The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando resort changed the landscape for many theme parks around the world. Each Potter themed location is a fully immersive environment taking guests on an adventure directly into the Wizarding World itself. These amazing theme park “lands” at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure established a trend that appears will continue for the foreseeable future.
Based on the movie franchise and books by J.K. Rowling, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Universal Orlando Resort, with an exclusive license from Warner Bros. Entertainment, opened the first phase of the Wizarding World in place of the former of Merlinwood site at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. This area is known at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
Just four years later the second phase of the Wizarding World was opened at Universal Studios Florida replacing the Jaws ride. On opening day for the much anticipated The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, wait times were more than five hours just to enter this all new attraction “land”.
In this COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER, we will take you through both lands showing the rides & attractions, dining options and shops as well as outline some of the TIPS AND TRICKS that we use to make the day go smoothly.
These two Harry Potter lands are the most popular areas at the Universal Orlando Resort and attract visitors from all over the world. Both feature a number of highly themed rides & attractions, dining experiences, shops and live shows. As as result, we recommend that you get there as early as possible. Universal on-site hotel guests and select annual passholders can get into the park prior to the public opening via “Early Park Admission”.
Early Park Admission allows guests to enter either Universal Studios Florida or Universal’s Islands of Adventure typically one hour prior to parking opening. This benefit, along with Universal Express, is a must when visiting the Wizarding World during busy summer months, holidays or special event days.
We always recommend staying at one of the Universal Premier Hotels and Resorts due to the amazing benefits. The most valuable benefit is the complimentary “Universal Express Unlimited” which allows guests to skip the regular lines at most of the resorts rides and attractions. Universal Express is truly the best way to experience a theme park – you will feel like a VIP during your visit.
Universal Premier Hotels and Resorts include:
- The Hard Rock Hotel
- The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
- The Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Each of these hotels provide water taxi transportation to Universal’s CityWalk (shopping, dining and entertainment district) and there are also walking paths that will lead to the theme park entrances.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure was the place what started it all. Originally opened in June 2010, this land is themed after Hogsmeade from the movies / books and is highlighted by an almost life-size replica of Hogwarts Castle.
This land is located between The Lost Continent and Jurassic Park. Upon entering Hogsmeade, guests are immersed entirely in the Wizarding World not only from the design, but the shops as well as the food & drink.
So grab a Butterbeer and explore all the rides & attractions, shopping, dining and overall experiences at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is located within Hogwarts Castle and is one of the premier rides in the Wizarding World. This attraction is a dark-ride motion simulator where riders hop on flying broomstick (courtesy of Hermione Granger) and go on an adventure with Harry and Ron Weasley.
Along the way you will fly around Hogwarts Castle encountering a fire-breathing dragon and life-sized spiders, fly through a Quidditch match (watch out for Draco Malfoy) and evade the life draining dementors.
Endless Summer Tip: After your ride, ask a team member to take you on a “Castle Tour”. The tour is essentially a walk through of the queue line but the team member will point out a number of things from the Wizarding World that are typically not observed when waiting for the ride. Be on the lookout for the Sword of Gryffindor.
Check out our on-ride POV video of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
At a cost of $300 million, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the most expensive roller coaster built to date (as of early 2021). Hagrid’s is the newest attraction in the Wizarding World and the ride we consider to be the most fun in all of the Universal Orlando Resort.
Originally opened in June 2019 replacing the Dragon Challenge, Hagrid’s is a highly themed launched roller coaster that takes riders on an adventure into the Forbidden Forest traveling at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. During the three-minute ride guests will encounter Fluffy the three-headed dog, a Blast-Ended Skrwet, a Centaur, unicorns and have to make their way through Devil’s Snare.
At this time you can only ride Hagrids’ using the Virtual Line Experience via the Universal Orlando app. Universal releases several times throughout the day so if at first you can’t make a reservation, keep trying as additional time slots will typically open.
Check out our on-ride POV video of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Flight of the Hippogriff
The Flight of the Hippogriff is a themed family-friendly roller coaster that is located right next to Hogwarts Castle. This attraction was originally known as the Flying Unicorn but was rethemed when the area was transformed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
As guests make their way through the queue line they will pass Hagrid’s hut leading to the area where the Care of Magical Creatures Class is taught. After riders will board a 2-person train they will pass the Hippogriff and get a chance to say hello. There is an amazing view at the top of the lift where guests can see almost all of Hogsmeade.
This one-minute ride is perfect for the first time roller coaster rider or those that are are not fond of the more dynamic coasters at Universal. There is one small drop (if it even can be called a drop) and speeds are less than 30 miles per hour.
Check out our on-ride POV video of the Flight of the Hippogriff.
Three Broomsticks (restaurant)
Harry Potter fans know that Three Broomsticks is the place to dine in Hogsmeade. This Wizarding World themed restaurant is the perfect spot to have lunch or dinner and features has both indoor and outdoor seating.
