Don’t miss out on any of the fun! Plan your Wizarding World excursion and hit all the rides. (Photo: Universal Orlando Resort)
Calling all wizards and witches! If you’ve read all eight Harry Potter stories and have yet to pay a visit to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, or just simply want to relive the magic, then it’s time to pack your wand and plan a trip (or get your hands on some magical Floo powder) to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando.
Regardless of whether you’re Slytherin or Gryffindor, pure blood or muggle, there are still some things every aspiring wizard and witch ought to know and do when visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That’s why I’m sharing the kind of intel Hermione would to ensure your experience is truly magical.
Can’t choose between Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios? You don’t have to! Get park-to-park admission – it gives you access to both worlds and experiences and unlimited trips aboard the Hogwarts Express train.
A Forbidden Journey, Dragons and Hippogriffs
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure doesn’t allow guests to use Express Passes, so be strategic – secure passes for both Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff, the two other rides in Hogsmeade, then ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Lines can get quite long as the day progresses, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out on the epic adventure.
Pro tip: The queue line is conveniently situated inside Hogwarts Castle, an ingenious ploy by the parks makers to kill the time as you patiently await your 3D experience. Wander through the halls of Hogwarts as you lose yourself in The mirror of Erised, peruse Dumbledore’s office and come face-to-face with the Sorting Hat, which spits out the rules of the ride with a side of snark.
The Need for Speed
Rollercoaster addicts – get your adrenaline fix with Dragon Challenge, which has two different tracks: Chinese Fireball (red) and Hungarian Horntail (blue). Ride both if you want the best of both worlds or choose red for the faster track with a 115-foot drop, or go blue for sharper turns and more intense inversions.
Travel By (Magic) Train
How do you board the Hogwarts Express? Just as in the book of course…by finding Platform Nine and Three Quarters.
Hint: ask the employees in London’s King Cross station and wait for their sardonic or in-character response as they engage you in some Harry Potter banter and wit. (This happens in both parks by the way, and it’s pretty awesome.) The Hogwarts Express also doesn’t offer Express Pass because it serves as a form of transportation between the two parks and not as a ride, per se. What can you experience along the way, you ask? A dementor (soul-sucking) invasion, riding alongside the Knight Bus, 12 Grimmauld Place and more — depending on which direction you ride.
The Ultimate Escape
The main attraction in Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which if you’re a fan of the books/movies, will remind you of one of the most epic sequences in the entire series. Not only will you traverse the labyrinth of underground vaults, but you’ll come face-to-face with Bellatrix Lestrange and He Who Must Not Be Named.
Pro tip: If you haven’t read the last couple of books, it might be worth sitting this one out as there are some spoiler alerts in this journey.