Stepping inside the magical lands of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a dream come true for many visitors to Universal Studios.
You don’t want to go home only to hear other people talking about unique experiences they loved or look at photos of things you didn’t see and feel like you missed out on many of the magical details.
Which is why we put together this list of What Not to Miss in the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It is a checklist to bring with you to make sure you soak up every magical detail and experience that you can in Harry Potter world.
If you are new to the Harry Potter lands at Universal Studios, keep in mind that Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are each located in a different theme park. In order to do all of these experiences in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you will need to visit each park on a separate day with a one-park ticket, or you can go to both Harry Potter worlds in one day with a park to park ticket.
Tour Hogwarts Castle
Yes, you can go inside the Harry Potter castle in Hogsmeade!
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is in Hogwarts Castle, which is also the home of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. You don’t have to ride this thrill ride, though, in order to walk through the castle!
There are a few ways to walk through Hogwarts Castle:
- Stand in line for the ride, seeing all of the details during your wait
- Go in line (either with a rider or even if none of your party is going to ride) and absorb all of the details while walking through the queue. You can ask to leave without riding when you get to the loading platform.
- Ask a team member outside if you can do a castle tour. Sometimes, when it’s not busy, a Universal team member can show you around inside and point out the details.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is one attraction you do not want to miss.
Inside you will find:
- Portrait Gallery with over 100 portraits that move, including the Fat Lady. Some even talk!
- Dumbledore’s Office
- Sorting Hat
- Holograms such as Harry, Hermione, Ron and Professor Dumbledore
- Gryffindor Common Room
- Mirror of Erised
- Professor Sprout’s Herbology greenhouse with mandrakes
- Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom
Related Post: Best Harry Potter Fanny Packs for Universal Studios
Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
If you ever wanted to ride a broomstick like Harry Potter, then this is the ride for you! Feel like you are flying through the air around the castle and escaping the dragons and dementors chasing you.
This motion simulator ride is intense and one of the worst rides for motion sickness at Universal Studios. If thrill rides don’t bother you, though, then be sure to experience this iconic attraction in Harry Potter world!
This is one of the many rides with single rider lines at Universal Studios. While you won’t need to wait as long by using the single rider line, you will miss out on all of the details in the castle queue line.
Ride Hogwarts Express
One of the most iconic things to do in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is to ride Hogwarts Express!
This train looks just like the train that Harry and his friends took on their way to school.
The family-friendly ride is suitable for just about anyone, with no height restrictions or worries about motion sickness.
To ride this attraction, however, you must have a park-to-park ticket. The train will bring you between the two lands of Harry Potter world, which are each in different theme parks.
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There is a different experience both ways, so if you have time, ride the train twice.
Use a Wand
In the first 5 minutes of visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you will probably see people of all ages flicking wands through the air at the strangest places.
Using an interactive Harry Potter wand is one of the most unique and anticipated moments when visiting the lands!
Wands are not inexpensive when bought at Universal Studios, however it is the only place that you can get an interactive wand that will work throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade to unlock fun surprises along the way!
Even if you buy only one wand for the kids or adults to share, it is worth it for anyone who loves all things Harry Potter!
Be sure to see our Ultimate Guide to Harry Potter Wands for everything you need to know about the wands, including unique ways to save money on the purchase.
Candy Shopping at Honeydukes
Who can resist the sweet treats inside Honeydukes?
Imagine the excitement that Harry, Ron and Hermione must have felt as kids when they got to go candy shopping while going to school at Hogwarts.
At Honeydukes, you can find the same weird and wonderful candies that Harry Potter and his friends enjoyed, including:
- Chocolate Frogs
- Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans
- Jelly Slugs
- Peppermint Toads
- Butterbeer Fudge
- Fudge Flies
Send a Letter Through the Owl Post
Get a special postmark on letters or postcards that you send through the Owl Post. Send mail to yourself, or to friends and family!
Save money by bringing your own postcard and stamp and drop off the mail at the Owl Post in either Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. If you need to send souvenirs back home, you can do that through the Owl Post, too!
Wand Ceremony at Ollivanders
Watch the wand choose the wizard in this highly popular Wand Choosing Ceremony that is performed all day long in the Ollivanders wand shop.
Even if you are not picked for the wand ceremony, it is fascinating to watch!
