Wizarding World Of Harry Potter
An Amazing World
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter is the biggest thing to happen to Orlando since the first edition of Mr Brits Guide To Orlando 🙂 In 2003 rumours were circling that Disney World might open a Harry Potter themed. Four years after the rumour, Universal done the deal and the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was announced.
2 Parks 1 World
Islands Of Adventure was home to the first phase of the Wizarding World – Hogwarts with the village of Hogsmeade. This $250million addition to Islands Of Adventure officially opened on June 18th 2010. Mrs Brit and I made a 3 day visit to Orlando to review the new attraction just before the official opening. We were lucky enough to ride all of the rides, visit all of the shops and eat in the Three Broomsticks restaurant.
Universal Studios is home to the other section of the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter and this area opened in 2014. The Universal Studios side is home to Diagon Alley and the Escape From Gringotts ride. You can also find Kings Cross station here along with the purple triple decker bus the Knight Bus.
Both areas are jaw dropping and Universal have done a brilliant job in creating a truly believable Wizarding World. If you are a Harry Potter fan then visiting the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter will be the highlight of your Orlando holiday. If you are not a big fan then you will still be able to appreciate how amazing this new area is.
Hogwarts And Hogsmeade
Located in the Islands Of Adventure theme park, the first phase of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter is home to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. You can travel here by jumping aboard the Hogwarts Express at the Kings Cross Station in Universal Studios. If you are already in Islands Of Adventure you will come to a large lake. You will see Hogwarts across the lake. The quickest way to get to the area is to turn right as you come to the lake. Carry on through Seuss Landing and head to the Lost Continent.
Entering the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter from this direction and you arrive in Hogsmeade Village. You will see the Hogwarts Express off to your right. There is usually a station master on hand to answer any questions about the train schedules and they will even pose for photos. The view of Hogsmeade from this location is truly breathtaking. If it wasn’t for the heat, you would believe you were in snowy old England.
The whole area has been ‘Harry Pottered up’ with great detail. Off to the left you will see the restrooms (toilets) so pop in. Moaning Myrtle will be banging on about something or other while you are trying to go. For all of you non Harry Potter fans, Moaning Myrtle is a ghost that annoys people in the Hogwarts toilets.
HoneyDukes Sweet Shop
As you walk through Hogsmeade you will come across Zonkos Tricks & Jokes shop. Zonkos stocks all of the essentials that kids really need to get through the day such as extendable ears and bags of eyeballs. The shop connects straight through to Honeydukes sweet shop. Keeping up with true Orlando theme park style, this sweet shop has to be seen to be believed.
I’m more of a ‘Dairy Milk man’ myself but but the array of coloured treats on offer in this shop made me NEED some. I had to open my wallet and try a few jellies and boiled sweets. Universal Orlando have to get their massive investment back somehow so the sweets and gifts are priced accordingly.
Ollivanders wand shop
A little bit of Universal Studios magic takes place behind the doors of Ollivanders wand shop. Any Harry Potter fan won’t mind queuing up for this special shop. Only around 20 people are allowed in the shop for each wand choosing session and each session lasts around 10 minutes each.
Once inside the shopkeeper will choose a ‘wizard’ to step forward to be chosen by a wand. It isn’t just the children that get picked so the older fans are still in with a chance. When we first visited, a girl of around 20 years old was chosen to have a wand choose her. After a couple of duff wands, the girl picked up a third wand and the magic happened. I won’t spoil it for you so pop by to experience the magic yourself.
At the end of the session I asked the girl if she got the wand for free and she said no. She had the option to buy the wand if she wanted. After the magic wand experience everyone is directed to leave through a door that takes you into the Owl Post shop. Here you can buy your very own wand and 2019 prices start at around $30 to over $50 for a wand.
As you walk through Hogsmeade you will travel towards the main attraction of the area – Hogwarts. Just before you get there on the right is an area where you can watch some street entertainment. The Beauxbatons Girls may be performing there or you might be lucky enough to see the Hogwarts Frog Choir.
Some great singers accompanied by 2 enormous Toads belt out some very odd sounding tunes for the Hogsmeade visitors. At first I thought it all sounded a bit mad but after a while you will appreciate how good they are. It all goes to make for a very authentic Wizarding World Of Harry Potter experience. There are also opportunities to get your picture taken with some Hogwarts pupils. The Beauxbatons Academy of Magic ladies and the Sons from the Durmstrang institute also perform regularly.
The Three Broomsticks
The Three Broomsticks is the place to eat in Hogsmeade. The Brit Family have eaten here many times and the food is quite good as theme park food goes. The first time I ate here I was absolutely starving so I ordered 2 meals….I could have eaten a scabby Hippogriff!!. I told Mrs Brit that I was ordering 2 meals for “Mr Brit’s Guide To Orlando research purposes” and I would manage them no trouble.
