One day at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios is just the right amount of time for us Harry Potter fans who want to experience all the best it has to offer. I’ve been lucky enough now to have made it to Orlando twice. On my last trip to Florida, I got the chance to spend a day exploring Universal Studios Orlando! Honestly, much more than a day is too much for me, but I love my theme parks in small doses at least – see my Disney post and King’s Dominion post. Also, I seriously LOVE Harry Potter! I read all the books growing up and the characters in the movies are basically the same age as me so I really related growing up. Harry Potter World is completely different from other theme parks I have visited and here is your muggle’s guide to Harry Potter World!
I do need to say that we had planned on making it to just Harry Potter World while we were there, but ended up spending time in other parts of the park too. There’s probably enough to do in Harry Potter World if you are into eating there, finding all the magical spots, and going to the shows. I will be writing another post about this, but know you can do more than Harry Potter World in a day!
I hope this post helps you plan the perfect day at Harry Potter World in Orlando!
About Universal Studios Orlando
First, there are two main theme parks and a water park that make up the entire park. Parking is easy and pretty cheap considering (only $20). We got there pretty early around 9:30am and were able to walk directly from our parking spot into the park. As you enter, you go through the resort, through security, then to the ticket lines. There is a lot of waiting involved in all of these separate lines.
You do not need a ticket to walk through the resort which was odd to us at first because we kept wondering if we missed the entrance, however they just want you to go through all the shops and restaurants first – you do eventually reach the entrance to security. The Resort is a great spot to eat outside the park with prices much more reasonable than inside plus you can leave anytime and come back without an issue. More on this later!
Harry Potter World is located inside both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando. If you want to see all of Harry Potter World, you have to buy a park to park ticket (annoying I know), but that is the only way to see it all. You can take the Hogwarts Express between the two parks which is a ride all by itself with interesting features as you transition from one park to another.
How Long to Spend at Harry Potter World
You can definitely see all of Harry Potter World in a day. We had no difficulties seeing everything in the park in pretty much 6 hours. We then had extra time to walk around the rest of the park and explore what it had to offer. I recommend getting and early start because Harry Potter World is definitely a popular spot in Universal and the lines can get really long.
Getting into Harry Potter World
My first suggestion is starting in Diagon Alley which is located in the Universal Studios Florida Park. This side was definitely more crowded and had longer lines for rides even though we started early in the day here. We were able to use our phones as tickets without a problem and get started walking through right away. Diagon Alley is located in the back of Florida Park so you will walk through other parts of the park to get there. When you get there, the entrance is hidden in downtown London. You walk between a series of walls and are magically in Diagon Alley!
If you want to enter through Hogsmeade, you can go into Universal Studios Island of Adventure first instead. You walk through to the back of the park and are in Hogsmeade using the signs. This side of the park did not feel as magical to us because there were no secret entrances and you could see it from other portions of the park. Plus, the buildings are lined with fake snow but it was like 90 degrees in October. It did however have its own charm and is not to be missed! I just suggest starting in the other part to feel the “magic” of Harry Potter first.
Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade – The Two Sides of Harry Potter World
Both sides of the park are unique. I loved Diagon Alley for its magical feel, but Hogsmeade had better rides. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade have the same shops. So if you miss candy or butter beer on one side of the park, you can still get it on the other.
To get from one side of the park to the other, you need to take the Hogwarts Express and have a park to park ticket. They check tickets before you enter the train. It is a ride as well with an interactive show as you travel from one park to the other.
There is only one ride in Diagon Alley – Escape from Gringotts and it is tons of fun! The big draw of Diagon Alley for me was that it was full of magic. It really feels like you are in Harry Potter. The shops have food and candy from the movies and books as well as recognizable places. Knockturn Alley is even there! Every turn brought you to another magical spot. A squeaky door that made something move, a magical animal in a shop, and all the staff refers to you as muggles. The pub is located here as well – The Leaky Culdron and I definitely recommend this as a stop if you want to try some exclusive beers.
Spend time going through the shops and finding all the hidden magic spots. I feel like if I tell you about all the spots we found, I’ll ruin it! But know they are there and there are often lines to see them. If you have a wand, Diagon Alley definitely has the most magical spots to find and there were lines to try out the magic. Expect to wait for this if you do purchase an interactive wand. More on finding and purchasing a wand below! We had fun watching all of the spots where there were magical features.
Don’t forget to watch the dragon on top of Gringotts as it spits real fire! Lots of people stand around holding their phones waiting for this to happen. It was pretty cool but also funny to watch all the people with their phones (spoiler – I was one of them).
This side of the park has more rides and the Hogwarts Castle which was really cool. The entire Hogwarts Castle is an indoor roller coaster ride called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The castle was like a ride all on its own! We had fun waiting in line watching the interactive pictures, newspapers, and watching snow fall from the ceiling of the dining hall.
The other ride in Hogsmeade is Flight of the Hippogryph which is a small rollercoaster that is outdoors. It is fun and fairly short.
Hogsmeade is also where you find the wand shop with the magical show. Many of the shops here are the same as Diagon Alley but make sure you stop in a few to experience the magic!
Getting a Wand
This leads me to my next piece. Both sides of the park have “magical spots” where you can use an interactive wand they sell to make things happen. Things like water spitting from a faucet or an animal moving in the window of a shop. This is a really cool and unique feature that makes getting an interactive wand really tempting.
I debated this one really hard. Should I get a wand? I looked at prices and interactive wands ranged from $50 – $60 a piece. Regular wands were $30 – $45 a piece. This price seemed like way too much and for this reason, I decided against getting one. We were still able to see lots of the magic happening as others had interactive wands. The magical spots were not hard to find because people were lined up waiting for turns in most spots.
If you do decide to get a wand, go to Olivander’s on the Hogsmeade side and go into the line at the side of the wand shop. There are wand shops in both sides of the park, but the Olivander’s in Hogsmeade has some special features. There is a little show that goes along with finding your wand and the “owner of the shop” picks a member of the audience to pick their wand. It was a fun thing to experience and happens much like the books and movies.
All of the food in Harry Potter World is inspired by England. This felt too heavy for us to try to eat in a theme park during the day, but sounded interesting! In Diagon Alley you will find the Leaky Culdron which has both a bar and restaurant. The Leaky Caldron also serves breakfast if you want to have breakfast in the park! You will find things like fish and chips, bangers and mash, fisherman’s pie, and more. These traditional English foods are delicious (as I’ve heard from friends), but we did not eat here. Hogsmeade also has Three Broomsticks which serves many of the same dishes and is only open for lunch and dinner. Hogshead is the bar located in Hogsmeade serving the same specialty beers and drinks.
Storing Your Things
One great feature about Universal is they have lockers where you can keep your things for up to two hours while you are on a ride for free. You simply use your finger print to have it remember you and they give you a locker number to remember.
I hope this post has helped you think about how to plan a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal! We had a blast here for the day and I know you will too! Don’t forget to check out my post about ways to save here.
Have you been to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios? What was your favorite part?
Want to hear about how to spend one day at Disney World? Read my article here!