I like to talk about Orlando a lot, but if I had to choose my favorite collection of goodies to experience, it would undoubtedly be the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter rides and attractions at Universal Orlando Resort’s theme parks! Check out this ultimate guide to the Harry Potter World Rides!
Harry Potter rides such as The Forbidden Journey, Flight Of The Hippogryph, and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure all the way to the Hogwarts Express leading to Escape From Gringotts Bank and the fire-breathing Dragon!
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter completely changed the game. Orlando is different since the advent of entirely immersive worlds introduced by Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle School Of Magic at Universal Islands Of Adventure!
Even before they added Harry Potter Escape From Gringotts and Kings Cross station at Diagon Alley on the Studios side of the resort, it was a stark change almost immediately when the boy who lived arrived in Orlando, Florida.
Sure, we had FantasyLand and Cartoon Lagoon, which were (and still are) excellent, but Universal changed the game with what they pulled together for a Harry Potter-themed world.
First, let me tell you that I have studied (no, really) and have been to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter dozens of times over the years.
As I’ve shared in previous articles, Universal Studios Orlando, and to a slightly lesser degree Disney World, was my home park for just about 15 years.
So, I know every inch of that place in a way that few others can claim. In fact, I will link a video I made about a few secret paths that can make your trip to Islands of Adventure a little smoother to this article.
Table of Contents
Universal Secret Paths Hidden From View
Harry Potter Comes To Universal Stuidos
Before Harry Potter, I can still remember going to what seemed like an abandoned Universal Studios and wondering, “how in the world does this place stay open?” My wife and I would walk empty streets on the way to rides with no line. We’d walk up to Dragon Challenge or The Incredible Hulk roller coasters and climb aboard the train.
Even the hotels were empty most of the time. We’d stay at The Royal Pacific or the Hard Rock Hotel and have the run of the place. It was quiet, almost too quiet. That was the case for the first 3-4 times I was there.
Then came Harry Potter.
Without exaggeration, the first time we went there with Harry was in 2011, the year after it opened. It was like night and day. There were droves of people standing in line for ButterBeer, which is fantastic, by the way, and The Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts Castle.
It was unbelievable.
“Where did all of these people come from?” I’d say.
I’m never one to complain about a lack of lines and people in my way, but I was legitimately nervous that we’d lose the whole place for a few years.
The Wizarding World changed that with a thunderous crash immediately!
The people came for a good reason. It’s truly epic. It takes you into the books, and movies like no theme park had ever done before. I have yet to hear someone go to The Wizarding World and leave saying, “meh.” It just doesn’t happen.
The Wizarding World
Before we get into the specific attractions and things to see and do, I’d like to tell you a short story.
Did you know that it was Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom that had J.K. Rowling ready to transform her books into a theme park land? Yep, that’s right. Not everyone knows this, but Disney blew it and blew it big time.
In 2003, secret meetings were held where the author of Harry Potter was ready to sign the dotted line to see her creations tucked neatly into the FantasyLand section of the Magic Kingdom.
They denied it publicly at the time, but this is the truth.
So what happened exactly? Well, the rumor is J.K Rowling didn’t want to confine the world to the first two books where Harry and his friends were little kids. Disney was reluctant to include any of the darker, spookier elements of the story.
Think Dementors and Werewolves like in The Prisoner Of Azkaban. There was no way Disney would stand for little girls in princess costumes being chased by dragons past Dementors through the forbidden forest where the giant spiders and Centaurs live.
No way! No how!
Well, J.K. didn’t like that one bit and decided to back out of the deal. It was only a year later, in 2004 when rumors began that Universal was pouncing on the intellectual property (I.P.).
They denied it for years, but around 2007 it officially came out that Universal was going to change one of the Islands in Islands of Adventure, the Lost Continent, into The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
Universal Studios To Build Harry Potter World
It’s hard to say that Disney felt the sting of losing this I.P. with their continued successes but make no mistake. They changed their business model to compete with the incredible draw Harry Potter had become for Universal.
