A Muggle’s Guide to Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Whether you’re a long-time Harry Potter fan who’s still waiting on their Hogwarts acceptance letter or a theme-park-loving Muggle who’s just there for the rides, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a must for anyone visiting Universal Orlando. So, grab your Portkeys and your Floo Powder, as we take a trip to Harry Potter World in Florida.
Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando
At Universal Orlando, you can don your best dress robes and visit two unique places in the wizarding world: Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. While wannabe witches and wizards can walk the hallowed halls of Hogwarts at other Universal Studios theme parks throughout the world including Hollywood, Japan, and the forthcoming location in Beijing, Universal Orlando is currently the only place where Muggles (that’s non-magical folk, if you’re not up on the lingo) can wander the crooked cobblestone streets of Diagon Alley.
Cost of Harry Potter World Tickets
If you’re wondering, “just how much are tickets to Harry Potter World Orlando?”, the answer is a little bit complicated. With Harry Potter lands in both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, if you want to visit the entire Wizarding World in Orlando, you can’t just buy standard Universal Orlando tickets. You’ll need either a 2-Park – 1 Day Ticket or a multiday ticket. (Oh, Universal and your crafty, moneymaking ways.)
If you only have 1 day at Universal Orlando and you want to go to both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, Park-to-Park access is key, as it allows you to get into both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the same day. 2-Park – 1 Day Tickets start at $164 for adults and $159 for children ages 3 to 9.
If you have multiple days in the Wizarding World and the rest of the Universal parks, then getting a Park-to-Park ticket is nice, but not necessary. 2-Park – 2-Day Tickets (with access to only one park per day) start at $106.50 per day for adults and $101.50 per day for children. 2-Park – 2-Day Tickets (with access to both parks each day) start at $136.50 per day for adults and $131.50 per day for children.
In general, if you’d like to spend some time in Harry Potter World as well as going on rides in the rest of the parks, especially if this is your first time visiting, we’d recommend you spend at least one day each at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. If this isn’t your first time to Universal Orlando and the Wizarding World, all you care about is Harry Potter World, or you simply don’t have the time, then you can get by with only one day – as long as you can park hop.
First Stop: Diagon Alley at Universal Studios or Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure?
Alright, you’ve got your tickets – now, which park should you visit first? It really depends on you and what you’d like to see first. If going on the Wizarding World’s newest ride, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, is a priority (which it should be because the ride is incredible), then we’d recommend going to Islands of Adventure first so you can get that out of the way first as the line can get exceptionally long.
Otherwise, I like going to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios first, then ending the day at Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. Why? Well, because it’s the same thing Harry did, of course! Think of this as your introduction to the magical world before experiencing the wonders of Hogwarts.
Remember, whichever park you decide to go to first, as long as you have a Universal ticket with park-hopping, getting to the other part of the Wizarding World is easy with the Hogwarts Express. (More on that later.)
Wizarding World of Harry Potter Musts
When you’re visiting the Wizarding World, there are a couple of things that you should try if you have the chance for the quintessential Hogwarts student experience: Butterbeer and interactive wands. As you’re reading, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for my Magical Tips for Muggles for helpful hints on how to make the most of your time in the Wizarding World and bits of Harry Potter-inspired hidden magic to look for as you’re exploring.
Butterbeer is an iconic treat in the magical world created by J.K. Rowling and the signature drink of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In the real world, this popular brew tastes like a mix between butterscotch and cream soda topped with a thick, whipped foam which lends the drink most of its sweetness. And don’t let the name fool you, Butterbeer is non-alcoholic.
As a beverage, you can get either Cold or Frozen Butterbeer, while Hot Butterbeer becomes available in the colder months (which tastes akin to butterscotch-flavored hot cocoa. You can also get the popular flavor in Butterbeer Ice Cream – both soft-serve and hard-packed – as well as Butterbeer Potted Cream and Butterbeer Fudge.
To really live out your Hogwarts student dreams (Gryffindor forever!), you absolutely need an Interactive Wand. Yes, they’re expensive, but if you’re a nerd for all things Harry Potter, then they are also oh so worth it. Not just a souvenir for when you get home, these little beauties are what literally bring the Wizarding World to life, helping you to work your magic to move items, make sounds, and more.
As you wander through Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, be on the lookout for special Interactive Wand locations notated by special medallions inlaid in the ground (you’ll also receive a map when you purchase your wand). These markers indicate which “spell” you can cast using your wand in that area, showing you which way to face and how to move your wand. Then, just wait for the magic to happen!
Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
The only Harry Potter land of its kind, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley packs a ton of atmosphere into a relatively small space. While there are really only 2 rides on this side of the Wizarding World, what Diagon Alley lacks in thrills, it more than makes up for in charm.
