Secrets and Tips for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Updated: Jan 28
I remember back in 2010 when I was watching one of the Harry Potter movies on a DVD. After the movie ended, an ad for the Wizarding World in Florida came on. For someone who doesn’t cry much, my eyes filled with tears of excitement. I had a mission. I had to go. First time I walked into Hogsmeade, I cried. And, I’ve found out from a tour guide that almost every Harry Potter fan does. This place is amazing.
Use your free hour at Universal Studios and rush back to London so you can enjoy it without the thick crowd. Walk past King’s Cross bus station – you’ll come back later to switch parks.
Here’s what to do:
- Check out the Knight Bus to your right and have your photograph made with the driver (he is usually there) and speak to the shrunken head. You can walk up the back and see all the beds made and ready for riders. It’s cute.
- Face the row of houses across from the Knight Bus and Number 12 Grimmauld Place is the Black family home which becomes the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Have your photo made on the doorstep. If you wait for him, the House Elf, Creature, will peek out the window. It’s creepy but cool. He does three things – he pulls the curtains back and nods at you, and then nods twice.
- Step into the phonebooth and call the Ministry of Magic. That is, if you have anything to report.
- Head to Diagon Alley through the brick walls and get ready to be mesmerized. We missed the entrance the first time we visited, but the entrance is ‘hidden’ across from the Knight Bus. You’ll hear a soundtrack of the sliding of brick as you pass through the jagged brick walkway.
- Check out the view for a few moments and snap your photo of the Gringotts Dragon who is perched on top of Gringotts bank, just like in the movie. When you hear it growl, wait for it…it spews fire from its mouth. This scared my five-year-old granddaughter, and she wanted out of there - so beware if you have kiddos with you.
Ask a nearby wizard when it will spit fire again, so you don’t waste your time waiting on it.
- Buy an interactive wand at Ollivander’s, which is the wand shop from the books and movies. If you wish to wait in line, you can watch the wand chooses the wizard ceremony. If you’re an adult, you won’t get picked for it, but you can watch a lucky little kid get his wand. On busy days, there might be a considerable wait for this. As far as the interactive wands – they aren’t just for kids, plenty of adults are wandering around trying to make things move. Be sure to ask for the interactive wand, as they have many souvenir ones that don’t work in the park to move things.
Tip: the places that have things that you can interact with have gold medallions on the ground. There are some hidden locations, as well, such as the right window of the entrance of Scribbulus. Smaller, controlled movements work best to make items move. If you have one, just walk around until you see a crowd standing around a water fountain or window – or grab a nearby wizard and ask them where they are. You are given a map and instructions along with the wand, as well.
- Gringotts Money Exchange. Get some money exchanged and speak to the goblin. It’s amusing – he is pretty lifelike. You can keep the money ($10 or $20) and spend it anywhere in the parks, CityWalk, and maybe even your resort.
- Have a potion made at the Elixer of Refreshment kiosk. It’s across from the Money Exchange. They have little containers of fire protection, babbling, euphoria, etc. They give you a Gilly Water and the potion, and you mix it. You’re basically putting in a flavor into your water like Kool-Aid for $8.75. Not sure about this, but it’s there if you like.
- Go to Knockturn Alley. When you walk down the main street, straight for Gringott’s Bank, you’ll make a sharp left turn once the pathway ends under the dragon.
Walk a bit and you’ll see public conveniences (restrooms) on the right. On the left is a hidden entrance to Knockturn Alley. It’s creepy and dark, but there’s a shop there (Borgin and Burkes from the movie) that has unique dark items there that you can’t get anywhere else – not even in the Harry Potter souvenir shops. It will be extremely crowded by mid-morning in there, so hit this place during your free hour. I had items shipped to my home for free, and it took 5 business days to arrive, so you don’t have to worry about holding bags all day. Also, be sure to do the interactions for your wand in here. There’s a skeleton that will mock you.
- While you still have your free hour, check out more shops to take advantage of the minimal crowd, such as Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, and Scribbulus.
- Eat at the Leaky Cauldron. An awesome movie-themed restaurant where you can get typical British food and butterbeer.
