Inside the Magic of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort

in Accessories, Apparel, Collectibles, Harry Potter, Islands of Adventure, Merchandise, Movies, Parties, Theme Park Merch, Theme Parks, Toys, Travel, Universal CityWalk, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios Florida

The magical adventures of Harry Potter first arrived in a series of popular novels by J.K. Rowling in 1997 and were followed by 8 motion pictures from Warner Brothers (2001-2011). Universal Studios added this wonderful Wizarding World to their Orlando, FL, theme parks in 2010.

Four years later in 2014, that immersive theme park experience was expanded with Diagon Alley in Florida and Hogsmeade Village in Japan. Universal Studios Hollywood saw Hogwarts Castle and nearby Hogsmeade Village materialize in 2016.

At Universal Orlando Resort, the very first Harry Potter adventures apparated over 7 years ago! Today, the Wizarding World can be found in both parks (Universal Studios Florida/USF and Islands of Adventure/IOA). Hogsmeade Village (IOA) and Diagon Alley (USF) are connected by the Hogwarts Express, which travels between the two magical regions of both parks.

I. HOGSMEADE VILLAGE

A new face took over most of the Lost Continent area of Islands of Adventure in 2010. This original Harry Potter playground opened with lines extending outside the theme park and well into nearby CityWalk (Hogsmeade Village is located at the far end of the park, furthest away from the ticket turn styles).

For this new Wizarding World of Harry Potter transformation, Enchanting Oak restaurant was converted to Three Broomsticks and Dueling Dragons roller coaster was adapted to a Dragon Challenge adventure (now closed to make way for a new Harry Potter-themed ride).

Even the bathrooms are themed!

Amazing Attractions

Flight of the Hippogriff – This junior roller coaster is suited from young witches and wizards to be. By excluding high speeds, excessive dips and loops, its course is much tamer than traditional coasters. Guests board a wicker-like representation of the fabled Hippogriff found in the Harry Potter books and films. With instructions on etiquette explained by Hagrid, riders enjoy a journey across Hogwarts grounds, past Hagrid’s hut and eventually meet Buckbeak.

NOTE: “This ride employs safety restraints which may restrict certain guests from riding due to body shape and size. Guests whose waistline is at least 40” or greater may not be accommodated on the ride and are strongly encouraged to try the test seat provided at the entrance of the attraction to ensure their ability to ride.” – Universal

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – deep within Hogwarts Castle are enchanted benches that allow visitors to fly across the grounds. Using this enchanted furniture, Harry, Ron, and Hermione help guests skip class to enjoy a game of quidditch. Dementors, dragons, spiders and giant whomping willow cause chaos turning this ordinary diversion into a dangerous adventure.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey blends animatronics, effects (heat and water) with projected scenes creating an exciting motion simulated thrill ride. The California version of this attraction (which is also found in Orlando and Japan) is in 3D. Guest must be a minimum of 48 inches (122 centimeters) tall to ride.

NOTE: “This ride employs safety restraints which may restrict certain guests from riding due to body shape and size. Guests whose waistline is at least 40” or greater may not be accommodated on the ride and are strongly encouraged to try the test seat provided at the entrance of the attraction to ensure their ability to ride.” – Universal

Tour Hogwarts Castle – for those who are not up to the fast-paced adventure of Forbidden Journey, wandering through the halls (queue) of this amazing attraction is an adventure in itself.  Bronze statues form familiar figures, house points are displayed, classrooms found (keep an eye and ear out for the Potions room), and favorite characters met. Dumbledore greets guests in his office (well stocked with all sorts of magical apparatus, including the insightful pensive). Harry, Ron, and Hermione show up in one rather large classroom with a chilling demonstration of magic. Other treats include animated paintings and a visit to the Gryffindor common room. All of these enchantments are part of the ride queue. As with other rides at the park, guests are free to enjoy the ambiance Universal has cleverly crafted and then exit before boarding flying benches.

