The Muggle’s Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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It’s time to take a magical journey into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Opening in 2010 in Islands of Adventure, fans from around the world could roam the streets of Hogsmeade Village and take a ride on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside of the epic Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry castle. This is until the brick wall opened up to Diagon Alley in 2014, an enchanting buzzing shopping district filled with small businesses, shops, and pubs. From spells cast with just a wave of a wand to life-like creatures, no details were overlooked. Every nook and cranny is complete bringing our favorite story of the “boy who lived” to life. And fans from all over the world come to Universal Orlando to get closer to the adventure and escape to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located at Universal Studios Orlando Resort and features interactive experiences, shops, and thrilling rides. It actually consists of two inner parks: Diagon Alley and HogsmeadeDiagon Alley is located inside Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is inside Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and both are connected by the Hogwarts Express (which we’ll get to later in this post).

Diagon Alley

To enter Diagon Alley from Universal Studio’s, you’ll have to walk along the streets of London. Look for the King’s Cross sign and Leicester Square Station. Then enter through the hidden entrance through a brick wall that leads you to the cobblestone streets of the wizard’s shopping alley. The entrance is so cool, it feels just like the movies!

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This Ukrainian Ironbelly Dragon breathes fire every 15 minutes or so! Just listen for the growls!
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The entrance/exit of Diagon Alley is through a hole in a brick wall.

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Rides in Diagon Alley

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

One of the most impressive rides in Universal Studios Theme Parks is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This thrill ride includes a heart stopping motion stimulation rollercoaster with 360 spins and 3D projection to tell the story throughout!

This ride requires all bags and loose items to be safely put away in a complimentary locker next to the ride! The lockers are easy to get into, you’ll just need a fingerprint to open and close, but you can only get into it once!

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*warning: spoilers*

Gringotts Bank is the only bank in the Wizarding World and is run by goblins! When we walked in, we were awed by the large crystal chandelier leading into a grand marble lobby.🤩 You’ll be greeted (well actually ignored) by very busy goblins scribbling on paperwork. They look so life-like! After meeting with Bogard, the head teller, we get permission to make our way down to the vaults!

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After an unfortunate series of meeting with evil Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix, you have some help from, Harry, Ron, Hermione and the Ukranian Ironbelly dragon (the one on top of the bank) to get you out of the vault! Hmmm.. Still thinking about opening an account at Gringott’s bank? 💰

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Bogrod, the head teller at Gringotts.

Dining in Diagon Alley

Leaky Cauldron

This pub style restaurant serves traditional British fare, like Beef, Lamb, and Guinness Strew, Bangers & Mash, and Fish & Chips. They make their bread fresh daily and even import food from the UK for authenticity! If you can’t make a decision or have zero idea what a Ploughman’s Platter is, no worries they have window displays of their food so you’ll know what to expect. Once you order, you’ll receive a candlestick holder with your order number on it and when your food is ready someone will deliver it to your table. The dining room has a lot of decorative details that make you feel like you’re in a really old pub!  Fun fact: The sign outside for the Leaky Cauldron actually leaks from the Cauldron! Magic! And of course, they’re serving up butterbeer! We almost ate here but had to turn around because of the long lines, which is understandable as it’s the main flagship restaurant in Diagon Alley.

A closer look at their menu:

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Fountain of Fair Fortune

One of our go-to taverns for butterbeer!🍻 They serve nice, cold butterbeer from the barrel tap or frozen like a slushie, and they even have it as ice cream too!🍦😋 This pub doesn’t have any seats so it’s basically an indoor beverage counter. They also serve Pumpkin Juice, Fishy Green Ale, Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice, and Gillywater. For those 21+ they have a few alcoholic drinks like Fire Whisky, Wizard’s Brew, Dragon Scale, or draught beer!  The Fountain of Fair Fortune is located towards the back area of Diagon Alley, between Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor and Knockturn Alley. Make sure to order a butterbeer in souvenir cup to bring along with you!

(PS it’s non-alcoholic so kids can enjoy too!)

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Here’s a closer look at the drinks you can get at Diagon Alley!

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Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor

Stop into Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for some dessert! Every time we visit Diagon Alley, the Ice Cream Parlour seems to always have a long line. Located by Gringott’s Bank, it’s easy to spot the ice cream cone sign! The inside looks like a traditional ice cream shop but the flavors are more unique than what you’ll normally find. The most interesting flavors are Earl Grey & Lavender, Butterbeer (yes!), Chocolate Chili, & Clotted Cream. No worries if those flavors aren’t your cup of tea, they also have vanilla or a Chocolate Strawberry & Peanut-Butter Sundae. Sadly, we haven’t found time to stop in for a scoop but what would we try you ask? Of course, it’s always fun to try something new, so we’d probably try out chocolate chili because we love chocolate and a good spicy kick!

