Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, and I was beyond ecstatic when I found out a few years back that Universal Orlando Resort would be adding the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to their parks – all that Harry Potterness (is that a word?! If not it should be!) just down the road from me! Since then, I have been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter countless times, and each time I visit, I’m just as excited to be immersed in everything I’ve read in the books and seen in the movies. Universal did the most amazing job with this area (which now covers both the Universal Studios park and Islands of Adventure, with Hogsmeade in one and Diagon Alley in the other) and the details are incredible. Any Harry Potter fan would be happy to spend a day here, but it does take a little pre-planning to make sure you fit in everything and see as much as possible, especially if you’re visiting during the busier seasons in the summer and over Christmas (read my complete guide to Universal Studios at Christmas here). So I created a complete one day itinerary for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort, for anyone visiting who needs to know exactly what to do – and what order to do it in – to get the most out of their visit!
Enter Diagon Alley
If you’re going to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you should really do so the same way that Harry himself did that first time – and that was through Diagon Alley! Diagon Alley can be found in the Universal Studios park, and from the outside, it looks just like London – seriously, JUST like London (except for maybe the blue sky!) There’s plenty to take in before setting foot in Diagon Alley, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to get in. First off, you can’t miss the big three story purple Knight Bus, where you can meet Stan Shunpike himself and have your photo taken. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for a red phone box, very common in England. If you step inside and dial 62442 (which spells out ‘magic’, naturally) you’ll get through to the Ministry of Magic – definitely worth a listen! Also, if you look at the buildings along the street, you’ll find Number 12, Grimmauld Place – keep an eye on the windows on the 2nd floor for Kreacher the House Elf to make an appearance. Once you’ve had a look around London, head back towards Diagon Alley, and your first glimpse of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Listen closely as you enter – you can actually hear the bricks moving to open up the wall!
Choose your wand (or let your wand choose you!)
Take a few minutes to look around Diagon Alley; there is so much to see in the beginning, you might not know where to look first! Luckily, I’m here to be your guide! As any budding wizard will know, you can’t do any magic (at least not in the early stages of your education!) without a wand – and we all know the best place to get a wand in Diagon Alley is from Ollivanders! Ollivanders Wand Shop should be your very first stop in Diagon Alley, and it can certainly get crowded in there, so early on is a good time to visit. There is a wand-choosing ceremony, which is so much fun to participate in if you get chosen, but if you’re not picked, don’t despair. There are a huge variety of wands to choose from, so take your time picking one out that feels right to you. Don’t forget that you can also purchase an interactive wand; these are more expensive, but will do actual magic (sort of!) out in Diagon Alley. Universal Team Members are around to help you with your spells until you perfect the technique, and there are numerous different places you can practice your magic. The places to perform your new found magic skills can get busy as the day goes on, so I would suggest doing this early on – it’s a little bit less fun to watch a whole group of other people perform the spell before you do, as it somewhat spoils the surprise!
Pick up your robes and school supplies
Once you’ve picked out your wand and worked on a little magic, you’ll need to start thinking about picking up your school supplies. There are a whole host of places to shop in Diagon Alley. Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions should be your first stop, to pick up all of your school apparel, including Hogwarts House specific clothing and accessories (because let’s face it, every Harry Potter fan already knows what house they’re in before setting foot in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!) If you’re a Quidditch fan, you’ll need to stop in to Quality Quidditch Supplies for shirts, scarves, and of course, brooms! Scribbulous is where you can pick up parchment, quills, notebooks, and stationary, and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment will house any other Harry Potter paraphernalia you might want. If you’re looking for an owl or toad to take to school, stop in at the Magical Menagerie, which is worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a pet – there are some very cool animals in the shop to look at and interact with. Of course, you’ll want to have fun when you’re at school, so your last shopping stop should be Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. Here you can find all manner of joke items such as Extendable Ears, U-No-Poo, and Skiving Snackboxes. You can also pick up a Pygmy Puff here, which you will get to officially name before adopting and taking it home.
Pick up your gold and ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
You might have spent a little more than you meant to buying school supplies (been there, done that, got the Hogwarts House themed t-shirt) but that’s OK, Gringotts Bank is right there at the end of the street. You can exchange your Muggle money for Wizarding Money right there in the bank, which you can either keep as a souvenir or actually spend in the shops and restaurants. It’s hard to miss the giant dragon sitting on top of the bank as well, especially since he makes himself known every now and then by breathing fire! If you want to explore Gringotts a little deeper, and get a better idea of the dragon’s story, now would be a good time to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This ride can get a very long line in the busier periods, so ride as soon in the day as you can. The ride queue takes you on a tour of Gringotts, including getting up close and personal with some rather foreboding looking goblins, before you take a trip through the Gringotts vaults. The ride is one of my favorite ever theme park rides, and an absolute must-do!
Watch Celestina Warbeck and hear the Tale of the Three Brothers (while drinking a frozen butterbeer!)