Forthcoming new rollercoaster experience (under construction) – Dragon Challenge flew for the last time in 2017. With the exception of the entrance castle, all of the attraction was gutted to make way for a new, more immersive coaster experience.  Scheduled to open sometime in 2019, this new wizarding world adventure appears to be taking a much more sophisticated and exciting path.

Special Shows and Exciting Experiences

Tucked between the snowcapped structures which make up Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle, a small stage stands ready for enchanting entertainment. Within one shop, wands choose the wizard. Additionally, markers around Hogsmeade provide interactive incantation instruction for making magic.

Frog Choir – Representatives from all four houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin) share the stage with their musical partners. These rather large amphibians produce booming bass notes, accompanying a capella sounds of familiar Wizarding World tunes.

Hogwarts Castle Lights (seasonal) – At sundown, during select summer nights, Hogwarts castle comes alive with spellbinding spirit! Mascots of all four Hogwarts houses dance around the castle building to an explosive finale.

Ollivander’s Wand Shop– Ollivander’s is a truly enchanting experience where the wand chooses a lucky wizard from the crowd. This particular pairing performance tests the matching with a series of special spells that bring the shop to life.

Triwizard Spirit Rally – To cheer their entrants in the Triwizard challenge, students from foreign schools Beauxbatons and Durmstrang traveled to Hogwarts for the competition. During this short show of school spirit, both camps come together performing acrobatics and choreography in honor of the upcoming challenge.

Wand Magic – Over a dozen locations throughout Hogsmeade Village are marked with a small metal icon. Upon this sign are instructions for several spells which bring windows, creatures and more to life. Special wands (which have RFID chips embedded within) are required to perform spells. Wands can be purchased in the park or online prior to visiting Universal Studios.

Delicious Dining

Butterbeer and much more can be found within the Wizarding World.  Hogsmeade is home to a spellbinding sit-down dining destination, potion friendly pub and a pair of snack carts.

Butterbeer Cart – Everyone’s favorite sweet treat is served from this bright red barrel-shaped wagon (located near the Three Broomsticks restaurant). Frozen or chilled variations of this super sugary cream soda-like beverage are finished with a frothy, butterscotch-flavored topping. A second butterbeer cart can be found around the corner near the bridge which leads into Jurassic Park.

Hog’s Head Pub – Adjacent to the Three Broomsticks, Hog’s Head Pub, with its oversized boar’s head hanging behind the bar, serves adult beverages and beer. Wizarding World exclusive elixirs like Fire Whisky, Wizard’s Brew, Dragon’s Scale, and Hog’s Head Brew are available on tap. The ambiance in Hog’s Head evokes a brilliant blend of wizarding whimsy with the coziness of a traditional British pub.

Magic Neep Cart – Find fresh fruit, pumpkin juice, and cold beer on ice-packed shelves. Snacks and other beverages are also available for hungry muggles and wizards.

Three Broomsticks – serves pub fare and bewitching beverages. In addition to Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, and pumpkin fizz, Gilly Water is served. No soda is offered at any Wizarding World location. Three Broomsticks serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The latter two include British favorites like Lamb and Guinness Stew, Fish and Chips, Shepherd’s Pie, and Bangers and Mash. For larger groups and hearty appetites, there’s even a “Great Feast” which includes lemon herb roasted chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes and a garden salad (ribs and chicken are also available separately). After dinner delights like chocolate, or Butterbeer potted cream and sticky toffee pudding provide tempting dessert distractions.

Above and beyond the mostly British fare of this quaint restaurant is the ambiance. Details dot the walls and rafters above, encouraging wandering eyes to explore this trusty tavern.

Spell-tacular Shopping

Scrumptious sweets, magical must-haves, and cauldrons full of collectibles can easily be located without the help of a Marauder’s Map!

TIP – Universal offers FREE package pick up (near the park exit) or hotel delivery (for those staying at any of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels)

Dervish and Banges – Magical must have “equipment” like Quaffles, Golden Snitches and Nimbus or Firebolt brooms can be found here. Other enchanted items include Monster Book of Monsters, Spectraspecs, robes and assorted Wizard World garments.

