and see for your Wizarding World adventure!

Overview

About Universal Orlando Resort

Universal globe | Wizarding World of Harry Potter guide

Universal Orlando Resort is made up of two theme parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They also have a water park, Volcano Bay. The parks focus on movies and television, like The Simpsons, Jurassic Park, and Marvel. 

Universal is also in the middle of building a new theme park, Epic Universe, which is expected to open in 2025.

How To Get There

If you’re flying in, Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the closest major airport, about 15 miles from Universal Orlando Resort.  

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is divided into Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.

Getting Around

Hogwarts Express at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Universal has complimentary water taxis and shuttle buses from the hotels if you plan to stay on the property. On the other hand, if you plan to leave the resort, I’d recommend renting a car. Orlando is pretty spread out, and relying on Uber and Lyft can get pricey.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are within walking distance, so you don’t have to worry about getting from park to park. 

Ticket Options

The best way to visit both areas of the Wizarding World is to buy a park-to-park ticket. While you could always do a two-day, one-park ticket (one park each day), you won’t be able to ride the Hogwarts Express between the two areas. 

The Wizarding World is definitely the busiest area of both theme parks. If you want to skip the line, consider an Express Pass. Prices start at $80 (on top of your park admission) and increase on busier days. Keep in mind that the Express Pass is not available at newer attractions, like Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.  

How Long To Visit

This really depends on how busy the park is when you go and how much of each park you want to see. If visiting the Wizarding World is your main goal, you can see it all in a single day. However, if you want to explore everything Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure offer, I’d plan to spend two days at the resort. 

When To Visit

Florida is generally a year-round destination. However, if you take into account weather, prices, and crowds, you typically want to avoid long weekends, holidays, and the summer. 

I like to visit Universal around January to March (before spring break) and then from September to November (before Thanksgiving). If you want to see the Christmas decorations, don’t wait until December. They usually go up in November when you can avoid the holiday crowds.

Hogsmeade village at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Where To Stay

Orlando and the surrounding areas have hundreds of hotels to choose from. The most convenient option when visiting Universal Orlando is staying onsite. Not only are you close to the action, but you get free transportation to the parks and Early Park Admission. 

Something else to consider is how much time you plan to spend in your room. If you’re going to be at the parks all day, you might want to save some money and pick a budget hotel. 

Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – $

Universal’s Endless Summer Resort is their value hotel, and it’s the newest property. It’s similarly priced to other budget offsite hotels, so with the extra perks, it’s a great option! 

Universal’s Aventura Hotel – $$

The Aventura Hotel is also a relatively new build with views of all the Universal theme parks. You can also walk to Volcano Bay if you plan on visiting the water park during your stay.  

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – $$$

If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is it. The hotel is designed to look like a seaside village in Italy. Along with transportation to the parks and Early Park Admission, your stay includes Universal Express Unlimited, so you can skip lines at many attractions. 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Guide

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley in Universal Studios is the newer of the two areas of The Wizarding World. You’ll see King’s Cross Station and “muggle” London from the outside. After going through the brick entrance (you can even hear the bricks “moving”), you’ll be greeted with an awesome view of wizarding shops.

To Do

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

The highlight of Diagon Alley is the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. You can’t miss it. It’s the one with a massive fire-breathing dragon perched on top. The dragon breathes fire every 15 minutes, and you’ll hear the low grumble before it happens.  

The ride’s queue alone is worth a visit. It’s modeled to look just like the lobby of Gringotts, complete with working goblins and massive chandeliers. Once on the ride, you’ll go deep into the vault of Gringotts to help Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape from some familiar villains.

Gringotts Money Exchange

Exchange your muggle currency for wizard money which you can use within Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. You can also talk to the working goblin.

While you can exchange any leftover money back for real money at Guest Services, I recommend exchanging a small amount, to begin with, so you don’t have to worry about trading it back. 

Hogwarts Express

Platform 9 3/4 at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

There’s no better way to get to Hogsmeade than on the Hogwarts Express. You’ll need a park-to-park ticket to board the ride. You’ll even walk through a “brick wall” to get onto Platform 9 ¾. As you travel between the parks, you’ll be seated in a compartment with a video projected on the windows showing your favorite characters and some well-known wizarding sights. 

The ride from Hogsmeade station to King’s Cross has a different video, so you’ll have to ride it each way to get the whole experience. 

Knight Bus

Parked just outside of Diagon Alley is the Knight Bus with a conductor and talking shrunken head. The bus at Universal Studios Florida is actually one of the two prop buses used in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film. 

Knockturn Alley

Knockturn Alley is easy to miss as the entrances are hidden. There’s one just past Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour and another near Madam Malkin’s. Once you walk down the dark corridor, you’ll see Borgin and Burkes, the place to shop for anything related to the Dark Arts.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes

There’s plenty of shopping in Diagon Alley, but Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is the most whimsical. It’s colorful and full of jokes and toys. There’s also Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions for your Hogwarts uniforms, the Magical Menagerie for your magical pets, and Quality Quidditch Supplies for all your sporting goods needs. 

Quality Quidditch Supplies storefront at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

12 Grimmauld Place

Outside Diagon Alley, in “muggle” London, you’ll see Number 12 Grimmauld Place. If you watch the windows, Kreacher the house-elf occasionally peeks out.

To Eat

The Leaky Cauldron

The most appropriate place to grab a meal before your journey to Hogsmeade is the Leaky Cauldron. They serve traditional British fares, like fisherman’s pie and fish and chips. 

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour

Check out this ice cream shop for specialty flavors, like Butterbeer and Sticky Toffee Pudding.

The Hopping Pot

The Hopping Pot serves alcoholic beverages like Fire Whiskey, along with the usual Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice.

Hogsmeade

Hogsmeade train station

Hogsmeade Village was the first area of the Wizarding World built. After leaving the train station, you’ll enter Hogsmeade village, full of wizarding shops and treats. 

To Do

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey takes you through Hogwarts castle, including the Great Hall and the Quidditch pitch. The queue is a tour through Hogwarts. You’ll see the greenhouse, moving portraits in the corridors, Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, and the Gryffindor common room.

Hogwarts Castle at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

The newest ride in The Wizarding World will take you on Hagrid’s motorbike away from Hogwarts and into the Forbidden Forest to see magical creatures.  

Ollivanders

There are actually two Ollivanders wand shops, one in each park. While there’s an interactive show where you can see how a wand chooses a wizard, you can also just walk inside to browse the wands.  

If you choose an interactive wand, you can use it throughout The Wizarding World to interact with props. They come with a map to show you where you can cast spells.

Honeydukes

Honeydukes is my favorite shop in Hogsmeade. The shelves are full of colorful wizarding treats, including Acid Pops, Chocolate Frogs, and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. I’d also recommend checking out Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods to see the Marauder’s Map and Dervish and Banges for the moving Monster Book of Monsters

Owl Post

The Owl Post is the place to pick up stationary, quills, and ink. You can also mail letters home with a special Hogsmeade postmark.

To See

The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle

On select nights in the spring and summer, projections are cast onto Hogwarts castle with music and lighting effects. 

Around September and October (just in time for Halloween), the projections take a darker turn. Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle features Dementor and Death Eaters. 

To Eat

Three Broomsticks

The Three Broomsticks is another great option for a traditional British meal with a Butterbeer. 

Hog’s Head

The Hog’s Head is connected to the Three Broomsticks. It’s the perfect place for wine, spirits, and mixed drinks. They even have their own Hog’s Head Brew. While waiting for your drink, check out the moving hog’s head hanging behind the bar. 

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