9 3/4 Magical Details About the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Dragon at Diagon Alley

Since the publication of the first Harry Potter book twenty years ago, it’s been bringing magic to adults and children throughout the world. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort has captured that magic with amazingly detailed recreations of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. The two are located in two parks – Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade in Universal Islands of Adventure, with the Hogwarts Express running between them. Although every bit of it is impressive, these 9 3/4 details are the ones that really stand out and make the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an amazing vacation destination that everyone in the family will love.

Spoiler alert: I have written freely about the Harry Potter books/movies in this post, assuming that everyone has seen the movies, so if you haven’t please #1 keep that in mind and #2 go read the books and watch the movies. Now. Seriously. 

1. The hidden entrance to Diagon Alley

Walking through Universal Orlando is a feast for the eyes, with brightly colored signs and displays, and attractions you can see long before you get there. Everything, with the exception of bathrooms, is themed and decorated outside.

Then, there’s Diagon Alley. As you approach you’re likely to see the Knight Bus and Kings Cross station so you’re obviously in the Harry Potter area, but it looks like a simple London Street. The buildings are impressive and beautiful, but right in the middle of the block is this:

Hidden entrance to Diagon Alley

It doesn’t look like much. Maybe a bathroom entrance?

Hidden entrance to Diagon Alley - Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

As you enter that black doorway, there’s nothing there but a brick wall.

closeup of hidden entrance to Diagon Alley - Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

You move to the side to walk around the brick wall and there is another one; they’re arrange almost like a maze, so all you see is brick wall when you look straight ahead. And then you finally come around one of the corners to a large hole in the wall.

exit of Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Orlando

And just like magic, you’ve arrived at Diagon Alley.

2. Muggles can shop like wizards

Diagon Alley has everything a wizard might need, like quills, robes, quidditch gear, and plenty of other magical necessities.

Muggles can visit the Gringotts Money Exchange in Diagon Alley to get some Gringotts bank notes in $10 and $20 denominations. The Gringotts bank notes can be used in the shops or taken home as a souvenir, but the shops also accept muggle money.

The shops not only have some really amazing things for sale, but there are plenty of surprises and magical displays in the stores and in the windows, like the Monster Book of Monsters shown here. Yes, it moves!

Stack of books with the Monster Book Of Monsters at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Harry Potter tshirts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Even if you’re not planning to shop, it’s definitely worth browsing in the stores. Not only do they have fun gifts to look at, but they all have plenty of accents, decorations, and hidden treasures to see, like these amazing creatures at the Magical Menagerie.

shelves with birdcages and animals at Magical Creatures at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Stuffed animals on display at Magical Creatures at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Of all the shops, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is probably the most interesting. The fun and colorful shop has so much to see, and fun candy and toys. Dexter bought an Extendable Ear there that he uses to spy on his brothers.

Scribbulus is another great shop, with plumes and notebooks and wax seals.

Diagon Alley also has Borgin and Burkes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Wands by Gregorovich, and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

Diagon Alley offers more shopping options than Hogsmeade, but at Hogsmeade you’ll still find Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and Dervish & Banges.

Money saving tip: There’s LOTS to spend money on at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Save money by purchasing robes or shirts or other Harry Potter items before you go. I would like to say though that if you do choose to purchase items there, you’ll pay a little more, but the items appeared to be high quality items – thick robes, soft sweaters, etc.

3. Magical food and drinks

Unfortunately, food doesn’t just appear on the table at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter like it does at Hogwarts, but that doesn’t mean it’s not magical. The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley serves British favorites like Bangers & Mash, Fish & Chips, and Toad in the Hole.

Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade serves British favorites as well – Shepard’s Pie, Turkey Legs, Cornish Pasties – and they have “The Great Feast” (pictured below) with salad, rotisserie chicken, spareribs, corn on the cob, and roast potatoes. The Great Feast is meant for four people, but it was perfect for our family of five.

What do you drink with breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Butterbeer, of course! It’s everywhere. You can not only get standard Butterbeer, but you can also get frozen Butterbeer and Butterbeer ice cream. YUM. Grab some Butterbeer at Hog’s Head (located in Three Broomsticks) in Hogsmeade, and at The Fountain of Fair Fortune, The Hopping Pot, and Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshments in Diagon Alley. Butterbeer isn’t the only beverage in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; you can also grab some Gillywater (bottled water), Pumpkin Juice, Pumpkin Fizz, Fishy Green Ale, Wizard’s Brew, and others.

Butterbeer Ice Cream is available at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.

There’s really no end to the goodies available in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Chocolate frogs, fudge, candied apples, and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans are just the start.

In Diagon Alley the largest selection of candy and goodies is at Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop, but you’ll find lots of fun treats at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, too. In Hogsmeade you’ll want to visit Honeydukes.

4. Ollivanders

Shop before you go, but NOT for a wand. Yes, you can buy wands elsewhere, and you can even pre-order a wand, but getting a wand at Ollivanders is an awesome experience that shouldn’t be missed. Wands aren’t cheap, and you really want to get an interactive wand, which will run about $50 each. Also, there’s an Ollivanders in both Hogsmead and Diagon Alley, so whichever park you start in, this should be your first stop.