As you approach The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the first thing you see is the London waterfront. King’s Cross Station towers to the side, but don’t make a run for Platform 9¾ just yet. The real magic sits behind that brick wall near Leicester Square Station. But hold on to your broomsticks, don’t head through just yet – there are some wonderful details here that deserve to be explored before you really enter the Wizarding World. This is a great time for your first…
Magical Tip for Muggles: This may be a Harry Potter theme park, but the Wizarding World is about the journey, not the destination. Yes, there are rides and a few of them are pretty great, but this part of Universal Orlando is really meant to be savored, not rushed through so you can cram as much as possible into your day.
The Wizarding World is much more than a collection of some rides, restaurants, and shops – it’s an entire literary universe made real. When J.K. Rowling was writing the books, she came up with a literal world of details – many of which have been included in the parks. To make the most of your experience (and that’s what it is: an experience), take some to explore and appreciate the little things.
Across from the entrance to Diagon Alley, the Knight Bus is parked for the perfect photo opportunity. Most of the time, the Knight Bus driver stands just outside, making chitchat with photo takers along with an animatronic shrunken head who heckles weary travelers. Number 12 Grimmauld Place, the former home of Sirius Black and the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, is just down the street and also worth a quick visit. Keep an eye on the upper windows – you may just see the house elf Kreacher pull back the curtains to take a peek outside.
Before you walk through the magically shifting bricks and into the wizard shopping district beyond, you’ll also want to pop into the red telephone booth. Not to make a call – this is the visitors’ entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Just dial MAGIC 62442 to be connected.
This is the first part you see when you enter from the London waterfront. As a Harry Potter fan, while I certainly love seeing Hogwarts loom over the village of Hogsmeade, nothing compares to the feeling I got when seeing Diagon Alley for the first time. From the storefronts with windows filled with magical items to the vibrant advertisements hawking wizarding wares to the dragon spitting fire from the top of Gringotts, walking along the cobblestones here truly feels like stepping into the world of Harry Potter.
As you wander around, be sure to stop into the many shops and look around. Even if you’re not shopping, many stores have unique bits of magic that breathe life into the world which are fun to see. This is also a great place to grab something to eat. Whether you’re looking for a full meal, a quick snack, or just something to drink, there are a few places for you to choose from. Here are some of our favorite Harry Potter stores and dining options:
The Leaky Cauldron is the only full restaurant in Diagon Alley. Of the two quick-service restaurants in Harry Potter World in Orlando (Leaky Cauldron and Three Broomsticks), the Leaky Cauldron is my favorite. While both options serve up classic British eats like Fish & Chips and Shepherd’s Pie, the Leaky Cauldron has even more English favorites for a true pub experience. Before you leave, stop and look at the sign for a minute. See those water droplets? They don’t call it the “Leaky” Cauldron for nothing.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
At the end of the street, in the shadow of the dragon, sits Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. This pastel-hued sweet shop was a favorite haunt of Harry’s when he lived temporarily in the Leaky Cauldron during Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry’s favorite flavor? Strawberry and Peanut Butter, which is available here along with other flavors like Butterbeer, Salted Caramel Blondie, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Earl Grey & Lavender, and more.
Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley
The best wandmaker in the Wizarding World – and the one Harry gets his wand from – is Ollivander. Luckily, he’s set up shop in Diagon Alley. They say that the wand chooses the wizard, so see what match gets made during the interactive Ollivanders Experience. If you’re not the special witch or wizard to have their wand chosen for them, no worries – you can choose your own in the attached store. Interactive and non-interactive wands are both available.
Magical Tip for Muggles: Wanting to take a picture of the dragon (it’s a Ukrainian Ironbelly, if you’re curious)? Rather than standing transfixed in front of it, move off to the side of it instead. For the perfect timing, listen for the dragon to rumble right before breathing fire for an especially impressive photo.
Looking for a Harry Potter souvenir of a different kind? There are several other shops along Diagon Alley that are worth a look. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is a must-visit for fans of the entrepreneurial Weasley twins, and anyone in the market for magical toys and tricks. Quality Quidditch Supplies stocks gear and apparel for the popular magical sport, while Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions is the place to go for Hogwarts robes and other Harry Potter-inspired clothing. Or, star in your own moving portraits at Shutterbutton’s Photography Studio.
Knockturn Alley is the underbelly of London’s magical community, where witches and wizards go for evil artifacts and ingredients for the darkest of potions. This creepy corner of Diagon Alley is home to one store, along with several interactive spell locations. Before walking into the depths of Knockturn Alley, I suggest you sit for a minute or two near the entryway to the area to let your eyes adjust to the darkness, both for safety purposes and so you can really appreciate more of the area’s many design details.