Fish n Chips was up first and it actually came as Fish n Potato Wedges. The meal was really nice and there was plenty of fish (3 small pieces). The batter was much better than I was expecting because a lot of batter in the USA is quite soft, not crispy.
As you can see by the photo, my drink obviously had to be the Butterbeer from the Harry Potter stories. Although it has the word beer in the name, it doesn’t contain alcohol. My opinion of Butterbeer is that it’s a very odd drink indeed. I wouldn’t recommend having a Butterbeer with a meal to be honest. It is like having a dessert during your meal instead of at the end. The only way I can explain the taste is like a fizzy pop drink with whipped ice cream scooped on top. Butterbeer is also available to buy and take home in a bottle so a great gift if you have left any Harry Potter fans back in the UK.
After the Fish n Chips had gone down I felt fine but I still had to pretend to Mrs Brit that I was still hungry. I was starting to wish I had a magic wand to get rid of it but I had paid for it so it had to be eaten!. The Cornish Pasty with Garden Salad was a very odd interpretation of a Cornish Pasty but again, it was quite nice. Instead of a standard Cornish Pasty, the meal came as 3 small ‘action man sized’ Cornish Pasty’s with each one being about 1 fork full.
From the Three Broomsticks you can walk into the Hogs Head which is an adjoining bar. You can buy alcohol here and take it back into the Three Broomsticks. The Hogs Head on the wall behind the bar actually comes to life sometimes.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Being the most recent addition to Universal Orlando Resort this ride attracts enormous queues. The screenshot above displays a TEN HOUR WAIT TIME on opening day back in June 2019. Since then the ride has still had queue times well over five hours so by far the most sought after ride in the resort. As with all busy rides, keep your eye on the Universal App to grab a bargain wait time.
The Hogwarts school, the Forbidden Journey ride and the Hogsmeade village cost a total of $250million to build. This Hagrid ride cost an eye watering $300million to build which is a crazy amount in my eyes.
Each row of the rollercoaster has a motorbike and a side car just like Hagrid’s motorbike. Don’t be afraid of riding the bike because you are held in safely with a lap bar. The ride sees some high speeds and almost vertical corners but there are no big drops or loops. When cornering at speed, the coaster tilts almost vertically but the G-force and the lap bar keeps you in your place.
At various points during the ride you come across some great animatronic characters and creatures. The ride slows down at these areas of the ride so you can get a good look. At the end of the track, you cannot go any further forward so a la Expedition Everest, the journey takes another route.
Hagrid’s voice accompanies you throughout the ride which creates a little bit more of that Harry Potter magic. At one point in the ride you are in free fall or at least it feels like you are. Expect a lot of screams when this happens.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is located n the Hogsmeade area of the park and has a height requirement of 48”
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
When this ride opened I stated in my guide that this is the best ride I have ever ridden. Today I class Avatar Flight Of Passage as the best ride I have ever ridden. This just goes to show how we take things for granted when they start getting older.
Before The Ride
The queue area for this ride is probably the most interesting queue area of any ride. Potter fans will get to see many magical things from the Harry Potter movies. The first stage of ‘waiting in line’ is outside and nothing really happens there except people getting sweaty on a hot day. If you keep your eyes peeled you may spot the potted Mandrakes from the Harry Potter movies. Once you step inside of Hogwarts the laborious queueing becomes a thing of the past.
The bronze statues of wizards and beasts of years gone by are great to admire as you walk by. Talking portraits argue with each other in other areas of Hogwarts. Dumbledores office is a treat while you ques and so is the ‘Defense Against The Dark Arts’ room. Harry, Ron & Hermione appear here from under an invisible cloak. The three wizarding pupils warn the visitors of what was going on. Take note as Harry and his pals are talking to you because it all sets the scene for the main attraction. One tip is to watch out for Ron accidently making it snow over your head.
There is a height restriction of 48″ for this ride so an adult would have to wait with riders that are too small. They will get to watch some extracts from the Harry Potter movies in the Child Swap area. Once the riders finish the ride, the adult that didn’t ride can get straight on the ride with one of the party that just got off. The great thing about this Child Swap is that it is located right at the beginning of the actual ride. This gives your whole family the opportunity to walk through Hogwarts together. Once you get to the Sorting Hat from the movie you are almost at the Child Swap area and the ride begins.
Once you get to the ride you are guided to your benches where you are strapped in and ready to go. As you set off Hermione will cast a spell on your bench and this will be just enough magic to get you through to the end of the ride. I don’t want to tell you too much about the actual ride itself because it will spoil the surprises for you. You will come across Dementors, large spiders and the worst critter – Malfoy.
The best way of describing the ride is that half of it is a simulator ride and the other half is real action. Dementors, spiders and dragons all try their hardest to scare you. What you can’t see in this ride is that a large KUKA robot actually picks your bench up from behind. This robot then travels around Hogwarts carrying you the full journey of the ride. and it takes you around the ride. The Forbidden Journey is not an extreme ride whatsoever but if you are petrified of ghostly effects and very large spiders (which aren’t that scary really) then you may want to give it a miss. If these sorts of things don’t really bother you then YOU MUST GET ON THIS RIDE.
