Anyone who is a fan of the Harry Potter series of books and movies has heard of Universal Orlando‘s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. When it first opened, ThemeparkMom was there to give a preview of just what this theme park in a theme park had to offer. Earlier this week, I finally had the chance to see this amazing place with my own eyes and have to agree with ThemeparkMom – Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not for the little ones (and that’s okay.)
Here are some things to know before you visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando:
Optimal Times – The best time to visit Wizarding World of Harry Potter is as soon as the park opens or after 3:00 PM. On busy days, such as weekends and holidays, this area of Universal’s Islands of Adventures has a monitored gated entrance. Once the area becomes overcrowded, time tickets are handed out with specified return times near the Sinbad area.
Best Entrance – There are two ways to enter this area. With most visitors being right-handed, the right side is the more popular side and also the area where entrance tickets are handed out. We grabbed our group entry ticket and headed to the other side of the park for a late breakfast of churros and a soft drink. We noticed another entry gate with only a few visitors entering from this left side of the park.
Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice – If entering from the left side near Jurassic Park, there is a Butterbeer cart as soon as you cross the bridge into Hogsmeade. This is the absolute best place to get your Butterbeer, as the other side of the cart has a very long line with people not realizing the Butterbeer is sold on both sides of the cart. Grab a Butterbeer or Pumpkin Juice and take it all in while gazing at Hogwarts and realizing that YES, you finally made it into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – I must agree with ThemeparkMom that Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is not a ride for younger children or those that scare easily. But if you love the movies and/or the books, then this ride makes the entire Journey worth the effort. I absolutely LOVED this ride and how I became immersed in a world I had only imagined through the books or watched on a movie screen. It was amazing and one of the best thrill rides ever. Tip: If you want to save waiting time and don’t mind breaking up your group for a few minutes, take advantage of the single rider line.
Flight of the Hippogriff – If you have Harry Potter fans that do frighten easily, but still want the Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience, then this tame roller coaster may be the answer. While in line you’ll see Hagrid’s Hut and other special touches from Harry Potter’s world. Tip: The waiting line doesn’t offer much shade. Be sure to bring along a bottle of water
Dragon Challenge – Formerly Dueling Dragons, this fun coaster offers thrills and screams without the intense scare factor of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It’s been ten years since I last enjoyed this roller coaster and it still left me exhilarated and giggling when I stepped off the ride. Tip: Make use of the free lockers for your loose items before getting on this ride and the other coasters at Universal Orlando.
Ollivander’s – Wand shopping is serious business, especially at Ollivander’s. Only 36 people are allowed inside the shop at one time, so if you want to step inside, you’d better line up early. You won’t be able to do any window shopping either, as all the windows are blacked out. The line by 11:00 AM was wrapped all around the building. Tip: If you just want a wand but can forgo stepping inside Ollivander’s for the interactive experience, on busy days a wand cart is set up between Flight of the Hippogriff and the entrance to The Forbidden Journey. Also, other Harry Potter goodies (including wands) can be found at the first gift shop to the left when entering Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Honeydukes Sweet Shop – If you’re in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then you must grab some chocolate frogs or Bertie Bot’s Beans to snack on while walking the streets of Hogsmeade Village or even send as a special gift to a Harry Potter fan at home.
Zonko’s Joke Shop – Looking for extendable ears? Zonkos has them…and they work! Zonko’s is connected to Honeydukes for easy shopping. Tip: Grab your sweets at Honeydukes and check out over at Zonko’s.
Dervish and Banges – This shop is just as popular as Ollivander’s, but for Muggles needing a Hogwart’s school uniform, then grab a Butterbeer or Pumpkin Juice for your wait in line. Be sure to pick up Golden Snitches or brooms such as the Nimbus 2001 or the Firebolt.
The Owl Post – Buy some stationery or mail a letter postmarked from Hogsmeade at The Owl Post. Inside there are owls on the rafters waiting to take your letter to its destination.
Three Broomsticks – I didn’t get a chance to eat at Three Broomsticks due to the crowds, but they do serve shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasty, fish and chips, turkey legs, and other dishes. There are kid meals available with choices of mac and cheese, fish and chips, and chicken tenders. For the parents, adult beverages can be found in the back at the Hog’s Head Pub.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure is everything I could have hoped for, and more. I can’t wait to visit again this spring break or summer vacation with my entire family.