Borgin and Burkes
Borgin and Burkes is the place where Harry first comes face to face with dark magic. While you can buy all manner of Voldemort and Death Eater-inspired items here, it is also stuffed with Easter eggs – or rather, powerful artifacts filled with dark magic – from the books and movies. Stop, look, and listen near the disappearing cabinet (you can hear a chirping canary that’s been locked inside – I wonder how it got there?) and a chest with an angry Boggart locked inside.
Magical Tip for Muggles: Before you leave Knockturn Alley, take a peek at the basement windows below Borgin and Burkes. See that green light that keeps flashing? Experienced witches and wizards know to steer clear of that ominous sight: Avada Kedavra, or the Killing Curse, emits an emerald-green jet that knocks the target dead. And it seems like someone is practicing – best make haste back out into the light of day.
First, Diagon Alley; then, Knockturn Alley; next, Horizont Alley. Diagonally, nocturnally, and horizontally – get it? It might not be the headlining street in this magical shopping district, but this next thoroughfare in Diagon Alley hosts a few Wizarding World attractions, including Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and several more interactive spell locations.
If you’re parched, The Fountain of Fair Fortune is the place to go for all manner of magical beverages. Butterbeer is available here, along with an array of other unique non-alcoholic drinks, or opt for something boozy instead, like a glass of beer or a hard cider spiked with Fire Whisky.
Nearby, the Magical Menagerie sells a host of plushies and other items inspired by the Wizarding World’s magical creatures. While you’re visiting, stop and listen to the snake in his tank. He’s fluent in both English and Parseltongue, just like the boa constrictor Harry met at the zoo in the first book.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Gringotts Wizarding Bank is at the heart of Diagon Alley, and the main entrance for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This unique ride is a fusion between a roller coaster and a dark ride, with heavy use of Universal’s beloved screens. The queue here is long and highly immersive, with animatronic goblins lining the bank lobby counting out knuts and galleons and an “elevator ride” into the bowels of the bank. Once you hop in your ride vehicle, it’s a rollicking ride through the bank vaults. Just keep an eye out for He Who Must Not Be Named and Bellatrix Lestrange.
Carkitt Market is the glassed-in neighborhood in Diagon Alley and the land’s entertainment area. Here, you’ll come across a number of interactive spell locations as well as several more shops and dining options. Wiseacre’s Wizard Equipment, which stocks wizard supplies and Hogwarts gear, and Scribbulus, an outpost for stationery, are right next to Escape from Gringotts. Globus Mundi is a wizarding travel agency, but they also sell apparel and other accessories.
Near the front of Carkitt Market, Sugarplum’s Sweetshop offers Harry Potter foods like Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, while The Hopping Pot dishes up Butterbeer, other beverages, and a few light snacks. Finally, Slytherins and others with an affinity for the dark arts (or those who simply prefer less of a crowd) may want to buy their wands at Wands by Gregorovitch instead of Ollivander’s.
Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees
Over on the Carkitt Market stage, Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, a vaunted singing sensation and talented witch known as “The Singing Sorceress”, serenades visitors with some of her greatest hits. Molly Weasley is a fan, her favorite song being “ A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love”.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Or, if you have a flair for the dramatic, you may want to check out The Tales of Beedle the Bard instead. Put on by the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts, this stage show uses a magical mix of props and puppetry for a dramatic retelling of two of the wizarding world’s most beloved fables: The Fountain of Fair Fortune and The Tale of the Three Brothers.
Magical Tip for Muggles: Don’t skip over the Gringotts Money Exchange. Though considered a shop, this little gem is more like a currency exchange booth, with an audio-animatronic Gringotts goblin on hand to answer any questions you may have. While you won’t find any gold galleons or bronze knuts here, you can trade your Muggle money for Gringotts banknotes which can be used throughout The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (or saved for an extra-special souvenir).
Hop on the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross to Hogsmeade
Just like 1st through 7th years heading to Hogwarts for the school year, the easiest way to get between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (AKA Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) is to take the Hogwarts Express. In Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express leaves from Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station. To take the Hogwarts Express from either station, you must have a Park-to-Park Universal ticket.
The Hogwarts Express is a ride-meets-transportation. Don’t expect any thrills here, however. This slow-moving ride recreates the experience of taking the Hogwarts Express. Leaving King’s Cross, you’ll see the streets of London give way to the English countryside just “outside” your “window.” Keep your chocolate close by though, because the dementors have been known to stop the train from time to time.
Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
If you’re in the mood for more Harry Potter rides, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade is the place to be. This Harry Potter land is broken into two different sections: Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.
