Ever since moving to Florida in 2017, the Wizarding World at Universal Orlando, has become one of my favorite places to spend my time. I know all too well how stressful it can be to plan a trip to a theme park. In this post I will be sharing my personal tips and recommendations that I find helpful when visiting the parks.
Depending on how many days you'll be visiting the parks, you may want to consider getting a park to park pass. A park to park pass will allow you to ride the Hogwarts Express between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. The train is only accessible with the park to park pass, and is the easiest way to travel between the two parks. A fun fact is that the views you see on the way to both parks is different, so make sure you get a chance to ride it to both!
Let's start with the rides available in the Wizarding World. I typically start my day at Universal Studios which includes the infamous Diagon Alley. Escape from Gringott's is the only Wizarding ride on the Universal side but I promise there's plenty to do and see there. I recommend getting in line early and then browsing the shops after. Bags are not allowed on the ride but there are lockers available at no charge right next to the ride, which is also accessible at the exit of the building as you leave. After exploring the shops head to the Hogwarts express to make the journey to the Hogsmeade Village.
Once you arrive in the village, I advise immediately getting in line for Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure ride. This ride does not accept Express Passes so the line tends to get long. Another option to cut down ride time is chosing the single rider line. You won't ride with your party but you are typically somewhat close together. This ride also offers free lockers, but you can ride with a fanny pack no problem, just make sure its not oversized.
The next ride I hit in the village is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is located inside the Hogwarts castle! The wait time on this ride is typically very reasonable and just like the others offers free lockers. Right across from Forbidden Journey is Flight of the Hippogriff. The Hippogriff ride is great for kids, as most of the Wizarding World rides have a 48 inch height requirement. A child swap option is available for parents to only wait in line once and have one guardian wait with children in a waiting area while one adult rides. After the adult finishes the ride, they can swap with the guardian in the waiting room and ride immediately.
Next let's talk about everybody's favorite thing food and drinks! In Diagon Alley you can try traditional British food at the Leaky Cauldron. This location is known for their pancake breakfast and the bangers and mash. Then to help beat the hot Florida heat and walk on over to the Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor for some Butterbeer ice cream.
When you arrive to the hogs Meade village be sure to check out Honeydukes for the one and only Chocolate Frogs and tons of Honeydukes merchandise. The Three Broomsticks has a great traditional English breakfast and I love the Beef Pasties with a Garden Salad, but they're also known for their Fish and Chips and Shepherds pie. This restaurant also offers a four person platter, "The Great Feast". The feast includes a fresh garden salad toss with vinaigrette dressing, a main course with a combination of rotisserie smoked chicken and spareribs, corn on the cob, and roast potatoes.
In both Wizarding World areas you can get several different options of Butterbeer – hot, cold, frozen, fudge, and ice cream. Depending on the weather I typically go for a frozen Butterbeer to cool down, but as temperatures drop the hot Butterbeer is definitely my favorite. If butterscotch isn't your thing I definitely recommend Otters Fizzy Orange Juice, this is my absolute regular drink to get while in the Wizarding World!
Now let's talk about entertainment. Diagon alley offers songs by Celestina Warbach and the Banshees, and the fire breathing dragon! Right outside of Diagon alley you can speak with the Knight Bus Conductor in the one and only Shrunken Head. Hogsmeade Village offers songs by the Frog Choir and of course the light show on the Hogwarts castle. The light show does change throughout the year, with a Dark Arts showing during the beginning of fall, and a Christmas show come the end of November. The light show has been one of my longtime favorite experiences at the wizard in the world. The display is truly beautiful and enjoyable for all ages!
One of my favorite recommendations for new visitors to the parks is the sorting ceremony at Ollivander's. During every ceremony one lucky participant is chosen to be part of the interactive show and have a wand chosen for them. The interactive wand can be used to "castspells" throughout locations in both the Hogsmeade Village and Diagon alley. With the purchase of a wand you'll receive a map inside the box showing you the locations you can use your wand to "cast spells" and watch magic right before your eyes!
While exploring the shops in both Wizarding World areas be sure to pay attention to all the small details, especially in the window displays. So much effort has been put into every area, from the ride queues to the stores, and even the restaurants. Even after all these years, I am still impressed by how well done everything is.
Some last tips for making your trip even better. Always pack light if you can. Nothing is worse than walking around the parks sweating your butt off with a ton of bags. Small items are easy to store in lockers but larger items will require a large locker which does require a fee. I try to use a fanny pack every trip as it makes getting around much easier. I've noticed on hotter days, even a small backpack makes my back sweat, gross. Plus, with a fanny pack you can walk right into line without having to stop at the lockers. Both parks have large shopping stores near the entrance/exit where you can buy most items that are sold in the park. The park does offer a service to have your purchases brought to the front of the park to be held until you leave but there is a time delay, your merchandise will not be available for a minimum of 4 hours, sometimes more.
When its comes to Express Passes I always encourage them. If you only have a day in the parks its an absolute must. The prices vary by day so purchase them ahead of time when you buy your park tickets. Having the Express Pass will allow you to really enjoy your time in the parks without waiting an hour plus in line. If the passes are not financially doable for you try to plan ahead. Get to the park early, at least 30 minutes before close. Head to the park with the rollercoaster you are most eager to ride, that way you get it out of the way and you for sure get the opportunity to ride it during your visit. Next, eat at nontraditional times, for example: Eat lunch at 10:30/2:30 instead of 12 when everyone else will be stopping for lunch. Maximize your time by downloading the Universal Studio App so you can monitor ride times as well as order food ahead of time.
Last but not least, staying on site at a resort hotel has its perks. If you stay in a premium hotel option your room comes with free Express Passes for each guest in the room. All hotels offer some type of shuttle service, the regular hotels have a shuttle bus while the premium hotels offer boat transportation.
If you have any questions please feel free to reach out, I am more than happy to help with anything I can.