Tips for Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Tips for Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

For Spring Break this year, I took my 20-something kids with me to Universal Orlando for a Wizarding World holiday! Our goal was to spend as much time in this magical place as possible. And let me tell you, going to Universal with young adult kids is the absolute BEST!

Whether you’re going for the rides or just to sip as much Butterbeer as possible, here are a few things we learned on our trip to Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter that we’re sharing with you!

What is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando?

Before we dive into our tips, let's first understand what visiting the Wizarding World is all about. Within Universal Orlando's theme park, there are two are areas dedicated to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are two parks within Universal Orlando – Islands of Adventure where you can visit Hogsmeade and Universal Studios which houses Diagon Alley. First tip, to fully experience the Wizarding World, we suggest getting park-to-park admission passes so you can ride the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade – ride both directions, it’s a different experience each way!


Hogsmeade, located in Islands of Adventure, is a charming village that was our first stop on the trip! There are lots of iconic locations from the Harry Potter series, like the Hogwarts castle, Three Broomsticks, and Honeydukes! The super popular Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (there are no express passes for this ride) is here, as well as other rides such as Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff.

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley is based on the bustling wizarding shopping district that is filled with shops, The Leaky Cauldron, Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, and at the center, Gringotts Bank. Here, you can ride Escape from Gringotts, exchange muggle money for galleons, and catch a performance.

Our Tips for Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

There are lots of great accounts on Instagram to follow for insider tips and tricks (like Miss Wizarding World on Instagram and Undercover Tourist) but here are a few of our personal favorite things we discovered.

Staying at a Universal Hotel

We chose to stay at a Universal Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls, that had a shuttle boat that takes you directly to City Walk – the main area of Universal that leads to both theme parks. When you stay on-property, you get early access entry, and the other best benefit that we took advantage of is the ability to head back to the hotel in the middle of the day and then easily return back to the parks within the same day. More on this later!

Plan Ahead

First, make sure you download the Universal App. This will be the most essential tool to your success! I had my payment method loaded there, checked park hours and wait times, and ordered food within the app (more on this important tip later!) Also, check park crowd calendars when planning. We went to the parks on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday of our Spring Break week. Sunday and Monday were lower crowd days, and we are so glad we went then because Thursday was much more hectic!

Purchase a Park-to-Park Ticket

If you want to experience both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, it is essential to purchase a park-to-park ticket. This will allow you to ride the Hogwarts Express, which is a must-do! The train ride takes you between the two sections of the park and is a different experience each way! This was truly our favorite ride of the trip.

Take a Break During Peak Hours

Since we stayed at a Universal Property, we had the absolute luxury of going back and forth to our hotel and the parks during the same day. We would head out in the morning when the parks opened, ride any of the rides we wanted before the wait times were too long, eat lunch at Hogsmeade's Three Broomsticks, then head back to the hotel in the peak afternoon hours between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. We would then head back via the magical shuttle boat (there is a dock at the hotel and at City Walk) to enjoy both parks in the evening until they closed. It’s a completely wonderful experience to see Hogwarts at night and wander Diagon Alley (and Knockturn Alley) at nighttime as well!

Planning Your Meals

Planning your eating while there is key and it’s critical to have the Universal app loaded with your payment method and ready to go! We had no clue how to use this and had to pretty much figure it out on our own. You still need to wait in line to get a table at Three Broomsticks and The Leaky Cauldron, but while in line, you can get all of your food ordered on the app! Then, when you get to your table, there is a QR code – you simply tap “I am here” and scan your table number. They process your order, begin preparing your food, and bring it right to you. It’s truly like magic! This is probably one of the best tips we can provide – we wish we would have understood how this worked from the outset of our trip. Second, you can make reservations for other restaurants in the app! If you decide to stay late in Diagon Alley as we did, go ahead and make reservations in the app for a 9:30 pm dinner at NBC Sports Grill & Brew in City Walk. That way you aren’t scrambling for a late dinner (like we did one of the nights) and can enjoy those beautiful evening hours.

Try the Butterbeer (Obvi)

No visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is complete without trying the famous Butterbeer. This sweet, non-alcoholic drink is a fan favorite and can be found in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. You can choose from a cold, frozen, or hot version. There are Butterbeer carts in Hogsmeade and we waited in line several times at those, but our favorite newly found place to buy Butterbeer was The Fountain of Fair Fortune in Diagon Alley! It’s a beautiful spot just down the way from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor and you should go at least once to see the inside!

Visit Ollivanders

I have not visited the Wandkeeper at Ollivander’s in my last several trips. My adult kids insisted that we go, not so they could be chosen for the wand-fitting experience, but so that they could see a lucky young witch or wizard be chosen – and that’s what happened! A young girl donning her Gryffindor robe was chosen for the wand experience, and when I tell you that my kids had tears of joy in their eyes watching her, it made for such a beautiful core memory for all of us.

Take Your Time Exploring

With so much to see and do, it can be tempting to rush through the park to experience everything. But we found some of our most special memories were made when we stopped to look up or found new places to explore! One great spot is the alley to the right of Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head Inn in Hogsmeade. You can walk to the back patio and have a beautiful (and largely unimpeded) view of Hogwarts from there!

Don't Miss the Shows

In addition to the rides and attractions, both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade also offer various shows and performances throughout the day. From the Triwizard Spirit Rally to the Tales of Beedle the Bard, these shows are a great way to take a break from walking and experience some live entertainment.

Shop for Souvenirs

There are so many wonderful shops to choose from, but our favorites were grabbing Butterbeer fudge from Honeydukes in Hogsmeade, perusing the collectibles in the windows of Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment in Diagon Alley, wandering through the dark arts objects in Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley (also in Diagon Alley) and finally our favorite non-food shop, Globus Mundi. Globus Mundi is the magical travel shop in Diagon Alley, and we bought our favorite keepsakes there.

A Magical Week

Even though we spent three days at Universal Orlando and completely focused only on Wizarding World experiences, there is still more we could have done! We would have liked to spend more time exploring other areas of both parks – I did a little of that on our last morning when the kids were in line for one last ride on Hagrid’s Motorbike Ride. But all of us felt like we got to do, see, and experience everything we set out to. Now it’s time to print our photos and add them to our Harry Potter Replica Photo Album & Scrapbook! We’ll add our notes and favorite moments so we can remember everything we learned for our next trip back to the Wizarding World.

(all photos taken by Shelley Harper)

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