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods – An assortment of eclectic and probably banned items “liberated” from sneaky students decorate the walls and upper shelves of this souvenir shop. In addition to collectibles, tee shirts, and toys, on-ride images can be purchased within this shop found at the exit to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Honeydukes – Harry Potter favorites like chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Fizzing Whizzbees, and peppermint toads are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. A baker’s case stocked with candy apples, cauldron cakes, chocolate skeletons, no melt ice cream, pumpkin cakes, and assorted flavors of fudge further tempts the taste buds.

Ollivander’s Wand Shop – in addition to the entertaining experience listed above, Ollivander’s is well stocked with every type of wand imaginable. From character specific spell casters to original designs, wander in here for the most essential of wizarding tools.

Owl Post – Hedwig plush, stationery, wax seals, Wizard World postage stamps, and other spell-worthy stationery supplies are sold here. Several owls nap overhead ready to deliver magical mail. Postcards mailed from here earn the postmark of “Hogsmeade.”

Additional Wizarding World collectibles and Harry Potter magical merchandise can be found at the main souvenir shops near the entrance/exit of either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure, at the Universal Studios Store in City Walk and hotel gift shops.

II. HOGWARTS EXPRESS

Unique to Universal Orlando Resort, infamous red locomotive powered Hogwarts Express transports muggles between Hogsmeade Village at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley (via Kings Cross Station, London) at Universal Studios Florida.  This 70-foot-long mighty machine pulls (or pushes) three passenger cars with the purpose of transporting students from Hogsmeade/Hogwarts to London and back. Each coach contains seven compartments capable of carrying up to eight guests per cabin. On one side of the cabin is a large window (video screen); on the other, a sliding door with translucent windows secures travelers in the small compartment.

Hogwarts Express delivers two different Wizarding World experiences. Each encounter depends on the journey’s destination. It should be noted that a multi-park ticket or annual pass is required to board the iconic train.

Hogsmeade Station – Departures leaving for London witness a fond farewell from Hagrid (standing on the platform). Harry, Hermione, and Ron wander past looking for a seat (their shadows are seen and voices heard from just outside the opaque door/window). As the train departs, Buckbeak is seen flying just outside the window, with Hogwarts in the background. Upon passing through the Forbidden Forest, centaurs gallop just outside. As the forest is cleared Fred and George, mounted on broomsticks, fly over the train sharing an explosive surprise. After traversing a tunnel, the weather turns ominous and Malfoy Manor looms in the distance. Another tunnel hides this view as Ron snatches an enchanted spider from the translucent door; he pops the sweet treat in his mouth as he and his pals continue down the corridor. As the Hogwarts Express emerges again, London comes into view, complete with the Knight Bus morphing its way around the city. As Mad Eye Moody greets arrivals as the destination, Platform 9 ¾ is reached.

Guests emerge in Kings Cross Station and can now explore Diagon Alley and the rest of Universal Studios Florida.

Kings Cross Station to Hogwarts/Hogsmeade Village – visitors enjoy a similar experience with an entirely new vista for their journey to Islands of Adventure. Within the station, the illusion of passing through the brick walls of Platform 9 ¾ takes place during the queue line for boarding.

Once on board, seated and compartment doors secured, the trip to Hogsmeade commences with Hedwig flying alongside the train, visible just outside the “window.” Dementors can be seen on the approach just as a tunnel is entered. Harry, Ron, and Hermione pass by along the corridor (just outside the cabin door).  As daylight appears again, Malfoy Manor comes into view as a dark storm erupts overhead. Just as the Hogwarts Express enters another tunnel, the lights go out; Dementors have entered the coach! Fortunately, Harry Potter manages to send the soul-sucking creatures away. With Hogwarts in distant view, Hagrid, perched in his flying motorcycle, greets everyone as the train exits tunnel two. The final leg takes travelers through the Forbidden Forest to witness the Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia come to a crashing halt. Upon pulling into Hogsmeade Station, Hagrid is on hand to welcome everyone.