It was only after the success of Harry Potter that Disney gobbled up the Avatar and Star Wars properties and turned them into theme park lands. Almost the whole park of Disney’s Hollywood Studios was transformed into Star Wars and Toy Story specifically to compete with Harry Potter.
Riding on the cult-like success of the Wizarding World, Universal put together plans to remove a beloved attraction from Universal Studios to expand on their Harry Potter offerings.
The removal of the JAWS ride angered some and saddened others (I rode it one last time two weeks before it was removed), but the train was moving, and no one could stop it.
JAWS would ultimately be replaced with the Kings Cross Station receptacle for the brand-new Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley. Everything they learned from the first park was implemented in the new one.
Wider paths, more bathrooms, and spread-out attractions make Diagon Alley more comfortable, if not as nostalgic as its Hogsmeade counterpart.
And you want to hear something else? Universal is building a brand new theme park called Epic Universe just down the street from their other three properties, and wouldn’t you know it? Harry Potter is coming with them!
The plans are to add a Ministry Of Magic attraction where guests will get to use the famous Floo system of fireplaces to transport themselves to different locations in the Wizarding World.
Honestly, I can’t wait to see how they pull that off!
Universal Studios went from a park that counted on Disney spillover to a genuine destination, all on the back of the cute little boy with the glasses, and they know it!
Sure, they’ve added Nintendo to the mix recently, but none of this happens without Harry Potter.
Let’s take a look at some of the amazing rides and attractions you’ll find there in greater detail.
The Rides Of Harry Potter
Let’s get into all the fun and cool rides that they have in Harry Potter World!
Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey
This one was the first anchor attraction from the world of Harry Potter. They went to great lengths to ensure this one would be recognized as a unique and potentially groundbreaking experience.
For fans of the movies and books, getting to walk right into the famous Hogwarts School of Magic is thrilling enough, but having a ride like the Forbidden Journey at the end of the queue makes it that much more amazing.
The Magical Queue
The great stroll through different memorable scenes that include the characters we know and love is just fantastic! You really feel like you’re inside the castle you’ve seen in the flics. They did a tremendous job creating an authentic environment full of recognizable movie aspects.
Paintings that argue with one another and make fun of the “Muggles” standing in line and newspapers with moving pictures add to the fun.
Show elements like hologram versions of Harry, Hermoine, and Ron Weasely making it snow inside the room you’re in can feel nothing short of magical. I’ve seen young kids cry with delight at seeing Hermoine “live and in person!”
You’ll also meet Dumbledore and the houses’ founders, Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. Even the Fat Lady In Blue makes an appearance while you’re tiptoeing toward the main attraction.
A ride queue with so much put into it can make even an hour’s wait time feel like a breeze. The entire place is an attraction. Not just the ride.
Hint: When you see the sorting hat, you’re almost there! Woo Hoo!
When this ride was introduced, it won all sorts of awards. The world had never seen anything quite like it up to that point.
Labeled a motion-based dark ride, it’s sooooooo much more than that. The first ever attraction to utilize the Kuko Robocoaster Robotic Arm system, this one took riders on a journey (pun intended) like they’ve never seen before.
First, you pass the sorting hat and see themed staff members walking in place on a conveyor belt loading system. You look above the staff, and there is a high corridor filled with floating candles.
This is a trick pulled off with mirrors, but don’t spend too much time trying to see that. Just take it in. It’s quite beautiful.
Along the conveyor system, you will see a unique ride car that seats four people side by side facing the same direction. Not forward, but to the side. The first time you see it, you will immediately recognize it’s different from anything else.
You don’t know at that point that the car is attached to what looks like one of those robotic arms you might see in an automobile factory. It can lift you up, drop you down, spin you around or face you toward the floor or ceiling.
It can be a bizarre feeling, but the road it takes you on is unbelievable.
First, Hermoine throws a little floo powder on us and asks us to “Say Observatory,” which allows us to fly through the floo tunnel, and we go to meet Ron and Harry outside.
The Ride Part 2
Now we can head through the rest of the ride.
