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!).
I’ve visited the Wizarding World thrice – twice to Orlando and once to Hollywood (to mark my 30th birthday!). Based on those trips at various ages and with various group sizes, here is my best advice.
Read on for NEWT-Level Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips and rest assured you’ll have an experience that you won’t forget even if someone tries a memory charm on you.
This post was originally published in May 2020, and was updated in June 2021.
Tip #1. Understand the Difference: Orlando vs. Hollywood
“What’s the difference between the Wizarding World in Orlando and the one in Hollywood?” you ask. Good question! Most important on my list of Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips 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).
- 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.
Tip #2: Download the Universal App
I know, apps are kind of annoying. But the Universal App (Orlando and Hollywood) is pretty critical for success during your visit. You can see which rides are closed (if any – which I hope not!), ride wait times, menus, and much more. It’s definitely worth it to make your day easier.
Tip #3: Purchase Early Access or 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.
Should you purchase express access too? While I’ve never purchased Express Access before, I’m not sold on it. Most importantly, Express Access cuts off parts of some of the rides – so you’ll miss out on part of the experience! Instead, I’ve got tips (#7 & #8) to help you enjoy the rides and save some time.
Tip #4: Go Straight to Ollivanders for a Wand
No matter what time you arrive, your very first stop in the Wizarding World should be Ollivander’s 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 #5: Purchase Your Wand from a Wand Cart
In the event there’s a huge line by the time you reach Ollivander’s, you can always purchase your wand elsewhere. There are wand carts set up in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley where you can try to find the wand that matches you without waiting in a line.
Tip #6: 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 #7: 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 #8: The Best View of Hogwarts Castle is…
… On the bridge leaving Hogsmeade toward Jurassic Park at Universal Orlando.
… Out the back side of The Three Broomsticks (near the outdoor dining area) at Universal Studios Hollywood.
If you want the best photo of Hogwarts possible, these are the places to get those perfect shots!
Tip #9: 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). At other times, the ride lines can get quite long!
(Note: Due to the pandemic, both parks instituted a ‘Virtual Line’ system; it’s unknown how long this will continue. Learn more here.)
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 #10: Use the Single Rider Line
I already mentioned the Single Rider Line, but if you don’t mind breaking up your group (or you’re visiting alone), the single rider line is a great way to cut down your wait time for the awesome rides in the Wizarding World.
In short, the single rider line will fill in empty seats when a party is 1-2 people too few to fill a car/ride. So you may get broken up to join 2-3 other parties on their part of the ride – but it’s worth it for the time you’ll save!
Tip #11: Try all SEVEN Types of Butterbeer
Did you know there are seven 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, like near the holidays. You can also enjoy Butterbeer fudge, Butterbeer soft-serve, Butterbeer ice cream, and Butterbeer potted cream.
Here’s my official ranking from least favorite to most favorite:
- Butterbeer Fudge
- Butterbeer ice cream
- Cold Butterbeer
- Butterbeer soft serve
- Butterbeer potted cream
- Hot Butterbeer
- Frozen Butterbeer
(If you want to make your own Butterbeer at home, I’ve got you covered with the ultimate easy Butterbeer recipe.)
Tip #12: 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 #13: 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!)
Tip #14. Use the Free Wifi to Share on Social Media
I already know you’re going to be taking a ton of photos and vids, maybe shooting a Tiktok or Reel to share later on social media… so don’t get bogged down with slow cell service. There’s free wifi at both Wizarding Worlds, and network is called UNIVERSAL.
Tip #15. Check for any Health Notices Before Your Visit
Obviously, the events of 2020-2021 mean that visiting crowded amusement parks like the Wizarding World will probably look a bit different for a long time. That doesn’t mean you can’t visit – but you should do your research to make sure you’ll be safe while visiting the Wizarding World.
Here are the two resource pages to check:
These pages are updated regularly with any relevant info need to know (like masks and distancing rules).
Tip #16: The Park-to-Park Ticket is Worth It (Orlando Only)
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.
Tip #17: Don’t Miss 12 Grimmauld Place! (Orlando Only)
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 #18: Stay for the Hogwarts Light Show (Orlando Only)
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 #19. Ship Your Hogsmeade/Diagon Alley Purchases to Your Resort (Orlando Only)
If you’re staying at one of the onsite resorts at Universal Studios Orlando, you actually don’t need to carry around your purchases all day. When you check out, ask the cashier if you can have it sent to your resort; you can then pick it up when you arrive back after a magical day.
Okay, now you’re set for an incredibly magical trip with these Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips. Do you have other questions about visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments!