Wizards, flying broom sticks, Butterbeer™, and Quidditch™ matches. You’ve read the 7 Harry Potter™ books and seen 8 movies. You know how to wield a wand and have a spell ready on the tip of your tongue. You are a true Harry Potter fan, but have you explored the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Florida’s Universal Orlando™ yet?
The Wizard World of Harry Potter™ offers fans the best Harry Potter™ immersion experience possible. Quite simply, it’s like stepping into a storybook, and Universal did not hold back anything while creating this ultimate experience. If you are a fan, you’ll notice every detailed nod to J.K. Rowling’s popular stories, but even if you know nothing on the subject (yes, there are one or two of you out there), you will still enjoy the world of the beloved fictional characters come to life.
Before you run straight to Universal Orlando™, here are 10 things to know about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ that will make your Wizarding World experience even better.
Wizarding Between Worlds
Universal Orlando™ has 2 theme parks, Islands of Adventure™ and Universal Studios™, and there are parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ in both of these theme parks. You can find Diagon Alley™ in Universal Studios™ and the quaint snow-covered village of Hogsmeade™ with Hogwarts™ Castle in Islands of Adventure™. You can visit only one-side of the wizarding world with a one-park ticket though (there’s a cute info-graphic below if you need help deciding which one, but it’s a tough one). You must purchase a multi-pass ticket to explore both sides.
Riding the Hogwarts Express™
The Hogwarts Express™ connects the two wizarding worlds, but don’t expect an ordinary theme park train ride. This is an experience- much like the one Harry, Ron & Hermione face on their yearly treks to Hogwarts™ to start the school year. In the Universal Studios™ side, you can jump through a brick wall at King Cross Station to reach platform 9 & 3/4 to start your journey. But in order to ride the Hogwarts™ train from either park, you must have a multi-park ticket.
About the Butterbeer™
If you know your Harry Potter™, you know about Butterbeer™, and you must try some on your visit, no matter which theme park side you are visiting. Butterbeer™ is non-alcoholic and no, it’s not melted butter- that would just be gross. This drink comes in frozen or just plain frothy, nice and cold, and tastes like a cream soda. It’s available at the street vendors in the wizarding world, and also in the taverns and restaurants. It’s also interesting to note that regular soda is NOT sold within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™- demonstrating that you are truly in another world! However, you can grab some Gillywater™ or Pumpkin Juice™ if Butterbeer™ is not your style.
Choosing Your Wand
To make your wizarding experience complete, you can go to Ollivanders™ for the wand choosing- all wands come with a wizarding world map to show you where they will work. Wave these interactive wands at the shop windows in the wizarding world to make dresses dance, unlock boxes, and perform a variety of feats. There is an Ollivanders™ wand shop in both parks, and the best thing, if your wand ceases it’s magical functions- they will fix it for free…indefinitely. However, if the line seems daunting, you can go into the other stores to select the wand of your choice- or order one on-line before you visit so you are wizard-ready. Muggles watch out!
Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey™ ride awaits inside the formidable castle at Islands of Adventure™ and waiting in line for this smooth-riding robo-coaster thrill ride can be as fun as the ride itself, as the line winds through the castle corridors, through the Dark Arts classroom, Gallery of Portraits, and Gryffindor™ common room. If you are lucky, it may even snow! Even if you are not a Potter fan, it is a cool experience.
The Free Locker in Hogwarts™
How long this little goodie will last, it’s hard to say, but the folks in the castle don’t want their uber-expensive ride messed up by flying cell phones and dropping change, so as you enter the castle, you are instructed to leave your belongings in their lockers. If you’ve been throughout the park, you’ve seen these lockers- accessed by computer codes on a screen. But unlike the other ones in the park, the ones at this castle are free for a one-time use, and they use bio-metrics, so no cheating on that one. If there are two people in your party, use one person to get a free locker on your first ride, then another person if you decide to ride again- and it’s an incredible ride- so you probably will.
By-Pass the Ride
So, you’ve heard about the utter coolness in the Forbidden Journey™ and Escape from Gringotts™, but have no desire to face an indoor roller coaster (Escape), or robo-coaster (Journey). Perhaps rides make you queasy, or you are claustrophobic. Maybe you have a little kid in tow. You can walk through the line, bring your camera to catch some coolness and skip out riding the actual ride at the end. There’s even child-swap areas so you can trade off the baby with your partner and both experience the ride, though not at the same time. You must be at least 42-inches to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ and at least 48-inches to ride Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey™.
A Little Broomstick Knowledge
The tastiest place to dine in the Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure™ is the Three Broomsticks™. Fish & chips, ribs & corn on the cob, salad & beef pasties. Yum! Be sure to try the Butterbeer™ while you are there too! But if you happen upon a busy time, be prepared to wait- in several lines. You’ll wait in one line and be directed to a register where your order is rung up and you pay for your meal. Then you wait at your numbered service counter for your meal. Then you wait in another line for available seating, while holding your tray of food. These are pretty well controlled lines, so no-skipping.
Instead of letting that delicious food go cold, ask for a table outside. For some reason, not many people know about this. You’ll be directed out a back door onto a patio overlooking a canal with a view of Hogwarts™. There’s sun umbrellas shading the tables and fans under the umbrellas as well, so even in the summer it’s not a bad place to enjoy your meal while it’s still hot.
Lighting Up the Night
There’s a nightly laser light & fireworks show at Hogwarts™ Castle in Islands of Adventure™ from dusk to close. Laser images are shot out over the castle walls and fireworks end the extravaganza shows- and yes, that was plural. Caught the tail-end of a show? Grab a Butterbeer™ and wait for the next. Hang out in the village of Hogsmeade™ by the snowman for the best view. Hogsmeade™ is a cool place to explore at night too.
The Best of Times…And The Worst of Times
The best time to ride Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey™, located in Islands of Adventure™, is first thing in the morning when the park opens. When you enter the park, take a right to head back through Seuss Landing™ and The Lost Continent™ to reach the village of Hogsmeade™. The Forbidden Journey ride is located inside Hogwarts™ Castle at the back of the village.
The worst time- or time when the lines are long are at night when the laser show draws the crowds to the village and when it storms, as the external rides get closed down, but this ride is inside- even the lines, making it a great place to sit out the storm while doing something cool.
In Universal Studios™, go straight to Escape to Gringotts™ first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. Upon entrance, turn right and head to the lagoon. Follow it to the right to reach Diagon Alley™.
There are ride-time notice boards throughout both parks that will tell you what the current wait time is on all the rides- and when they are closed for weather reasons. Check them out before heading to your favorite ride.
Have you visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ yet?
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