Heading to Universal Orlando Resort for your next family vacation? You are not going to want to miss the awesome experiences at The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. Whether you’re catching a ride on the Hogwart’s Express or enjoying a cup of Butterbeer, you’ll feel like you’ve just jumped into the Harry Potter movies and books. Just watch out for that fire breathing dragon in Diagon Alley!
Thanks so much to Universal Orlando Resort for providing tickets to their theme parks in exchange for my review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. This post also contains affiliate links to help you find the best deals on tickets when planning your own vacation.
My daughter had been begging to visit The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter ever since she she read all seven books in a matter of three months. She’s a huge Harry Potter fan and couldn’t have been more excited when I told her we’d be going to Universal Orlando Resort for her 10th birthday. I was looking forward to it too. I’d become a fan after taking the Harry Potter tour in London and we’d spent many family movie nights watching the Harry Potter movies. Even my five year old was excited…we were going to Orlando!
As we entered the park, I could tell we weren’t the only ones. It was fun to see almost as many adults as kids walking around in Hogwarts robes. While we did want to see all the attractions in the two theme parks, we could have easily spent all our time just hanging out in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. There was so much to see and do and we often felt like we’d been transported right into the movies. These were just a few of our favorite Universal Orlando Resort experiences.
See A Wand Choose It’s Owner At Ollivander’s Wand Shop
Visit Ollivander’s Wand Shop where you can have the magical experience of watching a wand choose it’s owner, just like in the movie. As groups of 15-20 enter the dark shop filled floor to ceiling with wands, one lucky child is chosen by a wand. Afterwards you can go next door to buy a magical wand of your own.
Cast A Spell With An Interactive Wand
The wands may be a little pricey but we felt like they were totally worth it. You’ll definitely want to spend the extra $5 to get one of the interactive wands. Our girls loved using them to cast spells throughout Diagon Alley and Hogmeade. We just followed the map that comes with the wands and it showed us which spells to use in each location.
Occasionally it took a couple tries but there was usually someone around to help when we needed it. It was cool to watch the different objects in the windows magically come to life and the kids thought it was pretty amazing when it was their spell that did it!
Discover A Fire Breathing Dragon
We had to wait patiently for the dragon atop Gringott’s Bank to breath fire. While he appears to breath fire at random intervals, I was told that it happens about every 10-15 minutes. However, we thought it was worth waiting for and it was exciting to feel the heat from the flames as you watch from below. Be sure to have your camera ready ahead of time because it only lasts for about 5 seconds or so.
Exchange Money At Gringott’s Bank
We had planned to exchange some money at Gringott’s but just got too busy with everything else there was to do. However, if you’d like to exchange your dollars for Gringott’s Bank notes, just head to the Gringott’s Money Exchange. They’ll change your money in $10 or $20 denominations and you can spend them in Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and some other locations within the park. There’s even a goblin that will answer your questions for you while you wait. Any money that you don’t spend can be changed back into dollars at guest services (or can be kept as a souvenier).
Drink A Cup Of Butterbeer
If you visit The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, you can’t leave without trying a cup of Butterbeer. The four of us split one because it’s so sweet that none of us could drink a full cup. Butterbeer has a yummy butterscotch flavor that actually tastes nothing like real beer. If you visit on a hot summer day, cool off with a cup of frozen Butterbeer instead.
Skip the long lines: If you are buying Butterbeer in Hogsmeade, don’t wait in the long line at the first cart. Right after we did that, we walked a little further and discovered another Butterbeer cart with shorter lines. Just look around the corner and to the left as you enter the area where Hogwarts Castle is located.
Find Fun Surprises In The Windows
As you walk through Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, peek in each of the windows to discover some fun surprises. You’ll find everything from pictures that talk to magical plants that come to life.
Taste Harry Potter’s Favorite Candies
If you’ve always wanted to try Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, just head to Honeydukes in Hogsmeade. You can also find Chocolate Frogs, Fudge Flies and plenty of other candies from the movies and books.
Catch A Ride On The Hogwarts Express
You’ll need a multi-park pass but if you have one, you’ll want to take a ride on the Hogwarts Express! Each station is different but depending with one you’re in, you can walk through the wall at Platform 9 3/4 or see Hedwig the owl (my 5 year old was totally convinced she was real).
Once you board the train, you encounter fun surprises like eavesdropping on a conversation between Harry, Ron and Hermione and chocolate frogs crawling on the door and windows. My girls loved looking out the window to see the Knight Bus, the English countryside and even a glimpse of Voldemort. You’ll want to ride both ways because the experience is different in each direction.
Give The Ministry Of Magic A Call
Just outside Leicester station, you’ll see an unassuming red telephone booth. However, step inside and you can dial 62442 to call the Ministry Of Magic and hear a special recorded message. Don’t worry about remembering the number…it’s listed right on the phone.
Catch A Demonstration By The Beauxbatons Academy of Magic Students
If you’re tired of walking, take a break and watch a performance by the students of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. You’ll find the stage just as you near Hogwart’s Castle. If you have little ones, be sure to get there a few minutes early to score a good spot where they can see.
Peek Inside The Knight’s Bus
While you can’t actually go inside the Knight’s Bus, we took a peek inside the window to see it set up just as it was in the movie. We also waited in a short line for a photo op with the driver and a quick chat with the sarcastic shrunken head.
Look For Kreacher At 12 Grimmauld Place
If you look long enough, you can spy Kreacher looking out the window at 12 Grimmauld Place. We never saw Kreacher but it turns out we were looking in the wrong window. We thought he appeared in one of the top windows but you should actually be watching the tall window just above the door. You won’t have to wait long…he peeks out every couple of minutes.
Discover Hogwart’s Castle
One of our favorite parts of touring The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was getting the chance to see Hogwart’s castle. It really was awe-inspiring as we turned the corner and saw it for the first time.
If you’re fortunate enough to visit The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter during the Christmas season, you absolutely have to catch The Magic Of Christmas At Hogwarts. This spectacular light show is set against the backdrop of Hogwarts and we were completely enthralled by it.
It was crowded when we were there and we had to wait about 1/2 hour to get in. However, that could be because we were there for opening weekend. Either way, it was totally worth the wait! This year’s holiday celebration ends January 6th but it was such a success that I fully expect Universal to bring it back next year.
There’s a lot more to see at The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter and these were just a few of our favorites. It’s truly a magical place that every Harry Potter fan should experience!
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