Led around on a broomstick by Harry himself, we get chased by a Dragon that Hagrid seems to have lost track of. That before the Dementors. We play quidditch, navigate through the forbidden forest’s creatures, and even narrowly escape a collapsing building.
The mastery of the ride, while including the robotic arm, is its usage of both real-life sets and large 3D motion screens. We travel back and forth between a screen getting chased by a dragon into a prop-filled set where said dragon breathes fire (smoke and water vapor lit up by red lights) right into our faces.
Inside the set is where we meet real-life Dementors as well. They shine their soul-sucking light through their mouths right at us before we just manage to escape with Harry’s help. The ride ends with us returning to Hogwarts to be greeted by Dumbledore, Hermoine, and the cast of our favorites from the movies.
Recommended age for the ride:
I would say the ride is appropriate for most ages of people who meet the right height requirement of 48″. That said, I have a few friends (not all children, by the way) who this ride was too frightening for. It can be dark and spooky. If your child, or 40-year-old mom, is not one to handle the scary stuff, they might want to sit this one out.
Most love this ride, though.
Yes, this ride has a free locker system before you get on the ride queue. The dressed-up cast members will not let you onto the line with a backpack unless you are doing a child swap. Universal’s free locker system is the best. Drop your bags and phones into the locker to be
picked up after the ride.
Kids Ride Share:
They do. The Harry Potter ride swaps are great because they show Harry Potter movies while you wait. Would you believe me if I told you I’d had kids who made me wait till the end of a scene before we could leave the child swap room?
Be sure to leave anything that can fall out of your pockets in the lockers. It’s not worth it. The ride is herky and jerky, and stuff can absolutely fall out. Take advantage of the fact that the lockers are free and just leave your phone and such behind.
It’s the best way to enjoy the experience anyway!
Let’s stay in the original Wizarding World of Hogsmeade to jump on a fun roller coaster just across the path from Hogwarts.
History Of Flight Of The Hippogriff
This one is oddly beloved. It’s a roller coaster, of that, there’s no doubt. But it’s a roller coaster the Wizarding World inherited from the former land (or island) that occupied the space where Harry Potter reigns supreme today.
The Flight Of The Unicorn was its original name, and I’ve heard old-time Floridians grumble, “they couldn’t even give us a new ride?” many times before. This sounds petty but let me remind you that this wasn’t the only roller coaster Harry inherited from the former version of the theme park.
Dueling Dragons, epic double B&M inverted coasters that have been standing at Universal since the day it opened until 2017, were also absorbed by the Wizarding World.
Sincerely the finest example of a very popular coaster model that I’ve ever ridden, The Dueling Dragons were simply repurposed into The Dragon Challenge just like the Unicorn coaster when Potterville came to town.
Many people complained about it, but the truth is, they are/were great rides. If I may take a brief moment to digress, I miss the Dragons. The park let us know they were shutting down permanently a few months before the official closure, so I was able to get one more set of rides
I went to Uni all by myself and rode those things 3-4x all alone. Whether or not I cried on my last go around with the red dragon, I do not feel the need to discuss it here.
I can say they were just as good as the first time I rode them. Massive mega coasters twisting together through numerous close calls with the other train just won’t be seen on that level ever again.
You will always be missed, Dueling Dragons er, um… Dragon Challenge!!!
Flight Of The Hippogriff The Ride
The Flight Of The Hippogriff is a smaller coaster. It falls under the category of a family coaster. It is not quite a thrill ride, but certainly not a kiddie coaster. Think Barnstormer at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, but better.
Universal did a great job re-theming the coaster to feel undeniably Harry Potter.
You walk through the open-air queue to see a life-sized replica of Hagrid’s Hut before you arrive at the loading station.
It’s a smaller area, a smaller train, and a shorter ride, but it’s still pretty fun. Once loaded into the train, you will be taken past Buckbeak, the famous Hippogryph who let Harry ride him in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. I’d say 90% of the time, at least one child (or sometimes wizard cloak-wearing adult) will yell, “Hey, It’s Buckbeak!”
