“DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?!” I scream as I walk into Diagon Alley for the first time and see the dragon breathing fire over the sea of people below. This is just one of many “fangirl” moments I’ve experienced while visiting the most wonderful place in Orlando, FL: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. At the Wizarding World, JK Rowling’s world of Harry Potter comes to life in the best way. Here, muggles have the chance to live out their wizard dreams by donning their house gear, touring the iconic sites, and even casting spells! Keep reading to learn how to make your visit as magical as possible.
The Wizarding World spans both parks of Universal Orlando. To visit both parks, you need to either purchase a park-to-park ticket or two-day ticket. If you’re going for the annual Celebration of Harry Potter (which you should go to!), check out the vacation packages available. If you’re a Florida resident, you get some extra discounts!
Want some extra time in the Wizarding World? Stay on-site for early morning access to the parks! The Wizarding World is a “muggle free product zone”. If you need a Coke or any other muggle refreshment, grab it before entering the Harry Potter areas of the park because they won’t be sold there. Plan on making purchases in the park? You can ask the wizards working to send your items to the front of the park to pick up when you leave. To make sure your pictures in the Wizarding World are awesome, put your phone camera on the “live” or “burst” setting. Finally, download the Universal Orlando app to see wait times, a park map, and hold virtual tickets.
Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World
The only actual ride in Diagon Alley is Escape from Gringotts, which is a moving thrill ride that’s part roller coaster and part interactive movie. On the ride, you venture through Gringott’s bank to assist Bill Weasley before running into some trouble. In line, you get to see goblins at work, some pretty stellar Daily Prophet newspapers, and trek through the main room, offices, and caves of the bank. If you take the single rider line, all you get to see is a big winding staircase. I think waiting with a group is worth it if the wait is under an hour. If rides aren’t your thing, ask the wizard worker located near the front of the queue for a tour of the bank.
Next is the Hogwarts Express, which is more of an interactive transportation experience than a ride. The Hogwarts Express pulls out of Kings Cross every few minutes to transport visitors from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. At Kings Cross, you will see the Divine Magic advert from Half-Blood Prince. On the way, you’ll pass through Platform 9 3/4 and seemingly disappear to others thanks to a cool wall effect! While taking the train from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, you encounter dementors, which is a different experience than taking the train the other route.
To make up for the lack of rides in Diagon Alley, there are interactive shopping experiences in addition to the normal stores in the Alley. Olivander’s is the first of these experiences, where you can take place in the Wand Chooses the Wizard Ceremony or browse for wands on your own. There are two types of wands for purchase: replicas and interactive. If you choose the interactive wand option, there are various areas throughout both sides of the Wizarding World where you can cast spells! Bonus: take your map of spells to Knockturn Alley and some extra secret spell spots will show up under the black light.
Another interactive shop in Diagon Alley is Gringott’s Money Exchange. Here, you can exchange muggle money for Wizarding Bank Notes in $10 or $20 increments. These Wizarding Bank Notes can be used anywhere in the Wizarding World! While inside, be sure to talk to the goblin on duty – you can ask him literally any question you can think of and he will answer you.
One of the most popular spots is Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a novelty joke shop opened by the Wizarding World’s most famous twins. The signage outside pays homage to Fred and George’s sense of magical mayhem with a man lifting a hat – on occasion, a rabbit will pop out. Once inside, look up and see everyone’s least favorite professor! Professor Umbridge balances on a wire and yells things like “I will have order!” every few minutes. You can purchase things like Puking Pastilles, Extendable Ears, love potions, and Sneakoscopes. On the second floor, you can see where they keep the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, a favorite of our twin tricksters.
While in Diagon Alley, be sure to go by Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions to get fitted for your school uniform. If you need an opinion on your outfit, simply walk over to the large golden mirror and it’ll tell you what it thinks. While here, look out for familiar fashion staples like Hermione’s Yule Ball dress and Fleur’s wedding dress!
