In May of 2019, we met a fellow Muggle Family from Ohio at Universal Orlando Resort for a three-day trip. Alice played hooky, and we visited on weekdays in May when the park was less crowded. We also stayed a a Premier Resort, the Lowe’s Royal Pacific, located within easy walking distance to the parks. Included with our stay was early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and ExpressPasses, allowing us to skip the ride lines. It is easy to devote one post for the trip just to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studios is home to Diagon Alley and Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. Islands of Adventure is home to Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village.
In general, I haven’t provided too many details about the experiences in the park to avoid “spoilers.” I added a few videos, but you can avoid watching those if you want all of the experiences to be new to you when you visit. Many of the attractions may not currently be available due to Covid Restrictions. Feel free to email me if you are planning an upcoming trip and I can help you navigate your stay.
Diagon Alley is cleverly hidden in Universal Studios, so you truly feel like you are entering another world when you find it. A visit to Diagon Alley is all about the details; we took our time to look in every window and around each shop corner.
Escape from Gringotts was the only ride in Diagon Alley. We took advantage of a free locker to store our gear, then followed the queue through Gringotts Bank. Escape from Gringotts was Alice’s favorite ride (she hates anything even moderately resembling a roller coaster, but it was mild enough with great 4-D effects.)
Diagon Alley also has more shopping options than Hogsmeade. Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes was like going straight into the pages of the book. We weren’t in the market for a House Robe from Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, but we enjoyed seeing the costumes from the movies.
Knockturn Alley was easy to miss, hidden in a corner to your left of the Diagon Alley entrance. Borgin and Burkes was an opportunity to see artifacts and merchandise more geared toward the Dark Arts.
Hogsmeade Village is in the back section of the Island of Adventures Park. the village is smaller than the streets of Diagon Alley, with fewer shops. Honeydukes candy store was our favorite.
Because we were staying on-property at Lowe’s Royal Pacific Resort, we had early entry to Diagon Alley. This allowed us to ride the first Hogwarts Express Train to Hogsmeade and enter the park before any other visitors. Without the crowds, we received exclusive attention from the Wizards, who took our photos and assisted with spell instruction for Alice.
Flight of the Hippogriff was a fun “mild” roller coaster and a great starter for younger kids. The adventure coaster, Hagrids’ Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, was still under construction when we visited.
Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey, located inside Hogwarts Castle, was my favorite attraction in all of Universal Theme Parks. I used the ExpressPass on my first ride, and the second time there was little line and we breezed through the Castle’s interior. I actually wish I had more time in line to take in all of the details.
The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts was spectacular, and we were lucky to find a good spot to view.
Great care was taken in the two quick service dining locations to detail the movie sets. In Diagon Alley we had breakfast at The Leaky Cauldron, a large dining hall with traditional British fare.
At The Three Broomsticks Alice opted for Butterbeer while Alex and I had actual beer; Hog`s Head Brew and Dragon Scale are unique to the Park.
During our early morning park hours in Diagon Alley we downed Butterbeer from the Hopping Pot before 8am. The stand offered snacks and drinks that we enjoyed in the central seating area of the mostly empty plaza.
There are also kiosks in the park that offer other snacking opportunities. This gave Alice a chance to eat a watermelon, breaking her from her steady diet of Butterbeer and refined carbohydrates.
To ride the Hogwarts Express you have to have a two-park pass. Boarding at Kings Cross Station for our first ride was perfect; leaving from Hogmeade didn’t provide the same interactive experience. The experiences inside our cabin were different in each direction.
We visited Ollivander’s shop on our first night and Alice opted for a replica of Hermione’s wand. Alice surpised me later in the trip with Luna Lovegood’s pitcher plant themed wand. We were lucky to find no line on our second morning to see the wand selection show. We used the map that was included with wand to find interactive spell casting experiences in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Using the wands was tricky for us (small, quick, traces are required), but we were assisted by the many Wizards in the park.
At Gringotts Money Exchange we turned our Muggle Cash into Wizard money that we used before leaving our Resort to buy a chocolate frog (the money can be used anywhere on Universal Orlando Property or kept as a souvenir.)
Outside of Kings Cross Station we met Stan, the bus driver for the Knight Bus.