The menu consists of British fare including Fish and Chips, Shepherd’s Pie, Turkey Legs and Cornish Pasties. There is a children’s menu offered as well as a variety of Butterbeer. For hungry diners there is “The Great Feast” which includes a combination of barbeque ribs, rotisserie smoked chicken, corn on the cob and potatoes. This amazing feast feeds four and costs $60.99.
Three Broomsticks is also a participating restaurant in the Universal Dining Plans.
Located in the rear of Three Broomsticks, Hog’s Head is a great pub which offers an exclusive Hog’s Head Brew, Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, imported and domestic beer, wine, cocktails and specialty drinks.
Hog’s Head is the perfect place to visit on a hot summer day.
Shopping in Hogsmeade
There are a number of shopping options at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade where you can choose your interactive wand (or have the wand choose you), enjoy a sweet treat like a chocolate Frog and purchase one of the many Harry Potter themed souvenirs.
The shops at Hogsmeade include:
- Deverish and Banges
- Owl Post
- Flich’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods
Endless Summer Tip: Make sure you visit Ollivanders for a special “magic show” where a lucky guests will be part of an experience with one of Ollivanders’ wand experts. And if that guest is lucky, the wand will choose the wizard.
Spells at Hogsmeade
After purchasing an interactive wand from Ollivanders or any other of the wand sale locations throughout the Wizarding World, guests can participate in casting magical spells at nine different locations within Hogsmeade.
There are a total of nine spell locations at Hogsmeade and each spell is unique, setting in motion a certain effect which is fully observable for all to see. To locate the sites of each spell, find the bronze medallion that is located on ground in front of the individual locations as outlined below.
These nine spells at Hogsmeade include:
- Deverish and Banges: Locomorto and Arresto Momentum
- Tome and Scrolls: Alohomora
- Spintwitches: Wingardium Levioa
- Zonko’s Joke Shop: Incendio
- McHavelocks: Arresto Momentum
- HoneyDukes: Revelio
- Dogweek and Deathcaop: Herbivicus
- Gladbags Wizardwear: Ascendio and Descindo
- Madam Puddifoots: Locomotor Snowman
Casting spells is one of our favorite things to do and it is a perfect way to finish off your evening at Hogsmeade.
Hogwarts Castle Projection Shows
Hogwarts Castle is the backdrop for a number of evening shows that are featured at the Wizarding World in Hogsmeade. Once the sun goes down guests can take in the show that is typically offered every 15 to 20 minutes.
These shows include The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle and the Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle. And during the holiday season, Universal puts together a special show for Christmas (see Christmas in the Wizarding World below).
Frog Choir / Triwizard Spirit Rally
If you are a fan of music, keep an eye out for the Hogwarts Frog Choir where four students (one from each of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin) and a conductor sing a cappella also with giant croaking frogs.
The Triwizard Spirit Rally features performances by students from Beauxbatons and Durmstang (just like in the Harry Potter movies) as they get ready for the Triwizard Tournament.
These shows are held right outside of Hogwarts Castle on a small stage near the entrance to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Showtimes vary throughout the course of the day but are typically held once an hour.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
Diagon Alley is the newest addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort. Originally opened in July 2014 to wait times exceeding six hours (just to get into the land itself – not to ride any attractions), this area of the Wizarding World is themed after London from the books / movies.
Constructed on the site of the former Jaws attraction next to the Fast & Furious – Supercharged attraction and the Fear Factor stage, this area is truly amazing. Universal’s creative team is an excellent job of theming this land around both the lagoon area as well as within the confines of Diagon Alley itself.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
The premier attraction at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This attraction is truly a must see when visiting Universal as it combines a roller coaster with a screen ride.
In this dark ride guests will enter the vaults of Gringotts Bank along with Blordak (a bank goblin) and Bill Weasley for a thrilling adventure. Riders will not only encounter Harry, Ron and Hermonie but also Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix Lastrange, trolls and a fire-breathing dragon.
Check out our on-ride POV video of the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
One of the really fun aspects of the queue line where guests start out with a walk through Gringotts Bank lobby and see the goblin tellers before meeting up with Bill Weasley and Blordak, one of the banks goblins. After a brief (and humorous) introduction of the bank, guests head down into the vaults on an errie elevator ride.
The Leaky Cauldron (restaurant)
The place to eat in Diagon Alley is The Leaky Cauldron which is a pub and inn located in the London where wizards can enter from the Muggle world. This restaurant is completely themed after the Harry Potter books/movies right down to the pictures on the walls.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu consists mostly of British fare including Bangers and Mash, Fishermans Pie and Toad in the Hole. There is a children’s menu offered as well as a variety of Butterbeer and other specialty drinks.
The Leaky Cauldron is a participating restaurant in the Universal Dining Plans.
Other food and beverage options at Diagon Alley include Floren Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, The Fountain of Fair Fortune and the Hopping Pot.
The Knight Bus
Just like in the Harry Potter books / movies, guests will find an authentic (it was actually used in the movie) three-deck purple bus (The Knight Bus) that’s parked just outside of Diagon Alley. Guests will enjoy stimulating conversations with the bus conductor while hearing chatter from the shrunken head hanging above the steering wheel.