Looking to bring a magical creature home with you? Head to the Magical Menagerie to stock up on all your magical creature needs. While in the shop, look up on the second floor and spot some of the creatures Luna talks about, including a favorite of Newt Scamander – the Demiguise! In the hallway by the shop, be sure to check out the snake (above). Look familiar? This is the same snake that escaped from the Reptile House at the London Zoo in the first film/book of the series! Listen close and you will hear the snake speak parseltongue – see if you can understand him.
If you’re looking to up your quiddich game, head to Quality Quiddich Supplies! You will find brooms and trophies from the films on display all around the store. Stock up on brooms, balls, and quiddich uniforms while here.
For wizardings pursuing the Dark Arts, a visit to Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley is in order. To find the entrance to Knockturn Alley, go through the hallway pictured above. Once inside Borgin and Burkes, look for the vanishing cabinet that Draco used to sneak the Deatheaters into Hogwarts and listen closely for a bird chirping. You can also find a trapped boggart in a rattling trunk and the Hand of Glory from Chamber of Secrets inside the store. If you’re looking for something to remember Lord Voldemort by, you can find a replica of nearly every horcrux for sale inside the shop.
The main restaurant in Diagon Alley is, of course, The Leaky Cauldron. Here, you can indulge on traditional pub foods like bangers & mash and meat pies. For dessert, embrace your inner Ron Weasley and try the Butterbeer Potted Cream or Christmas Pudding. The art decorating the walls of the Leaky Cauldron are all exact replicas of art used in the film. Upstairs, you will find luggage props that were used in the films.
The park can get to be very hot, especially in the summertime. When you find yourself needing a treat to help you cool off, head to Florean Fortescue’s. Florean Fortescue’s makes delicious ice cream, like the kind Harry would eat while he was staying at the Leaky Cauldron before his third year (after that ~unfortunate~ incident with Aunt Marge).
You can’t leave the Wizarding World without enjoying a wizard beverage. At Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment, you can get a classic wizard drink like Fishy Green Ale or Butterbeer or create your own signature drink with Gilly Water and an elixir. Available elixirs include Fire Protection Potion (watermelon, peach, and strawberry), Babbling Beverage (fruit punch), Draught of Peace (berry), and Elixir to Induce Euphoria (pineapple and mint).
There are many things to experience in the Muggle London side of Diagon Alley. Kreacher peaks out of the curtains at 12 Grimmauld Place every few minutes, so keep an eye out! Dial 62442 (MAGIC) at the phone booth to be connected to the Ministry of Magic. The Knight Bus is parked (rather haphazardly) near Kings Cross. Here, you can talk with the Knight Bus Driver and Dre Head before taking a peek inside. For a pretty cool picture, find the Leaky Cauldron sign between the record shop and book store.
Around Diagon Alley, there are a number of stores that you can’t enter, but have fantastic storefronts! These include the Daily Prophet, House Elf Placement Agency (above), Obscurus Books, and more! Be sure to look up all around Diagon Alley so you don’t miss any magical details.
Just off of Diagon Alley, you’ll find Knockturn Alley. When entering, you’ll feel a drop in temperature and notice that everything is dark, almost as if it is nighttime (just look up!). Here, find wanted posters of villains like Fenrir Greyback and Bellatrix Lestrange, along with spooky spiders and mermaid skeletons. There is also a storefront of a wizard tattoo shop where that tattoos, like paintings, move. Knockturn Alley is also where you will find Borgin and Bourkes, discussed above.
There are two shows that take place in Diagon Alley throughout the day. The first is singer Celestina Warblock and the Banshees, a favorite of Molly Weasley. The other show is a puppet presentation of The Tales of the Beedle and the Bard. The stories being performed by the puppeteers vary throughout the day, but include The Tale of Three Brothers and the Fountain of Fair Fortune. Showtimes can be found on the Universal app or on the park website.
Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World
The most popular ride in Hogsmeade is by far Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in Hogwarts. If you’re prone to motion sickness, are freaked out by flashing lights, or feel uncomfortable in dark spaces, this is not the ride for you! Wander through the herbology gardens, classrooms, and corridors of Hogwarts before boarding a “broom” and touring the grounds! While in line, you’ll run into Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the Fat Lady, the Sorting Hat, as well as many iconic statues and spaces of Hogwarts. If you don’t want to ride, talk to the wizard at the front of the queue about taking a tour of the castle. Even if you go on the ride, I recommend asking for a tour so you can view the details of Hogwarts without feeling rushed to move on in line!
The other ride in Hogsmeade is Flight of the Hippogriff, a fast mini-coaster. This is a fun little ride, but the most enjoyable part is the line. The queue for this ride takes you through Hagrid’s Hut. You’ll see crates labeled with some of Hagrid’s favorite creatures, such as the Norwegian Ridgeback. While Forbidden Journey allows you to tour the line, Flight of the Hippogriff does not. If you want to see Hagrid’s Hut, you need to wait in the line – but it never seems to take too long!
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to visit the all new Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure just yet. I’m hoping to make my way back to Universal soon, so stay tuned! If it’s anything like the existing rides, it is well worth the wait to ride.
If you take the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, you will encounter Voldemort on your journey.
Honeydukes Homemade Sweets is, by far, my favorite store in Hogsmeade. At Honeydukes, you can find all sorts of delicious treats to take home with you or, if you’re like me, shovel down as soon as you buy them. Just the smell of Honeydukes will make you hungry, so be warned! Look for Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and Exploding Bonbons.
When you exit Forbidden Journey, you enter Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, a smorgasbord of items for every wizarding need. At Filch’s, find house gear, replicas of movie props, and pictures from the Forbidden Journey ride! Pay attention to the decor in Filch’s. The Sword of Gryffindor, Filch’s files of students (including Neville – who knew he could do anything wrong?), and the Maurader’s Map complete with moving footprints can be found.
Another popular shop is Dervish and Banges, where you can purchase a variety of wizarding supplies. Omnioculars, Spectrespecs, and quiddich gear can be purchased here. The star of Dervish and Banges is the caged Monster Book of Monsters (above), which growls at everyone passing by. For some comedic relief, the store care instructions for the Monster Book of Monsters can be found behind the main register.
The final store in Hogsmeade is the Owl Post. You can buy stationary, quills, owl themed toys, and stamps here. You can even send mail from the Owl Post with a special Harry Potter stamp to friends and family (or yourself) if you’d like! Before entering, be sure to spot the owl that springs from the clock tower every 15 or so minutes. Near the store, you’ll find a holographic howler yelling at you for forgetting a permission slip.
The Three Broomsticks is the main (and only) “sit down” eatery in Hogsmeade. On your way inside, be sure to take note of the pub’s sign, which is similar to the symbol for the Deathly Hallows. While you’re eating, make sure to look up – you might glimpse shadows of the house elves working. In the back of The Three Broomsticks, you’ll find the Hog’s Head bar. Around the mounted hog’s head, you can find the shrunken heads from Prisoner of Azkaban!
Moaning Myrtle can be heard whining around the bathrooms by the Three Broomsticks. Inside the windows of Dogweed and Deathcap, you can see a potted Mandrake – don’t worry, their cries won’t kill you. Find a cello playing itself and sheet music flying around in the windows of Dominic Maestro’s Music Shop. In the shopfront of Gladrags Wizardwear, you’ll find a measuring tape cat. Beside the Hogsmeade Station, you can meet the conductor of the Hogwarts Express.
Like in Diagon Alley, there are two shows in Hogsmeade. One is the Frog Choir from Prisoner of Azkaban who will serenade you with some sweet croaking tunes. The other show is the Triwizard Spirit Rally, where you can watch the students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang show off their skills. Show times can be found here or on the app.
Now that you’ve read all about the magic of the Wizarding World, I’m sure you’re itching to visit. Remember: “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”. What’s your favorite part of the Wizarding World? Let me know in the comments!
PS: Make the most of your time at Universal by following my Guide to Universal Studios! Looking for even more Harry Potter adventures? Check out my Ultimate Harry Potter Bucketlist and tips for seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in NYC!