Before you find your wand, decide if you want to give the wand ceremony a try. I highly recommend it. Lines can be long, but they generally move quickly. You’ll see the stacked shelves of the back hallways of Ollivanders and one child will be chosen to test out wands. I won’t give it away, but it’s a fun show that everyone will enjoy, even if your child is not chosen.

Ollivanders is stocked with a variety of wands and you can choose the wand of a particular character, or choose the material it’s made from. There are signs on the walls that describe the wizards who use each type of wand so you can choose that way, or get some help from an employee who can make some recommendations based on hobbies, characteristics, and personality. These are all just tips for starting your search – we all know the wand chooses the wizard.

Tip: Interactive wands can be repaired at Ollivanders for free. It didn’t take long for our four-year-old to start using his wand as a walking stick, scratching up the tip of the wand with the sensor technology. I suspect this is a pretty common occurrence; I even saw one kid dragging their wand on the ground from their stroller when mom was distracted by another kid.

5. You’re a wizard [your name here]

As I said above, Ollivanders should be your first stop on your Harry Potter adventure. Once your wand had chosen you, you’ll notice a map in the box. The map shows places that you can use your wand to cast spells.

Spell locations are marked with medallions embedded in the ground that show you the movement you need to make for the spell to works. Spells do things like turn on a water fountain, raise and lower objects, and turn on lights.

There are spells in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but Diagon Alley has more.

You won’t see any Knockturn Alley spells on the map until you get under blacklight (which is in Knockturn Alley) and then they will magically appear.

If you have any trouble making the spells work, ask one of the Universal employees and they’ll give you some helpful pointers.

6. Performances and a fire-breathing dragon

In addition to rides, food, shopping, and plenty to see while touring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they also offer several live performances. Performance times aren’t listed on the website or maps, but may be posted on signs in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You can also find performance times on the Official Universal Orlando Resort app.

Hogsmeade has the Frog Choir singing with students from each of the Hogwarts houses, and the Triwizard Spirit Rally with students from Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang.

In Diagon Alley you can see Molly Weasley’s favorite singer Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees perform songs “A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love”, “You Stole My Cauldron But You Can’t Steal My Heart”, and “You Charmed the Heart Right Out of Me”. You can also catch a performance of one of the Tales of Beedle the Bard thanks to the Wizarding Academy of the Dramatic Arts.

Diagon Alley also has a fire-breathing dragon protecting the Gringotts Bank. The dragon is impressive enough just perched above the street, but every five minutes he breathes fire and it’s hot enough that you can feel the warmth on the sidewalk below! It’s definitely an impressive display.

7. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is an indoor 3-D/4-D motion simulation ride. Riders first walk through Gringotts bank, complete with a marble lobby, awe-inspiring chandeliers, and goblins working at the counters. Riders take a (simulated) elevator ride way down underground before finally boarding the coaster.

Riders must be 42″ tall to ride, and child-swap is available. Escape from Gringotts is a thrill ride, but it’s family friendly.

8. The Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express is the quickest way to Hogwarts even at Universal Orlando Resort. Guests can ride the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross station just outside Diagon Alley to the Hogsmeade station or from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross.

Both stations have interesting features, including an animatronic owl and a special entrance between the 9th and 10th platforms.

The train is quite an experience. Once boarded, riders are directed to a train compartment that can hold up to ten people. The train begins to move and riders can watch out the “window” at the city and fields pass by, and see some familiar scenes and characters, including Hagrid.

The “window” isn’t the only show though. The interior windows of the train compartment are frosted, but observant riders can see shadows and listen to conversations happening among other “riders” on the train.

You can ride the Hogwarts Express both ways and you should – the show is different each way.

Remember: The Hogwarts Express runs between two parks, so riders must have tickets to both parks to ride. 

9. Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey is in Hogsmeade, located in the Hogwarts castle. Riders first explore Hogwarts, walking through Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common Room, the Room of Requirement, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. All this is before the ride even begins.

Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey is an indoor, 3-D/4-D motion simulation experience. It can be a bit intense, with closeups of dementors and spiders, and although it doesn’t move too much or too fast, it feels like it’s moving a lot. Movement on this ride is often compared to the movements on the Spiderman ride, although a bit more intense. It might be too much for young riders.

Riders must be at least 48″ tall, but there is a child swap area if so one parent can ride while the other waits with a young child and then the other parent can ride. This is great if you have an older child who is riding; they may even get to ride twice (once with each parent)! If no one in your party wants to ride, you can opt to just do the tour to see the many features of the Hogwarts castle.

9 3/4. Photo opportunities

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is full of great backdrops and photo opps.

Hagrid’s motobike! The kids were so excited to hop on this and get some pictures to show their friends and our family.

It’s not often you get a chance to take a photo with the Hogwart’s Express.

Have you visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What do you think is the most magical part? 

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