Seriously, how many teachers and friends screamed that name in the books and the movies?
I would say that you won’t find anyone screaming at Universal, but let’s be honest, it’s pretty awesome. So some fans screaming harry potter are bound to be expected!
And expecto patronum, and wingardium levosia (pronounced the way herminone would want!)
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves (probably because we are so excited to talk about Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando!)
For many Harry Potter fans, visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando is the ultimate goal.
It spans two of USO’s theme parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. From sampling Butterbeer, purchasing you very own wand and taking pictures in front of Hogwarts Castle, you will feel immersed in all things magic.
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Let’s highlight some top tips for making your adventure even more magical!
1.Park to Park- The Train- And your ticket
Let me hit you with the first and the MOST ESSENTIAL tip.
Listen up people.
If you are planning on riding the Hogwarts Express (and please do, you will not be dissapointed) you will need Park to Park tickets.
The train ride runs from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios and vice versa via Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and since you will be entering a different park, you will need a ticket that allows entrance in both.
But wait! There’s more.
If you want the full experience, you need to ride the train BOTH ways, as they each have their own ‘show’.
2. Don’t show up late to platform 9 3/4
Do you know what happens in Harry Potter when you show up late? Well, you can’t get through.
Thankfully, at Universal, if you show up late you can still get to experience the magic, but it won’t be quite as fun waiting forever in the lines.
As you can imagine, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are extremely popular.
If you would like to see, shop and explore without feeling like a sardine in a can, get to the parks before opening. Once in, go straight to Harry Potter and explore the shops first with all their magical goodies and fun memorabilia.
Crowds won’t be so heavy the first hour or so and if you have the Express Pass, you can hit the rides later without much wait. ( More about that later.)
To get in SUPER EARLY, book a resort stay on property. I recommend connecting with a Travel Agent who can go over your options for tickets, resorts, bundling the two, helping with the budget, and providing more concrete touring recommendations for your specific dates (because universal has weird hours sometimes!)
3. Height Requirements
If you are traveling with children lets talk about the limitations.
If you are going on a kid free vaca- skip to number 4!
So parents, caregivers, grandparents- whatever you are to these precious children, be sure to check if they meet the height requirements before they get their heart set on a particular ride.
Because dissapointed them on vacation is gonna happen, don’t let it be something you can prevent ahead of time with a little research! I’ve got the requirements listed below.
And let me say- Some ride attendants are more strict than others and we were once turned away over a ¼ of an inch. The first attendant had approved and let us through the entrance, after a 40 minute wait, the attendant at the ride boarding remeasured and said no.
Yikes. That stung!
The good news is that there is no height requirement for Hogwarts Express. Here are the others you need to take into account on your planning.
Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure
- Forbidden Journey: minimum of 48 inches
- Dragon Challenge: minimum of 54 inches
- Flight of the Hippogriff: minimum of 36 inches
Diagon Alley at Universal Florida
- Escape from Gringotts: minimum of 42 inches
4. Is it magic without a wand?
Harry Potter fans love the idea of owning their own wand.
Am I right or am I right?
If you grew up with Harry Potter, you know the fun of getting a wand in those mail order catalogs or at the book releases at the book store (yep- before the internet made shopping so easy!)
Well, I’m here to tell you that all of your dreams can come true with a wand that actually does what you want it to do (besides getting a millionare dollars and a body builder physique- sorry, stipulations apply)
Universal makes this possible with their interactive wands.
At various places throughout the Wizarding World, you’ll find spots to put your magic wand to the test with some fun prompts and cool effects.
Many fans want to purchase their wand from Ollivander’s. The Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Universal is just like the book describes, wands of every kind stacked to the ceiling. There is a wand shop in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley but as you can imagine, they are extremely crowded.
Like I said, it’s super fun and really popular.
If you don’t have your heart set on “letting the wand pick the wizard”, purchase your wand from one of the other souvenir shops or carts that are set up in the area, which can save you a lot of time.
5. Pack Smart , like really really smart
Bags are not allowed on most rides.
I know, shocker right? Can’t have grandma smacking people around with that brick in her purse!
Kidding, kidding (about grandma, not the bags).
So you’ve got a few solutions. You can bring in a bag and just put it in one of the lockes.
You can wear cargo shorts and stuff them with goodies.
You can bring a stroller for the kiddos and leave all your stuff there while you do the rides.
Or you can go in like a rebel, with the bare essentials like… your phone. Since you can put your debit card and room key on there!
6. Express Pass- kinda like a fast pass, but kinda not.
We hinted at this earlier, the pass allows you to skip the ride lines (at participating locations) and wait time is decreased dramatically, usually to about 15 minutes.
There are two kinds of Express Passes. The Universal Express Pass allows ONE express entry per participating ride. This pass is around sixty dollars.
The Universal Express Unlimited allows you to skip the regular lines at participating rides an unlimited amount of times. This is the better pick and it’s around eighty dollars. If you want to skip the lines, grab this pass!
7. Chat with Characters
There are a few familiar faces that you have the opportunity to chat with:
- The Knight Bus conductor and the hysterical shrunken head
- The Hogwarts Express train conductor
- The goblin at Gringotts Money Exchange in Diagon Alley
You can also purchase character dining like they do at Disney, but with marvel characters!
8. Nighttime Lights
Stay until dusk when Hogwarts Castle is set aglow.
The lights bring the castle to life and at special times throughout the year, the Nighttime Lights are set to music and finished off by a spectacular fireworks show.
Be sure to stop and taste the Butterbeer, both varieties and grab a treat at Honeyduke’s. If you’re hungry, grab a meal at The Three Broomsticks or The Leaky Cauldron both have delicious food and the atmosphere is just what you would expect from a wizard’s hangout!
You may also get a visit from the ghostly, Moaning Myrtle if you stop at the Hogsmeade bathrooms! (hint, hint, go to the bathroom in hogsmeade!)
9. Anything from the trolley?
Yep, I totally save the best tips for last, because who has time to read a blog post when you are trying to do the 1000 others things to get ready for your vacation.
I get it.
So let’s dive into my top tip.
Basically, you should eat everything in site.
No seriously, they have some amazing (and I would like to think authentic) food options throughout the lands in Universal.
From chocolate toads to fish and chips at the three broomsticks.
Oh and the butterbeer. It is MMMMhhhh- MMHHHH GOOD! Not like this silly stuff you find canned or bottled in the stores. And no where near the recipes you find on pinterest. (Maybe I’m still bitter about that one!)
They are fairly decent with allergies too!
I was trying to think of something harry potter to end out this blog post, but then I started thinking about endings and got really sad about the books and movies being over (and, hate me all you want, but I’m not a diehard fan of the new fantastic beasts movies, but that’s a post for a different blog)
Ok, just enjoy your trip- and watch out for the death eaters.