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Top 10 Things to Know Before Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

December 2, 2015, 10:29 PM · Comprised of the snowcapped rooftops of Hogsmeade and the wonderfully themed and immersive streets of Diagon Alley, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has increased Universal Orlando Resort’s overall attendance every year since it first opened in 2010. (Hogsmeade opened at Islands of Adventure in 2010 followed by Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida in 2014). Due to the increased number of guest and the meticulous attention to detail it is easy to get lost in WWoHP and miss many of the finer details and experiences that make it special, especially for first timers. With that in mind, the following top 10 list will provide you some tips and advice to help you make the most of your first trip to the wizarding world.

Public Conveniences

10. Visit the restrooms in Hogsmeade – Moaning Myrtle is no longer spending all her time in the girl’s bathroom at Hogwarts Castle. Now everyone’s favorite miserable, moping, and moaning ghost can be found in the restrooms ("Public Conveniences") in Hogsmeade. This one is pretty hard to miss if you have to actually use one of the restrooms while in Hogsmeade, but Harry Potter fans should stop by even if you don’t. If anyone thinks you are strange for hanging out in a restroom when you don’t actually have to use it, just tell them you are making polyjuice potion and that should straighten everything out.

London Waterfront

9. Don’t overlook the theming at the London Waterfront – While Diagon Alley is the main attraction for Harry Potter fans at USF, the London waterfront is not to be overlooked. True to the rest of WWoHP, the London waterfront is rich with details. A few examples the Muggles might notice are that the lampposts that line the lagoon, because they are replicas of the “dolphin lamppost” that line the Thames River in the UK. Kings Cross Station is almost a mirror image of its real-life counterpart, and to add to the realism you sometimes can find street musicians playing out front. Also, the large central fountain is a replica of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Square Circus. Witches and wizards with a keen eye also will notice number twelve Grimmauld Place, with Kreacher peering out the window, and the Knight Bus, just to name a few. (Be sure to go to the back of the bus for great photo ops.) So do yourself a favor and pay attention to the theming in this area because it is one of the best at UOR.


Ford Anglia

8. Go through the queue for Dragon Challenge – Even if you are not a coaster fan and have no intentions of riding this coaster there are several reasons to go through the queue, at least the outside portion of it anyway. It boasts some fantastic view of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle, offers a great spot to watch the Triwizard Spirit Rally, and best of all it features the Ford Anglia/Flying Car that Harry and Ron crashed into the Whomping Willow. Lucky for you that instead of hitting the Whomping Willow this time, it has run into a rather docile pine tree and provides a great photo-op.

Owl Post

7. Owl Post makes great and affordable souvenirs and gifts – What’s the best way to communicate over long distances? No it’s not cell phones, it's letters delivered by nocturnal birds of prey, and now you get to join in on the fun. Along the main street of Hogsmeade is an Owl Post station where a friendly witch or wizard will be happy to sell and stamp a postcard for you with an official Owl Post Hogsmeade emblem. Impress your friends and neighbors by sending them official Owl Post postcards straight from WWoHP. You can bring your own postage stamps or buy them in multipacks at the mail station. While you’re there, be sure to check out the windows by the Owl Post where you can find a few howlers that have been sent to naughty Hogwarts students.

Hagrid's hut

6. Flight of the Hippogriff is not just for kids – Flight of the Hippogriff is thought of as a “kid” coaster, but the queue and view make it a must for Potter fans of all ages. What better way to theme a ride based on a magical creature than to have it centered around everyone’s favorite Care of Magical Creatures professor, Hagrid? Shortly after entering the queue at the end of the Hogsmeade High Street you will come upon the half giant’s humble abode. You can hear Hagrid’s booming voice and Fang’s booming bark coming from inside warning students to not wander too far into the Forbidden Forest. At least I assume that’s what Fang is saying. Seeing Hagrid’s cabin alone would make this worth it to most Potter fans. At the beginning of the ride you will get to meet Buckbeak himself (be sure to bow) and at the top of the incline you will be treated to the best view of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle in all of WWoHP. Not too bad for a “kid” coaster.

Gringotts Money Exchange

5. Visit the Gringotts Money Exchange – Much like everything else in WWoHP, this experience is worth trying whether you plan on using it for its intended purpose or not. Located in Diagon Alley, the inside of the exchange itself is elaborately themed. If not for the goblin hard at work you would swear your where in your local bank. Here you can exchange your muggle money for Gringotts Bank Notes free of charge. They come in denominations of $10 and $20 and can be used throughout the WWoHP. They are a great souvenir and make a much better gift than a regular gift card. As cool as the bank note are however, the goblin working at the exchange is what makes this special. Even though he is busy working, and is very surly, feel free to ask him a few questions. My favorites are “How old are you?” and “What is your name?” Give this a try, you will be happy you did.

Ollivanders

4. See the wand choose the wizard at Ollivanders – One of the coolest things about WWoHP are the interactive wands. No matter how many times I do the Alohomora spell in Knockturn Alley or the Lumos spell in Diagon Alley, it is still a thrill. As much fun as they are however, the wands can be a bit pricey for wizards and witches short on Galleons and Knuts. That doesn’t mean though that everyone can’t enjoy the show at Ollivanders. The queue at the Diagon Alley shop moves rather quickly and is one of the better theme shows in all the park. The actors are spot-on, the effects are wonderful, and best of all you may be picked to participate. After it is over you exit though the retail shop and can decide to purchase a wand or not. Even if you don’t want to purchase a wand, Ollivanders offers a great experience for all Harry Potter fans.

