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Tips For Visiting Harry Potter World, Orlando

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Last Updated on December 8, 2022 by Leslie Stroud

Are you dreaming of drinking butterbeer, casting spells, and living all of your Harry Potter fantasies, in real life?  If so, Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida is the place for you. Universal houses the largest Harry Potter World, spanning over two different parks.  Use the following tips to ensure your visit is filled with magic.

Which Park To Visit At Universal Studios?

Many people, including us, are shocked to learn that you are required to buy tickets to TWO parks if you want to experience all of Harry Potter World.  Be prepared to buy park hopper tickets to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Alternatively, you can spread out your visit and save a little money by visiting one park per day.
You can compare rates and purchase tickets ahead of time here.

Normally, you can ride the Hogwarts Express (treated as a ride itself) in between the two parks to remain within Harry Potter World.  However, if the train is down for maintenance or if you choose not to use it, you’ll need to walk out of one park and into the next.

We did hear rumor of a gated entrance connecting the two.  However, when I questioned an employee she told us that is only open for rare occasions, like uber-busy Christmas season.  It was not open for our January visit.

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Of course, Harry Potter World is located at the back of each park, forcing you to walk through the majority of each park before arriving.  As their most profitable attraction, Universal knows it’s beneficial to have you walk past everything else first.

Universal Studios houses Diagon Alley, including Gringotts while Islands of Adventure houses Hogsmeade and the castle.

How Many Days Do You Need To Explore Harry Potter World?

Squeezing your visit to Harry Potter World into one day can be done, but be prepared for a very long and tiring day.  Two days is more ideal and I’d recommend a maximum of three days.

Each park contains many shops, a Harry Potter themed restaurant (either the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks), and at least one Harry Potter themed ride.

The majority of the Harry Potter rides are located inside Islands of Adventure.  The castle also resides in this park.  If you are a Disneyland fan, this is like the “California Adventure of Universal Studios.”  Most of the thrill-seeking rides live in Island of Adventure.

Are Universal Studios Hotels Worth The Expense?

We opted to stay in Sapphire Falls on our last trip and I did enjoy the ease of the water taxi.  We completed our security check for the park right outside the hotel, with little to no line, and were free to walk around City Walk (the Universal “downtown” area) right off of the taxi.

Another perk is that you get early access to one of the parks.  For all three days of our stay, the early access park was Islands of Adventure.

For us, yes. We loved the experience of staying at a Universal Resort.

Early Park Access

Check the Universal App or website for the early park hours.  This extra hour in the park is reserved only for hotel guests and annual pass holders.  While everyone can enter the park, the ride areas are blocked off to the public.

In order to pass into the ride areas, you’ll need to show your park ticket and hotel key card.  Hotel key cards are personalized guest names and dates on them.

We found the early access, which started at 8amn during our visit, to be mildly helpful.  We typically arrived to the park by 8:30 am and the lines for Hagrid’s Motorbike (the most popular and best ride by far) we’re already insanely long.  We found that if we waited a couple of hours, the wait time decreased significantly (from 100 to 60 minutes, for example).

You do get earlier access to shops, experiences and other rides also.  If you want to get the most out of that first hour, be ready for your water taxi by 7:15 am.

Booking a Universal Harry Potter Package

We really enjoyed the little extras that came with booking the “Harry Potter Package” for hotel and park tickets.  We ate breakfast in the Leaky Cauldron and Three Broomsticks for free, which I would not have done otherwise.  These meals didn’t seem to have many restrictions.  We were able to order any entrée and any drink, including butter beer (which makes it a good deal!)

We also enjoyed the photo package.  We acted out several scenes in front of a green screen and took home a small “movie” of us in several Harry Potter locations.

We also enjoyed the small “gift box” which included lanyards to use in the parks.  These came in very handy!

If you already planned to stay in a Universal hotel, the extra bonuses of this package are quite fun and well worth it!
Explore package options here.

