When going to Florida, David and I usually spend most of our time at Disney World. As huge Harry Potter nerds, we’ve wanted to check out the Wizarding World at Universal Studios for a while now, but the timing has just never seemed right. But with the recent opening of Diagon Alley, it finally seemed like we should bite the bullet and indulge in our wizarding fandom. We did a lot of research before we went, because we knew if we were going to go, we wanted to do it right. Here’s some of our best tips to share with you.
1) Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are in two different parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. if you want to see them both, you are going to have to get a ticket that is good for both parks. If you are like us, and aren’t interested in anything but the Wizarding World, the Hogwarts Express Train runs between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade to take you back and forth. The Hogswarts Express is a ride/attraction in and of itself that is incredibly well done — and it can only be done if you have a ticket to both parks.
2) Hogshead and Diagon Alley are not particularly large, and they fill up very fast as the day goes on. They were designed to resemble narrow streets in Britain, not the huge theme park roads we are used to. If you are visiting on a weekend, school break, or Holiday, crowds can be astronomical. If you want to enjoy the Wizarding World, you need to get there at least a half hour BEFORE THE PARK OPENS. This way you can be the first person inside when they start letting people in. Trust me, an empty theme park is a lot more enjoyable than tripping over thousands of people in wizarding robes.
3) If you really want to do everything in both parks in one day, do what we did — book a Universal Studios Hotel for one night. When you are staying at a Universal Hotel, you are granted early access to Diagon Alley. We were let in at 6:30 am, and had the surreal privilege of walking around a completely empty Diagon Alley, and riding Gringotts with absolutely no wait time. It might sound a little crazy, but we stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay for one night, got early access to the parks, and had pretty much accomplished everything we wanted by noon.
4) I’m used to Disney food prices — so I know that theme park food is expensive. But what I encountered at Universal Studios all seemed ridiculously overpriced and low quality. The Wizarding World had great snacks (multiple kinds of butterbeer, anyone?), but meal quality was low. We ate dinner outside the park, after a very disappointing breakfast and lunch.
5) The Wizarding World is full of detailed souvenirs that any Harry Potter fans will feel the need to spend money on. Detailed wands, chocolate frogs, floor length robes, Slytherin scarfs — you will want it all. Make sure to budget enough spending money for impulse buys!
6) We think, what makes Harry Potter World great, is not just the rides, but the immersive feeling of it. Plan to spend a large chunk of time just wandering around, looking at the different shops and storefronts. The difference is in the details.
In our opinion, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a very do-able one day side trip from Disney if you’re okay with showing up early to get everything accomplished. We think it is well worth the time and money to see it at least once, as it is very well done with amazing attention to detail to the books and the movies.