Fountain of Fair Fortune

3. Save time at The Fountain of Fair Fortune – Need a fun and delicious way to beat the Florida, I mean London, heat while visiting Diagon Alley? How about some ice cream? Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour offers up an adventurous assortment of exotic ice-cream flavors for the weary wizard or muggle. You can find flavors like Butterbeer, orange marmalade, chocolate chili, and even vanilla if you’re feeling really adventurous. But all of that flavor come with a wait and the line can easily stretch around the corner. Don’t fret though, The Fountain of Fair Fortune next door can help. The Fountain of Fair Fortune looks like a beverage-only counter service spot but they have a connecting door to Florean Fortescue’s and will be happy to serve you Butterbeer flavored ice-cream even though it is not on the menu. While you can’t get the more exotic flavors like vanilla ice cream from the Fountain of Fair Fortune ,let’s be honest and admit it’s all about the Butterbeer flavor when visiting WWoHP anyway.

The Three Broomsticks

2. Fast Butterbeer and a place to get away from it all – Hogsmeade can be quite confusing the first few time you are there. It can be crowded, hot, most of the buildings are faux store fronts, and it’s impossible to see where you’re going because you can’t stop starring at Hogwarts Castle. So where does a weary wizard go to grab a quick Butterbeer, relax, and sit a spell (pun intended)? Why the back of The Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head Pub of course. Go through the alleyway between the pub and the restrooms in Hogsmeade. This will take you to the rear entrance and the best place to buy Butterbeer (or real beer for that matter) in Hogsmeade. The line is usually half that of the outside Butterbeer vendors, they offer more selections, and while you wait you are treated to A/C and entertainment by the pubs titular character. After you get you drink go to the patio behind the Hog's Head and The Three Broomsticks for great views of Hogwarts Castle and the quietest spot in Hogsmeade. If you don’t purchase food or drink from the restaurant or pub and only need a quiet place to sit don’t worry, the seating is open to everyone.

Hogwarts Castle

1. Do the Hogwarts Castle tour – Hogwarts Castle is the crown jewel of UOR. Not only does it house one of the best theme park rides ever created, its queue is a destination unto itself. The castle queue gives you an opportunity to pass through some of the most iconic rooms in Hogwarts Castle while also hearing a story from Dumbledore and an learn a little about the ride to come from Harry, Ron, Hermione, and some talking portraits. Needless to say this can be a lot to take while moving along in a relatively fast-paced ride queue.  So how does one get to see and hear everything the Hogwarts Castle has to offer without slowing down the queue? Why you only need to go on the castle tour (hopefully you already figured that out from the title of this entry). Ask the helpful witch or wizard just inside entrance of Hogwarts Castle and they will point you in the right direction. First you will get a unique chance to see portraits of the four founders of Hogwarts debate the merits of inclusivity while giving you a hint about the ride's plot. After that you will move along a path parallel to the regular queue and visit the other areas of the castle while being allowed to go at your own pace.  This is the only way to stop and appreciate the theming without getting a curse placed on you by people trying to get on the ride.
 
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Replies (8)

December 3, 2015 at 5:26 AM · Small point, but since I'm a Londoner...

The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain is actually in Piccadilly Circus, not Square. :)

December 3, 2015 at 6:07 AM · I couldn't agree more- great list! Makes me even more for my trip next weekend :-)
December 3, 2015 at 7:13 AM · Nice job and great tips.... I was unaware of the Castle tour...
Thanks.

December 3, 2015 at 1:53 PM · Thanks all. I noticed the Circus mistake too after I submitted it.
December 3, 2015 at 4:36 PM · Scott, great article! I see you just became a member of Theme Park Insider, and are already a Writer...congratulations and welcome aboard!
December 4, 2015 at 5:05 AM · A really great article. Very informative. Good job! I must admit I didn't know you could do postcards at the Owl Post. I'll make a note of that. And if I may, I would like to throw in a couple tidbits of my own, pretty much just little Easter eggs. :)

If you go into the alleyway behind the Magical Menagerie, where there's a window with animatronic snakes in it, I recommend you just stay there for a minute and keep your eyes (and ears) on the snakes. Unless your like my mom and can't stand the sight of snakes; in which case just walk past it.

If you're an long-time Universal fan, and you've purchased your own interactive wand, take a stop at Knockturne Alley and wave your wand in front of the shrunken heads near the entrance. They'll sing a couple of songs for you, one of which is a callback to a certain Universal classic that may or may not have disappeared underneath the waves.

And lastly, while your waiting in line for Hogwarts Express on Diagon Alley's side, you will notice there's a snack stand there. The stand actually sells snacks that are exclusive to the UK. Or,at least, I've been told they were exclusive to the UK.

Oh, one last tip actually! Be sure to just stop for a minute, take a look around, and admire Rowling's genius. Sure, it was Universal who physically constructed all of it, but it was Rowling who created this wonderful world through her vast imagination and gifted storytelling abilities.

December 4, 2015 at 4:20 PM · By the way, Annual Passholders get a discount on drinks at the Hog's Head Pub. Frozen butterbeer is only $5.75. Not that I'm addicted or anything.
December 4, 2015 at 8:45 PM · The castle tour is amazing. And, if you are a bigger person, you will NOT be board the actual attraction because the incredibly stupid engineers did not plan it for fat people. I can ride every ride at Disney, but Harry Potter is a big letdown because larger fans cannot enjoy it. They have a "fat door" where they will let you out of the castle before the ride loads. Shame on the engineers for this lazy work.

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