Planning a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been to Orlando, Hollywood, or Osaka – or are about to take your first trip on the Hogwarts Express: there’s something truly magical about Harry Potter world at Universal Studios.
As you plan your trip, you might wonder what you need to know to have the best, most magical time possible. That’s where I’m here to help: these Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips are ones I learned first-hand on my first trip (and all the ones that have followed!).
Read on for pro-tips and rest assured you’ll have an experience that you won’t forget even if someone tries a memory charm on you.
The Wizarding World: Orlando vs. Hollywood
“What’s the difference between the Wizarding World in Orlando and the one in Hollywood?” you ask. Good question! My most important tip for visiting the Wizarding World is to manage your expectations of what each park offers – they’re not the same.
There are two big differences between the Wizarding Worlds in Hollywood and Orlando: There is no Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Hollywood (or any associated rides/attractions), and since its opening in 2019, the Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure ride is only available at the Wizarding World in Orlando.
Here’s a quick explanation of how Orlando works and how that’s possible:
- There are two parts of the Wizarding World in Orlando: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (they’re connected by the Hogwarts Express).
- Also, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually part of two parks in Orlando: Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
- Diagon Alley is in the Universal Studios Florida park.
- Hogsmeade is in the Universal’s Islands of Adventure park.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Hollywood is actually equivalent to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando (not Universal Studios Florida).
Both parks have Hogsmeade and Hogwarts sections; both parks have the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff rides. But you can only ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and visit Diagon Alley (or ride Escape from Gringotts) in Orlando.
I haven’t been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, Japan (#bucketlist), but this is a really great review that share’s what’s different there compared to Orlando and Hollywood.
My Top Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips
Given that one big tip/caveat for visiting the Harry Potter worlds in Orlando and Hollywood, here are the rest of my pro-tips for visiting the Wizarding World – either one of them!
Tip #1: Manage Your Expectations at Each Park
As I mentioned above, the parks differ. Do your research and read my posts about the Wizarding World in Orlando and the Wizarding World in Hollywood to know what each one is like and how to make the most of your visit.
Tip #2: Arrive Early
If you have the whole day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, start it early. Harry Potter’s magical world is by far the most popular part of both Universal Studios’ and lines form right away. Arrive before park opening time to get in line first – or purchase a VIP early-access pass if you can.
Tip #3: Go Straight to Ollivanders for a Wand
No matter what time you arrive, your very first stop in the Wizarding World should be Ollivanders Wand Shop.
You can visit the Ollivanders in Hogsmeade (Orlando or Hollywood), or be a purist to visit the Ollivanders in Diagon Alley (Orlando only). You might have to wait in a short line as only a small number of witches and wizards can attend each wand-choosing ceremony, but it’s worth it. Watching the wandmaker help a young wizard or witch find their perfect wand is a fun experience.
Lines at Ollivanders typically only get longer as the day goes on – so start the day with this one and you won’t have to wait even longer later in the day.
Tip #4: The Interactive Wand is Totally Worth It
Once you watch a wand-choosing ceremony, you can explore the rest of Ollivanders, piled floor to ceiling with wand boxes. But wait: is an interactive wand worth the money?
Yes, 100% – the interactive wand is worth the money at the Wizarding World. I would set this as my #1 tip for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Based on my research, a regular wand is $25 at the Wizarding World, character replica wands are $49, and interactive wands are $55. The extra money might seem like a lot, but having the ability to do magic spells throughout Hogsmeade (and Diagon Alley in Orlando) is the most fun you can have – it’s magic, Harry!
There are 25 known spots to do magic in Orlando (11 spots in Hollywood), and several more secret ones you can try and discover during your trip.
Tip #5: You Don’t Have to Ride to Visit Hogwarts Castle
This is one of my Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips that I learned after my first visit – and one that I love to recommend for people who get motion sick, as I do.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a ride located inside Hogwarts castle. It’s a great ride, and people enjoy it a lot – but if you’re motion sensitive, you will feel sick afterward. But if you don’t go on the ride, you’ll miss out on seeing inside the castle, including Dumbledore’s office, the DADA classroom, and the sorting hat, right?
Wrong! You can visit Hogwarts castle without riding the Forbidden Journey ride – and you can skip the line when you do!