Be aware, the lines for this unique experience can get long because small groups are taken in to each show. You might want to go first thing in the morning or later at night for less crowds and a better chance for being picked for the wand experience.
See the Fire-Breathing Gringott’s Dragon
One of the most popular picture-taking spots in Diagon Alley is under the Gringott’s Dragon!
You will know that the dragon is about to spit fire when you hear some rumbling sounds. Once the dragon is rumbling, you know to get your camera ready to take a picture of the flames shooting out of its mouth.
Walk Through Platform 9 3/4
One of the most magical parts of the Harry Potter movies and books are when the wizards disappear into Platform 9 3/4.
Muggles can do the vanishing act, too, when you visit the train platform at King’s Cross. With the help of a mirror, it looks like you are walking through the platform. Be sure to get someone to take your picture or a video for the full effect!
Withdraw Money at Gringott’s Money Exchange
You can exchange your muggle money for wizarding money at Gringott’s Money Exchange! Not only do you get a magical currency in a souvenir envelope, but you will have a unique Harry Potter experience by interacting with the goblin.
Wizarding money can only be exchanged in $10 and $20 muggle money increments (U.S. Dollar Bills). There are not smaller denominations or change.
While the magical currency can be used just like cash throughout Universal Studios Orlando, you will probably want to keep a bank note (or at least take a photo) as a souvenir.
If you ask the goblin questions while exchanging your money, he will answer you back.
By the way, don’t call the goblin money exchanger an elf unless you want some back talk!
Dine in the Leaky Cauldron
Enjoy traditional British pub fare at a recreation of the pub that Harry Potter and his friends visited every year.
You will sit down at long wooden tables and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.
This is the main dining location in Diagon Alley and one of the best Harry Potter restaurants.
No reservations are possible at this quick-service restaurant, so there may be a wait!
Look for the House Elf
Kreacher can be seen in the windows at 12 Grimmauld Place in Diagon Alley. It’s a fun little detail that only takes a few minutes to enjoy and you don’t even need to stand in line!
He doesn’t always make an appearance, so go up to the door and knock. Then stand on the street for a minute for the best view point to see if the house elf comes to the window to stare at you.
Check Out the Knight Bus and Shrunken Head
Located across from 12 Grimmauld Place and the train station, be sure to stop by the big purple bus.
If the bus driver is there, you can laugh along with an impromptu show between him and the shrunken head.
This is just one of the many character interactions in Universal Studios.
Call the Ministry of Magic
Step inside the red phone booth that is located in front of the record shop. Follow the instructions inside (pick up the phone and dial MAGIC) to hear a message from a witch at the Ministry.
It’s a rite of passage to get a butterbeer when in either Harry Potter world.
If you plan on trying the sweet drink, then you must get a butter beer in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Seriously, it is the only location authorized to sell this official version of the drink!
There are a variety of different types of Butterbeer, including:
- Cold butterbeer
- Frozen butterbeer
- Hot butterbeer
No matter what type you get, try at least one version of the crazy sweet drink!
Enjoy a Family Feast at Three Broomsticks
The Great Feast at Three Broomsticks has a hefty price tag (over $70!), but it is a photo app that you don’t want to miss!
Plus, there is SO much food on this tray that you can easily feed 4 people, making it a surprisingly good value!
You can’t make reservations at The Three Broomsticks. Be sure to see our guide for Harry Potter restaurants for more details.
Visit Knockturn Alley
Knockturn Alley is easy to miss, so be sure to try to find it pass the bathrooms.
Once inside the dark passage, you will find black light spells, singing shrunken heads, and shopping!
Search for Hidden Spell Locations
There are spell locations on the map that comes with your Harry Potter wand when purchased at Universal Orlando.
And then there are hidden locations!
To find these spots, go towards Ravenclaw haven and Carkitt Market.
Helpful Tip: You can find these hidden spell locations on the map when you hold it under black light in Knockturn Alley.
Savor Unique Ice Cream Flavors
Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour has the most amazing flavors of hard ice cream and soft serve ice cream.
This is where you can get Butterbeer ice cream!
I also love the Earl Gray and Lavender, but I hear the Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream is pretty good, too!
Ride Escape from Gringott’s
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s is a fun ride at Universal Studios that first brings you through the Bank before boarding to heist a horcrux with Harry and his friends.