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The Hopping Pot

This outdoor bar is where you can get ALL of the specialty drinks inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They also serve chips and Cornish pasties as snacks. If you need to take a breather, they have picnic tables right outside and maybe you’ll catch Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees and Tales of Beedle the Bard perform! To find The Hopping Pot, head right from the brick wall entrance of Diagon Alley to the Carkitt Market area.

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Take a look at what The Hopping Pot is offering:

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Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment

In the mood for a bit of enchantment, grab a potion to sip on here at Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment! What makes this truly unique is that all you need is some Gillywater (basic bottled water) and your choice of elixir (flavor). You control the strength because some wizards need less while others need it to keep the magic going!

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Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop

This sweet candy shop is where you’ll find candies and treats inspired by the Harry Potter films and books.🍭🍬 We could spend so much time looking and reading the names of some of these candies. We found everything from chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, to butterbeer fudge and cauldron cakes! The store is easy to spot because of its bright pink exterior and whimsical props in the windows. 

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We absolutely love how cute, pink, and adorable this shop is! It really stands out from the rest of the shops in Diagon Alley. Next time we’re in we’ll have to get the Sugar Plum Apple or the No Melt Ice cream!😋

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Shows in Diagon Alley

Knight Bus

Right outside of Diagon Alley and into Muggles London, you can’t miss the purple triple-decker bus near the water fountain. Head over and say hello to the conductor and have a chat with the shrunken head that’s hanging over the driver’s seat. This show is more like an interactive meet and greet with characters in the movie. So this doesn’t pack in a lot of people like a traditional show or have an exact time. But the shrunken head has a lot of puns and is sure to put a smile on your face. Especially when he said our names, then we know he’s’ the real deal! And if you’re lucky, you can even get a glimpse inside of the bus! So don’t be shy and stop by! 

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard/Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees

Sharing the same stage, this live musical performance is by the female jazz group and Molly Weasley’s favorite singer, Celestina Warbeck, and the Banshees.🎶 The music is upbeat and jazz like and uses a lot of Harry Potter references. And they have a special performance during the holiday season where they switch it up and sing songs like “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas”. We haven’t seen them perform live but watched videos and love how engaging they are with the crowd. They’ll even have a lucky guy go on stage to join in on the performance!

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Pic credit: touringplans.com

Shops in Diagon Alley

There are so many shops that really bring the authentic atmosphere of Diagon Alley. You can pick up your wizard supplies at Borgin and Burkes, Madam Malkin’s Robes, Magical Menagerie, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Wands by Gregorovitch, Gobus Mundi and more!

Ollivanders

One of our favorite stores to check out is Ollivanders Wand Shop. In our opinion, this is a must stop shop for any wizard looking to take their mastery to the next level. Inside of Ollivanders, the store is lined floor to ceiling and wall to wall of shelves filled with an endless amount of magic wands. 🧙🏼‍♂️💫

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There are over 20 wands created after the characters from the franchise and each has such intricate details. Where to get started? There are two types of wands, a learner wand (basically a toy wand) or an interactive wand used to cast spells and trigger special effects throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. They range from $25 to $48 for an interactive wand. From there, it’s all up to fate! Which wand will choose you?

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Each style of magic wand are unique from each other and have so much detail. As we mentioned above, there are 20 wands that are claimed by characters. But there are about 13 that are unclaimed and are called Celtic Tree wands. These wands may choose you depending on your birthday or date of an important life event. Since our birthdays are only a day apart, the Elder may be the wand type that chooses us!✨

In case Ollivanders gets too crowded (which it always seems to be) check out the smaller shop, Wands by Gregorovitch, a major competitor of Ollivanders right in front of Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop. Or head over to the other Ollivanders location in Hogsmeade. And in case you want to be overly prepared before your trip, you can always order a wand online: here!

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Gringotts – Money Exchange

Need your currency switched to Gringotts money?💵 Head inside of the Money Exchange, where you’ll be greeted by an interactive hard working goblin as your banker! Have plans to try butterbeer or bring some souvenirs home, grabs some Gringotts money! Gringotts Money Exchange gives muggles the opportunity to exchange their muggle money for Gringotts Bank Notes. The Gringotts Bank Notes can be used to pay for anything within Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, and really adds to the realness of it all and makes you feel as if you’re actually apart of the Wizarding World!

