For those of us that grew up with the characters in the books and movies, visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a dream come true. But, even if you don’t count yourself a fan of the books or the movies, Universal’s tribute to the world of Harry Potter is an incredible experience.
There are two WWoHP parks, one in Orlando and one in Hollywood. Choose the best one for you (or go to both– like me!) and live out your most magical dreams!
Here’s the Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
Universal Hollywood vs Universal Orlando
Depending on your level of Harry Potter fandom, you might be swayed to visit one park over the other. While there are some similarities, they are quite different.
Here’s a quick guide on what you can expect at Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood to help you decide which park is right for you.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
Size: You’ll find both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village at Universal Orlando– split between two parks. Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade Village is at Islands of Adventure. Truth be told, you likely won’t be able to see and do everything in a single day. It’s a good idea to get a multi-pass ticket or an express pass that will let you skip the long lines.
Rides: There are quite a few Harry Potter rides to enjoy in Orlando! Make sure you try: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Hogwarts Express Train: You’ll only find the Hogwarts Express train in Orlando. Travel from King’s Cross Station in London at Universal Studios Orlando to Hogsmeade Village Station at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
The Knight Bus: One of my favorite features found only in Orlando is the Knight Bus! You can peek inside for all of the expected bits and bobs– including the talking shrunken head.
Shops and Restaurants in Diagon Alley: Since Orlando is home to Diagon Alley, there are obviously more shops! Diagon Alley in Orlando has unique shops like Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Wands by Gregorovitch, Sugarplum’s Sweetshop, Scribbulus, Gringotts Money Exchange, and Borgin and Burkes.
Dining spots you’ll find only in Diagon Alley are Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment, Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, Leaky Cauldron, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, and The Hopping Pot.
You’ll find all the same shops, restaurants and rides in both Hogsmeade Village theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood!
Helpful Tip: Download the Universal Orlando Wait Times App to know how long each line is for the rides in real-time.
Read More: Visiting Universal Studios Resort in Orlando
Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Hollywood
Size: Universal Hollywood is small enough to explore in a single day, making it an excellent choice if you don’t have a lot of time in LA. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood only has Hogsmeade Village and the iconic Hogwarts castle.
Rides: At Universal Hollywood, you can also experience the Forbidden Journey attraction and the park’s only roller coaster, Flight of the Hippogriff.
Shops and Restaurants in Hogsmeade Village: Visit Hogsmeade Village and order a mug of butterbeer from Hog’s Head! If you want something more substantial to eat, make your way to The Three Broomsticks. You can also buy your own wand at Ollivander’s wand shop.
You’ll find all your favorite Hogsmeade Village Shops in both Hollywood and Orlando, including Honeydukes, Owl Post, Dervish and Banges, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Gladrags Wizardwear, and Hogsmeade Station.
One shop you’ll find in Hollywood that you won’t find in Orlando is Zonko’s Joke Shop– and that’s because there’s no Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. You’ll find the same trademarked games and pranks at both shops though!
Helpful Tip: Get here as soon as it opens if you want to snap some pics without anyone in the background!
Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando
Check out Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando that opened in 2014. The park features Escape from Gringotts—a 3D ride that includes animatronic goblins, a fire-breathing dragon and even a glimpse of Lord Voldemort!
You can also visit iconic shops like Ollivanders Wand Shop, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Magical Menagerie, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment and Quality Quidditch Supplies.
Be sure to stumble down Knockturn Alley to take a peek inside Borgin and Burkes!
Tips for Your First Visit to Diagon Alley
Grab lunch at The Leaky Cauldron: I was incredibly impressed with the quality of food at Universal Parks and especially at the Leaky Cauldron. They make their bread fresh daily and even import food from the UK for authenticity.
Get dessert at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour: Try a scoop of strawberry peanut butter with a scoop of salted caramel blondie, then thank me later.
Of course, don’t forget to try Butterbeer! You can try it at both parks in Orlando. But, if you’re up for it, try all four ways it’s served in Diagon Alley: cold, frozen, hot or as ice cream! (PS it’s non-alcoholic so kids can enjoy too!
Get an Interactive Wand: 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!
And, the dragon atop Gringotts breaths fire every ten minutes, so you won’t miss it! You’ll first hear a low rumble then prepare yourself for the heat!
Check out more photos from my experience at WWoHP in Orlando here!
Helpful Tip for WWoHP Orlando: Be Prepared!
Take heed—both Escape from Gringotts and Ollivanders Wand Shop are extremely popular, and lines can be long, so be prepared to wait 2+ hours on crowded days.
WWoHP in Orlando is immensely popular, so plan ahead and arrive at least 15-30 minutes ahead of the park opening time.
As with most theme parks, it’s crowded—so go early in the day to catch the most popular rides first. Wear good walking shoes, because you’ll be walking and standing on your feet in lines—quite a lot!
Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando
Transportation between the two parks got WAY more fun with the addition of Hogwarts Express in 2014. From Diagon Alley, you can return to the streets of London inside Universal Studios and enter King’s Cross Station.
As someone that’s visited London on countless occasions, there is little difference between “the tube” here and the real thing! There are even street performers inside. How’s that for authenticity?
You’ll make your way to Platform 9 3/4 and hop aboard for another interactive experience. Once onboard, you’ll look out an animated window through the streets of London, past the Dark Forest and then arrive into Hogsmeade.
But that’s not before a close encounter with a Dementor of course!
You’ll find Hogsmeade Village at Universal Orlando and Hollywood. As I mentioned before, there’s little difference between Hogsmeade Village in either location. Here you’ll find Honeydukes Sweet Shop, the Three Broomsticks Restaurant, and a plethora of souvenir shops.
You can send a local postcard from the Hogsmeade Post Office- stamped with a special Owl Post postmark. For “of age” witches and wizards, you can grab even enjoy Firewhiskey at the Hog’s Head– only at Universal Orlando!
Note: I didn’t find Butterbeer Ice Cream in Hollywood, but Hollywood serves it frozen, cold and hot!
The castle is the star of the show in Hogsmeade Village, where you can hop on the Forbidden Journey ride– a multi-sensory ride where you’ll soar above the castle with Harry Potter.
The queue for this ride is an experience in itself– and you’ll be happy to wait in line for!
The queue is filled with rooms and settings from the books and films, including Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and the Gryffindor common room.
You’ll even encounter moving paintings from the movies in a real-world setting. Stop and listen as the paintings talk amongst each other. It’s awesome!
Do you have any tips for visiting Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments below!