After that, it’s a standard roller coaster, but it’s a little faster than you think, and most people have a great time.
I’d say most could stand for it being a little bit longer, but other than that, it’s a gem. The fact that it’s right next to Hogwarts Castle also adds plenty of theming goodness to the fun.
Recommended age for the ride:
Just about all ages can climb onto the Hippogriff. Again, it’s more about height restrictions than age here on this Harry Potter World rides. This one has a nice and low restriction at 36″, so most kids will be able to climb aboard.
I feel comfortable saying any kid who’s tall enough can handle this one safely. (specific medical issues aside, of course)
Yep. This ride uses the same lockers as the Forbidden Journey. They’re right underneath Hogwarts Castle by the entrance to the ride. They are free!
Kids Ride Share:
There is a child swap at this one where the parent will wait at the exit to switch spots with the other parent. It works just as well, albeit not quite as cool as the previous version inside the castle.
Check out our Magical Visit to The Amazing Universal Studios Orlando:
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Remember my outpouring of love toward the now-defunct dragon coasters? Well, this ride here is what makes their departure significantly less painful.
The good news about Universal Studios Orlando is that they get it. Only some parks, you know.
A good example is Kings Dominion here in Virginia. They unceremoniously removed a unique and beloved roller coaster called Volcano a few years back. An exceptional Intamin inverted coaster that shot riders up and out of the top of a Volcano.
It was epic, and everyone loved it. Then one day it was just…gone. No warning. No opportunity to get a last ride. Nuttin!
But the hope was that something cool was going to replace it. It’s going on five years later, and all they did was stick a cloned S&S Free Spin in its place. A cheap and simple quick fix that has not been received well at all.
Universal knows the deal. You can not remove TWO amazing roller coasters and replace them with a flop. Just can’t do it—especially an anchor type of attraction for their most popular land of all.
So what did they do?
2 Amazing Coasters
They actually gave us two amazing coasters. One is The Velocicoaster, but that’s in the Jurassic Park section, so we won’t dive too deep into that one.
The only thing I’ll say is that it’s AMAZING!! Arguably among the greatest coasters ever built, the Velocicoaster wrapped up a complete two-roller coaster replacement of the two we lost when the dragons shut down forever.
Both new coasters are being designed and built by Intamin Amusement Rides (think Millenium Force, Talon, Kingda Ka, and Intimidator 305). Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the coaster occupying the old dragon footprint.
This one came first as well. Universal needed to beef up that Harry Potter section once they took the dragon coasters away, so they focused on that area, and rightfully so.
The smart move was to give the fans a new Potter attraction as quickly as possible and make it as groundbreaking as they could. Remember, the Forbidden Journey attraction won awards for how special it was when The Wizarding World initially opened.
This was a real opportunity to do that again, and they took it by the horns! Let’s dig into what this amazing ride offers that causes it to stand out from most other coasters out there today.
One thing that has really taken off over the past decade is the attention parks have given to the line experience. For decades a queue was a queue. Sure they’d stick up some pictures or cutouts of superhero characters and such, but generally speaking, we considered ourselves lucky if there was a fan or two to blow in our faces.
These days, especially when talking about parks like Disney or Universal, the line has become a big part of the setup for the ride itself.
Hagrid’s isn’t quite the experience of walking into and through Hogwarts Castle, but what is really? That’s a hard one to beat. But what it does do, it does very well. Both indoor and outdoor sections of the queue allow you to get out of the sun, but before it does, it lets you have ample time to see the coaster in its full glory.
Plenty of fantastic photo and video ops are there for the taking. Most people love taking advantage of this part of the line. The ride utilizes numerous trains on the track at the same time, so if you pay attention, you can get a good photo or video of two trains running behind you at the same moment.
It’s a blast and really makes that part of the line fly by. I’ve even caught myself feeling like the line was moving too fast. I have, right in that spot.