- Ride Harry Potter - Gringotts. Potentially my favorite ride. If you are using your bonus hour in the morning, do not ride this at that time. Wait to use your Universal Express pass after the park opens at 9 AM. During the free hour, everyone in the park has an express pass, so they don’t honor them until the park opens. We made the mistake and waited 30 minutes of our free hour and then after the park opened, we got on in less than 15 minutes for our second ride. But, if you do wait in the long line, you’ll get to enter Gringotts Bank and take more time for photos, which is spectacular. You still go through with the express pass, but people behind you do not want to wait on you to take photos. The goblins bank tellers are exactly like the movie and follow you with their little goblin eyes as you walk by. It’s amazing. This is a roller coaster ride with a free fall drop at the start. However, it’s not terrifying - it’s a mild coaster, in my opinion. There are 3D elements to this ride with a story of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange after Harry, Hermione, and Ron - and, of course, you! Scare rating 4.5/10.
While you are line for the Hogwart's Express, about mid-way through the line will be a chance to see an optical illusion of walking through the wall at the Platform 9 3/4. When you find it, stay back and get a video of whoever's with you. The video to the left is our family having fun with it.
At Universal Islands of Adventure, this section of the park opened on June 18, 2010. You can easily visit both parks in one day, so get a park hopper ticket that allows you to enter both parks. If it’s a cool day, wear the robe of your house. Why not? Also, visit during the day and again at night, as it looks even more magical at night, but you can’t see all the details as you can during the day.
Here is what to do while visiting this park.
- Eat at Three Broomsticks / Hog’s Head Pub. They do have a full bar inside of here if you want a cocktail. This will be British pub food and some Harry Potter themed drinks.
- Try a butterbeer. They have warm, cold, and frozen. I like them all! I suppose it would depend if I were hot or cold on which I’d choose. I’ve never seen someone finish a glass of this, as it is super sweet.
- The drink stands are cheeky with Harry Potter themed juices and Gilly water. The Gilly water was $5.50, but you can get free iced water in Starbucks lobby (Starbucks is at the Port of Entry in the park).
- Get candy at Honeydukes – I’m sure you remember this place from the books. I hope you aren’t dieting! This place is wonderful! Don’t forget to get some Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and play the guessing game with your friends. Just be careful of the vomit flavored ones. And, pick up a few chocolate frogs.
- Ride the Forbidden Journey inside of Hogwarts Castle. This ride is unique. You sit in a bucket seat with three other people. It takes you through the castle on a 4D, motion adventure. If you get motion sickness, maybe skip this one. If you wait in the long line, you get to tour the castle. I suggest at least waiting once so you can tour the castle. You get to see classrooms, the greenhouse, the sorting hat, and the picture at the entrance of the Gryffindor common room interacts with you. It is amazing and makes the wait worth it. But for your second time around, use the Express pass. I have done the single rider line a bunch with no problem. However, this last time I went with my husband, we had to ride with two others. The man next to me was airing his crotch or something because his leg was all over mine during the ride, and it was so peculiar. Ugh. So, if you have four in your group, it’s best. Scare rating is 6.5/10.
- Flight of the Hippogriff - this is a moderate rollercoaster that takes you by Hagrid’s place. The coaster is slightly jerky, but it’s fun, even for adults. It’s quick. My five-year-old granddaughter rode this 37 times in a row. She’s a brave child, so I give this a scare rating of 4.5/10.
- Ride Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. When I was there after launch on June 24, the wait was 240 minutes. I’m not doing that. I returned in July and did the VIP experience (which wasn’t much more than the Unlimited Fast Pass for the day). This is a rollercoaster ride with a height requirement of 48”, which is really high, where one person gets to ride on the bike, and the other sits in a cart. The ride takes you through scenes with animatronic creatures like Cerberus (the three-headed dog) and you are trying to help Hagrid find his blast-ended skrewts (scary scorpion meets crab things). Hagrid speaks to you through the cart you’re riding, there are seven launches, it’s not too high off the ground, and there is one small drop (our VIP guide gave us a head’s up on when it happened during the ride. Because we knew exactly when it would drop, it was so anti-climactic because he had talked it up. It’s not scary at all if you are afraid of drops). There’s always a part where you go backwards. It is the most amazing ride I’ve ever ridden, hands-down. Right now, there are no repeat rides, so even if you got a private guide, you’d only be able to ride once. Also, there’s no guarantee of that. My VIP guide was so worried about it shutting down and not being able to take us on it, he went there in the AM, out of order, so we’d get to experience it. If the weather’s bad, it shuts down. And, they shut it down before the park closes due to the maintenance that needs to be done. Therefore, you are never guaranteed that you’ll be able to ride it – for now. I’d maybe wait a bit to plan your trip and let them work out the kinks in all of their stuff.
Don’t forget to go back to each park at night and maybe catch some of their shows. In Diagon Alley, if you stand in front of the stage (by the elixir kiosk), you might be selected by the ladies!