Here’s how to do it: when you reach the entrance to Hogwarts, let the witch or wizard at the entrance know that you don’t want to ride the ride. They should let you join the single rider line (which is always shorter if there even is one) and you can walk through the same parts of the castle without having to wait in lines.
When you get to the point where everyone is grouping up to get on the ride, tell the witch or wizard that you don’t want to ride, and they’ll direct you through a trick door (aka secret passage) that skips the ride and puts you out in Filch’s Emporium. Boom – Hogwarts seen, no lines involved, and no motion sickness!
Tip #6: Ride the Rides During Lunch
Here’s another tip for visiting the Wizarding World that I learned on my second visit: the lines for rides get way shorter during lunch (which is coincidentally the time that lines get super long at The Three Broomsticks (and The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley).
If you can plan your day, grab a snack mid-morning – yes, Honeyduke’s sweets count – but there are several other places too:
- The Hopping Pot (Diagon Alley, Orlando)
- Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour (Diagon Alley, Orlando)
- The Magic Neep Cart (Hollywood)
During the lunch hour when everyone else is waiting in line and trying to find a seat at the Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron, you can ride the rides. Then, grab a late lunch with no lines – this is the way to skip the lines without paying extra!
Tip #7: Try the Three Types of Butterbeer
Did you know there are three types of Butterbeer at the Wizarding World? Everyone knows about cold Butterbeer and frozen Butterbeer, but there’s also hot Butterbeer – only offered on chilly days.
Since both of the Wizarding Worlds are in warm climates (California and Florida), this doesn’t happen often. But, if you’re visiting during the winter and happen to have a jacket on for warmth, ask if they’re serving hot Butterbeer that day and give it a try!
(If you want to make Butterbeer at home, I’ve got you covered with the ultimate easy Butterbeer recipe.)
Tip #8: Plan to Spend a Whole Day in the Wizarding World
I don’t know about you but I can easily spend an entire day in the Wizarding World alone. In fact, I have – several times – including on my 30th birthday!
If you feel the same (and especially if you’re in Orlando with two parts of the Wizarding World to explore), take my advice: give yourself the entire day to visit the Wizarding World without feeling rushed.
Tip #9: Consider a Multi-Day Ticket if You Really Love Movies or Rides
If – also like me – you also love other movies, and/or want to ride other rides in the Universal Studios Park(s), you may want to buy a multi-day pass. You’ll be able to come back into the park for several days and see as much as you want.
(Non-Wizarding World tip: Jurassic Park is my favorite non-Harry Potter ride!)
Additional Tips for the Wizarding World in Orlando
If you’re planning your trip to Harry Potter world in Orlando, I have a few more specific Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips for your trip. These are ones that only apply to Orlando, which is why I’ve left them to the end.
Tip #10: Stay for the Hogwarts Light Show
I learned this tip for the Wizarding World on my third trip: there’s a magical light show “on select nights” at the Wizarding World in Orlando. It’s an incredible display of magic as the whole of Hogwarts castle comes to life with light representing the four Hogwarts houses and awe-inspiring music to match.
The best way to see “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts” is to check the schedule on the Islands of Adventure website before you plan your trip – then you’ll know that it’s happening when you’re there!
Tip #11: Don’t Miss 12 Grimmauld Place!
When visiting Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, you might be tempted to stay inside the Alley – but it turns out there’s more outside the magical world!
If you exit through King’s Cross Station, you’ll step into a small slice of London… in Florida! While you won’t be able to tick off any of the items on my London Harry Potter bucket list, you can see the Knight Bus, snap a photo with one of London’s famous red phone booths, admire Piccadilly Circus, and spot Kreacher in the window of No. 12 Grimmauld Place.
It’s a cherry-on-top experience that adds on to all the magic you’ll experience in Diagon Alley and the rest of the Wizarding World.
Tip #12: The Park-to-Park Ticket is Worth It
I’m ending on the ultimate – and hopefully most obvious – of my Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips. And I can’t stress this enough: the park-to-park ticket is 1000% worth it when visiting the Wizarding World in Orlando.
If you buy a single-day ticket for one park and can’t visit the other half or ride the Hogwarts Express, you’re going to be a very sad witch or wizard! Instead, you could spend the extra to buy a park-to-park pass, visit both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and ride the Hogwarts Express. Trust me. It’s worth it.
With these Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips, you’re all set for an incredibly magic trip! Have other questions? Let me know in the comments!