The Forbidden Journey has a height requirement of 48″ or 122cm.
Flight Of The Hippogriff
With a 36″ height restriction, the Flight Of The Hippogriff is a great rollercoaster for most kids. My son ‘Little Brit’ loved this ride when he was 5 years old. The one concern I have is the ride does tend to get a little bit quick around some of the bends. If your child is really young, this ride may scare them a little when the speed kicks in.
Forgetting the toddlers for a moment then it’s a great coaster and most children will love it. There aren’t any loops or steep drops to worry about so it’s even a great rollercoaster for ‘not so confident’ adults. Check out the nesting Hippogriff during the climb at the beginning of the ride.
Flight Of The Hippogriff has a height requirement of 36″ or 91cm.
Diagon Alley And Gringotts Bank
Located in the Universal Studios theme park, the second phase of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter is home to Diagon Alley and the Gringotts Bank. You can travel here by jumping aboard the Hogwarts Express at Islands Of Adventure. If you have entered Universal Studios through the regular entrance, carry on straight down and past the Jimmy Fallon ride. Then turn right and carry on past The Mummy ride and the Fast And Furious attraction. A few minutes later you will arrive at The Wizarding world.
Kings Cross is the first attraction you’ll see and this is where you get the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. Before heading into Diagon Alley, take time to meet the shrunken head driver of the Knight Bus. He will have a quick chat with you and he can be quite funny. In front of the bus are some London houses, check out the windows as you may see something quite mysterious.
As soon as you step foot in Diagon Alley you will probably be met by dozens of people all paused to take a photo. The point of interest is the Gringotts Dragon, perched on the roof of the bank. Every so often the dragon breathes out real fire and this is an amazing sight to see. Grab your smartphone for a great bit of video footage for the holiday movie.
Harry Potter And The Escape From Gringotts
Wow! This ride is amazing and so is the whole building. The ride is part rollercoaster and part movie. As the title states, the ride takes place way down in the depths of Gringotts Bank and you need to escape. Voldemort and his side-kick Bellatrix are after you but you are all alone. Who could possibly save the day?
Before The Ride
If you have any bags you would need to put them in the free lockers before you ride. If you have children with you, let them know the locker number. They will probably remember it better than you.
Once the queue reaches indoors the fun really starts. You are walking through Gringotts bank and the cashiers are so life-like. The effort that Universal have gone to by creating this bank is astonishing. Even the chandeliers are stunning. Eventually you will head off downstairs and have your picture taken, if you want it. Whilst in the next long corridor keep your eyes on the glass doors. You may spot some well know silhouettes. Eventually you will get into the lift that takes you really far deep into the Gringotts vaults (or does it).
The ride cars are similar to the cars on The Mummy ride if you have ridden that. What you think is going to be a big drop at the beginning is quite small so don’t worry about it. There are no big drops or loops in the whole ride. It is more like a train journey. Your car travels through the underground vaults and eventually the baddie turns up – Voldemort.
Some of the Voldemort scenes are brilliant and the over-sized henchmen really add to the ride. The ride does speed up at times and there are some exciting manoeuvres. It really is a great fast paced adventure. You don’t have to be a rollercoaster nut to ride it so make sure you ride Gringotts at least once, you will love it.
Amazingly the ride doesn’t always have really long queues. If ever I see a 40 minute queue I will leave it and come back later. I have seen just 5 or 10 minute wait times on a lot of my visits so don’t just jump in the queue unless it is short. Plan your day intelligently and you will get to see a lot more in the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
Look at this screen shot from the Universal Resort app. I just checked the wait times while writing this review and Despicable Me has a wait time that is 5x longer than Gringotts!!! I took the screenshot at 11.30am Orlando time so it just shows that you don’t need to waste lots of time waiting for this brilliant ride.
Escape From Gringotts has a height requirement of 42″ or 107cm.
The Hogwarts Express
The Hogwarts Express isn’t just a way of getting from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and vice versa. It is an attraction in its own right and you are met with wizarding magic throughout the journey.
You need a 2 park ticket to hop aboard the Hogwarts Express as it travels to another theme park. The queue times can get quite long but are best at morning times. The later in the day, the longer the wait usually becomes. Kings Cross Station at Universal Studios has the advantage of being air conditioned and you also get to visit platform 9 3/4.
There is a point in the queue where an optical illusion makes it look like you actually walk through the wall. Most people don’t realise this so one of you need to keep back and video it. The rest of your party can go ahead and it looks like they walked through Platform 9 3/4.
Once aboard the Hogwarts Express you will find yourself in an 8 seater private cabin. I don’t like to spoil things for readers so I won’t go into the fine detail of the ride. You will see magical things out of the window and you will also see things happening in the train corridor. You will be able to make out Potter characters or even some of the baddies passing by your carriage.