Departure from Hogwarts Express leads muggles and wizards past a parked carriage (and waiting, invisible Thestrals). “Obey the Spell Limit” marks the arched entrance to Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle.

III. DIAGON ALLEY

The newest Wizarding World experience at Universal Orlando Resort took over Amityville (former home of Amity Boat Tours/Jaws) at Universal Studios Florida theme park. Several tributes to the former shark-centric attraction can be found in the area (including a record within the façade’s record shop that is performed by a familiar artist).

The area now resembles the London waterfront. A large black fountain, iconic phone boot, and kiosk offering British style snacks announces the area. Hints of Harry Potter immediately come into view by way a large triple decker bus better known as the Knight Bus.

Behaving just like its book and movie version, Diagon Alley hides behind the shops of London, sandwiched between Kings Cross Station and Grimmauld Place (itself featuring darkened apartment number 12 where house elf Kreacher can be seen peering out from behind a curtain). Once guests pass beyond the magic brick wall and into Diagon Alley itself, they are completely immersed in a magically themed realm of exquisite detail and excitement.

Escape from Gringotts with its impressive queue and 3D roller coaster experience, is the starring attraction within Diagon Alley. Upon entering the three-story structure, twin rows of goblin tellers can be seen going about their banking business. Further into the line, photo opportunities await. Finally, Bill Weasley greets visitors with instructions just before they enter an elevator to embark on a thrilling tumble through the underground vaults of Gringotts. Bellatrix and Voldemort make every effort to block any hope of escape while Harry, Ron and Hermione do all they can to ensure riders live to tell their tale.

NOTE: “All passenger restraint systems—including lap bars, shoulder harnesses and seat belts—must be positioned and fastened properly to assure your safety. Guests who don’t fit properly in a safety restraint won’t be allowed to ride.

Please note that if your waistline is 40” or greater, you may not be accommodated on this ride. We strongly encourage you to try the test seat provided at the entrance of the attraction to ensure your ability to ride.” – Universal

Spellbinding Shows and Enchanting Experiences

Diagon Alley’s dedication to passionate detail doesn’t stop with the painstakingly perfect decor. Several shows and interactive entertainment opportunities await guests as they explore this magical realm.

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees – Molly Weasely adores the swing time sound of Wizarding World favorite Celestina Warbeck and her backup singers the Banshees. Appearing throughout the day at Carkitt Market stage next to snack bar The Hopping Pot, songs like “A Cauldron of Hot, Strong Love,” “You Charmed the Heart Right Out of Me” and others are performed live.

Dragon Fire – Just beyond the countless signs advertising Wizarding World wonders, Gringotts Bank teeters and towers over the realm. Perched atop its dome, the newly freed Ukrainian Ironbelly Dragon regularly spits grumbling announced fire into the air above scores of astonished muggles. This mighty beast can spew flames reaching a whopping 3560 degrees Fahrenheit!

Gringotts Money Exchange – In addition to selling collectible coins, muggle money (US currency only) can be exchanged for Gringotts cash (in $10 or $20 notes). These can be used at locations all over Universal Orlando Resort (and be converted back to dollars). Always ready to answer a question, the goblin on duty interacts with visiting guests.

Knight Bus – Stationed just outside the entrance to Diagon Alley this peculiar, purple, whimsical wizarding world transport provides the perfect photo opportunity. Conductor and animated shrunken head interact with guests at the front of the vehicle, while its interior can be more closely examined from just outside the back entrance.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – Using props and puppets, the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts conveys a pair of Beedle the Bard’s famous fairy tales. “The Tale of the Three Brothers” and “The Fountain of Fair Fortune” come to life in Carkitt Market, on the covered stage located next to the Hopping Pot.