The Tale of the Three Brothers is one of the few Harry Potter related things that I prefer in the movie compared to the book; the book did a good job telling the story, but the way it was illustrated in the movie was amazing. Luckily, this version is the one performed in Diagon Alley, with actors using puppets to portray the three brothers in the story. Another fantastic performance to catch is that of Celestina Warbeck, Molly Weasley’s favorite Wizarding singer! Her shows are fun and vibrant and another must-do for me whenever we visit. Both of these shows provide the perfect backdrop to sitting and enjoying your very first frozen butterbeer! There are multiple locations to get this from within Diagon Alley, but my personal favorite is The Hog’s Head; this bar has a whole host of other drinks as well, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and you might want to browse the menu for another drink later on. Be sure to ask the bartender about the secret menu too!
Eat lunch at The Leaky Cauldron – and save room for dessert!
By now, you’re probably getting pretty hungry, so it’s time for lunch at The Leaky Cauldron. This is my favorite of the two Wizarding World quick service locations (the other being The Three Broomsticks over in Hogsmeade – don’t worry, we’ll go there too!) and the food is really good. I grew up in the UK and can be quite critical of attempts for restaurants to make British food this side of the pond – but this stuff is good quality, extremely tasty, and very authentic. My favorite options are the Bangers and Mash, and the Beef, Lamb, and Guiness Stew, but all of the food is fantastic. The drinks menu is pretty great in here too; I really like the Fishy Green Ale or the Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, or you could opt for a Firewhiskey instead. Either way, this is a great place to sit (in the air conditioning!) before moving on to get some dessert at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. This is the absolute best way to keep cool on a hot Florida day, and the options are endless. My go-to is a scoop of Clotted Cream and a scoop of Chocolate Chili topped with strawberry topping, but my husband loves the Strawberry Peanut Butter. Grab a couple of scoops to nibble on as you head to our next destination – Kings Cross Station.
Take the train to Hogsmeade
You’ll need to head back out Diagon Alley the same way you came in, and then make a right and head down towards Kings Cross Station. You’ll need a 2-park ticket in order to take the train to Hogsmeade, so make sure you have your ticket out and ready to be scanned before you board the train. Meander through Kings Cross Station before boarding the amazing Hogwarts Express to take you to Hogsmeade. The train journey from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade takes a few minutes, and you’ll have an amazing view out the window as London slips away, and the countryside becomes more wild – look out for your first glimpse of Hogwarts castle! Pulling into Hogsmeade station, you’ll be greeted by Hagrid, then it’s time to disembark your locomotive and take your first steps into Hogsmeade!
Take the castle tour and ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Your first stop should, of course, be Hogwarts castle, and, in my opinion, the best theme park ride in all of Central Florida, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The ride queue takes you through Hogwarts castle, with glimpses into Dumbledore’s office, a potions classroom, and even a meeting with Harry, Ron and Hermione. The ride itself is thrilling, where you’ll encounter Quidditch matches and giant spiders, and maybe even a Dementor or two. Waits for this ride can get to be pretty long, and if you don’t mind splitting up your party, the single rider line is a fantastic way to cut that wait way down. If you’re traveling with young children who don’t meet the height requirement or just don’t want to ride, they can go through the line with you, and just before boarding, your party will be directed to the family room where one adult can wait with any non-riders as the other rides, and then vice versa. There is also the option to simply take the castle tour to see the interior of the castle without doing the ride if you wish. Hogwarts is the crowning jewel of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and is absolutely beautiful, both inside and out. The other ride in Hogsmeade is Flight of the Hippogriff, where you’ll get to meet Buckbeak and see Hagrid’s hut and pumpkin patch. This is a fun little family coaster, but very short, and I would say only worth waiting for if the line is 20 minutes or less.
Pick up souvenirs for friends back home
Once you’ve had chance to tour Hogwarts and ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, your day might be starting to come to an end – but you still have a few things left to do! Since your friends and family will be SUPER jealous that you got to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it might be nice to pick up a gift or two to take back home to them. Luckily, Hogsmeade has some fantastic gift options. Dervish and Banges has all manner of magical items such as Sneakoscopes and Omnioculars, as well as Quidditch supplies, Hogwarts House themed clothing, and much more. While you could buy something from here, I would suggest that the best souvenirs are going to come from Honeydukes. The amazing sweet shop has every sugary treat that you read about in the books: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Cauldron Cakes, Exploding Bonbons, Cockroach Clusters, Acid Pops, and of course, Chocolate Frogs. The Chocolate Frogs even come with trading cards, although sadly the pictures do not move. A word of caution: the Chocolate Frogs do not last long in the Florida heat, so buy them at the end of your day!
Eat dinner in The Three Broomsticks
It’s nearly time to get back on the Hogwarts Express to head back to London, but not before one final meal in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Three Broomsticks was the original Wizarding World eatery, and is a great place to finish your day. I’d recommend the Fish and Chips with a chilled Pumpkin Juice, and maybe break into one of those Chocolate Frogs for dessert! After dinner, it’s time to say goodbye to Hogsmeade and take the train back to reality.
Take the train back to Diagon Alley
The train ride from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade is different from the one back to London, so you need to experience the journey in both directions. Head back through Hogsmeade station to get back on the Hogwarts Express to go home, waving goodbye to Hagrid as you leave. Look out for the Knight Bus weaving its way through the streets as you pull back into the city, then head back through Kings Cross station, back out into London, and Universal Studios park.
Have you visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort? What was your favorite thing to do? Let me know in the comments!