I grew up in Florida, and I am also an avid Harry Potter fan. I’ve read all of the books 4 times, and want to read them again…. fifth times the charm, right. The first time I visited, I was so excited and overwhelmed; I missed a lot of the hidden attractions. So here are a few things I wish I had known the first time around. (I’m also not discouraging you from going more than once; I had just as much fun the second time.)
Before you go:
- Buy the Park-to-Park pass
- Make a list of things you want to do/see/eat
- Pack a small purse (keyword: small)
- water bottle
- photo id
- Pick out a practical outfit,
- especially comfortable shoes!
Advice for the Day-
- Arrive early and ride the Hogwarts express Train first!
While in Diagon Alley-
- Ride- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Eat @The Leaky Cauldron
- Shop @ Weasey Wizard Wheezes
- See the fire-blowing dragon
- Call the Ministry of Magic from the phone booth
- Say hi to Kreacher at Grimmald Place
- Attend the Wand-Picking-The-Wizard Show at Olivanders Wand Shop
- Go visit Moaning Myrtle in the restrooms
While in Hogsmeade-
- Ride- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Dragon Challenge rollercoaster and the Flight of the Hypogriff
- Eat @The Three Broomsticks, and enjoy drinks at The Hogs Head Pub
- Shop @ Honeydukes
- Enjoy some Butterbeer!
- Admire the mountains from the top of Hogwarts Castle
- Ask one of the employees about Voldemort (He-who-must-not-be-named)
- Look for Dobbys Shadow in the Three Broomsticks
- Send someone a letter from The Owl Post
- Take a photo with the Hogwarts Express Compartment and Hagrids motorbike
- You must buy the Park to Park pass. This means you have a ticket to BOTH Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, if you want to see everything. Hogsmeade and the castle are in Universal Studios and Diagon Alley and Gringotts bank are located in Islands of Adventure.
- Make a list! It always helps to be prepared when going into any theme park. They get extremely crowded and can be over whelming. So making a list of attractions you want to see and food you want to try, will help you make the most of every minute while visiting.
- Pack a small bag containing…
- An empty water bottle. Preferably a smaller one, so that it is easier to carry. It’s Florida, and it’s pretty darn hot from January through December. You’ll be outside the entire day and need to stay hydrated. Water bottles are expensive once you enter the park, and there will be plenty of other things you are going to want to spend your money on, such as an ice-cold butterbeer! Don’t forget- bring it empty, and fill up once you have entered the park.
- Apply sunscreen the morning before you go.
- Bring sunglasses, and a case. You will have to stow all of your belongings for at least one of the rides, so being a case to keep you sunglasses protected.
- Drivers License or another form of a photo ID. You will need your ID to get through security at the park entrance. Also, some of the pubs and restaurants have fun wizard themed alcoholic drinks you can try.
- Make sure everything fits into a small bag to carry around with you. It is going to be a long day, and it will feel even longer if you have a large bag or purse to carry around. The lockers to stow your belongings at each ride are also not that large.
- Leave the selfie stick at home. Selfie sticks are actually banned from all of the rides. So free up some space in your bag/purse and just don’t bring it at all. There are a lot of people walking around who would love to take your photo, as long as you return the favor for them!
4. Pick out your outfit ahead of time. You will be waking up early, so this will help save time.
- Wear comfortable, SUPPORTIVE shoes. I’m all about being fashionable, but this really is not the time or place for it to be your top priority. No. Not your flip-flops from Old Navy, or your cute ballerina flats. Something with arch support and cushion, like sneakers or my fav, Chacos. My Fitbit logged over 20,000 steps the day I went, and if I had been worried about style over comfort, I would have called it quits by noon.
The Day of:
Arrive early! The parks are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ideally, arrive 45 minutes prior to 9. I know, it is early, but there is a Starbucks in the park! Arriving early will give you time to park, (don’t forget to write down, or take a picture of where you parked) and get through security without any wait time.
Once you are in the park, I highly suggest going straight through the Islands of Adventure side. Enter into Hogsmeade and make your way to the Hogwarts Express Train. I know you will see a lot of stores and attractions you want to visit on the way, but if you are one of the first ones to the train, it is worth it. You wont have to wait in a long line, and you’ll even be able to ride in a train car alone!
Now you’re off the train and you can check that off of your list! Relax a little and take your time to enjoy!
When you arrive in Diagon Alley:
Diagon Alley is a shopping strip in London. In the books it is popular for wizards back-to-school shopping. Supposedly, it is normally invisible to muggles (non- wizards).
RIDE: The Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts Bank, located in the bank building. This ride is a 3D roller coaster. note: it is titled a roller coaster, but is very mild.
EAT: The Leaky Cauldron- This restaurant replicates a British pub. Embrace the culture and enjoy dishes such as bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes) or toad in the hole (sausage and pudding)
- Weasley Wizard Wheezes- this store has a lot of cool things that are mentioned in the books like extendable ears and a sneakoscope.
- Quality Quiddich Supplies
- Madam Malkins Robes for all Occasions.
- As you’re going in and out of the shops, keep an eye on the dragon! He blows off fire and smoke, and its awesome to see. But there is no set schedule.
- Call the Ministry of Magic from the telephone booth. This is right before you enter Diagon Alley. You just have to dial M-A-G-I-C.
- Say hi to Kreacher. He is hiding out in Sirius Blacks house at Grimmald Place.
- Attend the wand-picking-the-wizard show. This is located inside Ollivanders wand shop. He picks out one person from the group and that person gets to take home a wand! If you don’t get picked the first time, try to go again!
- Go visit Moaning Myrtle. You can here her from the bathroom located near the Leaky Cauldron.
When you arrive in Hogsmeade–
Hogsmeade replicates the snow-capped British town near Hogwarts that students (only third year and above) get to visit during the school year.
RIDE: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (located in the castle)- Before you enter, you must stow EVERYTHING. If you want to keep your phone, make sure you have somewhere you can secure it, because this ride goes upside down at one point. The line can get really long, but it winds through the headmasters office, the defense against the dark arts class room, the Gryffindor common room, and you’ll even run into Harry along the way! This ride is for 4 people and it gives off the illusion you are flying on a broomstick.
In Hogsmeade there is also the Dragon Challenge, which is the roller coaster that used to be known as the dueling dragons. There is also a kid friendly roller coaster, Flight of the Hypogriff.
EAT: The Three broomsticks is another great pub, and is attached to Hogs Head Tavern. Hogs Head Tavern, sells a variety of fun alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks! Order the classic fish and chips and enjoy it with an ice cold butter beer or pumpkin juice!
- Honeydukes- This was my favorite shop in Hogsmeade! There is a lot of different candies for sale that are mentioned in the books, such as chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean.
- Ollivanders Wand Shop- There is also a wand shop here. So if you didn’t get chosen at the show in Dragon Alley, try it again!
- Dervish and Banges- If you like Quiddich, this is the place to visit. Buy your very own quiddich robe or sweater.
- Enjoy some Butterbeer! If you haven’t tried any yet, make sure to stop into Hogs Head Pub and buy some.
- Admire the mountains from the top of Hogwarts Castle. Supposedly if you look out the window, you feel like you are right at home in Hogwarts, and not in a theme park.
- Ask one of the employees about Voldemort (He-who-must-not-be-named) See how they react!
- Look for Dobbys Shadow in the Three Broomsticks. He will be lurking around looking for Harry Potter.
- Send someone a letter from The Owl Post. Once it arrives at its destination, it will say that it came from Hogsmeade.
- Take a photo with the Hogwarts Express Compartment and Hagrids motorbike. You can even get get on the motorbike with a friend!