When my family found out we would be squeezing in one more trip this summer right before school started back, they were overjoyed. Especially when they learned it would mean a vacation to Universal Orlando! Our Universal adventures were part of the Family Forward blog conference this summer. We ate-we shopped-we did all the attractions. And the biggest hits on our trip were located in the Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, both part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Our family has come up with our list of all the can’t miss attractions at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Universal Orlando has many amazing attractions, so it’s worth spending several days to explore both parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Hands down, our family’s favorite spots at Universal Orlando are Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My teen and tween were in awe of the details and the complete immersion into the familiar haunts from the Harry Potter series.
According to my kids ages 16 and 12, these are the “Can’t Miss” experiences at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This includes both Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. So with a wave of our wands, we say,”Revelio” to show our favorites!
Can’t Miss Attractions at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter
1. The Butterbeer (Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade)
My kids would absolutely insist on Butterbeer being number one. Created in the book series as the beverage of choice at Hogwarts, Butterbeer is best described as a sweet concoction of shortbread and butterscotch. JK Rowling imagined it to taste “a little bit like less sickly butterscotch.”
My kids are such fans of Butterbeer, we found numerous recipes online to make it at home. The actual recipe is classified, but many have speculated and arrived at their ideas of what ingredients make the perfect Butterbeer.
You can enjoy a Butterbeer cold, hot, or frozen at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, or various kiosks in both parks.
2. Interactive wands from Ollivanders and spell casting spots (Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade)
Harry Potter fans, rejoice! Wizards and witches flock to Ollivanders, the makers of wands since 382 BC, to make that most sacred purchase: their wand.
Even though my son already owns a couple of wands, I knew he would want to get a new one from Ollivanders. What I didn’t know was that they have special interactive wands that can make unique spells come to life in both parks! Say what?! Complete with a map showing the locations of these interactive locations, the wand owners eagerly set out to complete all the spells. Even the bystanders get enjoyment out of watching wizards and muggles alike trying their hands at magic.
Also a cannot miss is the wand choosing ceremony in Ollivanders. Granted, this is select times during park hours and only one person is chosen. My son’s entire trip was made by being chosen…after another kid who was asked said he didn’t like Harry Potter. CMy son happened to be standing next to him with a Gryffindor shirt on, so the wizard asked my son if he wanted to participate, which he immediately said YES! The 3rd wand chose him and after this 5 minute show concluded, we went into Ollivanders to buy the newest wand in his collection.
Tip: Interactive wands cost $ 49.95, only $6 more than a regular wand, and include a map of all the spell casting spots. In other words, definitely opt for an interactive wand! It may be slightly more expensive, but it’s well worth it. We also brought back an older wand that no longer worked, and he received a new wand as a replacement. Just part of the magic of Harry Potter.
3. Dine at Leaky Cauldron (Diagon Alley) or Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade)
No trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be complete without eating the food inspired by the series. From fish and chips to shepherd’s pie to the beloved Butterbeer, either of these restaurants is a must do experience.
4. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Diagon Alley)
The best ride in either Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley has to be this one, set in Gringotts Bank. Combining the best of 3D-4D technology and motion simulation for a roller coaster, this experience
Once the queue moves indoors, you feel as though you’ve been transported to the actual Gringotts Wizarding Bank, complete with goblins.
This attraction is both 3-D and a motion based steel roller coaster ride, so if you are prone to motion sickness, you might want to beware. The combination of these elements makes it unlike its counterpart, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” and all the more breathtaking!
5. Honeydukes (Hogsmeade)
Kids love Honeydukes, the sugary store filled to the brim with sweet treats. My youngest saved his money just so he could buy chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. In addition, lots of other baked goods like cookies, cupcakes, and fudge are available.
6. The fire-breathing dragon at Gringotts (Diagon Alley)
You won’t be able to miss this one, but you also won’t be able to predict when it will happen. That’s on account of the Ukranian Ironbell dragon that towers over the entrance. You hear gasps and lots of oohs and aahs when the dragon decides to make his presence known. It’s even more spectacular at nighttime as its fiery glow illuminates the sky.
7. Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade (Diagon Alley)
Riding the Hogwarts Express both ways to get from Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade is ESSENTIAL. Finding Platform 9 ¾ is easy; how you will pass through is another matter indeed! The optical illusion of passing right through the brick wall is AMAZING. Or is it magic? Have camera ready to snag a pic of this seemingly impossible feat.
The passage to Platform 9 3/4 is reason alone to justify a Park-to-Park ticket for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
The journey replicates the trip Harry, Ron, and Hermione make from London to Hogsmeade and has passengers whizzing through the countryside. The attention to detail of the train itself and the passenger cars made us believe we were actually traveling to Hogwarts!
8. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Hogsmeade)
Prepare to be swept away into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The queue wanders through Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room, and the Room of Requirement. I really like the creative touches in the queue like the portrait room with some interactive characters.
The ride itself is a marvel, immersing you into the Harry Potter folklore.This motion simulator/3D-4D attraction takes guests on a wild ride that will have them in a quidditch match, through the spider-infested Forbidden Forest, and dodging dementors. While I don’t get motion sick on rides, but this one has a few moments where it moves back and forth so dramatically that I had to close my eyes. So heed the warnings on any attractions about motion sickness. My kids however laugh at me and would say by all means ride this ride!
9. Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour (Diagon Alley)
Ice cream parlour with a wizarding twist? That’s Florean Fortescue’s to a T. The assortment of amazing flavors include: Butterbeer, Granny Smith, Earl Grey and Lavender, Chocolate Chili, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Salted Caramel Blondie, and Chocolate and Raspberry. Both soft serve and scoops served up daily will have guests screaming with delight for ice cream.
10. The Knight Bus in London Outside Diagon Alley
I have to give mad props to the Knight Bus. It’s an example of interactive fun done the right way. A talking shrunken head peppers passersby with questions that clearly show he has his eyes on us. He noted my son had on a Gryffindor shirt, and was engaging and funny. Definitely a pit stop on the way into Diagon Alley.
We highly recommend that you grab your broomstick and take off for Universal Orlando for an out-of-this-world experience at Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
Also mark your calendar for January 24-26, 2018 for a Celebration of Harry Potter. This magical 3-day event features Q&A sessions with Stanislav Yanevski (Viktor Krum), James Phelps (Fred Weasley), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley) and more. Guests can also enjoy special panels, demonstrations and even surprises in store.
Need More About Universal?
Here are some great links from my fellow bloggers and Family Forward attendees.
Patty shares her Everything Universal Orlando Guide
Britni gives her best tips for Visiting Universal Studios with Young Kids
Sarah gives the lowdown on Best Volcano Bay Tips and Volcano Bay Cabanas
Disclosure: I was invited to attend Family Forward and received reduced rates for our hotel stay and our Universal tickets. Nevertheless, I’m happy to share with you my honest feedback on this experience.
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