Other Rides in Universal Studios

With the main attraction being Harry Potter World, you may be asking yourself if it’s even worth worrying about the other rides that Universal houses.

Honestly, I wouldn’t.  We’ve done all the “big rides” in Universal outside of Harry Potter and I can tell you, you won’t be missing much.  I personally don’t like the “experiences” that Universal offers with huge screens and moving carts.  They leave me feeling car-sick and overstimulated.

The only other ride we enjoyed in the entirely of the two parks was the Jurassic World Velocicoaster.  Winding, twisting and moving unlike any other roller coaster we’ve ever seen, this coaster is worth the wait.  It’s quite the thrill!

You will also find many shows around the park, which are enjoyable, but left us a bit underwhelmed.

What To Wear To Universal Studios?

Check the weather!  Our first two days were quite warm, but our last was freezing cold.  Humidity makes slight temperature differences feel extreme.

If it will be a sunny day, dress for warm weather, even during the winter.  If cloudy or drizzly weather is predicted, bring your coat and maybe even some gloves.  Layers are always a win!

As always, don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses, you’ll want both.

What To Bring

Bring as little as possible!  Universal forces you to use lockers for your belongings on all of their big rides.  If you have more than a small bag or a few lose items, you’ll be forced to pay extra locker fees at each ride.  The first day I made the mistake of bringing a small backpack and spent nearly $20 in locker fees.

We never needed cash, as credit cards are accepted everywhere.  I’d recommend you only bring a phone and credit card.

Even Harry Potter robes and wands, purchased at the park, have to be removed and stored for the big rides (including the castle ride, Gringotts, and Hagrid’s Motorbike).  These items do fit into the free, small lockers.

You’ll use your park ticket OFTEN at Universal, including for locker rentals. Be sure to keep your ticket handy and do not lose it.  Lanyards make life easier for sure.

What is The Universal Express Pass?

The Universal Express Pass is Universal’s version of the Disney fastpass. This pass allows you to skip lines and is purchased separately from your park ticket, daily.  I booked one day with Express Passes to give the other rides a try.  

Of course, the most popular rides (Velocicoaster and Hagrid’s Motorbike) are not included in the Express Pass.  The other rides didn’t have very long lines during our January visit and we even found the Express Pass line to be longer than the regular entrance at times!

Perhaps during busier times this pass would be worth the cost.  I know it does work for other Harry Potter rides and the Hogwarts Express.
However, based on my experience, I’d say skip this.  I didn’t find it to be worth the money and would prefer to spend that money on something else.

If you do opt to get the Universal Express Pass, you can explore the options and purchase here.

Other Tips for Your Harry Potter World Visit

  • Prepare to empty out your wallet.  Prices are set at a premium with butter beer around $8.50 each, interactive wands starting at $60, and robes around $135.  Come with a budget in mind or allowance saved!
  • That being said, getting an interactive wand is worth the cost.  The spells you can cast around each park make it extra magical and provide loads of entertainment for kids and adults alike.  You can find these interactive wands all throughout Universal Studios, at your hotel gift shop, and even the Orlando airport.
  • Beware that rides can shut down for rain, but a light drizzle won’t close them right away.  This might mean you get quite cold on the outside rides!  Be sure to wear a sweater if it’s chilly.
  • Compared to Disney, the queue lines at Universal have some entertainment factor, but not as much.  It’s a lot of concrete walls.  We read a Harry Potter book while we were in lines and loved it!  
  • For the most magical experience, fully immerse yourself in Harry Potter before your visit.  Re-read a book or two, watch the movies, whatever gets you in the mood.  The magic really comes in making your imagination a reality which you can walk through and interact with.
  • There are three kinds of butterbeer, which is my favorite part of Harry Potter World:
    • Regular: similar to a butterscotch root beer with a butterscotch cream on top
    • Frozen: slushy-style with same delicious cream on top.  Prepare for a possible brain freeze if you try to chug it!
    • Hot: like a vanilla/butterscotch hot chocolate with the cold cream on top

Additional Reading




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