Are you ready to plan a trip to Harry Potter World?
You are in the right place!
Harry Potter World is amazing! There is so much to see and do! If you are a Harry Potter fan this is going to be a dream come true. Even if you are not a big fan, you can still have a great time.
Harry Potter planning can be a little overwhelming! I am going to show you step by step the best way to get the best deals at Universal Studios Florida – Harry Potter World.
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Where is Harry Potter World?
In this post we are going to focus on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. There are Universal locations with Harry Potter World in California, Japan, Beijing, Singapore, and a stand alone attraction in Australia.
London also has the Harry Potter Studios which is more of an amazing museum and not associated with the Universal Theme Parks.
Plan a Harry Potter World Vacation at Universal Studios Florida
Planning a trip to Harry Potter world is exciting but there is a lot of things to consider before you book your trip. I am going to answer some of the questions I had the first time I went.
How Many Days Should I Attend the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
How big of a Harry Potter fan are you? This will help you determine how long you will want to spend at the park.
While you could ride all the rides and explore the Harry Potter areas in both Universal parks, that does not give you much time to peruse the shops, eat in the Harry Potter themed restaurants, and take in the shows. Plus, one day would definitely not give you enough time to enjoy the rest of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
To be honest the more days you stay at Universal the more affordable it is. There are often promotions such as buy 2 days get 2 free. Four days would be plenty of time to enjoy all that both parks have to offer.
Just a thought, we were told that we could do Harry Potter world and the rest of Universal Studios in one day. We found this to be false! (We even had front of the line passes, and it was not on a peak day.) I feel like two or three days would be much better.
The Best Time to Visit Harry Potter World
Orlando has certain peak seasons and low seasons. Usually going when school is in session is going to be less crowded! This is not always an option so I have found that the Undercovertourist has a great Orlando Crowd Calendar.
This calendar can really help you know the best time to go! We have used it many times!
Least Expensive Times to Go to Harry Potter World
January, February, and September offer lower rates on hotel prices and usually there will be promotions for ticket prices.
Best Time to Go for Lower Crowds and Nice Weather.
April and May are great times to go because traditionally crowds are lower (expect during Spring break) and the weather is nice. So you get the benefits of low season crowds and nice weather.
With that said, we have been at Christmas time and in the heat of summer and both times we had a great time without crowds.
Do I Need to Purchase Tickets to Both Parks to Experience Harry Potter World?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Universal Orlando has two themed parks right next to each other: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. (Universal Orlando also has a water park, but as of yet does not have a boat emerging from a lake (Harry Potter Book 4) or a dragon ride that has you jump into water!( Harry Potter Book 7)
Both parks have Harry Potter attractions. And you can’t just go to one park one day, and the second another if you want the whole experience. You will need a 2-park pass, which allows you to go to both parks in one day, in order to ride the Hogwarts Express between parks.
Islands of Adventure
This is where it all started. You will find Hogwarts Castle here, as well as Hogsmeade. Hogsmeade, The Forbidden Journey (located in the castle), Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Ride (the newest ride), and the Flight of the Hippogriff are the rides located at Islands of Adventure. There are also shops and food (The Three Broomsticks).
The Harry Potter area at the other park, Universal Studios, is themed around Gringotts Bank, Knockturn Alley, and Diagon Alley. I love the theming! To enter the area, you go through a brick wall. We actually couldn’t immediately find the way in. It’s like entering a new world!
This area also has shops and food (The Leaky Cauldron). There is one ride, and it’s a good one: Escape from Gringotts
The only way to ride the Hogwarts Express is to have a 2-park pass. So if this is your first time to Harry Potter World I suggest getting a 2-Park pass so you can experience the Hogwarts Express.
How Much Should I Budget for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Universal Studios is not cheap. Like I said earlier the longer you stay the more affordable it is.
The first time we went we got a $1,500 vacation package which included one night stay at Cabana Bay, tickets for 5 people, fast passes, and the dining plan. I thought that was expensive but we had planned and anticipated the cost ahead of time.
Prices vary on different days of the week.
$109 is the starting price for both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios for a one day pass.
We found that Sams Club/Costco had great discount tickets if you are planning on staying at least 3 days.
Does it Cost Extra to Go to Harry Potter World?
No, your admission to Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure gives you access to Harry Potter World.
Should I Get a Vacation Package at Universal Studios Florida?
Do you want to get into the park an hour early? Then a vacation package may be the way to go.
Personally, with little kids it can be draining to go early unless you plan to take a break later in the day. But if you can do it, it’s worth getting a head start to both beat the crowds and, for many parts of the year, to beat the heat!
What Does a Vacation Package Include?
A vacation package includes hotel, tickets, early park admission and extra benefits associated with staying on property. You can also add a dining plan and front of the line passes.
Deciding if you want a vacation package does play a big role in your Harry Potter planning because if you decide to stay onsite it allows you to get into Harry Potter World an hour earlier which gives you more time to play.
Should I Stay at a Universal Hotel?