The queue line for this ride is another can’t-miss destination for any Harry Potter fan, regardless of whether or not you want to ride the ride!
Escape from Gringott’s does have a minimum height requirement so you may need to utilize the Universal Child Swap option if traveling with young children.
Look in the Store Windows
Even if you are not shopping in the gift shops, be sure to take some time while strolling by.
The theming and small details in the store windows are amazing. It is all of the little details that make this land so special!
After all, this is where Harry Potter and his friends stocked up on school supplies before the beginning of the school year. So there is a lot of great shopping in this land!
There is so much detail in every shop window in Hogsmeade, even if the store windows are for a store that doesn’t exist!
Be sure to spend some time just looking at all of the little details everywhere. You never know what references from the books or movies that you will find. Or where you will see moving objects or hear strange noises.
Don’t just look in the store windows. You need to actually go inside the stores, too! Even if you don’t plan on buying anything.
There are often hidden details inside the Harry Potter stores. See our list of Harry Potter Secret Details for what you can find.
If you do want to get some great souvenirs from Universal Studios, then these stores are among the best locations to find magical merchandise!
Borgin and Burke’s
Shopping at Wizarding World of Harry Potter gift shops is like no other shopping experience. There are so many hidden references to the movies and books, along with animated props.
Be sure to see the vanishing cabinet, as well as the trunks that are shaking.
Talk with the Hogwarts Express Conductor
When you enter Hogsmeade, you will find a Hogwarts Express photo app to your right. This is not the actual train that you can ride to Diagon Alley, this is just a replica!
The conductor of the Hogwarts Express is often at the train, talking with guests and taking pictures. Be sure to get this photo app!
Find the Marauder’s Map
Watch footprints move across the famous map in Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods gift shop. This location is at the exit of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.
Enjoy a Drink at Hogs Head Pub
Tucked in the back of Three Broomsticks restaurant, you will find the small Hogs Head bar. This is where you can get alcoholic Harry Potter drinks, such as Hog’s Head Brew, an exclusive beer for Universal Studios.
We suggest trying a shot of Firewhisky while you are there!
Don’t miss the moving hog’s head on the wall!
Hear Moaning Myrtle
Go into the bathrooms in Hogsmeade to hear the ghost Moaning Myrtle making sounds.
It’s worth it to go into the restrooms even if you don’t have to go!
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
One of the rides in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
This roller coaster ride is one for thrill seekers!
This is one of the very few rides that does not accept Universal Express Pass!
Visit at Night
While most people try to get to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter early in the morning to avoid the lines – which is smart – you want to make sure to spend some time in the lands at night, too.
When the lights come out and twinkle in the storefront windows, and the flames from the fire-breathing dragon light up the sky, that is one of the most magical times to explore the area.
Night time is also when you can see the Hogwarts lights (see below).
Watch Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts
The exterior of Hogwarts Castle is illuminated with projections that celebrate the four houses of Hogwarts. Dazzling lights and music bring the castle alive at night in one of the few night time shows at Universal Studios.
This show is temporarily closed and does not have a reopening date.
The lights last for 5-10 minutes. The shows take place around every 20 minutes or so. Don’t worry about being at the castle at a set time. This is not like a fireworks show.
This special castle projection show is not shown on all nights, so be sure to ask a Team Member if it will be occurring on the night you are there.
Flight of the Hippogriff
While many of the Harry Potter rides are for older kids and adults, the Flight of the Hippogriff is kid-friendly enough for the entire family to enjoy. This is a gentle roller coaster outdoors that carries you on a flight over the Forbidden Forest.
While not one of the best Harry Potter rides (in my opinion) because it isn’t as detailed, it is one of the few that kids and adults can enjoy without worrying about getting motion sick or being scared.
There is a minimum height requirement for this Universal Studios ride of 36 inches.
Enjoy The Moment
Take a moment to just sit or stand and look around the magical lands. Have you dreamed about being able to walk into a Harry Potter world? This is your moment! Enjoy it!
All too often, visitors are so rushed with getting in lines, snapping all the photos and hurrying through the experience.
Give yourself at least 5 to 10 minutes (preferably more!) to watch people having fun in the Harry Potter lands. Savor the smells and the sounds. Explore all of the little details.
Make a memory.