*Any unused wizard money can be transferred back into U.S. currency at the Guest Services office.

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The shop is hard to miss especially when the doors are closed. It’s past Gringott’s Bank and right by The Hopping Pot. Look out for the building that says Money Exchange.

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Don’t be too shy to ask this goblin as a question! If you’re loud and clear, maybe he’ll answer you back!

Knockturn Alley

This alleyway is a part of Diagon Alley but has shops that are dedicated to the dark arts including Borgin and Burkes. Knockturn Alley has a very spooky vibe to it. It’s crazy how many times we’ve been to Universal Studios and hadn’t explored this area until now. That’s just how big the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is! The entrance to this area can be hard to notice. One is by the Leaky Cauldron and another is past The Fountain of Fair Fortune. This area doesn’t see the sun and can be hard to look around but you definitely don’t want to miss out. There are even special areas to use your interactive wand!🧙🏼‍♂️

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Borgin and Burkes

Inside Knockturn Alley, Borgin and Burkes is a dimly lit antique shop filled with unusual items like dark portions and cursed necklaces. There’s nothing on the Hogwarts school supply list here! This store, like most, sells merchandise but you can actually find what you’re looking for if you’re team Lord Voldemort or favor the Death Eaters. If you’re not into the evil dark art, keep your wand in hand for protection!

Using Interactive Wands Around the Park

If you stopped and grabbed an interactive magic wand, the fun is just getting started! Each wand comes with a map that marks all the locations throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter where you can put your magic wand to use! It shows you where to cast spells and the hand movement that goes with each spell. To help find these locations, there are special golden medallions on the ground to help wizards know how far to stand and which direction to point. Whether or not you purchased an interactive magic wand, everyone can join in on the fun! Just look out for a friendly spell-casters. Some will walk you through the movements, or if they are friendly they’ll let you use their wand to try!

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It’s a fun way to interact with all kinds of shop windows and props throughout both parks. You can make fountains squirt water, turn lights on and off in shop windows, and even try the “wingardium leviosa” spell to float a feather.😱 It’s a ton of fun for both kids and adults!

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Right in front of Kristina’s left foot is a golden medallion, a symbol of a spell location!

Hogwarts Express – King’s Cross Station

Transportation between the two parks got WAY more fun with the addition of the Hogwarts Express!🚂 As we mentioned, there are two parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, and Hogsmeade which is located at the Islands Of Adventures theme park. We love that Universal Studios thought of a way for guests to get back and forth between parks with this magical train ride! In order to board the Hogwarts Express, you’ll need a Park-to-Park ticket or an Annual Pass. And this isn’t any ordinary train ride, in order to get to the train you’ll need to go through Platform 9 3/4. Just like the movie! Once you’re onboard, you’ll look out an animated window through the streets of London, past the Dark Forest, and then arrive into Hogsmeade!

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You can also take the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade Station to King’s Cross!

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Hogsmeade

Inside Islands of Adventure, you’ll be enchanted by the snow-covered roofs of the Village of Hogsmeade! It’s the first installment of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opening in Summer 2010. (Diagon Alley opened in the Summer of 2014.) When we turned the corner to the gate entrance, we were awed by the Winter Wonderland.😍❄️ The holidays are our favorite time of the year, and Hogsmeade is snowy for 365 days in the films so of course it is at Universal Studios too! It’s like we were walking into an actual Christmas card! Throughout this village you’ll be in a picturesque town of cottages, shops, restaurants, thrilling rides and more!

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Hogwarts Castle

This fictional castle is brought to life as if it was straight out of the movie and of course the star of the show at Hogsmeade. We can’t believe how realistic it looks!🤩🏰 And if you’re lucky enough, you can take a VIP tour inside of the castle. But you’ll probably spend a good amount of time taking in its beauty from the outside. The size and realism are truly magical! This is also where you can hop on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, a multi-sensory ride where you’ll soar above the castle with Harry Potter! 

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📸 The best photo spot is to the left of Hogwarts on the bridge!

Rides in Hogsmeade

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

This epic motion simulator ride is located inside the Hogwarts Castle. The fun starts as soon as you enter the castle. Fun fact: the two “hogs” with wings on the pillars on the side of the gate are from the actual movie! As you walk through the line, take a look at some of the iconic rooms from the series, like Dumbledore’s office and the potions classroom. There’s so much detail inside of the Hogwarts Castle that it makes it an attraction itself. They have free lockers inside for riders to use. The ride itself is similar to Soarin’ at Disney World, as you take a flight to locations like the Chamber of Secrets and the Forbidden Forest. Beware if you’re not a big fan of spiders! 😝

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Pic credit: themeparktourist.com

Flight of the Hippogriff

This family-friendly roller coaster is seen in front of the Hogwarts Castle and looks like so much fun. Confused on what a Hippogriff is? It’s a magical creature with legs, wings, and the head of an eagle but with the body of a horse!🦅🐎 And we read that the ride takes you past Hagrid’s Hut and a pumpkin patch. It looks like a lot of fun and hope to ride it next time we visit!