Like in Hogsmeade, there are a number of shopping options at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Guests can find all kinds of souvenirs, gifts and apparel themed after the Harry Potter books / movies.
The shops in Diagon Alley include:
- Weasleys Wizard Wheezes
- Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions
- Quality Quidditch Supplies
- Ollivanders Wand Shop
- Wands by Gregorovitch
Endless Summer Tip: Similar to the show at the Ollivanders in Hogsmeade, there is a special “magic show” where a lucky guest will find if the wand really chooses the wizard.
Spells at Diagon Alley
Similar to the spells at Hogsmeade, visitors to Diagon Alley can use their interactive want to cast a total of eleven spells. To locate the sites of each spell, find the bronze medallion that is located on ground in front of the individual locations as outlined below.
These eleven spells at Diagon Alley which include:
- Pilliwinkle’s Playthings: Tarantellegra
- Flimflams Lanters: Incendio
- Umbrealla Sign: Metelojinx
- Magical Menagerie: Silencio
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment: Dark Detectors and Specialis Revelio
- Scribbulus: Wingardium Leviosa
- Bowman E. Wright Blacksmith: Reparo and Locomotor Bellows
- Mermaid Fountain: Aguamenti
- Weasleys’ Wizard Wheeze: Descendo
Gringotts Money Exchange
Guests to Diagon Alley can get their Muggle money for a Gringotts bank note in $10 or $20 denominations. While inside the Gringotts Money Exchange you can ask the goblin behind the counter a question – but be prepared for what he has to say afterwards.
The Gringotts bank notes can be used as currency for purchase at any of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter locations in either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure as well as within select locations throughout Universal.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard / Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees
Entertainment at the Wizarding World is just about everywhere. Guests will find the show Tales of Beedle the Bard as well as performances by Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees throughout the day.
So grab a Butterbeer from The Hopping Pot and relax and enjoy the shows.
What would a visit to Wizarding World be without passing through the seedy Knockturn Alley. Guests will find the entrance just outside of the Leaky Cauldron and extending to the Fountain of Fair Fortune.
In this dark place place guest will find Borgin and Burkes (just like in the movies / books) which features a variety of Dark Arts souvenirs and apparel. In addition to Borgin and Burkes, there are a number of places to cast spells within Knockturn Alley.
Knockturn Alley Spell Locations
- Chimney Sweep Elf Sign; Locomotor Chimney Sweep
- Dystyl Phaelanges: The moving Skeleton
- Noggin and Bonce: Mimblewinble
- Tallow and Hemp Toxic Tapers: Incendio
- Trackleshanks Locksmith: Alohomora
The best way to get from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley (and back) is to take the Hogwarts Express train from either Kings Cross Station in Universal Studios Florida or Hogsmeade Station in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Just outside the gates of Hogsmeade Village is Hogsmeade Station. Guests board the Hogwarts Express in Universal Studios for a short ride over to Kings Cross Station in London.
Check out our on-ride POV video of the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade to London.
Kings Cross Station
Just outside of Diagon Alley is Kings Cross Station where guests can board the Hogwarts Express via Platform 9 3/4. Just like the movie, riders will have to pass through the brick wall to get to Platform 9 3/4.
Check out our on-ride POV video of the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station to Hogsmeade.
A Celebration of Harry Potter (annual event)
Every January Universal hosts an annual festival to celebrate the Wizarding World. This three-day event is called A Celebration of Harry Potter.
During A Celebration of Harry Potter guests can take part in question and answer sessions with actors / actresses from the films, demonstrations, photo opportunities and more.
While the last celebration was in 2018, a return of this annual event has not been announced as of early 2021.
Christmas in the Wizarding World (annual event)
Christmas in the Wizarding World is another annual event where both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are decorated for the holiday season.
In addition to festive decorations and hot Butterbeer, Universal offers a number of holiday themed shows including The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, The Frog Choir Christmas Carols and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees with a holiday themed show.
Learn More about the Universal Orlando Resort with our Theme Park Guides
- Universal Studios Florida – Definitive Guide for 2021
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure – Definitive Guide for 2021
- Universal’s City Walk – Complete Guide for 2021
- The Complete Guide to Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando
- Top 5 Rides at Universal Studios Florida
- Top 5 Rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- The Roller Coaster at Universal Orlando
Where Should We Stay When Visiting the Universal Resort?
The Universal Resort has a number of great on-site hotels and each and every one of them have their own benefits, characteristics and price points.
There are multiple “categories” of hotels which are as follows:
- Premier Hotels and Resorts
- Preferred Hotels and Resorts
- Prime Value Hotels and Resorts
- Value Hotels and Resorts
Our favorite hotel when staying on-site at Universal is the Hard Rock Hotel as it’s not only the closest to the parks (walk out the pool area and you are practically at Universal Studios Florida), but has a great pool.
If you are planning on staying off-site, we recommend the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando Universal which is right across the street and is a short walk from Universal’s CityWalk (or you can take the free shuttle bus).