You need to escape the real world, and the magical world is the perfect place. Where better to visit than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida! Located in Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Wizarding World is made of two parts: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade – that means it’s twice as much of the magical world to explore than other Wizarding Worlds (like Hollywood or Osaka).
Despite living on the West Coast of the U.S., I’ve visited the Wizarding World in Orlando twice: once in 2014 and again in 2018. Both were insanely magical!
To help you make the most of a day at the Harry Potter World in Orlando, I’ve put together this list of things to do at the Wizarding World. This list barely scratches the surface – but they are the 10 best experiences you can’t miss.
Note: For some reason, in all the times I’ve visited the Wizarding World in Orlando, I’ve always started in Hogsmeade (not Diagon Alley). So this post is written that way – if you want to start in Diagon Alley, I’d do the list in reverse – except start with #10, #9, then #1, then #8 and so on up the list. No matter which side of the Wizarding World you start on always get your wand first!
1. Get Your Wand at Ollivanders
Like I mention in my tips for visiting the Wizarding Worlds, you should start your visit to the magical world at Ollivanders. The lines to experience a wand ceremony are always the longest – often even longer than the lines for rides!
It’s obviously worth it though, even if you aren’t the lucky witch or wizard chosen to receive your wand from the Ollivanders staff. Once the ceremony is open, you’ll enter the wand shop and can browse the myriad of wands available. I went with a hazel wand, which I still have today!
⚡️Pro-Tip: The interactive magical wand is worth the extra expense, as you’ll see in the next item on my list of things to do at the Wizarding World in Orlando!
2. Wave Your Interactive Magical Wand
As the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando is part of two parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure), there are 25 points where you can use an interactive wand to make magic happen in the store-fronts and other parts of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
When you buy your wand, you’ll receive a map that shows you the locations and which spell you to perform at each spot; there are also small metal markers on the streets to help you find them too.
Using a wand to perform spells is absolutely the most magical part of visiting the Wizarding World!
3. Explore Hogwarts Castle
Almost everyone visits Hogwarts Castle to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. As part of the line, you’ll work your way through parts of Hogwarts castle to see classrooms, moving portraits, the Sorting Hat, and much more. This helps a lot if the line is super long and you have to wait a while!
⚡️Pro-Tip: If you don’t want to ride the Forbidden Journey, you can let a staff member know – they’ll let you go in the single rider line to see the castle and then exit the ride before boarding.
4. Sip Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks
Bottom’s up! There’s no drink in the entire magical world like Butterbeer, and there are three types of Butterbeer at the Wizarding Worlds!
- Cold Butterbeer – Carbonated and chilled, cold Butterbeer is sweet and creamy.
- Frozen Butterbeer – My favorite type at the Wizarding World, the frozen Butterbeer is cold mixed with crushed ice.
- Hot Butterbeer – I’m not sure it’s ever hot enough in Florida to justify hot Butterbeer, but in the event you visit on a chilly winter day, it’s an option!
While none of these is my most favorite Butterbeer (that can be found at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in England), they’re both delicious and you should try each one to see which you prefer.
5. Ride the Hogwarts Express
Riding the Hogwarts Express is one experience you can’t have at the Wizarding World in Hollywood – it’s a unique thing you can only do at Harry Potter World in Orlando!
When you’re ready to move from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, the best way is aboard the Hogwarts Express. You may have to queue up to board a carriage in a small group. You’ll then depart the station for an exciting journey, no spoilers!
⚡️Pro-Tip: Look out the window of the train to see the whole ride, but don’t forget to look at the windows to the walkway too!
6. See the Dragon Breathe Fire
Once you arrive and disembark the Hogwarts Express, it’s time to explore the labyrinthine passageways of Diagon Alley. It’s almost impossible to miss the gigantic dragon towering over the scene though – and she won’t let you!
On every quarter hour, the Ukranian Ironbelly will let out a huge roar and breathe fire – a good hint that it’s about to happen is when everyone turns toward the dragon with their phones raised to snap a pic!
7. Descend into the Gringotts Vault
The best ride in Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, located (unsurprisingly) in Gringotts. Like Hogwarts, the line forms and snakes through the lobby and atrium in the wizarding bank, then descends into the vault where you board the ride. There are some incredible details in the bank lobby, so take the time to enjoy them if you’re waiting to board the ride.
⚡️Pro-Tip: I am exceptionally motion sensitive, and this is my favorite ride at Wizarding World in Orlando that causes me the least queasiness.
8. Explore Knockturn Alley
Though Diagon Alley is a safe place for all witches and wizards, us Slytherins can’t help but explore the darker corners – including a stroll down Knockturn Alley. This dimly lit area is full of spooky storefronts and the best (read: creepiest) souvenir shop in the whole Wizarding World.
It’s worth a quick walk, but don’t get lured into the dark arts while you’re down there.
9. See Kreacher at 12 Grimmauld Place
Once you’re ready to leave the magical world (as if that’s possible), head out of Diagon Alley to explore the rest of Universal Studios. Here you’ll find a few more Harry Potter sights, including 12 Grimmauld Place. Keep your eyes on the windows – sometimes you’ll spot Kreacher awaiting his master’s return.
10. Go Sightseeing in London
One last stop before you head off to any other rides – be sure to enjoy some of the other London sights near 12 Grimmauld Place. These include a red phone booth, the Cupid statue from Piccadilly Circus, and the Knight Bus (a classic London sight, of course!).
Are there any other unmissable things to do at the Wizarding World in Orlando that I missed? Let me know in the comments!