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Does anyone remember Dragon Challenge?! Well, the ride is gone FOREVER as Hogsmeade makes way for a new adventure called Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure! We can’t wait!

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Dining in Hogsmeade

Butterbeer Cart

There are multiple butterbeer carts all over Hogsmeade. There are some located relatively close to the entrance! The butterbeer cart is the quickest way to get the popular Wizarding beverage!🍻 It’s easy to spot, as the carts are bright red and on wheels. At the butterbeer carts, you can order this refreshing treat either regular or frozen like a slushie (definitely have to try it frozen). They also have Gillywater, Pumpkin juice, Chadwick Bay Lemonade, and Chadwick Bay Sweet Tea.

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For those that haven’t tried butterbeer – The best way we can describe the taste is kind of like a butterscotch or cream soda with a sweet whipped foam on top. We think it tastes so good, but it can’t be great for you.😜 Especially when you have more than two a day, guilty!

(PS it’s non-alcoholic so kids can enjoy too!)

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Hog’s Head

We stumbled upon this dark, dingy and aged pub for some nice a/c and a refreshing drink served by the friendly bartender, who’s accompanied by a moving hogs head attached to the wall. Hang out too long and the hog starts to snarl at you! Inside is a full service bar with specialty drinks, wines, spirits and more. Next time we make it in, we’ll need to order a glass of their exclusive Hog’s Head Brew, a red Scottish ale. Your bartender will even make you The Hog’s Bite, which is cider topped with the hog’s head brew. Now that’s something we would definitely order!😋 Of course, they have butterbeer too, and for “of age” witches and wizards you can even enjoy Fire whiskey at the Hog’s Head! But they don’t serve any food. Depending on the day, since the pub is small, we had to wait for a seat. Although they have more outside if you don’t mind the hot Florida sun.

Fun fact: This bar is owned by Aberforth Dumbledore, the younger brother of Albus Dumbledore.

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Three Broomsticks

For breakfast, lunch, or dinner grab a table at Three Broomsticks. Three Broomsticks serves British cuisine located inside of a snow-covered inn and pub. The restaurant looks older and is rustic. Even though it’s a quick service counter style, it’s pretty popular because of its extensive menu and is believed to be the best counter service restaurant in the park! They have a lot of traditional British and American options like rotisserie chicken, fish and chips, and shepherd’s pie. If you choose to sit outside on the patio you can get a nice view of the Hogwarts Castle!

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Shops in Hogsmeade

Dervish and Banges

Head inside Dervish and Banges for Wizarding school supplies and equipment like Hogwarts robes and sweaters. You can even grab ahold Quidditch Bludgers (the balls that try to knock the players off their broom) or take a look at Golden Snitches. The most unique item you can get is a “flying broomstick” that ranges from $33 to $300 for the more serious wizards!

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Pic credit: themeparkinsider.com

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods

This gift shop is inside the Hogwarts Castle and is also the exit for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride. They sell all sorts of Wizarding World supplies and apparel and can get pretty crowded from the riders leaving and roaming the stores. 

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A candy store that is designed to look like the Honeydukes sweetshop in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The shop is decorated in mint green and has a baby pink spiral staircases. We love that the candy shops have such a sweet and feminine look that really stand out from the surrounding aged and dark pubs and shops. You’ll find candies from the movie like choco balls, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, to Chocolate Frogs. They also have traditional treats you’ll find at any candy shop like peach rings, rice crispy treats, fudge, pretzel wands and many many more!

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Owl Post


For the writer, stop inside the Owl Post to drop off a postcard or letter that’ll be delivered right from Hogsmeade, stamped with a special Owl Post postmark! Or you can pick up your Hogwarts acceptance letter for your favorite wizard! You’ll be able to buy writing utensils, stationery and toys after the adorable and reliable owl, Hedwig.🦉 The Owl Post is located next to Ollivanders in Hogsmeade.

