In April, a few girlfriends and I headed down for a weekend getaway to Orlando. While we did do a day at the Magic Kingdom, our primary objective for going was to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure. If you’re a fan of the books or movies, I highly recommend going. The main sentence we kept repeating during our day as “this is so well done.” The details are incredible and you really feel like you’re stepping onto the movie set or into the world of Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley.
If you’re planning on going, here are a few tips we learned along the way:
- Timing: We did both parks in one day, but it was a looong day. If you want to see both sides of Harry Potter in one day (with park hopper passes), you definitely can, but be prepared to skip most of the other rides in the park. We aren’t big thrill ride people, so this was fine with us, but it was fun to walk around and see other “lands” besides the Harry Potter ones. The Simpsons land (Springfield) and Dr. Seuss (Seussville) lands were both great and fun to look around.
- Start in the park that doesn’t have early open for resort guests: We didn’t really think about this, but we started at Universal Studios, which opened at 8 a.m. for resort guests, and 9 a.m. for everyone else. We got there before 9, but by that time, the times in Diagon Alley for the main ride (Escape from Gringotts) was already 55 minutes. We decided to come back later and took the Hogwarts express over to Hogsmeade, There was a very short wait to ride the train to Islands of Adventure. Once we got to Hogsmeade, it was much less crowded since it had just opened, and we were able to jump in a 20-minute line for the Hogwarts castle ride.
- Food: We all thought the food in Universal was overall much better than Magic Kingdom – especially for quick, on the go eating. We started the day with breakfast/lunch at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. It was nice a big and plenty of tables. The menu had a lot of good options – some British, keeping with the theme, and some more American. One thing to know is that in the Harry Potter areas, they only serve drinks related to the books. I was kinda craving some caffeine in the form of a Coke, but the Butterbeer was very good. If you like cream soda, you’ll like Butterbeer. I taste tested two versions – regular & frozen and can solidly recommend both 🙂 We stopped in Springfield that afternoon and split some chicken nachos from the taco food truck. For dinner, we headed to Universal City Walk and had some very yummy Italian at Vivo Italian Kitchen. By this time, we’d been in the park for 11 hours so were ready to sit down, rest a bit and have a glass of wine!
- Lines: Yes, you will wait in lines. I can’t speak to what it would be like on a summer weekend or during a holiday, but it was fairly crowded the weekend we went, but not to the point where I was overwhelmed by crowds. The longest lines we waited in were Escape from Gringotts (an hour or so), the train from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley (about 35 minutes) and the Flight of the Hippogriff (broke down while we were in line so while the sign said 25 minutes, it was more like 45). The Universal version of Disney Fast Passes aren’t good for the big Harry Potter rides, so for us, it wasn’t worth the money since we were mainly there to ride the Harry Potter rides. However, we did take advantage of the single rider lines to ride the Hogwarts ride & Gringotts ride again. Definitely wait in the line the first time because the line is part of the experience – the castle is really cool to see and the bank is as well. On the second time though, if you’re willing to ride by yourself, you can skip the line and jump right on. We waited no more than five minutes on each of these rides for the second ride.
- Stores: All the shops are really cute, and spend some time wandering around. I really wanted to try the ice cream on Diagon Alley but the line was long pretty much all day. Even if you don’t buy a wand (which we didn’t), visit Ollivander’s in Hogsmeade to witness the wand ceremony. We jumped in for the last one of the day in Hogsmeade and it was super cute!
It was a whirlwind day, but so glad we ended up heading down there for a quick adventure. Universal has changed a lot since I’d been there when I was 10 (umm.. over 20 years ago!!) and I was definitely impressed. Look forward to going back one day and exploring more! With that, I’ll leave you with a few more pics.