I was super-excited to stop at Universal Studios Orlando for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! If you are even remotely a fan, I highly, highly recommend it!
If you enter from Universal Studios, you can take in some sights from London, including Grimmauld Place, and the emptiest version of Leicester Square you’ve ever seen.
All of the staff are extremely decidated to their roles – pretty much any interaction with anyone is going to be in character, from the Knight Bus Driver to the person serving ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s.
Then you basically walk through an unmarked passage into Diagon Alley… its absolutely like walking into the movie. Everyone turns the corner and stops, jaws dropped. Then the next thing is to immediately start taking photos in every direction. Its truly a fantastic recreation.
There is so much thought and detail put into every aspect of the worlds:
The frozen Butterbeer was my favourite – like a very rich cream soda slushy, with some buttery foam on top:
The most notable attraction in Diagon Alley was Escape from Gringotts.
The line for this ride takes you all through the Goblin bank, complete with very convincing Goblins, then you get on a coaster with 3D effects that recreates the escape from the bank sequence from the movie.
From London, you can take the Hogwarts Express to the other part of the park. Just walking to the train is a lot of fun, as it departs from platform 9 3/4, of course! This is a charming train ride with some great effects to recreate some movie elements:
Once you arrive at Hogwarts, there’s another huge environment to explore. The highlight of this one is the Forbidden Journey ride. They have faithfully recreated many rooms from Hogwarts that you walk through while in line:
Then the ride itself is an impressive tour through the films, including a Demeantor attack, a close pass with the Whomping Willow, and participating in a Quidditch match! The effects are incredibly convincing – it really felt like I was flying on a broom. I especially loved the Quidditch match. We went back and rode this one twice while the line was still short.
I’ve been to tour the film sets in London, which was also very cool but in a more academic sense. Universal has really done an incredible job making it feel like you’re in the world of Harry Potter – it’s a very different experience. I absolutely loved it.
If you are planning on going, here are a few tips:
• There aren’t discounted tickets to this park. If someone says they offer them, it will come with a 90 minute timeshare pitch.
• Staying on-resort will get you in one hour before the general public. This would be worth doing if the resort prices are reasonable. (Pretty much everyone in the park is in the Harry Potter section – it gets very crowded in the afternoon so having time before the park fills up is much nicer.)
• Express Passes aren’t usable for most of the Harry Potter rides, so bother buying one if that’s where you’re planning to spend most of your day.
• The parking lot is about 20-30 minutes walk from the park gates. I made us get there extra-early to ensure we’d be there the moment the gates opened.
• Go directly to the Harry Potter stuff as soon as the park opens. Lines for the two main rides get very long later in the day, so I recommend riding them first (before you walk around and take a million photos of all the environments).