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Ollivanders

If you find a long line at Ollivanders in Diagon Alley, don’t worry you can also pick up your magic wand at the Ollivanders in Hogsmeade!🧙🏼‍♂️💫

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Pic credit: we3travel.com

Shows in Hogsmeade

Ollivanders – Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC

Ollivanders also has a show! A few lucky participants will become apart of a magic wand choosing ceremony! We’ve read that this can especially be crowded during the mornings as young wizards rush to be initiated and officially take the first steps of becoming a wizard. This same show is in Diagon Alley, which has more room to allow more guests in for wand fittings with the wandkeeper. Whoever gets selected from the audience to demonstrate a pairing will be asked questions about themselves and try out several wands and performing spells around the shop until the match is perfect! And if you don’t get selected or don’t want to buy a wand that day, you can always find a comfortable corner nearby and watch the ceremony. After the show, the chosen participants have the option to buy the wands that chose them, while the rest of the audience can shop around the store themselves.

Frog Choir

Get ready to gather around the outdoor stage between Hogsmeade Village and the Hogwarts Castle. Head over to see the choir students from each house, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw sing a Capella songs with the help of giant croaking frogs. The show alternates every hour and we were able to stick around for a few songs. For fans of the films, it can be fun to hear a new take on it with the musical frogs lol! 🐸🎶

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Triwizard Spirit Rally

The Triwizard Spirit Rally Show is a tournament based competition between the biggest and best magical schools. As the show starts, we see three men from the Durmstrang Institute and four women from the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. The men are performing a martial arts style battle and choreography with the music. Once they finish the women take the stage to perform ribbon gymnastics. This Triwizard Tournament started in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book and movie. You may recognize a few lines said by the students that are straight out of the novel. The show is really for die-hard Harry Potter fans, for anyone else it’s really not on our must-see list.

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Pic credit: google.com

The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle

The best way to end a fun-filled day is by watching the gorgeous projection and light show at the Hogwarts Castle!

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It happens certain days at nighttime (check your park map for the most current times) and the best spot to watch is right on the bridge! The show is narrated by the Sorting Hat, a familiar voice from the films. We were in complete awe as we listened to the magical music of Harry Potter and watched the projection lights wrap around the castle.🤩 The main story of the show is to celebrate the four houses at Hogwarts, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. The Nighttime lights at Hogwarts are only on a few select nights, so definitely find a good place to watch the show. The finale ends with an epic display of fireworks.🎆😍 It’s seriously so beautiful over the Hogwarts castle! And during the holiday season, they have The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle show, which we would love to see one day!

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Tips for Visiting

  • Be prepared to wait! Both the Escape from Gringotts ride and Ollivanders Wand Shop are extremely popular and lines can be very long, so be prepared to wait 2+ hours on crowded days.
  • The Wizarding World itself is incredibly popular, so plan ahead and arrive early so that you can catch the most popular rides first!
  • Stay at an on-site Universal Orlando Hotel so you can take advantage of the benefits (which we’ll get into below). 🌟A big perk is early park admission to the Wizarding World!
  • Wear good walking shoes, because you’ll be walking and standing on your feet in lines a lot!

Where to Stay

For the ultimate vacation, we highly recommend staying at one of Universal Orlando’s on-site resorts! Our #1 favorite Universal Orlando Resort is their newest addition, Aventura Hotel! You can check out our full review of our stay at Aventura Hotel here. Along with our other Universal Orlando Hotel Reviews:

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The resorts give guests special privileges and benefits including:

  • Free early admission before the parks open to the public (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal Studio’s Theme parks)
  • Free transportation to the theme parks and Universal’s CityWalk
  • Pool hopping between Universal Resorts
  • For those staying at Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort, you’ll receive free unlimited express passes and priority seating at select restaurants!

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The adventure doesn’t stop here, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be debuting a new thrill roller coaster ride in Hogsmeade coming in 2019!🎢 During our last visit, we spotted construction taking place of the now-closed Dragon Challenge ride, which the new attraction will be replacing. We can’t wait to see what else will be revealed before it’s opening in early 2019! 

There’s seriously so much to do, see, and eat at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For most Harry Potter fans, it’s a bucket list location! It truly is an amazing experience that brings all the imagination from reading the books to life! And with the two areas being connected by Hogwarts Express (genius!) that equals double the enchantment. With the help from the actual movie creators, you see that not a single detail is missed! And if you’re anything like us two Muggles, you’ll love escaping to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!🧙🏼‍♂️🦉🚂💫

Check out our guide to Universal Studios Orlando here & look out for our blog post on Universal’s Islands of Adventure coming soon!

**Thank you to Universal Orlando Hotels for sponsoring this post!

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