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Travel

Harry Potter Theme Park – Visiting Wizarding World

When my sister and I were making our plans to visit the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando Resort (the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) in Florida, the question we got most frequently was, “How many kids are in your party?”

To which we answered, “None.”

Because we grown-ups like Harry Potter – and theme parks — too. That’s why, along with two adult friends, we spent the first weekend in December checking out the wizarding playground based on the books by J.K. Rowling.

We’re serious fans. We’re the people who buy the books at midnight and spend the next day reading, the people who have www.mugglenet.com bookmarked on their computers, the people who see the movies multiple times – sometimes in costume. My sister even named her youngest daughter Luna, inspired by a Potter character.

hogwarts express

The entire site is divided into two separate parks: Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, which includes the Harry Potter rides, and the Universal Studios Florida theme park.  They are within easy walking distance of each other and you can buy one pass for both parks.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, Harry Potter theme park

Here’s what I liked best:

The Forbidden Journey.

This simulated ride takes you out of the castle, through the quidditch pitch, and on a mini adventure with Harry and his friends. I’ll admit it: We rode this six times in three days.  We’d read other guides that said to run to this ride immediately upon getting to the Harry Potter section of the park and it was good advice.  We never waited long, and the waits we had was off-set by the many things to see in the castle.

Hogwarts, Harry Potter theme park

Going during the off-season.

The weather was still lovely in early December– in the high 60s and low 70s – and we had no problem with crowds, save for inside the HP-themed stores. We never waited more than 10 minutes to get on a ride. Things were even more low-key after dark, when the castle and Hogsmeade looked amazing lit up. We took the opportunity to visit Ollivander’s wand shop then, when there was no line waiting for the brief performance featuring a wand choosing a wizard.

 

The attention to detail.

It was excellent, from Moaning Myrtle’s whining overheard in the women’s bathroom to the clerk who handed me the credit card slip and said, “Could you sign this for the Ministry?” I loved the shop windows: one featured a screaming Mandrake, another a display of Gilderoy Lockhart books, another quidditch bludgers trying to break out of their case.

Butterbeer.

While my companions found it a little too sweet, I thought the Butterbeer was quite tasty. I had mine frozen and it was like a butterscotch slushie. We enjoyed ours over lunch at The Three Broomsticks, where the menu included Shepherd’s Pie and Roast chicken.

The employees.

I was amused each time they greeted us with a “Welcome, Muggles.” They were patient and helpful, allowing us to try on robes and scarves, generally make a mess of things and take pictures, and then not buy anything. The conductor standing outside of the Hogwarts’ Express never lost his smile, even when my sister gave him a little extra hug. (“I couldn’t help myself,” she explained.)

Employee interaction at the Harry Potter theme park

What Could Have Been Better in Harry Potter Theme park :

More rides.

There are three Harry Potter-themed rides and only one, the Forbidden Journey, featured HP characters. The other two are roller coasters. One, the Dragon Challenge, is a good coaster, complete with twists and upside down turns. The other, the Flight of the Hippogriff, is a slower, less challenging coaster.  (Although my sister screamed on that one, too.)

Also, there are no Harry Potter-rides for fans shorter than 36 inches. The Forbidden Journey requires riders to be 48 inches tall and the Dragon Challenge minimum height is 54 inches.

Merchandise for sale at the Harry Potter theme park

Bigger stores with more variety of merchandise.

Where, we wondered, was Dobby the House Elf? Or any merchandise with Voldemort, scary as he may be? Why couldn’t we pick up a duplicate of Mrs. Weasley’s amazing clock? The stores themselves were also on the small side.

harry-potter-hogwarts

More, more, more!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually a small part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. We had many ideas for additional attractions: A Gringotts ride? A tour of the Weasley home?  According to an Associated Press article published this week, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando will be expanded. Since the attraction opened in June of last year, attendance has jumped by about 50 percent. An additional Wizarding World will be opened at the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood, Calif. in the next five years.

Read also: Best Things to Do at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Harry Potter world at Universal Orlando?

Universal Orlando Resort’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has two immersive zones based on the Harry Potter books and films. Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios Florida, whereas Hogsmeade is at Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is divided into two sections: Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, with the Hogwarts Express linking the two. You’ll be casting spells, drinking Butterbeer, attending Quidditch matches, and even facing up against Lord Voldemort himself before you know it.

How do I get to Harry Potter at Universal Studios?

You may not be able to take the Hogwarts Express to Harry Potter Studios in full wizarding style, but we think the train is a rather spectacular experience on any given day. Diagon Alley is located in Universal Studios Florida, and Hogsmeade is located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The Hogwarts Express connects them, and using it requires a park-to-park ticket, which costs $55 a day.

Express tickets are classified into two sorts. One option is the Universal Express Unlimited, which allows a pass user to skip conventional lines as many times as they like. This ticket was only available to passengers who have a separate park-to-park ticket. Another option is the Universal Express Pass, which allows you to avoid the lines for the most popular rides and attractions only once. The cost of an express pass ranges from $99 to $130, depending on whether you want to include one or two parks and the kind of express pass.

It only takes a few minutes to walk from one park to the other: you can do so via Universal CityWalk, an open-air plaza with a variety of dining options ranging from fast food and frozen yoghurt to date night-appropriate Italian and Mexican restaurants, as well as a number of shops, miniature golf, and concert venues.

Can you do both Harry Potter parks in one day?

It is possible to visit both Wizarding World of Harry Potter realms in a single day, although this would leave little time for other attractions at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. However, if you get a two-day park-to-park ticket, spend one day with Harry and pals and the other day seeing the rest of the attractions. If you’re wondering how to fit the Wizarding World into your Walt Disney World vacation, can only afford one day’s worth of tickets, or simply don’t want to spend a lot of time at a theme park, don’t worry.

It is possible to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in a single day. Make a decision on what you want to see and do the most. Is riding your first priority? Do you want to take some amusing photos? Is it the merch, the butterbeer, the interactive spell casting, or the concerts that are most important? Or perhaps you want to see and do a little bit of everything. You may always sneak back into the magic before leaving the park for the night if you have admission to both parks on your second day!

Read also: A Guide to Harry Potter Film Locations in Lacock, England

A few recommendations and observations

Staying on site is great.

You can walk to the parks or take the water taxi from the park’s on site hotel, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. (We walked every time.) You also have access to the park one hour earlier and a pass that allows you to short cut lines. (In our case, this didn’t make much of a difference.)

Three days is the perfect amount of time to stay.

A three day pass to both parks, with taxes, is about $160.

When you’re not Pottering around, there are a few other rides in Islands of Adventure that are worthwhile. I particularly recommend “Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls,” a log flume. Trust me: You will be soaked. The 3-D “Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” ride was also very cool.

Take the time to visit rides in the other Universal Park, too. We loved the “Simpsons” ride and the “Revenge of the Mummy” simulated coaster. The “Men In Black”ride, however,  didn’t do it for me.

Bring your own stamps.

Sounds silly, but when  you go the Owl Post, you’ll find that a packet of 10 stamps costs $14.95. (Postcards are $1 each.) You can use your own stamps and still get them stamped with a Hogsmeade postmark.

Whip out that AAA card.

It’s good for 10 percent off purchases upon presentation. That can add up, especially when wands run $30 and new wizarding robes are $100. (And you’ll be surprised by how many people go around in full garb.)

AboutKara

I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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