Wand Magic Several locations, denoted by a small metal instructional plate, at Diagon Alley react to special interactive wands (purchased at Ollivander’s, Gregorovich’s or online). From assembling a giant suit of armor to several darker distractions in the sinister Knockturn Alley, magic is waiting for would-be witches and wizards.

Spell-tacular Shopping

With a dozen different shops to peruse, shopping for Wizarding World collectibles and keepsakes at Diagon Alley is easier than replacing a Professor of Defense Against Dark Arts. Robes, Quidditch supplies, dark magic, and wondrous wands abound!

TIP – Universal offers FREE package pick up (near the park exit) or hotel delivery (for those staying at any of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels)

Borgin and Burkes – Deep within the darkened district known as Knockturn Alley, dark magical mysteries await brave shoppers. Death eater masks, costume replicas, jewelry, creepy collectibles, t-shirts, and sinister skulls seek new owners in this delightfully dark destination. Arcane objects, skeletons and even the Vanishing Cabinet used to infiltrate Hogwarts are all on display.

 

Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions Student uniforms and robes, ties, scarves, jewelry and other Harry Potter themed accessories (for all four Hogwarts houses) can be obtained at Madam Malkin’s. High-end special garments are also on display.

Magical Menagerie – Most wizards enjoy the company of a faithful, friendly familiar. Owls, rats, cats, snakes can be found here (plush variations) along with Cornish Pixies, Pygmy Puffs, owls, unicorns, and familiar faces like Aragog, Buckbeak, Fawkes, Fluffy and Fang. Like most windows in the wizarding world, Magical Menagerie’s display includes some fiendishly fun finds. The shop is located next to Gringotts, look for Hagrid’s motorcycle with sidecar parked just outside.

Ollivander’s – Countless boxes filled with wonderous wands of every style are piled high. From character, specific spell casters to original designs, including collector sets and must-have interactive wands are on hand waiting for the right wizard to wander in.

Quality Quidditch Supplies – Team “uniforms,” protective gear, gameplay necessities and team spirit supplies can be purchased at this cleverly themed athletic shop.

Scribbulus – Parchment, quills and inkwells, wax seals, noteb0oks and just about anything needed for writing elegant letters or notes stock the shelves at Scribbulus. Stationery sets, bookmarks and backpacks also await new muggle homes.

Shutterbuttons – A dozen locations from both incarnations of the Wizarding World at Universal Orlando Resort make up the scenes of a perfectly magical memory maker to remind any muggle or wizard of their trip to Diagon Alley. Create moving portraits from each location, all of which are stored on a DVD (housed within a Shutterbutton’s Tin).

Sugarplum’s Sweet ShopSugarplum’s assortment of candy apples, cauldron cakes, chocolate skeletons, no melt ice cream, pumpkin cakes, and assorted flavors of fudge can be found within the bakery case of this sweet shop. Other favorites like chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Fizzing Whizzbees, and peppermint toads are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Wands by Gregorovitch – Victor Krum, of Quidditch fame, was paired with his wand from Gegorovitch. Interactive wands, famous wizarding personality replica wands, and assorted other styles can be found here.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes – Fred and George left Hogwarts to start their own business of “Spell-Binding Shenanigans from The Masters of Magical Mayhem.” Pygmy Puffs, Cycling Umbridge toys, Decoy Detonators, Extendable Ears, Peruvian Darkness Powder and other novelties join prank candies like U-No-Poo pills and Skiving Snackboxes in this magical joke shop. Famous for their fireworks, Weasley’s entertains wizarding world shoppers with a continual pyrotechnic performance on the shop’s ceiling.

Wiseacre’ Wizarding Equipment – Wiseacre’s wide variety of enchanting equipment includes many of the same tools found in Dumbledore’s office. Crystal balls, compasses, hour glasses, telescopes, and armillary spheres are sold alongside robes, Hogwarts Express and train station souvenirs and more.

