If you are unfamiliar with the books, a portkey is an ordinary object that has been charmed to transport anyone who touches it to another place.
Harry Potter World Florida
This particular portkey brings you to Hogsmeade, the wizarding village where upperclassman at Hogwarts go to enjoy some time away from their studies and do a little shopping for candy at Honeydukes or toys at Zonko’s Joke Shop.
My youngest is a huge Harry Potter fan, so on a recent trip to Orlando, we had to tack on another day to experience the magical world of Universal Orlando Harry Potter theme park. I like to have a plan when I visit theme parks, otherwise, you spend all day just waiting in lines or trying to figure out what to do next.
Researching the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was difficult. Based on reviews I knew it would be “fantastic!” and “crowded.” but I didn’t really get a good touring plan. So, after having experienced it, here is my plan to enter Harry Potter World Florida at Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Note: We did not visit Diagon Alley, so this is based on visiting Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.)
Why Stay on Property at Harry Potter World Florida at Universal Studios
There are five Universal Studios Florida Hotels, The Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Lowe’s Royal Pacific Resort, Lowe’s Sapphire Falls, and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
There are tons of hotels in Orlando. Stay at one of the five Universal Studios hotels. All are within walking distance of the Island of Adventure park, so it’s easy to head back to the hotel for an afternoon swim, eat lunch or let little ones nap.
If you don’t want to walk, there is a water taxi from each hotel to the parks. We stayed at the Portofino Bay Hotel and there were bike cabbies to bring you back and forth as well.
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the least expensive of all the Universal hotels, but your rates will still likely be more expensive than some other Orlando hotels. For some this may seem expensive, but it’s worth it, don’t stay elsewhere – especially during peak theme park season.
Here’s why you want to stay at a Universal Studios Hotel: Staying at one of these hotels grants you early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Only guests of these three Universal Studios hotels are admitted one hour before the theme park opens. In that hour you can see everything at least once comfortably. As you’ll note form other reviews of this park, it is small, so it fills up quickly. Do yourself a favor, spring for the nice hotel and get in early.
FREE Universal Express Pass
Another bonus to staying at The Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, or Lowe’s Royal Pacific Resort is Free Universal Express unlimited ride access. Similar to a Disney Fast Pass, the Universal Express allows cardholders to skip the regular line and go in the shorter “express line” including some at Universal Studios Harry Potter land.
The Express Pass doesn’t work on some attractions – like Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey, but it does work on the Dueling Dragons and Flight of the Hippogriff, as well as main attractions throughout both Universal Studios Theme Parks.
If purchased this pass is $89 per person. Spend your money on a one of the nice Universal Orlando hotels and get this perk free – you’ll come out better in the end AND have a nicer experience.
Tips to Beat the Crowds at Harry Potter World Florida
Get there Early. Since you are staying on-site at Universal Studios Parks and Resorts, you’re eligible to enter Harry Potter World Florida an hour earlier than anyone else. Make sure to arrive at the gate at least 15 minutes before the opening, earlier if it’s prime season.
Guests are admitted to a holding area until the theme park gates open and then the attendants need to scan your tickets. Ticket scanning is quick, but if there are a lot of people, they can only scan tickets so fast and generally not all ticket booths are open.
Don’t expect to show up on opening hour and walk right in, you’ll be behind those that have gotten there a bit earlier.
So why is it so important to stay on property and then arrive early? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is small and the shops, which are part of the experience are down right tiny.
While my boys were perusing wands at Dervish and Banges, the Olivander show let out into the shop. We had to literally step out of the way so the crowd could walk through the narrow hallway. The door between two sections of this shop is literally as big as your front door.
Normally I would suggest shopping later in the day once you’ve done everything else, but in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter where the shops are a big part of the experience, you need to shop early or it will feel like a door buster special on Black Friday.
Choose a Wand at Olivanders. First decide if you want to experience the wand ceremony at Olivanders.
During this short performance, Olivander picks one person from the audience to choose a wand. It’s a fun five minute show where the chosen wizard tries out a few wands before finding ‘the one,’ but the line can get very long, so if this is something you want to do, go here first.
I have heard if you don’t get picked to ask about the next show, but I’m sure you’ll have more luck if there isn’t already a huge line outside.
As I mentioned above, this experience opens up into Dervish and Banges shop and if it’s crowded, it can take a bit longer to get folks out of Olivanders – so as the day progresses, I’m sure this line is not only longer, but moves slower.
Attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Take a look around at Dervish and Banges, but don’t do your shopping just yet. Head over to the Forbidden Journey at Hogwarts Castle.
This is the only ride in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter where you can’t use the Express Pass. It’s also the only place where you’ll wish you had more time waiting so you could take it all in.
Don’t worry about rushing up to the ride. Enjoy touring the Herbology class, exploring Dumbledore’s Office and go ahead and listen to Ron, Harry and Hermoine’s plan for getting you to the Quidditch pitch. Stop to hear what the portraits are saying and the sorting hat’s rhyme.
We rushed through the first time, did the ride and then went around again much slower. The attraction itself is pretty intense and a combination of simulator and ride.
Be prepared to meet dementors close up and endure a dragon attack. My 7 year-old, who has seen all the movies several times and read all the books, was a little scared and felt once was enough for him on this one.
