We have a confession. We love the Wizarding World of Harry Potter World at Universal Orlando. I know, I know, you thought this blog was all about Disney, but we can’t let you Disney People go on without knowing that there are two other non-Disney parks that hold a piece of our hearts. In celebration of 20 years since the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we want to let you in on our Must-Dos at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.
This post includes attractions from both Harry Potter areas at Universal Orlando: Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. To visit both parks in the same day, you will need a Park-to-Park ticket. Of course there are many other things we love at Universal Orlando, but that’s a post for another day. For now, enjoy our 6 Must-Dos at Harry Potter Universal Orlando and keep in mind that these must-dos are in no particular order.
I want to talk about this first because it is the first thing that comes to mind when many people think of Harry Potter World. When the first area of the Wizarding World opened, this was a must-try for everyone and became a huge cult hit. We have purchased the regular Butterbeer, the hot Butterbeer, and the Frozen Butterbeer and the Frozen Butterbeer is the clear winner. This butterscotch deliciousness is the perfect drink to cool off while walking in the Florida sun or while relaxing inside the Three Broomsticks.
Tip: If you plan to drink butterbeer at Hogsmeade, grab a Butterbeer from inside the Hog’s Head Pub beside the Three Broomsticks. The line here is air-conditioned and often shorter than the outdoor carts.
Visit Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour
Colton is a big ice-cream fan and this is a definite must-do while visiting Diagon Alley in Universal Studios park. Florean’s is situated just in front of Gringott’s and is the perfect spot to grab one of my favorite treats in Hogsmeade, Butterbeer ice cream.
Enjoy an ice cream cone while you bask in the awesomeness of the dragon atop Gringott’s. For those of you still unaware, this dragon breathes fire. Yes, it is as cool as it sounds. You’ll usually be able to tell when it is about to happen because regulars of the park will have their phones or cameras at the ready (or maybe they just know the exact times). You won’t want to miss it!
I also love to grab a Butterbeer ice cream in a waffle cone before we leave Diagon Alley and walk to King’s Cross to take a ride on the Hogwarts Express. You can also get the ice cream in a cup, but that just isn’t as fun. Plus, it doesn’t look as scrumptious.
Ride The Hogwarts Express
Butterbeer ice cream leads me to one of the most magical experiences in any theme park, a ride on the Hogwarts Express. To ride the Hogwarts Express, you must have a park-to-park ticket because it travels from Hogsmeade which is situated in Islands of Adventure to Diagon Alley which is situated in Universal Studios and vice versa. Before boarding, grab a bag of crisps to snack on throughout the ride. I prefer the Smoked Bacon flavor, but Colton’s favorite is the Prawn Cocktail. As you cross the barrier to platform 9 and 3/4 (yes, you really walk through the wall), you’ll stumble onto the incredibly magical platform and feel just like a first-year heading to Hogwarts.
Upon boarding, you enter your cabin and await the train’s departure. During the ride, you see and hear characters such as Hermione, Fred and George Weasley, and Hagrid. You also see famous scenes from Harry Potter, such as Hogwarts Castle and Malfoy Manor. There are two different “stories” during the ride, so you’ll want to ride to and from both parks. Make sure to bring some chocolate in case of dementors!
Eat at The Leaky Cauldron
Each time that we visit Diagon Alley, we have to make a stop at the Leaky Cauldron first. Our go-to meal, which is perfect for a light but filling lunch, is the Ploughman’s Platter. The Ploughman’s Platter consists of Scotch eggs, cornichon pickles, an apple beet salad, a selection of English cheeses, and bread.
A perfect sweet addition to this meal is the Sticky Toffee Pudding which is delicious and perfect to share (or not). As an added bonus, you can get an awesome Otter’s Fizzy Orange drink to go with your platter. We suggest arriving a little before noon so that you can beat the lunchtime crowd.
Do Some Wand Magic
If you purchase an interactive wand online or in the parks, you can put your wand abilities to the test and experience a little bit of magic throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. In both areas of the Harry Potter parks, there are locations where you use your interactive wand to perform different spells. To purchase a wand, you will want to visit Ollivander’s. If you wish to see the wand choosing ceremony at Ollivander’s, make sure to get there early because lines do form throughout the day. It is a lot of fun to experience the show, especially if you plan to buy a wand. When we took my younger brother for his first Universal visit a few years ago, he was actually chosen during the show!
If you opt not to buy a wand, you’ll still have an awesome time watching others perform their very own magic.
See the Queue for Forbidden Journey
Forbidden Journey is one of our all-time favorite rides in any park anywhere in the world, but the queue is part of what makes this attraction so wonderful. This ride is one where you (somewhat) hope the line is long– or completely empty– so that you can see and experience all that the queue has to offer, because it is truly spectacular for any Harry Potter nut.
Forbidden Journey is placed inside Hogwarts Castle and the queue takes you through all areas of the castle including Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts room, and the outdoor Herbology greenhouse where you will see (and hear) mandrakes!
You’ll also see the Sorting Hat, some famous portraits, and the Hogwarts House Cup Hourglasses for each house. The walk-through of this ride really gives you the feeling that you are visiting Hogwarts Castle, which is what we all wish to do!
Extra tip: As you’re heading out of Diagon Alley and leaving the Harry Potter area, don’t miss the Knight Bus right out front. For a true bonus, try to catch a glimpse of Kreacher sneaking about at Grimmauld Place!
That does it for our short list of the our must-dos at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is by no means a comprehensive list. We could write tons of posts on Harry Potter World as they are definitely the best themed non-Disney parks in the world.
Have you visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal? If so, what is a must-do on your list? What would you like to see at the park to make it even more magical? Let us know in the comments below.