Universal has eight on-site hotel rooms. There are also lots of hotels located all around Universal Orlando. I am not going to go into detail about each hotel located on-site only the benefits associated with staying onsite and how that will affect your planning a Harry Potter trip.
Early Entrance to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This benefit is so worth it! Especially, if you are going during a really busy time of year. We really wanted to do the Ollivanders Wand Shop first thing and getting to the park early was great because our daughter was chosen to be the one who got to get a wand. Also, riding the rides before the lines get long is amazing!
Transportation to Harry Potter World
Image Courtesy of youtube
Staying on resort allows you to easily get transportation to all the parks without having to drive your car, park it, and commute to the park. It is so nice to walk right out of your hotel room and jump on a bus.
Once you get off the bus at the parks, there is an escalator going up, and then moving walkways. The moving walkways went a long way, and you can look out in both directions as the sides were not enclosed. It helped build up the anticipation for us!
There are also water taxis that run starting 30 minutes before the early hours start.
If you want to drive, parking starts at $25, but is free after 6:00 pm except during Halloween time.
Express Unlimited Pass
This pass is a benefit if you stay at a premier hotel. We wanted to stay at a premier hotel but our family was too big. The main reason was to get this pass for free. We value our time and the patience it takes to wait in long lines with little kids. We were happy to know that we could add those passes to our vacation package.
We thought Cabana Bay Beach Resort was a great family option. The room we received was very large and could easily fit a family of six in it! We really loved the lobby and arcade. Being able to get to the park early made it worth it to us to stay on-site.
Should I Get a Express Unlimited Pass (Skip the Line Pass)
This pass is a benefit if you stay at a premier hotel. Like I said early, we wanted to stay at a premier hotel but our family was too big. The main reason was to get this pass for free.
Advantage of Express Unlimited
So should you get it? Well, when we went we knew we had limited time. We live far away, and we realized the cost to travel back out to Orlando to go to Universal is expensive, and perhaps by more fully utilizing our time while in Orlando, we could save overall.
If we spent a week at Universal, we probably could have been fine without the pass.
Disadvantage of Express Unlimited
There was also one other downside to the pass. You move through the queues extremely fast. Some of the queues are themed. I almost wanted to get out of the line at one point so I could wait in line and walk slowly through Hogwarts castle to take it all in.
Well, almost. I’ll be honest. I loved that ride so much, that maximizing the times I could do it was so worth it! Please note that the pass has variable rates, so the more crowded it is, the more you are going to have to pay. I hope that helps your Harry Potter Planning!
This pass was worth it! Standing in line with little kids sounds miserable to us. We added it to our package even though we did not stay at the premier hotel and did not regret that choice even a little.
Dining Plan at Universal Studios Florida
One question I had when planning a Wizarding World of Harry Potter trip was if I should get a dining plan.
I found that Universal Studios Florida does offer a dining plan but, I am going to save you the trouble right now and tell you it is not worth it!
If you are used to the Disney World Dining plan this does not compare. We would have spent less on purchasing food than what the cost of the plan.
Plus, when I would go into a store most things were not included in the plan such as sweet treats and ice cream. I personally would not do this again!
If you are determined to get the plan, the official Universal Dining Plan is only offered if you get a vacation package. There are other quick service plans that you can purchase without a vacation package.
Food Options at Harry Potter World
What is a theme park without food? Okay, you may be a die hard that brings your own food. (Trust me, been there done that with PB&J, goldfish, and even Pop Tarts.) And maybe Cabana Bay Beach Resort with a kitchenette is all you need.
Harry Potter World Restaurants
If you want to experience the food at Harry Potter World, you primarily have two choices for meals: The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, and the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. We did not get a chance to try the Three Broomsticks.
We have been to the Leaky Cauldron. It was a so-so atmosphere for us. It felt like we were in an assembly line until we got seated. The menu was okay, but seemed limited. For our kids that thrive on chicken nuggets and fries (I know, parents of the year), fish with those chips and cottage pie just didn’t do it for them.
My husband and I thought the food was okay, but saw the rides and the villages and stores as the highlights. Keep that in mind in your Harry Potter planning!
Treats at Harry Potter World
Now we liked the treats! Chocolate frogs, butter beer, frozen butterbeer, hot butterbeer, and cold butterbeer. We tried it all, including butterbeer fudge (but did not get around to the butterbeer ice cream, if they had it when we went). All of it was wonderful!
Honey Dukes was one of my favorite stores. There are so many fun choices of treats. This is where the fudge is located as well as love potions, blood suckers, and so much more.
Different family members had different preferences, but we were really glad to try different things and share them. For Harry Potter fans, this helps you breathe in the world that you love so much.
Hogsmeade VS. Diagon Alley
Hogesmead is in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios.
What Harry Potter Park Should You Start With?
So if you only have time for one park, or you are planning what park to spend the most time in, you may be wondering which is better for Harry Potter.
Well, both have great things to offer. We found the layout of the Diagon Alley to be more immersive. When we arrived to the park via the Hogwarts Express, we couldn’t tell at first how to enter Diagon Alley. The wall dividing the “two worlds” actually did a great job. This is in contrast to Hogsmeade where you walk up the entrance without really anything exciting.