Inside, the theming really helps transport you into the world Universal wants you to be in. We will hang out with Hagrid in the forbidden forest in a few minutes. Setting up the scene on your way to the ride adds to the fun in a way that Universal prides itself on.
Ok, I have so much to say about this one that I’m finding myself a bit jumbled. Let’s just start by saying this coaster is a record-breaker on numerous fronts.
It’s the most expensive roller coaster ever built, with a lofty $300 million price tag, and it’s the longest coaster in the entire state of Florida at 5,053 ft. Most expensive and longest, and its seven launches are also the most in the world!
Hagrid’s coaster has so many effects that it’s hard to nail down what it really is. Is it a launch coaster? A family coaster? Well, it’s all of that.
It has those seven launches, but it also has a spike, switch track, reversed section with its own launch, and even a drop track. That’s not even mentioning the high level of theming you will experience while on the ride.
I’m really not one to blow the surprises of the ride experience beforehand with spoilers, but if that’s your gig, you can easily find POV videos all over YouTube. I’m a person who believes strongly in allowing the designers to give me the full experience they intended. At least the first time I’m going to ride it.
Only some coasters are deserving of such considerations, of course. A Six Flags parking lot coaster, while awesome, is not attempting to give you a story-based experience with twists and surprises.
If they put $300 mil into creating a unique ride experience for Lil’ old me, I will get at least one ride the way they designed it to be. It has twists, turns, jump scares, and all. So here are the details in the best way I can tell you without spoiling the truly unique surprises you will experience!
First, you have to look at the ride train itself. Every “car” has room for two riders next to one another. But they’re not cars at all. They are motorbikes.
One rider gets to sit on the motorbike itself and hold on to the handlebars, and the other rider takes shotgun in the sidecar. The two positions actually do provide a different experience of sorts, so if you get a second ride, try and switch positions if you can.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there is a soundtrack. Hagrid is talking to you throughout the ride, which is so much fun. The story is that he’s lost control of the motorbike and all of this craziness is as a result. Hagrid is in your “ear” the whole ride.
You will experience numerous launches through amazing landscapes like an abandoned castle and even wind up in Hagrid’s workshop, where we get up close and personal with a creature we’ve heard about in the movies.
The Blast Ended Skrewt sprays riders with red light-infused smoke before we hit another launch. We will meet Fluffy, the three-headed dog from The Philosopher’s Stone, a baby unicorn and its momma, and even get caught up in a little Devil’s Snare.
*A little hint to guess the effect in the Devil’s Snare area only requires you to remember how Hermoine helped the boys get out of that mess in the movie! That’s all I’m going to say!
It’s a fantastic ride experience that’s truly fun for the whole family. And with top speeds over 50 mph, it’s got enough punch to give the thrill seekers a nice burst of fun.
The Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is a wonderful replacement for the two beloved dragon coasters and really adds an amazing aspect to the anchor of the entire park, The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter!
Recommended age for the ride:
Hagrid’s is a legit thrill coaster on many levels, but it’s also found a way to comfortably label itself a family coaster. Think of this one as the top tier a family coaster can possibly reach.
Some elements take you by surprise, and it’s going to get some adrenaline pumping, but it feels wide open and free in a way that even the younger ones find wonderfully fun. The height restriction is 48″, so it’s not going to be a good option for toddlers.
Once again, Universal has free lockers available for Hagrid’s. They are right next to the main entrance to the coaster. Staff will not let you pass the entrance with bags and will happily direct you to where the lockers are.
Kids Ride Share:
They do. Most of Universal’s rides have the ability to child swap in some capacity. Let the staff know your intentions, and they will let you know of any specifics that apply. So we’ve now wrapped up all of the actual Harry Potter-themed rides on the Islands of Adventure side of Universal Orlando, but we still need to finish the Harry Potter-based attractions at the park.
Not even close!
Since we began with the original Wizarding World at Islands Of Adventure, let’s use that as our starting point for experiencing the rest of Harry Potter World rides goodness.
The Hogwarts Express
Since 2014 there has been really only one way to get the full Harry Potter experience. That’s to hop on the Hogwarts Express to head over to the other Harry Potter-themed land, Diagon Alley.
