My sister and I just got back from an awesome vacation at Universal Studios last week. We spent 4 nights at Cabana Bay Beach Resort (highly recommend for young families) and soaked up the Florida sun (my nose is still bright red). Of course, the main reason we went was to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWHP)! We’re both huge fans and I’ve been planning this trip for a year to surprise her with it last Christmas.
It was AMAZING! There’s so much to see, eat, and do – we weren’t bored for a second. The architecture, music, and little touches here and there really bring both the movies and books to life. It’s like it all jumped right out of the screen into my reality. The details around both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are truly amazing – we were almost a bit emotional!
Make sure to listen for what’s inside the vanishing cabinet!
Fantastic! Right out of the movies.
I spent quite a bit of time reading up on tips prior to our visit and came up with quite a few of my own that I wasn’t expecting! I hope this list helps you plan your trip to WWHP so you can make the most of not being a muggle for a short amount of time 🙂
Visit Hogsmeade first
The fact that resort-goers can visit only Hogsmeade (not Diagon Alley) one hour before the parks open makes this an obvious move. However, I think the better reason is that Hogsmeade is a bit underwhelming compared to Diagon Alley, which is simply huge and fabulous. Hogsmeade was much smaller and seemed more crowded because of that. We made the mistake of going to Diagon Alley first and felt less impressed with Hogsmeade. However, Hogsmeade has more rides AND you can get pumpkin pasties and cauldron cakes at Honeydukes. Yum!
Buy one wand for everyone
As awesome as they are, be prepared to budget at least $50 per wand – and if you’re with a group, this can add up really quickly. My sister and I weren’t prepared to spend more than just the single wand but we both wanted one, so we thought about this to justify sharing: buying the Elderwand, which has technically never belonged to just one person. We just kept grabbing it from each other, pretending we were defeating the other person for the wand. So not only did we save money, but we were actually sticking to the story line 🙂 Plus, we decided to buy the wand from Gregorovitch, not Ollivander’s – not only was the line super short, but the wand was stolen from Gregorovitch by Grindelwald, so it was never actually at Ollivander’s (yup, we’ve got no life).
Note the correct wand movement
After we got our wand, we noticed the witches and wizards at each little magic station (indicated by a little sign on the ground) kept repeating over and over to point the wand in a certain spot and just make a small movement, and they’re totally right. The best way to make magic is to stick your wand arm straight out and just move your wrist a touch. Many people were swinging their arms around like monkeys, but it’s important to keep the movement just within the camera’s small space so it can read it.
Extra: If you still can’t get anywhere, stop in any shop where wand are sold and tell them you need a repair. They’ll take care of it right away and you can keep making magic 🙂
Butterbeer was good – but just once!
Everyone knows that a trip to WWHP isn’t complete without a cup of butterbeer, and so we made no exception. I’m going to be totally honest, though – I didn’t love it. Everyone said the frozen butterbeer was the best and so that’s what I got, but it was way too sweet. The weird foam topping (applied after the drink) is a weird marshmallow-y liquid that was a bit too fake to really enjoy, and I didn’t like the butterscotch/cream flavor of the drink. I wish I had a different review, but it just wasn’t for me!
Same for butterbeer ice cream!
My main initial reason for visiting Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour was that Harry had visited it multiple times in book 3 while he was living in Diagon Alley after running away from the Dursleys. His favorite flavor was strawberry and peanut butter, so naturally I expected that to be my favorite as well. They also now have butterbeer ice cream, which I hoped would be much better than the actual butterbeer I tried before. Unfortunately, Florean’s was a huge let down. Not only was the hard-pack ice cream just simply not good, but the butterbeer soft-serve was basically the weird marshmallow topping from the drink just frozen and thickened even more with a butterscotch swirl. I do recommend stopping by here because it’s just a given, but if you’re really just into getting a cold treat, find it elsewhere in the parks or Universal City Walk.
Take a dramamine before Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Oh, Hogwarts – looking so innocent and majestic. We got here right at 8AM because we had early access to Hogsmeade and knew this ride would get packed right away. It’s not included with the Express Pass we paid extra for, so if there’s any time to get this done, it’s first thing in the morning. It takes you through the castle and is pretty amazing in itself – even if we had waited long we wouldn’t have minded because there’s so much to see inside, but I just wish I knew how crazy dizzy I would get before I got into this ride! You’re pretty much flung around the Forbidden Forest and this one knocked me out and almost made me run for the toilet. We were glad we got it over with early, though – once we finished the ride, the wait time skyrocketed to over 100 minutes.
Enjoy having fewer kids around
We made a one day park-hopping trip to Disney while we were there and oh, my goodness – what a difference. Being a holiday weekend, I was expecting crowds and tons of children, and while I was correct about Disney, WWHP was NOT overridden with screaming brats everywhere like Magic Kingdom was. Maybe Harry Potter (and Universal in general) either can’t compete with Disney’s pull or it’s for an older generation like myself, but I didn’t feel like I was going crazy with all the children like I did at Disney. Once I realized that I enjoyed it much more!
Take a breather during Celestina’s show
Several times a day, Celestina Warbeck and her group of gals will come out and put on a concert of three of her most popular songs. This is the perfect time to relax. There isn’t much seating, but pretty much everyone just takes the best spot on the ground and chills in the shade for fifteen minutes and enjoys the show. And she’s actually pretty talented, too! And once you’ve seen the show four or five times, good luck getting “I’ve got a cauldron full of hot strong love…” out of your head!
Don’t miss Grimmauld Place
Just outside the entrance to Diagon Alley, Grimmauld Place looks so innocent that’s it’s easy to miss (which is the whole point, I suppose). Once you realize it, stick around to watch Kreacher peaking out of the window to check on you muggles below!
So basically these are my honest tips, tricks, and reviews for WWHP. It was probably one of the best trips I’d ever been on and was so much fun just being with my sister – there’s nobody else who I would have enjoyed being with as much.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan and haven’t had a chance to make it down to Orlando yet, you’ve got to plan a trip here. It’s a huge moneysucker, I’m not going to lie, but if you’re smart and budget both your money and time wisely you can have the perfect trip.
Have you been here before? Any tips or ideas that I missed? I’d love to hear from you!
The Wizaring World has travel agents? I could fit right in 🙂