Check out these tips before you visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - and remember, it makes for a great adults-only trip!
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*Post updated, June, 2019
Words cannot express how much I enjoyed The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. I’m a massive fan Harry Potter (and have been for 20 years now), but I’m also in my late 20s and I was expecting The Wizarding World to be a “normal” theme park (which are not where we usually vacation). So, thinking there wouldn't be anything for me to do, I had held out on visiting for a number of years. I also don’t ride roller coasters AND we don't have kids, so I was afraid that I’d be bored. Wow, was I wrong - the attention to detail throughout the park is absolutely incredible. Around every corner was some new, unexpected detail from the books. I could not have been more thrilled from the moment we set foot in the park and can’t wait to go back.
Here are a few tips, for my fellow millennials:
1. Buy tickets for both parks
It’s expensive. That's just a fact of theme parks, especially extremely popular ones. The Wizarding World is actually split between two parks within Universal. Let's all decide this is a factor of space...even though it does feel like a justification to charge more, sometimes. But, ah, it's oh-so-worth it. You will need the Universal “Park to Park” pass in order to gain entry into both parks. One way to save money would be to buy tickets only for one park. But I must reiterate: the Park to Park pass is absolutely worth it. There really should be no question - if you’re going all the way to Florida, you might as well see the whole Wizarding World.
Ok, so assuming that you agree and are doing both parks, I'd recommend that you do the parks in order.
Start in "muggle London," which is found in Universal Studios Florida. Then, take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts - which is in the Islands of Adventure Park. Take a fair amount of time to explore muggle London before going through the various entrances to Diagon Alley - see Kreacher at 12 Grimmauld Place, the Night Bus, and the Leaky Cauldron. Once you’ve had your fill, pass through the well-done entrance into Diagon Alley (I won’t give it away!) Once inside - spend some time looking through the shops and enjoying the thoughtful touches throughout. Don’t miss Knockturn Alley - hidden toward the back and just as dark and scary as you’d hope. Grab your first (and not last) beer of the day (there’s a cute little watering hole). Personally, I’d wait for lunch at the Three Broomsticks, but if you’re hungry, grab a bite at the Leaky Cauldron! The ‘best’ ride in Diagon Alley is Escape from Gringotts. Both times we have visited in recent years, the wait was over an hour.
2. You don’t need an interactive wand
Unless you have a child with you, who particularly has her heart set on it, there’s genuinely no need to purchase one of the interactive wands. They are quite expensive and the things they can do are, if I’m being honest, not that impressive - there’s a fountain that sort of squirts water when your wand connects with it, etc. There are lengthy queues and children are, as they should be, on the front lines. I would have felt uncomfortable pushing my way up there to play with the wand. If you really want to get the perfect Instagram snap, either buy a wand that's cheaper and not interactive, or see if one of your fellow Millennials will lend you theirs just for a picture - we're a friendly people.
3. They sell booze. Everywhere.
Be sure to take your time in Diagon Alley, but once you’re done, it’s time for what was personally my favorite part. Enter the shockingly realistic Kings Cross Station to catch the Hogwarts Express up to Scotland!
After you pass the ticket inspector (thanking your lucky stars that you splurged for the Park to Park pass!), weave your way through the train station. Be sure to stop at the convenience store as you walk through - they sell a great solution of British beers (I selected Boddington’s), which you CAN TAKE ON THE TRAIN.
I REPEAT YOU CAN TAKE THE BOOZE ON THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS.
Check out the amazing mirror where your co-visitors can watch you disappear onto the platform. And, as long as there's a bit of space, you can get away with being just a little rude - take your time and get a picture - I rarely say that, in all honesty, but it’s worth it.
4. Ride the Hogwarts Express both ways
The ride on the Hogwarts Express is absolutely magical. It is undoubtedly a highlight of the experience. You are seated in individual compartments with a handful of other guests (it’s not too crowded) and outside the window you’ll see screens displaying images - Malfoy Manor, the English countryside, and finally a warm welcome from Hagrid as you enter Hogsmeade Station. On the return visit, it’s a different show! There's also a stationary version, now just for pictures (Hogsmeade was the original park - Diagon Alley wasn't added until 2014, with the Express connecting them).
5. You don't have to do the rides
Personally, almost any amusement park ride ends my day, so I took a firm pass (sadly no break on the ticket price for not doing rides). I will say that the trip is 100%, undeniably worth it, even if you don’t do the rides. I chatted with the sales clerk at the Hogwarts ride who told me people are sick all the time (it’s a combination, according to my husband of screens moving and you physically moving).
If you’re in a couple, this means your other half can take advantage of the single rider line, and get through the line much more quickly. Additionally, if you're braver than me, staff will allow you to tour the Hogwarts Castle entrance portion without ultimately getting on the ride (I was happy to skip it, but the husband said it was neat). I was happy as a clam while my husband rode the rides (he also ventured out onto some roller coasters in the other parts of the park, since they were covered by our ticket). I shopped, and spent a while just sitting down and taking it all in.
I hope you'll enjoy your trip as much as we always do! We just keep going back! And now, with the addition of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, there's even more to explore (for my ride-riding friends!) xx
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