Recycled Ride Tribute – many of the apparatus parked on the upper shelves of this triangularly shaped shop were constructed from parts of Amity boat tour ride vehicles.

Additional Wizarding World collectibles and Harry Potter magical merchandise can be found at the main souvenir shops near the entrance/exit of either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure, at the Universal Studios Store in City Walk and hotel gift shops.

Dining Destinations

Diagon Alley doubles down on dining diversions. From the Leaky Cauldron’s full range of British pub grub to Florean Fortescue’s unique ice cream flavors, Wizarding World’s mouth-watering, must-have munchies make mealtime magical.

Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment – Found under four pillars adorned with magical beasts, Eternelle’s offers palate pleasing potions for flavoring bottles of Gilly Water. Four selections are available: Fire Protection Potion, Babbling Beverage, Draught of Peace, and Elixir to Induce Euphoria.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor – In addition to soft serve flavors like Butterbeer, Granny Smith, Orange Marmalade and Banana, unique tastes like Chocolate Chili, Earl Grey and Lavender, and Strawberry Peanut Butter (see the full list here) make Fortescue’s the perfect spell for cooling off.

The Fountain of Fair Fortune – Favorites like Frozen Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, and Pumpkin Fizz are served to all ages.  For Muggles and Wizards over 21, more potent potions and brews are available.
TIP: Severs at The Fountain of Fair Fortune are also able to use their magic to obtain soft serve Butterbeer ice cream for patrons who don’t want to wait in line at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor.

The Hopping Pot – Aside from being another location to grab butterbeer ice cream, Hopping Pot serves a superb selection of brilliant beverages. Fishy Green Ale (exclusive to Diagon Alley), Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice, Peachtree Fizzing tea are all alcohol-free. Cold draft brews like Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew as well as light snacks are also served.

Leaky Cauldron – There’s a lot to take in at this inventive inn. From upstairs lodging to the giant cauldron and fireplace at the head of the dining hall, Wizarding World of Harry Potter fans should easily recognize the surroundings.

Toad in a hole, Fish and Chips, Cottage Mini Pies, Bangers and Mash, Fisherman’s Pie and Ploughman’s Platter (fit for feeding two) are at home on the lunch/dinner menu. Sandwiches, kid’s meals, soups, and salads are also served. Dessert delights like sticky toffee pudding, butterbeer potted cream, cranachan, and chocolate potted cream add a sweet after meal treat.

Breakfast includes a small beverage to pair with Traditional (British) Breakfast (scrambled eggs, sausage links, black pudding, English bacon, black beans, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms and breakfast potatoes), American Breakfast (scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, link sausage and butter croissant), Egg – leek and mushroom pastry, pancake breakfast or oatmeal.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Vacation Packages, which include overnight accommodations at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel, offer guests early admission to Hogsmeade Village or Diagon Alley during the visit. Another way to maximize the magic is with an express pass, which offers shorter queue lines to attractions.

Universal Orlando Resort also hosts a spelltacular event each year. “A Celebration of Harry Potter” features special guest appearances and exciting exclusive experiences.

As Diagon Alley is part of the same theme park hosting Halloween Horror Nights, this immersive experience has been accessible during the event (which requires a separate ticket). While no additional Halloween theming finds its way into this Harry Potter portion of the park, crowds and lines may be less busy during the evening’s special spooky fun.

During the holidays both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village dress up for the season. Additional seasonal entertainment like holiday songs from the frog choir and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, along with special winter merchandise, food and beverage offerings to spread the holiday cheer. Hogwarts Castle (Hogsmeade Village, Islands of Adventure) becomes a wizarding winter wonderland via the magic of digital projection effects.

Diagon Alley is located within Universal Studios Florida theme park and Hogsmeade Village is part of Islands of Adventure.  Entry to either experience is included with theme park admission. Travel between both exciting destinations via the Hogwarts Express requires a two-park ticket or annual pass.

Source and images: Universal Orlando Resort website, YouTube, Michael Gavin, ITM Archives

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