You will have to purchase a two-park ticket for that day in order to ride the Hogwarts Express. They will not allow anyone with a single park ticket to park on the legendary train.
I won’t tell you that the Hogwarts Express is the best ride in the park, but it is a truly fantastic add-onto the fun. If you or your family members are big Potter heads, it’s almost necessary that you get on the Express train. The Hogsmeade Station is not hard to find near the entrance to Hagrid’s coaster.
You will most likely wait in a pretty good-sized line, but it’s worth it. At least the first time it is. The Hogwarts Express is a slow-moving transport to the other park, but with screens in every cabin to make it look like you are leaving Hogwarts School Of Magic on your way to London.
There are all sorts of significant effects, such as Harry shooing away Dementors in the hallway of the train and even some of our favorite characters chatting on the way.
The landscapes change outside the window while we’re traveling, and it really adds to the fun.
Tips For Riding Hogwarts Express
- A good thing to remember is that the trip is different from traveling the opposite way. They do a great job of setting up the land you are about to enter. If you are heading from the Studios side to Islands of Adventure, you will see Hogwarts Castle outside.
- When traveling From IOA to The Studios and Diagon Alley, you will see London and the relative characters outside.
- If you can ride both ways, you will more than likely be happy you did. Especially with the kids.
- I prefer the ride from London To Hogsmeade. It’s a bit more intense and spooky!
Arriving at the Kings Cross Station right next to Diagon Alley is great. Again, Universal does a great job using the landscapes and characters you know and love to get you excited and in the mood for some Harry Potter action.
When you are heading to Hogsmeade FROM Kings Cross station, you will get to experience platform 9 3⁄4. This is where you can take videos and pictures of your family and friends disappearing through the brick wall. Very VERY cool!
Escape From Gringotts
There is only one ride inside the Diagon Alley section of the park, but it’s a good one. Escape From Gringotts is technically an indoor steel roller coaster, but it’s really much more of a 3D screen ride with coaster elements, then it is a full-on roller coaster.
That said, the ride is a lot of fun and extremely well-themed once inside. When entering Diagon Alley, it will be easy to find the Gringotts Bank. It’s the building straight ahead of you with the enormous fire-breathing dragon perched atop it. The very same dragon that spits its fire breath over the crowd every 15 min or so.
Once you hear a loud growling in the air, it’s time to look up at the dragon. An amazing effect that leaves the crowd delighted every single time it happens. This is one of the absolute best photo ops in the entirety of the Harry Potter World rides at Universal Orlando.
Escape From Gringotts puts guests inside the famous scenes from the Deathly Hallows chapter of the movie series. You’ll meet Bellatrix, Voldemort, and his snake Nagini along with a host of other classic characters you’ll likely recognize right away.
While not on quite the same scale as the Forbidden Journey and Hogwarts Castle, the theming is very well done. It does a good job transporting you hundreds of feet underground and into another world. You get to quite literally feel as though you’ve entered the movies.
The ride itself starts off with a very exciting surprise. I’m not going to ruin it for you here, though.
In my opinion, it’s the best part of the whole experience. There are YouTube videos out there, but even they do a poor job of clearly showing you what’s gonna happen. You’ll just have to go on it yourself to see what I’m talking about here. You’ll like it. I promise.
Recommended age for the ride:
Escape From Gringotts is a less thrilling coaster-style ride. This Harry Potter World rides has its focus on screens for the larger bulk of the ride, smaller kids can jump on this one with no real worry. It has its faster moments, but it’s not too bad at all.
The height restriction is 42″, which is way at the bottom of what any roller coaster’s height requirements will ever be. I’ve been bringing my children on this ride since the moment they could meet the requirement, and outside of being a little spooked by the dark atmosphere, we’ve never run into an issue of any kind.
The free locker system is found just to the right of the main entrance of the attraction. As is standard, the lockers are alongside the ride store. So, brace yourself for sudden and strong urges to grab a wizard robe! You’ve been warned.
