If like us, you never received your Hogwarts acceptance letter when you were eleven years old, then you’ve probably been wondering how to fill the wizarding world hole in your life. Well, thankfully Universal Orlando has helped us out with that by opening not one, but two Harry Potter World parks in Orlando that are a fantastic ode to the world-renowned book and film series. We’ve put together a list of things you can’t miss while you visit.
Unlike other parts of Universal, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter only has three rides and although they may not be the very best rides in Orlando, they are definitely up there. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey can be found in Hogwarts Castle in Hogsmeade, which is located in the Islands of Adventure park. The ride takes guests through scenes and environments in and around Hogwarts Castle, all of which are taken from the films and books. It gives visitors the chance to have an in-depth look at the world of Harry Potter. Also located in Hogsmeade is the Dragon Challenge, where visitors choose which dragon they’d like to ride, either the Hungarian Horntail or the Chinese Fireball and the dragons almost “chase” each other. It’s worth going on this one twice as each dragon is a completely different experience.
Take a wander down Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and discover Gringotts Bank, inside is an indoor roller-coaster where visitors are chased by Voldemort and Bellatrix through the vaults, none of them should be missed. Don’t worry about the queues, even if they are long during busy times there’s plenty to keep you entertained while you wait!
Explore the shops
You can’t visit Harry Potter Universal without seeing Diagon Alley. No matter how big of a fan you are, you can never quite prepare yourself for this and how utterly incredible all of the shops are. Make sure you allow enough time to explore all of the shops, you’ll find everything including Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes joke shop, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Madame Malkin’s robe shop and Ollivander’s wand shop here. Although most of the shops will just sell souvenirs and t-shirts, it’s well worth taking a wander and reliving some of your favourite moments from the books! Make sure you look in all the windows, even if you can’t go into the shop, as they are often animated in fun and magical ways.
If you visit Ollivander’s to let your very own wand choose you, make sure you get the interactive version. Throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, there are interactive shop windows, fountains and even statues that you can bring to life simply by waving your wand: it’s magical! This is perfect for both children and adults and is a fantastic way to explore the park and keep the little ones entertained and involved. Follow the map to find all of the spots where you can cast spells that can cause it to rain or make a feather float.
Of course, a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter wouldn’t be complete without trying some butterbeer. There are three different ways to enjoy it – frozen, cold or hot (depending on what time of year you go). Don’t be afraid to try it, it’s said to be incredibly sweet so you may not finish it, but you’ll regret not even having a sip! You can enjoy dinner at either the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley or Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, both of which serve traditional British pub food for a fair price.
Ride the Hogwarts Express
You can actually ride on the Hogwarts Express at Harry Potter Orlando if you buy a ticket to go to both of the parks on the same day. The Hogwarts Express will take you from one park to the other, which is a great idea, especially if it’s your first time at Universal Orlando and don’t know your way around very well. Not to mention, it’s the Hogwarts Express and everything about it is amazing! You’ll get the chance to see Hedwig and you can even walk through the wall at Platform 9 ¾ (depending on what station you walk through). While on the train, you can eavesdrop on a conversation between Harry, Ron and Hermione, watch chocolate frogs crawl on the doors and windows. If you look out the window you’ll see the Knight bys and even catch a glimpse of Voldemort. It’s worth riding there and back because the experience is different depending on where you are.
Exchange money at Gringotts
As mentioned previously, Gringotts is located in Diagon Alley and features an indoor ride, but not too far away you’ll discover the Gringotts Money Exchange, where you can swap your Muggle money for Gringotts bank notes. You can interact with the Goblin inside (make sure to ask him his favourite colour) and you can use the Gringotts money just about everywhere within the Universal parks.
Everything about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando absolutely blows us away, the attention to detail is incredible and it’s guaranteed to provide an unforgettable holiday to Orlando. What’s your favourite thing about the parks? Let us know in the comments or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter!