Did you know that you can travel to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade in Orlando Florida? That’s right, no need to travel to London or Scotland to visit these two amazing locations from the Harry Potter books. All you have to do is visit Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida to see them both.
Boy are they a site to see. The level of detail is amazing. It makes it feel like you are actually in a scene from the books or movie. Grab your wand from the one and only Ollivander’s. Or exchange your muggle money at Gringotts. You can also jump on the Hogwarts Express and take a motorbike ride with Hagrid.
You and your kids can relive your favorite parts of the books and movies. All without having to leave the country. No need for a broomstick or flying car for this vacation. All you need is a park to park ticket and time. Who knows what you may find.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Orlando History
Way back in 2003 rumors started to fly that a Harry Potter land was coming to either Universal Studios or Walt Disney World. However, it would be another four years before any official announcement was made. On May 31, 2007 Universal announced a Harry Potter themed land was coming to Islands of Adventure and planned for it to be finished by 2009.
Construction for Hogsmeade started in January 2008 and the land officially opened on June 16, 2010. It was an instant hit. Attendance at Islands of Adventure climbed by 36%. Fans from around the country and world came to see just what Universal Orlando created. No one was disappointed.
Hogsmeade opened with three rides (Dragon Challenge, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Forbidden Journey), recreation of the village of Hogsmeade with shops and food, and plenty of photo ops. The level of detail was incredible and still is today. In December 2011 Universal announced that they would be expanding the Wizarding World.
This time they would be recreating Diagon Alley over at Universal Studios. However, this was met with mixed reviews. The new Harry Potter themed land meant the closure of a fan favorite ride. That of course, was the Jaws ride. Many Universal fans were not happy with this. However, over time it seems like it was a great decision to close that ride and create Diagon Alley and London.
Diagon Alley officially opened on July 8, 2014. It too was a huge hit and continues to be one to this day. One of the main draws is the huge dragon that breathes fire from the top of Gringotts. Plus we can’t forget the Hogwarts Express that takes guests from Kings Cross station to Hogsmeade.
Diagon Alley Universal Studios Florida
If you ever wanted to visit Ollivanders wand shop like Harry Potter did in the movie. You are in luck. You can find it in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. However, unlike in the movie. This shop is always packed full of people.
Ollivanders isn’t the only shop located in Diagon Alley. You will also find Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (Joke shop), Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions, and Gringotts Money Exchange. You can also explore Knockturn Alley and visit Borgin and Burkes.
All the shops have cool little nods to the books and movies. At Ollivanders you can watch a wand choose it’s wizard. In Borgin and Burkes you can see the Vanishing Cabinet. Plus if you listen closely you may even hear birds chirping away. Oh and how can we forget. Borgin and Burkes is the place to go if you ever wanted to practice the dark arts or get a Death Eaters mask.
If you want to exchange your muggle money for a wizarding bank note you need to check out Gringotts Money Exchange. Just whatever you do. Don’t ask the goblin if he is a house-elf. Nearby you will find Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.
In the back you can find an amazing shop selling all kinds of sweets. Grab yourself a chocolate frog. Or go for the Cauldron Cake. They are very delicious.
Sprinkled throughout Diagon Alley are places where you can try your hand at practicing a little magic. Grab your interactive wand and see how well you do. I can tell you some places are easier than others. If you are having trouble, step back and watch the next wizard try. Before you know it, you will be casting all sorts of spells.
If you are hungry while exploring Diagon Alley make sure you check out the Leaky Cauldron. Just don’t stand under the sign. It likes to leak.
Here you can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The menu is filled with many wonderful British meals. You can get yourself the traditional English Breakfast that comes with English Bacon and black pudding. Or have yourself some fish and chips or bangers & mash. Make sure you try some of the butterbeer potted cream for dessert. It was amazing.
Not hungry but thirsty visiting Diagon Alley? Head over to the Fountain of Fair Fortune. Grab yourself a Butterbeer. It is one of the most popular drinks in the Wizarding World. Or grab yourself a Fire Protection potion or an elixir to induce euphoria. How do you not want to try them? My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Looking for something to cool you down on those hot Florida summer days? Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour is the place for you. Grab yourself a Butterbeer Ice-Cream or Chocolate strawberry peanut-butter sundae. Two of the featured items here. Or try some of the more daring flavors like Chocolate Chili, Earl Grey & Lavender, Clotted Cream, or many others in a Waffle cone. I can’t think of anything better to have on a hot summer afternoon. Just make sure you eat it quickly. No one needs to use magic to have this stuff melt and disappear.
You will only find one ride inside Diagon Alley. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a dark ride/indoor steel roller coaster. It is themed around Gringotts Wizarding Bank and a storyline centered around the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2.
If you don’t like waiting in lines. You will want to get on this ride early. It is not uncommon to see an hour wait here.
Right outside of Diagon Alley is the London Waterfront section of the Wizarding World. Here you will come across 12 Grimmauld Place, the Knight Bus, and Kings Cross.
Fun and unique things to do in this area would be to go and knock on the doors at 12 Grimmauld Place. Just make sure you look up afterwards. You just might catch a glimpse of the Black family’s house-elf Kreacher.
From there head over to the Knight bus and have a little chat with the conductor and the shrunken head. Each time the conversation will be different. You just never know which way it will go.
Now you can’t go inside the Knight Bus but you can go around back and get a peek inside. The level of detail they put into it is amazing. They could have simply closed it up and left the inside bare. However, they went above and beyond to make it look and feel like the one in the movie.
Before you head to Kings Cross to board the Hogwarts Express you have to check out the phone booth. Go ahead and pick up the phone and dial 62442. You don’t know who or what from the Ministry of Magic will pick up. Sorry though. You won’t get transported to the Ministry.
In order to get on the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross you will need a Park to Park ticket. Once you go through you will find platform 9 and 10. All you need to do is walk or run right between to be taken to Platform 9 ¾.
From there you can board the Hogwarts Express and take the trip to Hogsmeade. Make sure you grab the train back to Kings Cross. The video that is played is different for each way.
Hogsmeade Islands of Adventure
I would have loved it if the only way to get to Hogsmeade was by the Hogwarts Express but it isn’t. You can also walk to it from the Lost Continent or Jurassic Park sections of Islands of Adventure.
Hogsmeade like we stated before was the first area built for the Wizarding World. Just taking a walk around makes you feel like you are right in the movies. Or like you jumped right into the pages of the books. Around every corner you can find something amazing. From the looks of the shops. To the towering Hogwarts Castle. Everything is a site to see.
If you have a sweet tooth you will want to check out Honeydukes. Here you can find Acid Pops, Exploding Bonbons, Chocolate Frogs, and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. The inside of the shop is not only colorful. It is magical. You will definitely want to check this place out when you are walking through the Village of Hogsmeade while making your way to Hogwarts.
Dervish and Banges is another must stop shop you just have to see. Get your Harry Potter merch here or just take a walk through and see all the magical things that are offered. Don’t forget to look up.
Of course, you will also find Ollivander’s Wand shop. It’s not like the one in Diagon Alley but it is still pretty neat to walk around. If you want to get a wand here you can. I for one, would rather get mine from Diagon Alley.
Looking for a unique and one of a kind gift for a Harry Potter friend back at home? Be sure to stop by the Owl shop and mail out a letter or postcard. You will receive a special Hogsmeade postmark on your letter that your friends for school will die for.
Throughout Hogsmeade you will see carts selling gillywater and Butterbeer. While it might seem like the only location to get these wonderful items you would be mistaken. Check out Hogs Head for your Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, or Hog’s Head brew. Afterall, you do know that it is owned by Aberforth Dumbledore. The Brother of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
If you are looking for food you have to check out the Three Broomsticks. Just like the Leaky Cauldron they too sell breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu of both places are very similar but there are plenty of items that make them different. Therefore, it warrants a stop at both delicious locations. Besides the English Breakfast you can also indulge with the Porridge breakfast or a good old continental breakfast.
For lunch you will find Spareribs, Turkey Legs, and what kind of British restaurant wouldn’t have fish & chips? You can find all that and much more at the Three Broomsticks. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a little Butterbeer.
The Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure is home to three different Harry Potter themed rides. Two are roller coasters and one is an indoor dark ride. All three are amazing and worth riding. You have Flight of the Hippogriff, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Flight of the Hippogriff is a great first roller coaster for children to try out. It doesn’t go too fast. It doesn’t go too high. It also doesn’t have any loops. If your child wants to try a roller coaster this would be a good one to check out.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a ride located inside Hogwarts Castle. This dark ride can feel like a roller coaster but it is not. A robotic arm swings you around and does drops, spins around, twists, and turns. It is a very fun and enjoyable ride. Even if you don’t want to ride it you will want to check out the queue.
The queue has you walking through many different areas of the Hogwarts castle. See the headmasters office. Get an up close and personal look at the Defence Against the Dark arts classroom. Check out all the talking portraits. Plus make sure you listen closely to the Sorting Hat. He might have something very useful to tell you.
The queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has got to be one of the best queues at any theme park. I would say that it is even better than the queue for Flight of Passage over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You may even want people to pass you in line so you can spend a little longer in certain rooms. I know I am always passing by other guests because they want to take more photos or look for hidden secrets.
The last ride at Hogsmeade is also one of the newest rides at Universal Orlando. Of course, we are talking about Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. This is a multiple-launch steel motorbike coaster. It currently claims the title of the most expensive roller coaster ever built at a whopping $300 million dollars. It is the longest roller coaster in Florida and holds the record for seven launches.
This roller coaster is close to three minutes long. It takes you on a roller coaster ride of turns and drops. You will hit a max speed of around 50 mph. It is a fun ride that will have you coming back again and again.
As you could probably tell, you could send the entire day exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Start your day off in Diagon Alley by having breakfast and casting some spells. Than head over to Kings Cross Station and hop aboard the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. Take in the shops and rides over in Hogsmeade before heading back to Diagon Alley for dinner and more shopping. Plus don’t forget to grab a butterbeer ice cream at the end of the day.
If you are a fan of the Harry Potter book or movie series you are going to love this area of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. There’s no better way to explore the series first hand. Universal really out did themselves on this one.
Have you ever visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure? Let us know what you thought in the comments below. Also tell us your favorite part. We love to hear from our readers and like to thank you for leaving a comment and sharing this post.