Kids Ride Share:
This is another child swap where you have a large private room showing Harry Potter movies. The kids are usually pacified perfectly for the time they have to wait for both parents to experience the ride. Universal made a good move showing the movies here.
Sights, Sounds, and Food
Now that we’re all done with the actual rides of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando let’s take a brief look at some of the other aspects that round out these amazingly themed lands.
Just walking around and being immersed in the world of Harry Potter is plenty thrilling in its own right. The buildings, the characters, and the storefronts. They are nothing short of amazing!
But I’d like to tell you about a couple of attractions you simply do not want to miss when you’re there.
Olivander’s Wand Shop
Being a ride-centric family as we are, I can still remember the first time seeing the long lines waiting to get into the wand shop. I didn’t get it. My thoughts were, “why would I wait to get in there when there is a perfect wand kiosk a few feet away?”
I can tell you now that I was making a mistake. I think it’s important to keep in mind (for a guy like myself) that it’s about the experience. Not just the rides.
Universal has put millions of dollars and hours into designing a theme park land that can effectively take you into another world. This is not just a paint job and a few cardboard signs we’re talking about here.
Allowing yourself to slip away into that world will give you a much greater opportunity to be blown away and have a memorable experience. Ollivander’s Wand Shop takes the amazing opportunity to procure your very own Harry Potter, Voldemort’s, or Dumbledore’s wand and kicks it up by ten notches.
Experiencing the magical process of a wand choosing its owner is just plain awesome. Not every kid is chosen to be a part of the show in front of everyone, but that’s ok. Just seeing it will absolutely knock the kid’s socks off.
It’s well worth the wait and is a must-do when you’re there.
Tip: There is an Olivander’s Wand Shop in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but I liked the one in Hogsmeade better. Maybe that’s because it was the original for me but either way, you can get the experience even if you only get to one of the parks.
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
Remember the two prankster twin brothers Fred and George Weasley from the Potter movie series? Well, they have their own toy and apparel shop right here in Universal Orlando. And it looks just like it does in the movies!
Initially found in the Hogsmeade section of the Wizarding World, it was appropriately moved to Diagon Alley in London, just like in the movie The Half-Blood Prince (my personal favorite of the entire series).
With the famous moving top hat facade perfectly replicating the movie, this is the most fun you can have at a shop in the Wizarding World, Zappers, Love Potions, and even real-life chocolate frogs can all be found right here in Weasely’s Wizard Wheezes.
You do not want to miss out on this stop under any circumstances. The kids will never forgive you!
This one is a turn toward the spooky side of the Wizarding World. A creepy little alleyway that takes you down and behind the rest of the London street scene; this is where the Death Eaters get their wares for sure.
If you’ve ever had the desire to see and shop in the spookiest of all Harry Potter Stores, you won’t be disappointed. Borgin & Burkes is located right in the center of Knockturn Alley.
With all sorts of really cool gifts and apparel, this store was my fave. I still have and wear my Borgin & Burkes T-shirt proudly. I get nods of acknowledgment almost every time I wear it.
While this is definitely the spookiest of all the spots in the Wizarding World, you don’t have to be frightened to bring the kids down there. It’s not what I would call scary. It’s just a vibe, and it’s done quite well.
Food and Treats Of The Wizarding World
Remember when I spoke about allowing yourself to get whisked away into the world Universal is trying to take you to? Well, the food of Harry Potter’s lands can help achieve that in a way few theme park restaurants can hope to accomplish.
They are themed perfectly to the movies and even have traditional Old English menus that do a great job of continuing the illusion that you’ve left the muggle world behind.
Over in Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, you will dine in the Three Broomsticks restaurant.
Menu items such as Shepherd’s Pie, Beef Pasties, Fish & Chips, and Pumpkin juice make it feel like you might not be in a theme park at all any longer. The theming is on point, and the food is actually very good. It’s not enough to have cool menu items, ya, know. Making them taste good is critical!
