A muggle's guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - how to make the most of your time at Universal's Islands of Adventure

A muggle’s guide to… The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

You may be forgiven for thinking that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a theme park in its own right but in actual fact, it is just one part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Since The Wizarding World opened in June 2010, it has been Islands of Adventure’s biggest crowd-puller, with people even queuing for up to 8 hours to get into the park on the opening day! But fear not Potter fans, here is my run-down on my time in Hogsmeade which will hopefully help and inspire you on your own wizarding adventure.

Top Tip: Get to the park before it opens and grab a map. As soon as the gates open, head straight to The Wizarding World. The rest of the crowd are sure to be heading in this direction too but the amount of people will be far less than later on in the day.

Rides

First up, make a beeline for Hogwarts Castle as this is where the main ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, can be found. Enter the castle (don’t forget to stash your belongings in one of the free lockers!) and follow the corridors of Hogwarts school, where you will find yourself in the familiar surrounds of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Dumbledore’s office and other recognizable locations from the movies and books. You’ll be enchanted by the moving, talking portraits as depicted in the movies and even holograms of some of the main characters, so much so that the attention to detail here makes the queuing process a bit of an experience in itself.

Eventually when you reach the ride, you take your seat upon a 4-person “bench” and are then strapped in and whisked away for an adventure through the land of Harry Potter where you will follow Harry twisting and turning on his broomstick, over the Quidditch pitch and through the Forbidden Forest. You’ll see a fire-breathing dragon, giant spiders and evil dementors among other things – all in a clever mix of real animatronic models and high-tech computer graphics. The ride lasts for around 4 minutes and you’ll definitely want to ride it again just to take it all in! We were incredibly lucky and the longest we had to queue for this ride was around 20 minutes but queues for this have been known to exceed 4 hours!!

The next biggest ride is The Dragon Challenge, which is a nod to the Triwizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire. Consisting of 2 large and looping rollercoasters, guests will all join one queue and then must choose whether they want to ride the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail (red or blue, in muggles terms). Both coasters travel at the same time and there are even a few moments when it appears as though both rollercoasters, or dragons, may collide. Perfect for thrill seekers, wizards and non-Potter fans alike.

A slightly tamer, yet still fun, rollercoaster ride is The Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a lot less stomach churning than The Dragon Challenge and aimed more at a younger crowd. Just don’t forget to bow to the Hippogriff before you ride!

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Shopping and Dining

If you’ve always wanted to get your hands on a Pygmy Puff or a Golden Snitch, then all the best Potter merchandise can be found at the shops in Hogsmeade. These include favourites from the books such as Dervish and Banges, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and, my favourite, Honeydukes sweetshop. I defy anyone to walk out of Honeydukes without purchasing some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (rotten egg flavour jellybean anyone?)

Top Tip: Inside the bottom of the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans box there is a little piece of paper revealing which colour beans relate to which flavour. I must admit part of the fun is the Russian Roulette element but if you don’t like surprises or want to trick your friends into eating all the nasty ones then this might come in handy!

You can also visit the Owl Post in Hogsmeade where you can send a postcard home with a special Harry Potter stamp and a Hogsmeade post mark. The stamps are pretty pricey as you have to buy a whole pack (they won’t sell you just one) but you can always purchase a postcard and get a Hogsmeade post mark on the back (you just won’t be able to post it).

While the queues were kind to us for the rides, unfortunately they were a problem at Ollivander’s wand shop and so this was one part of Harry Potter World we failed to experience. Because the shop is small and is an interactive environment, limited numbers of visitors are allowed in at any one time. So true Potter fans should definitely aim to get here early if they want to see and do everything.

If you’re peckish while in this part of the park, then The Three Broomsticks serves up traditional British dishes such as shepherd’s pie and fish & chips, but even if you’ve already eaten, make sure you take a seat in the Hog’s Head pub and sample some famous Butterbeer or Hog’s Head Brew.

Top Tip: Butterbeer is non-alcoholic and comes in regular or frozen (slushie). No one should leave Hogsmeade without trying Butterbeer as the taste is indescribable!

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Other entertainment

There are plenty of things to look at in Hogsmeade, besides rides and shops. The village scenery is very beautiful and detailed, and true to the films. If you are there at the right time you may witness the Triwizard Spirit Rally, with ribbon twirling from the Beauxbaton witches and mock-fighting from the Durmstrang wizards.

Of course, I should add that my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was before they opened Diagon Alley at Universal Studios last year – which now even includes the Hogwarts Express to connect the two Universal parks!

Have you had the chance to visit the new Diagon Alley section? What did you think?

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27 thoughts on “A muggle’s guide to… The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

  1. Did 1st part in march 2015, fantastic. We were back in the states in September and did both parts, totally awesome,! 🙂 but universal has always been a family favourite from our 3 girls right up to my late parents. Some good tips here.

      1. Thought the bank tellers were really clever and the way they did the hogwarts express was brilliant. Still thought the first parks broomstick ride was better than the vaults ride. Still like E.T brings back family memories.

  2. I went to the USJ in Japan and I was really disappointed by the Hogwarts ride probably because of the crowd and the fact that I thought we’d be able to walk round the castle instead of queuing outside then inside (for 2 hours but that was the opening month).
    Also the ride almost killed me it was so violent it shook me in all directions (must be too old for that).
    I think that for Harry Potter fans USJ is really missing its target eespecially for those who visited the Leavenhall studio in London where you can learn more about how the films were shot and listen to wig makers and prop makers who designed all the little pieces that gave its magical feeling to the film. I missed that while visiting USJ.

      1. No I’d love to. A friend was planning a trip but we thought that the heat in July would be too much. I read that it was very crowded too so many next year. From France it’s far and expensive to spend one week in one of the hotels… London is closer so I’ll go back to the studio Leavenhall before. ^^
        I don’t know if Orlando is the same but the overpresent music in Osaka’s USj was too much for me. I took a break in a pizza restaurant while my friend went on another ride and “italian” music inside was so loud I had to put on my earplugs… every section of the park had its own music that was really too much at the end of the day.

        1. When I was in Orlando I personally felt that the music added to the movie atmosphere without being too invasive on the ears but I didn’t notice it in every section of the park. Sounds like the Osaka one is a bit over-the-top!

          1. yes maybe, I liked the music in the Harry Potter part but not in the rest. I must try Orlando to compare but that’s too far for now.

  3. We gave this to our daughter as a surprise Christmas present one year with a few HP items to go along. She was thrilled and wore them the day we went of course. It was so much fun seeing her eyes come to life reliving her favourite memories of the books she adored. Thanks for sharing. Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl, thanks for commenting. That’s such a lovely Christmas present and I think it makes a difference to travel with a true HP fan. One of my friends who I was holidaying with is a massive Potter fan so I got to share her joy 🙂

  4. This sounds like tons of fun! I am not a fan of crowds, but I would brave them to visit this place. I remember when Harry Potter first became big in Hungary (around the third book) I was still in high school, and my English teacher mom went crazy over it, and we drank pumpkin juice for weeks, and tried to make butterbeer 😀 I wonder what the “official” thing tastes like.
    Cheers! (Visiting through the blog party)

    1. They sell pumpkin juice there too! Me and my friend tried to make our own Butterbeer and it was disgusting! I have no idea what the secret ingredients are because the official stuff is delicious, sort of cream soda and butterscotch. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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