Stuck in a perpetually snow-covered winter wonderland (at least at Islands of Adventure, anyway), this quaint hamlet is home to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and is the only all-wizarding settlement in Great Britain. Like Diagon Alley, this pastoral town is made for wandering. So, grab a cup of Butterbeer and do some window-gazing (sorry, no shopping – most of these stores aren’t open for business) at the fascinating wizarding wares on offer. If you’ve got an Interactive Wand, you can also practice your magic skills at several spell spots here.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Opened in 2019, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the headlining attraction in Hogsmeade and the highlight of the entire land. This unique storytelling roller coaster is arguably the best in all of Florida, at least until the VelociCoaster officially opens. Animatronics of the magical creatures in Hagrid’s care, a long track, and multiple launches keep the fun coming for 3½ minutes. Plus, with the option to ride on Hagrid’s motorbike itself or shotgun in the sidecar, you’ll want to ride at least twice for the full experience.
Owl Post & the Owlery
Ever wished you could send mail by owl like they do in the Wizarding World? Well, now you can(‘t). Sorry to get your hopes up – owls still aren’t able to hand-deliver correspondence and issues of The Daily Prophet, but you can mail a letter from here with a special Hogsmeade postmark. While you’re there, stop by to listen to the Howlers being sent. If you’re there long enough, you can even listen in on the messages from angry neighbors and upset parents.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s other main dining outlet is the Three Broomsticks. While the Leaky Cauldron features a menu that’s decidedly more authentic, the Three Broomsticks serves up a mix of British favorites and comfort food classics like Fish & Chips, Beef Pasties, Rotisserie Smoked Chicken, and Spareribs. Also attached to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog’s Head, favored haunt of Dumbledore’s Army and the place to go if you’re looking for extra-magical to drink (i.e. boozy) in Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure.
Honeydukes is the first store Harry experienced on his first (unofficial) trip into Hogsmeade during his 3rd year at Hogwarts and is our favorite sweets shop in the Wizarding World. With a kaleidoscope of treats piled in jars up to the ceiling, this is a fun place to walk through whether you’re hunting for some Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Juice, or Cauldron Cakes, or simply looking to soak up some atmosphere.
Triwizard Spirit Rally
Get into the spirit of the Triwizard Tournament at the Triwizard Spirit Rally. Hogwarts may be hosting this magical competition, but students from two competing wizarding schools – Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic – are also taking part. Check out the competition and show your Hogwarts school spirit at the Triwizard Spirit Rally, with performances by students from the visiting schools.
Hoping (or rather, hopping) for some a cappella, Hogwarts-style? Hogwarts’ Frog Choir puts the throaty rumbles of these magical pets to good use. While the frogs play bass, students from Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff houses sing along to some of their favorite wizarding songs.
Magical Tip for Muggles: Need a place to go to the restroom? Stop into the bathroom next to The Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head – just look for the Public Conveniences sign. Inside, you’ll get an unexpected visit from Moaning Myrtle. While she usually likes to haunt one of the girl’s bathrooms up in Hogwarts from the comfort of the u-bend, every once in a while, she likes to pop into Hogsmeade and pout.
Still looking for other magical items and souvenirs? Dervish and Banges is a one-stop-shop for Hogwarts clothing and accessories as well as Quidditch equipment. And if you didn’t get a chance to get your Harry Potter wands at Universal Studios, you can also visit the Hogsmeade branch of Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
Hogwarts Castle is the pièce de resistance of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. If you’re anything like me, fans of Harry Potter are sure to come down with a case of goosebumps as soon as its grand spires come into view. The castle itself is home to the land’s other main ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – as well as another gift shop, with another ride just next door.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
As impressive as it is to walk past the rows of goblins in the Escape from Gringotts queue, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey takes the cake, with the queue wrapping around and through the castle grounds. With stops in Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, this is one line Harry Potter fans will have no trouble waiting in.
Once you’re through, you’ll set off on a Hermione-powered flight (she really is the brightest witch of her age) across Hogwarts as you take part in a Quidditch match, run from a dragon, almost get whomped by the Whomping Willow, and get chased by dementors. When you’re done, you’ll empty off into Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, perfect for grabbing one last memento of your time in the Wizarding World.
Flight of the Hippogriff
Looking for a ride for even the littlest witches and wizards? Then the Flight of the Hippogriff is for you. This easy-going family coaster swoops and dives just like Harry’s friend Buckbeak, making for a kid-friendly romp past Hagrid’s hut.
Well ya’ll, that wraps up the Muggle’s Guide to Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Which part of the Wizarding World is your favorite? Do you like your Butterbeer hot, cold, or frozen? Does the wand really choose the wizard? Let us know in the comments!