We were very happy with all of our lunches at the Three Broomsticks over the years. It’s a great break from the heat as well. They make it really feel like you’re in a dark and dank restaurant in the middle of the English countryside
- A nice hint is that the outside seating is usually abandoned. While the inside of the restaurant is packed to the gills, we’ve had almost the entire outside area in the back to ourselves on more than one occasion.
- Now you even get a pretty great view of the Velocicoaster flying by. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
The Leaky Cauldron
This is the Diagon Alley option for traditional Harry Potter sit-down dining. While the menu can be considered similar to the Three Broomsticks, it has its own feel and flare as well.
Menu Items like Bangers and Mash, Beef, Lamb and Guinness Stew, Scotch Eggs, and Fisherman’s Pie can be an amazing way to dive even deeper into the feeling of Harry Potter-based London!
One thing we did a couple of times was to head over to the Leaky Cauldron for their traditional English breakfast. Universal gives on-site hotel guests early entrance to the Harry Potter lands.
We used this time to set up a nice early meal at the Potter-themed classic and were not disappointed. A word of warning, though. It’s different than the kids might be used to for breakfast, so know that going in.
The English breakfast includes Black pudding, English bacon(different from the USA style), grilled tomatoes, and baked beans, so if your group isn’t on the adventurous side, you might just want to stick with the American Breakfast.
$18.00 per plate could be a touch too much to risk the kids not liking it at all.No matter the time of day you head to this restaurant; I can safely say you will be happy you went. If only for the themed vibe alone.
I don’t care if you do anything else at all when you are in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Priority Number One should be grabbing yourself at least one ButterBeer! Made famous in the movies, this is the drink that changed the theme park world forever. They nailed it.
There are two versions of the drink. One is a liquid, and the other is a frozen drink. I am 100% on the frozen option’s side, but only you can make that decision for yourself.
How will you know? Well, I guess you’ll have to try both. Imagine that!
The drink has been described as a combination of gingerbread and butterscotch, and while it can be a little sweeter than some people would prefer, it’s a must-try when you’re there. The lines can be a little long at the kiosks or in HoneyDukes in Diagon Alley, but it’s well worth the 10 min or so you’ll have to wait.
There simply isn’t a single item that’s more “Harry Potter” than ButterBeer! Ya just gotta try it at least once in your life. I personally love it!
Where to Stay
Universal Loews Sapphire Falls Resort Located less than 1/2 mile from the fun at the Harry Potter World rides. Each room is filled with great family fun amenities.
Universal Loews Royal Pacific Resort This wonderful family resort is located 1/2 mile from the Harry Potter World rides. Get exclusive theme park benefits for staying at this great resort.
Large Luxury Home. This beautiful home has 8 bedrooms and can sleep 16. Your family will love all the space, private pool, and spa. The house is located just a short drive from all the great attractions.
2 Bedroom Condo This newly renovated condo is located within walking distance of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. This great resort condo can sleep 5.
More Great Family Fun Activities in Orlando
Kennedy Space Center Unleash your inner astronaut at this great educational attraction.
Universal Orlando Park to Park Ticket Enjoy the rides at Universal with this 3- park ticket.
Tour the Everglades by Boat on this great 90 minute adventure.
Orlando Museum of Illusions See some of the best optical illusions at this great family fun museum.
The truth is, there’s still plenty more to see and do in the Wizarding World on top of everything we’ve already discussed. It’s an amazing place, and you can easily see why it’s become the sensation it has had over the years.
Even if you spend the week there and uncover every single thing you can see or do, you will be happy to learn that Universal is building an entirely new Harry Potter-themed land in their brand new theme park Epic Universe!
But until that new park opens, we have more than enough Harry Potter attractions to keep us entertained. If you’re planning a trip to the Orlando area and are trying to decide which parks to spend your hard-earned money at, just know this.
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando has spared no expense in vying to be your choice. It’s an epic adventure that changed the theme park game, and even if you don’t consider yourself a Harry Potter enthusiast, and you will still have a fantastic time you’ll remember forever!
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