For fans of the Harry Potter books or movies, seeing this wondrous world made into reality is simply marvelous. The WWOHP is located at Universal Studios Orlando Resort with a new theme park at Universal Studios, Hollywood that opened on April 7th ! Non-fans can also have a magical time at the WWHOP as the rides, shops, food and interactive features provide immersive experiences for all. The WWOHP is split between the two parks, Universal Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle) and Universal Studios, Diagon Alley (opened in 2014). Both parks are connected via the Hogwarts Express train. Read the account of my experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter below!
The most recent addition to the WWOHP features its signature motion-based ride, the 3D Escape from Gringotts. On the way inside, you will walk through the marble lobby with its massive crystal chandeliers and see goblin bankers on the job. Bill Weasley (in 3D) has a word with visitors before they go into an elevator that leads to the vaults. The thrills begin once you enter your cart. Lord Voldemort and his faithful servant (also baby mama!) Bellatrix make appearances to scare you silly ! The dragon on top of the bank also breathes fire every 10 minutes so be on the lookout.
There are many immersive experiences that can be enjoyed in Diagon Alley with an interactive wand. There was no foolish wand waving or silly incantations in Professor Snape’s classes, however, in both parks, you can purchase Harry’s, Hermione’s or another character’s wand to practice your spell casting in front of shop windows! You can flush the toilet in the Weasleys’ shop window, make fountains belch water and send a feather floating upwards using the “Wingardium Leviosa” spell. Remember…it’s LeviOHsa NOT Leviosarr !
What to Eat at Diagon Alley?
Have your lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, with delicious and authentic British pub food and dessert at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. Alternatively, grab a non-alcoholic Butterbeer served cold, frozen or hot in a tall cup or small tankard. The hot and cold version is extremely sweet and tastes like liquid butterscotch. The frozen version tastes like molten soft-serve ice cream – it’s my favourite!
The Hogwarts Express
Transport at the WWOHP got extra magical in 2014 with the introduction of the Hogwarts Express train that takes you between the two parks. Enter King’s Cross Station from “London” at Universal Studios and make your way to platform 9 3/4 where the train takes you onward to Hogsmeade Village Station. Before I entered the station, I enjoyed myself exchanging banter with the Knight Bus’s shrunken head outside the Station. The combination of his Jamaican accent and my Trinidadian one resulted in a hilarious and lively chat! On board, the immersive experience continued as the animated train windows took passengers through scenes of London, the English countryside past Malfoy Manor and then arrival at Hogsmeade Station. Hagrid , Harry & Co, the Weasley twins plus a Dementor all made appearances !
Here you can find Hogwarts students’ favourite sweet shop – Honeydukes, where you can get your Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans and other sweets mentioned in the books.
Imagine yourself as a Triwizard Champion by riding the Dragon Challenge roller coaster and have lunch afterward at The Three Broomsticks ! Traveling as a family or a group? I highly recommend the Great Feast Platter. Thirsty? Grab your favourite Butterbeer or a bottle of pumpkin juice! Magical folk and Muggles over 21 can try Firewhiskey at the Hogs Head Pub.
The iconic castle towers over Hogsmeade and features its signature 3D motion-based ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, where Harry takes you soaring with him over the Quidditch pitch and castle ! While visitors wait in line for the ride, the animated and moving Sorting Hat gives safety instructions in rhyme. The journey into the castle is an experience in itself that takes you past settings in the movies and books, such as Professor Sprout’s greenhouse, Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry and the gang (in 3D) greet visitors!
The rooms with moving and talking paintings are also a treat to see and hear. Listen to the founders of 3 of Hogwarts’ 4 houses speak in glowing terms about the school, and Salazar Slytherin’s treacherous commentary about admitting Muggle-borns! Don’t leave the park without listening to the Hogwarts choir and attending a Triwizard Tournament Rally with the students of the Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang Academies of Magic! See the videos below.
Tips for Visiting the WWOHP
- Get a 2-day park to park pass (and get a third day free!) in order to experience everything to the max !
- Download the Universal Orlando Wait Times app to receive real-time information on lines to the rides. Available on iOS and Android.
- Wear flat, comfortable, sturdy footwear. You’ll be on your feet all day in lines and seeing the sights.
- Get there early and head straight to each park’s signature rides as wait times can be more than 1 hour long ! You’ll have ample time for photos later
- Walk with a mini-pharmacy in a ziplock bag in case you fall ill or need to freshen up. I pack aspirin, antacid, mini toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, allergy medication, a compact, lipstick, and sanitizer.
- Drink water ! Take a full bottle or get one that rolls up and refill at the coolers
- The parks always have crowds but avoid going during the summer since that is peak vacation season
- If visiting during January-February, walk with a warm jacket and scarf since Orlando is extremely chilly during that time
Where to Stay
My boyfriend and I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Nearest Universal Orlando. The hotel was located across from a compound that had reasonably priced restaurants, Walgreens pharmacy/convenience store as well as souvenir shops. For the price of an on-site hotel at Universal, we got a non-smoking suite complete with a mini fridge and microwave that came in handy for leftovers ! There is an ATM in the lobby and a ticket desk. There is also a free scheduled shuttle that takes you to and from Universal Studios!