We’re heading to Universal Orlando Resort in a couple of weeks. It’s our first time there and my nine-year-old is especially excited about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now that I’ve finally read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I’m pretty eager to explore all things Harry Potter, too.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
So, I’ve been asking around for tips for making the most of our time at Universal Orlando Resort and I’ve got 15 of them for you. Take a look. Get your park tickets before you go through Best of Orlando (I did). Check out the latest ticket prices and promotions (like buy two days, get two days free).
1. Save the Best for Last. I’m sure you’ll want to rush to experience everything related to Harry Potter once you enter the park, but patience grasshopper. Everyone else wants to do the same. So, see the Minions, Dr. Seuss, and ET during the day, then once the crowds thin in late-afternoon, get your Harry Potter fix.
2. Ride the Hogwarts Express in Both Directions. Be sure to ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions. Apparently you’ll have very different experiences depending on whether you’re traveling to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade.
3. Get Souvenirs Before You Go. The stores in Diagon Alley are worth popping into, but why stand in line when you can get t-shirts, pins, lanyards, even a sorting hat online? Unfortunately, I could not find one of the “magic” magic wands online, so you may still need to wait in line for that must-have (though you may find a substantially shorter line at the Universal Store at the airport).
4. Get a Free Park App. Before you go, download a free park app to your phone that will help you navigate The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and even share wait times with you. Two to check out are Universal Orlando Lines and the Official Universal Orlando Resort app (Android versions are available too).
5. Buy Park to Park Tickets. In order to ride the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure), you’ll need a Park to Park ticket. This a must for any Harry Potter fan, so don’t go cheap. We bought our tickets through Best of Orlando at a nice discount.
6. Stay On-Site. A lot of my friends, including Dave of Adventures by Daddy (check out his survival guide post), tout the value of staying on-site at one of four Universal Orlando Resort hotels. Among the benefits, being able to get into the parks an hour before everyone else.
7. Pay Attention to the Little Details. From all I’ve heard, Universal Orlando has done an amazing job recreating the world of Harry Potter, so I’m bookmarking this BuzzFeed article listing out 17 things you may miss in Diagon Alley if you don’t keep your eyes open.
8. Try the Butterbeer. Enjoy a mug of Butterbeer at restaurants across The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You’ll also find carts selling Butterbeer, which tastes like a mix of cream soda and butterscotch. Or, head to Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley for Butterbeer-flavored ice cream.
9. Consider an Express Pass. If you really want to see everything, consider an Express Unlimited Pass, which allows for shorter wait times. However, despite the fact that the pass is “unlimited,” you can’t use the pass to cut the line at Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, or Hogwarts Express (yes, I’m confused, too).
10. Print Out a Touring Plan. I don’t know about you, but I usually end up wandering around in circles at theme parks, wasting precious time (time that could be spent in line at Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – ha!). Anyway, if that’s you, why not review and print out a touring plan. Good luck!
11. Buy a Magic Wand. Sure, the interactive wand will cost you at least $45, but your kids will love chanting magic spells at spots around Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley to watch umbrellas pour rain and window displays come to life. You can also see a special wand-picking performance at Ollivander’s.
12. Look for Hidden Magic. There is lots of magic hidden around the parks that your kids will absolutely love. For example, dial M-A-G-I-C at the red phone booth outside Diagon Alley for a message from the Ministry of Magic. Or, listen to the talking mirror at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions (note: the mirror is not always complimentary!).
13. Read the Books. There’s really no better way to make the most of your time at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter than by reading the book series. I just started the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Honestly, if your kids are into the series, read at least one of the books so you’ll get it too.
14. Or, Watch the Movies. After I finished the first book on Sunday morning, my nine-year-old and I watched the first movie. From what I hear, much of what you will see at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter matches what you see to a tee. So, you’ll be well served to watch at least one movie, too.
15. Experience the Park at Night. There are many benefits to staying until the park closes. For one, the crowds will have thinned considerably, enabling you to ride (or ride again) certain rides. Also, many of the shops, as well as Hogwarts Castle, look especially magical in the darkness.
What are your best tips for visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. However, the views and opinions expressed here are my own.