Note: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, travel can be tricky during these odd times. Please use your discretion when planning your own adventures.
I have been wanting to visit Harry Potter World ever since it opened at Universal Studios back in 2010. My sister-in-law has also been wanting to visit and is a huge fan of the Wizarding World. We originally had plans to visit New Orleans. But due to the recent hurricane and increase in COVID cases, we decided to hold off and seek an alternative adventure. And what better way to relive our youth at a couple of amusement parks at Universal Studios? We packed up our Harry Potter t-shirts and bags, grabbed our broomsticks (if only!) and headed down to Florida for a few days! I’m so happy we did our research prior to our trip, which made it easy for us to optimize our experience. And now I’d like to share them with you!
Visit during the off-season
November ended up being a great time to visit Orlando and Universal Studios. In between Halloween and Christmas, the parks were on the quieter side, yet were still decorated for Christmas! For most of the rides, we did not have to wait longer than 20 minutes at most, with many only having a 5 minute wait. The parks did close early the days we were in Orlando. However it seems there are only a few days in November where the parks do close early. Harry Potter World was busier than the rest of the parks, particularly Diagon Alley, so I can not imagine what it must be like during the busy season. I have also heard the parks sell out during the holidays and school vacations. If you have children, I highly recommend taking them out of school for a few days (if possible) during an off season, in order for everyone to enjoy the parks. We were at the parks for 3 days and were able to do all of the Harry Potter World rides, as well as all of the rides we wanted to do throughout the rest of the parks.
Get a park-to-park pass
The Wizarding World is split between two of Universal’s parks, with Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. You can take the Hogwarts Express between the two parks, but you will need a park-to-park pass. And trust me, it is well-worth getting the park-to-park pass in order to enjoy both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. I also recommend taking the Hogwarts Express at least once for a quick hop between the two parks for the experience (although in my opinion, it was probably the most underwhelming ride in Harry Potter World).
Give at least 2 days to explore
While I think it’s doable to see Harry Potter World in one day during the slower seasons, it will feel rushed. If you want to experience both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, as well as the five Harry Potter rides, it’s best to allow two days to make time to experience all of the details and account for wait time for all of the rides.
Consider buying your wand outside of Ollivanders
We already knew which wands we wanted to get (Dumbledore’s and Sirius Black’s, in case you were wondering!), so it was not a necessity for us to buy them at Ollivanders. However, if you’re traveling with children who want a chance to be chosen for the wand ceremony, then I would recommend checking Ollivanders out! Additional places to buy a wand include Wands by Gregorivtch, Magical Menagerie, and any Universal Studios gift shop at CityWalk. We ended up buying ours at Magical Menagerie along with our stuffed thestrals!
And more about wands…
There are two different types of wands sold throughout Universal: collectible and interactive. Make sure to purchase an interactive wand in order participate in spell casting throughout the parks! You can choose between your favorite character’s wand (you can choose from approximately 30 characters) or a selection of 13 wands loosely based on the Celtic tree calendar.
Many of the window shops have interactive spells, which can be found on an included “Marauder’s Map” with each wand. Each spell spot is marked with a medallion in the pavement, indicating where to stand, what direction to face, the wand movement required to cast the spell, and even the words to say while waving your wand! Most spell locations are overseen by a friendly expert spell-caster, who is trained to help guests perfect their spell-casting technique and can help correct your direction or gestures.
Utilize early admission if staying at one of the resorts
Early admission is available if you choose to stay at one of Universal Studios’ resorts. I’ll be honest, we didn’t utilize our early admission privilege, but it was also only available for one of the two parks during our stay. We also went during the days the only days in November that the parks were closed early, at 6 and 7pm respectively. Depending on when you go (especially if you choose to go during a weekend or school vacation week), early admission can be very beneficial in order to beat the crowds.
Prepare for everything to be expensive!
From the wands, to butterbeer, and souvenirs, prepare for everything to be expensive. As of the end of 2021, interactive wands will cost $59, butterbeer will cost around $8.50, water will cost $5-6, and house robes cost around $130. This is to be expected at an amusement park but is also something to keep in mind.
Remember to put down the phone and experience all of the details!
This is a tip I always have to remind myself of whenever I travel. Like everyone else, I want to immortalize my adventures by capturing photos and videos of everything! However by doing so, you risk missing out in the present moment and may not even remember many of the details of your trip. This definitely speaks true when visiting the Wizarding World. There are so many details throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, including all of the “mischievous treats” in the Weasley shop!
And make sure to spend some time for the rest of the parks!
There is so much more to explore at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I’m also a huge fan of the Jurassic Park/World series, as well as several other Universal Studios movies! It would have been a shame to miss out on the rest of the fun Universal Studios has to offer!