If your child wants to see the castle, but doesn’t want to go on the ride, there is a way to visit and bypass the ride. There is also a large child swap area, for parents to wait with younger children.
After The Forbidden Journey, head to Flight of the Hippogriff, which is an easy roller coaster around Hagrid’s Hut and a favorite for my youngest. The older boys liked the Dragon Challenge which is two dueling roller coaster – each a completely different ride.
Shopping at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Once you’ve done the rides, head to the shops. The detail is amazing and my favorite is the Owlery, which is connected to Dervish and Banges.
Take a look at the caged biting book or the owls resting overhead. Bring a stamp from home and purchase a postcard. Outside the Owlery, they’ll stamp it with Hogsmeade station. If you don’t have a stamp or you’d like to make it more authentic, purchase a Harry Potter stamp in the store. Warning: there’s a heafty mark up on the stamps.
Honeydukes has all the favorite wizard treats like chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Honeydukes is connected to Zonko’s which has wizard merchandise such as Fanged Frisbees and extendable ears, as well as pygmy puffs and sneakascopes.
Purchasing Wands at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Dervish and Banges is the place for wands. Here you can get any of the character wands, as well as unique ones.
Ask a shop keeper to tell you which wand is right for you based on your birthday. However, birthday doesn’t always mean a good fit – remember, the wand chooses the wizard.
The wall with the unique wands is in the path of the Olivander show exit. If you want something unique, better go early to avoid the large Olivander crowds. If you want a character wand (Harry, Herminone, Ron, etc.), there are carts on the street that sell those wands and give you a bit more room.
Whatever you purchase, have them send it over to your hotel (since you’re staying on Universal property) and you won’t have to keep up with the package all day. If you have checked out of your room, use the package pick-up option and have them hold it.
Where to Eat at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Three Broomsticks. Of course, The Three Broomsticks is where wizards get traditional English fare at Hogsmeade (and some chicken fingers for the little guys).
Arrive a bit before meal times to avoid the crowd. All the tables are reserved, so you do have to eat in order to sit down in here. Meals at the Three Broomsticks aren’t large so don’t expect to share.
It’s worth popping in here earlier. When it’s quiet you might catch a house elf running around upstairs. You’ll know because of his shadow and the pitter patter of him running.
Hogs Head Tavern. Adjacent to the Three Broomsticks is the Hogs Head Tavern where you can get a traditional American beer as well as the famed wizard drink Butterbeer – in regular or frozen.
Probably best to get your butterbeer with your lunch but if that line is too long, the Hog Head is sometimes a quicker option – or the carts on the street. All of these establishments serve the wizard drink pumpkin juice as well.
Details are EVERYWHERE at Harry Potter World Florida
After all that butterbeer you’ll probably need to use the facilities. While you’re there, listen for Moaning Myrtle, the ghost who haunts the girl’s bathroom at Hogwarts. If you’re out of money, which you probably are since there are so many things you have to experience, head to Gringott’s Wizarding Bank. There are no goblins guarding the door, but there is an ATM.
Shows at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
There are two shows at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Frog Choir and Triwizard Spirit Rally. The day we went there was one show on the half hour and the other on the hour. They last about 10 – 15 minutes and are lots of fun. If you get there at the recommended one-hour early, you may be waiting around for that first show, as you’ll have experienced everything else.
Tips for preschoolers at Harry Potter World Florida
Best preschool-friendly Harry Potter: Treats and giggles. Yes, some of the attractions in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter may be a little scary for the young ones, but there are a few preschooler-friendly places to hang out. In Diagon Alley, grab a cool treat at Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor or browse the jokes and toys at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
Tip: In Hogsmeade, parents beware. Honeyduke’s candy shop will have the kids asking for everything in sight! It is a magical and colorful shop with candy and mouth-watering gooey treats. Also, any train-loving preschooler will enjoy the Hogwarts Express. Take the train back and forth between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and view the magical window. There are very brief scary moments, but these are in silhouette opposite the magic window so the little ones may not even notice.
Tip: Think twice about Flight of the Hippogriff. This Universal Orlando tip may help you avoid some tears. Flight of the Hippogroff at Islands of Adventure allows riders who are 36″ tall, but it is much more intense than Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse coaster at Universal Studios. It is safe and fun, but make sure the littlest riders are prepared for a thrill.
Universal Studios Orlando Tickets
For the best prices on Universal Studios Orlando tickets, purchase them online directly from Universal Studios Florida. You’ll also save time in the morning and beat the crowds to Harry Potter World Florida. Remember, Harry Potter World is at Universal Islands of Adventure Theme Park. The new Diagon Alley theme park is located in the Universal Studios Florida theme park located right next door to Islands of Adventure. Make sure you purchase the park-to-park admission ticket vs. single day Universal Orlando tickets if you want to see both areas of Harry Potter World. Florida residents can get deeper Universal Orlando discount tickets online also.
If you would like to visit other Orlando theme parks in the area, consider a Flex Pass. This allows unlimited admission to five Orlando theme parks including Harry Potter World Florida for 14 days. In addition to the two Universal Studios theme park, you can also visit Wet ‘n Wild, Sea World and Aquatica. There is another add on if you’d like to include Busch Gardens too.
We were given a discounted rate for our hotel and tickets to review this attraction (as is common in the travel industry). The opinions expressed here are my own.