Guides and Tips

First Time Tips for Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

April 14, 2021
Entrance to Hogsmeade

EDITOR’S NOTE: The imagery shown throughout this blog post does not represent current operational and safety guidelines at Universal Orlando Resort. Please refer to our safety guidelines here.

You’re heading to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

I remember the first time I knew I was going to be able to go to Hogwarts and try a Butterbeer just like Harry Potter. I was overflowing with excitement, which only increased ten-fold when I found myself finally walking under the arches into Hogsmeade village. I’m pretty sure I stood there for a good chunk of time staring and taking it all in before finally making a mad dash to get everything done in a matter of hours.

Planning on how best to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time can be daunting. With two lands that span across two theme parks — Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida — and tons of things to do, eat, drink, and see in each, you can easily find yourself missing out on some of the incredible details and experiences.

Here’s a list of planning tips and can’t-miss experiences you’ll want to check out before your upcoming visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort.

Don’t Try Doing It All in One Day

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

If you have one day to spend in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you can get the majority of things done, while enjoying the rest of the theme park attractions. But, if you truly want to get the full wizarding world experience without feeling rushed, I recommend dedicating a day in Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) and a day in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios).

Remember to Pack Your Robe and Wand

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Interactive wand

It’s not every day you can wander the streets of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley like a real witch or wizard. Make sure to add your robe, wand, and any other Harry Potter apparel or accessories to your packing list for some real epic pics. If you want to get your gear during your visit, there are many shops to check out throughout the wizarding world.

Arrive Early and Stay Late

Hogwarts Castle at Night

Try to get there first thing in the morning for fewer crowds. (If you’re staying at a Universal hotel, definitely take advantage of the Early Park Admission perk!) On the flipside, if the theme parks are open later, try to stay until nighttime. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is absolutely breath-taking at night.

Ride the Hogwarts Express Both Ways

Hogwarts Express at King's Cross Station

Hop aboard the Hogwarts Express and travel back and forth between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Make sure to take it both ways as each way has a different experience. (You’ll need a park-to-park ticket in order to ride the Hogwarts Express.)

Don’t Miss Diagon Alley

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley Entrance

The entrance to Diagon Alley is cleverly disguised as a brick wall in the London area, just like it’s described as in the films and books. Believe it or not, some people (like my brother’s friends) walk right by it!

Try All Six Types of Butterbeer Treats

Six Types of Butterbeer

You’re probably familiar with Butterbeer, the frothy drink from the films and books that is reminiscent of butterscotch and shortbread. But, did you know there are six different Butterbeer treats you can try in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, like soft-serve ice cream and fudge? (Certain Butterbeer treats are offered seasonally.)

Don’t Skip the Queues

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Typically, I’m all for getting through queues quickly, but the ride queues in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are ones you don’t want to miss. You get to see the iconic rooms and details inside Hogwarts castle and Gringotts bank, and even pass through Platform 9 ¾ on your way to ride the Hogwarts Express.

See All the Shows

Tales of Beedle the Bard

A choir of singing frogs AND a theater troupe who performs with puppets? What more could you want. There are five live shows —  two in Hogsmeade and three in Diagon Alley —  you can see perform daily. (Check the Universal Orlando Resort App for show times.)

Ride Both the Sidecar and Motorbike

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Coaster

There are two ways to ride on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and each seat gives you a unique experience. I’ll take it one step further and say I’ve heard riding at night is, and I quote, “life-changing.”

Don’t Miss Out on Magical Experiences

Eternelles-Elixirs

Make time for some of the more lesser-known experiences like sending a letter with a Hogsmeade stamp, mixing your own elixirs, chatting with a goblin, or creating your very own moving pictures at Shutterbutton’s.

Check Out Knockturn Alley

Knockturn Alley

You may be too distracted by the fire-breathing dragon atop Gringotts bank when you first enter Diagon Alley and walk right by Knockturn Alley. Put your brave face on and wander into this shadowy alleyway, which gives you a taste of Dark Magic in the wizarding world.

Treat Yourself to More Than One Wizarding Treat

Honeydukes

Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, Sugar Quills, Pumpkin Pasties, and more. Nab a few of your favorite wizarding world sweets before you leave and enjoy them while reminiscing about your trip after you get back home.

Don’t Forget Your Interactive Wand Map

Interactive Wands in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

If you treat yourself to an interactive wand, don’t forget about the map! Each wand comes with a map that shows where you can cast spells throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Don’t be like me wandering around aimlessly searching the ground for bronze spell markers because you forgot it.

Explore the Shop Windows

Shop Windows in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Your attention may be pulled toward the rides or getting a Butterbeer, but make sure to take some time to do some “window” shopping. There are incredible details in each shop window that bring the magic to life right before your eyes.

Don’t Miss Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Photo Credit: @timsalathiel

Coming to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter any time of the year is quite magical, but coming during the holidays… it’s a whole ‘nother experience you won’t want to miss. Need more convincing? Two words: hot Butterbeer.


Discover even more things to do, eat, and see in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley with the complete guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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