The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando transports guests to a land of magic and wonder, bringing fans face to face with the sites and sounds that have previously only existed in their minds. From the snow covered rooftops of Hogsmeade to the off kilter shops of Diagon Alley, Universal Studios has created a masterpiece. The two lands that make up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley) provide an immersive experience of the Harry Potter movies to all who adventure to this incredible land.
When Hogsmeade opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2010, it was one of the first fully immersive lands focused on a single franchise at any of the Universal or Disney Parks in the US. Sure, Disney has made their mark in theming lands since opening. However, up until 2010, land theming in Disney parks was generally broad and focused on locations or common topics. It wasn’t until after Hogsmeade opened that Disney opened their minds to their now extremely popular immersive lands: Cars Land, Pandora, Toy Story Land, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Despite its stiff competition in recent years, Hogsmeade set the standard for a reason. As soon as you walk through the entrance, there is no denying - you are now in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
In terms of attractions, the two headliners, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, are rides you will definitely want to try to ride more than once.
Forbidden Journey is a simulator-like attraction where you fly on an enchanted bench with Harry and friends around Hogwarts. Some of the effects are a little dated, but fans of the movies and books will enjoy this ride. It’s a great thrill, and it’s great to “fly” around with familiar characters. The queue is also tremendous as it takes you through Hogwarts castle! You’ll see the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, chat with the Fat Lady, and even say hello to the Sorting Hat! But be warned, this simulator ride does tend to cause motion sickness in those that are susceptible.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the newest attraction at Universal Studios and will regularly require a 2 hour or more wait (on a good day!). And honestly, it’s probably worth it. However, our recommendation is to arrive an hour early for “Rope Drop.” You’ll get to hop on the ride as soon as the park opens with limited wait and be ready to explore the rest of the park. As far as the ride goes, we won’t spoil it here, but it's definitely tame enough for all riders who meet the height requirement. But it also packs a punch in terms of theming, as well as the thrills of a surprise or two!
Outside of the two big attractions, there is also the Flight of the Hippogriff. It’s a very tame roller coaster ride intended for children. It is skippable for adults, but a cute thrill if you have the time or are traveling with little ones who are up for it.
The last attraction that you can't miss is the Hogwarts Express. A Harry Potter fan or not, this cleverly disguised means of transport between the two parks (Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure) is a fun adventure with several references to the books and movies throughout. Make sure you ride it both ways as the ride is different depending on which park you start from. Be sure to note that you do need a park-to-park ticket to ride this ride, which we recommend regardless of your plans to ride Hogwarts Express.
As a note for any Disney regulars out there considering Universal for the first time, Universal requires all riders to put their bags in a locker prior to riding most rides. There are free options available, however, they are often quite small (free lockers at Forbidden Journey are the largest). Purchased lockers, big enough to fit a full backpack are available for a fee.
Don’t Miss It!
While the attractions are a must do, the land itself is so detailed (did we say that enough times yet?!). In fact, Hogsmeade is so delightfully detailed, that in the women’s restroom, you will even hear Moaning Myrtle! Whether it’s the bathrooms or the shops, there’s so much to see and take in, you won’t want to skip on the extra details that Hogsmeade has to offer.
For a magically immersive experience, head to Olivanders to purchase a wand - where the wand chooses the witch or wizard! While you don’t have to purchase the wand after the experience, we do recommend getting the “magical” version so that you can perform spells throughout the land at designated spots. This “magical” wand will cost you $48+, so be mindful of the fee before jumping in. You can also purchase souvenir wands of characters from the movies, without the spell casting ability, for about $25. As the line for the Olivanders interactive experience can get long, we do recommend going early to mid morning after riding the two big attractions here.
At the brightly colored and cheerfully themed Honeydukes, you will find an assortment of magical themed candy. Just as in the books and movies, they offer chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jelly Beans (they mean every flavor!), mint toads, lemon sherbets, souvenir jars of taffy, and so much more. Also, don’t miss Dervish and Banges for a wide assortment of Harry Potter themed merchandise. We find it has more unique gifts, but the shop after you ride Forbidden Journey has the widest variety of items.
A fun little shop is the Owl Post and Owlery - where you can actually send “Owl Post” directly from the park! Pop into Dervish and Banges next door to buy souvenir postcards and then write a note to your favorite Muggles at home. Bring your own USPS stamps, and the Owl Post will send the postcard for you! This is a good afternoon activity once you have completed touring the rest of the Islands of Adventure.
When it comes to food, Hogsmeade is limited to one dining option: The Three Broomsticks. As it’s the only spot for food, it is extremely crowded at peak times. We recommend going at 11AM, anytime after you’ll be waiting in a long line! The food however is really good and comes in large portions. Most entrees can be split between two people, but the Great Feast is enough for 4-5!
A trip to Hogsmeade isn’t complete without Butterbeer! Whether frozen or on ice, this treat is a great afternoon thirst quencher. For the adventurous, you can get an alcoholic version at the Hog's Head. Our favorite thing to do is to enjoy Hogsmeade, then get a frozen Butterbeer to take on the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley - great way to escape the heat and have time to sit!
Harry Potter fan or not, Hogsmeade is a can’t miss land for everyone. Whether you enjoyed the magic from reading the books or have come to love the story through the movies or just enjoy a very well done theme park, Hogsmeade does not disappoint.