The colors of some of the buildings, the liveliness of the area, the fire breathing dragon, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes; all good stuff!
We did find parts of Diagon Alley too dark. It made it difficult to see what we were doing with wands.
Of course the two areas boast different rides. Now with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, we see Hogsmeade as the clear winner. (But as a personal preference, I’ve always loved Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey over Escape from Gringotts.)
If you love rides than Hogsmeade should be your choice.
Ollivanders Wand Shop
Ollivanders Wand Shop has two locations one in Hogsmeade and one in Diagon Alley. So no matter which park you choose you can still participate in this activity.
Consider getting an interactive wand at Ollivander’s Wand Shop. The wand can be used at Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley in a number of locations. By casting certain spells (i.e., by moving your wand certain ways as directed), you can make the items in windows, above you, and elsewhere move. It’s a great interactive experience.
Rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
As mentioned above, you need the park hopper to do the Hogwarts Express. Is it worth it? We thought so!
We are fans. Sitting in the train that we’ve read about and watched in film was pretty cool, especially the first time.
Different Experience Each Direction
We didn’t have to wait in line too long. You can call this a ride, but once you’ve ridden it once, it’s a transport (though you see different things out the window depending on what direction you’re going).
Please note that you can’t use the Express Pass for the Hogwarts Express.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Location: Island of Adventure
Walking through the castle is almost as exciting as going on the ride. Every detail you can imagine went into the design of the castle.
This is my favorite ride. It is a four minute ride. As you fly on a broom stick you will go on a the quidditch field, through the forbidden forest, and on an incredible adventure.
This is one of those rides that I could ride again and again. We actually rode it four times on our last visit.
Please note that some people say they can get motion sickness but I did not experience this.
Flight of the Hippogriff
Location: Island of Adventure
The Flight of the Hippogriff is a junior coaster. It is a very mild, short coaster. If this is your first time to Harry Potter World than you should do it.
After that, I would not wait more than 15 minutes for this ride. It is fun but so short.
Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Location: Islands of Adventure
Hagrid’s ride is the newest addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It takes you on a journey through the forbidden forest.
I love the design. You actually hop onto Hagrids motorbike. You have the option to jump on the motorcycle or the side bucket seat. I rode both and like sitting in the bucket seat better. My husband is taller and preferred sitting on the bike.
This coaster is awesome. It has a surprise that I wont spoil but let me just say it is amazing!
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Location: Universal Studios
Gringotts is a highly themed ride. This was my daughters favorite ride.
The most impressive part of this ride is the dragon that sits on top of the ride. It actually blows out fire!
Shows at Harry Potter World
We liked the Harry Potter shows, although we were not overwhelmed.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a puppet show. The puppets; amazing. The puppeteers; amazing. At least for the parents. The kids liked it but I don’t think they appreciated the artistic elements as much.
There is also a Frog Choir. We enjoyed listening to our favorite song “Double Double Toil and Trouble.”
And finally there is a lights show projected on the walls of Hogswarts. We found the later show was more manageable the time of year we went, but it is still very busy. You may want to ask a worker ahead of time what place is the best to stand to see the show.
Harry Potter Merchandise and Souvenirs
There are some pretty fun souvenirs at Universal. They have pins, Luna Lovegood glasses, and of course the interactive wands.
Should I Purchase Souvenirs at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
I highly recommend getting a wand because not only is it a great souvenir you can use it in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I think it is worth it.
Other items such as shirts, mugs, and magnets. I wouldn’t necessarily purchase at the park. You can find these types of things at souvenir store located throughout Orlando for a lot cheaper. However, if there is something you love and have not seen anywhere else than I suggest getting it.
My Favorite Place to Buy Souvenirs
I loved going to HoneyDukes. I bought some really cool treats for my kids. The one downside in the summer is that you can’t buy anything chocolate because it will melt.
Going to Universal Studios During the COVID Pandemic
We decided to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2020. This was a risk. We were so excited that Universal was opening and immediately booked our tickets.
Universal did a fabulous job with making everyone feel safe.
As you enter the park you will go through a health check. They make sure you are not running a temperature and that you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms. That right there is a peace of mind knowing that other people do not have a fever.
At every ride you are spaced out and everyone when we went followed the rules. As you enter a ride hand sanitizer was given.
I thought wearing a mask in 100 degree temperatures in the summer time would be awful but it wasn’t that bad.
Universal has you waiting in air-conditioning for majority of your wait times. There are designated areas where you can take off your mask for a break. I never used them.
I am glad I went. I did not think my experience was lessened because of the COVID safety procedures that were put into place. I also loved that the lines were short. We were able to go on the new Hagrid ride 3 times and the castle ride 3-4 times. It was amazing!
I thought Universal did a fabulous job at keeping people safe!
Harry Potter Planning Complete!
Hopefully, this post has given you enough information to get you set! You will have a fabulous time!
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