Checking out the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

With so many trips to Disney theme parks for me lately, I’ve had a hard time figuring how to cover it all. Although, I do want to tell you all more about Disneyland’s 60th Celebration, I did visit Orlando first. On the second full day of our Orlando trip to Walt Disney World, we ventured off Disney property (I know…sacrilegious) to visit Universal Studios Orlando and check out both the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.

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Since Disney doesn’t offer a free shuttle to Universal Studios (shocking!), we opted to take a cab. Split among all the group, it was a really cheap way to get there. We decided to start off at Universal Islands of Adventure because Brooke and I already had visited the Harry Potter land there and knew what to expect. So, the plan was to make our way to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade and explore there first. Then, we’d hop on the Hogwarts Express to get to Universal Studios Orlando and make our way to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley.

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Universal Islands of Adventure is set up different from the Disney parks in that they don’t have a main street with all the lands branching off from it. Instead, you have to make your way around in a circle. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade is about half way around. So, it doesn’t matter too much the direction you take to get there. We went to the right. The first “land” is Seuss Landing.

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I rather like the cartoon-ish nature of this land. All of your favorite Dr. Seuss books are represented in some way. Who doesn’t like Cat in the Hat?

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While there is plenty to explore in Seuss Landing, our reason for visiting is the Harry Potter lands. So, rather quickly, we were out of Seuss Landing.

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This is the lake you’re making your way around to enter all the different “lands.”

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The next land is the Lost Continent. We did stop a few times to take some pictures. However, this land is pretty small and easy to get through.

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At the end of the Lost Continent, you finally arrive at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade!

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Hogsmeade is a very busy place. Lots of people milling around. We quickly made our way to the main attraction of Hogsmeade…

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Hogwarts School of Wizardry! Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the main attraction and it’s located inside of Hogwarts. If motion-sensory rides are not your thing, fear not. You can walk through Hogwarts without having to go on the ride. Here’s one thing I don’t like about Universal Orlando. Many of the rides, you have to get a locker at the attraction to put your belongings in before you can ride. With a popular attraction like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the crowd is way too large for this kind of requirement. It was absolute madness at the lockers. Can’t Universal come up with a better system? The lockers are for those who are riding. If you are not riding, you don’t have to use the lockers.

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When Brooke and I visited for WDW Marathon Weekend, we went through a different way to get into Hogwarts. This time, we think we were let in a fast pass kind of line. Unlike the movies, the stairs did not move around. However, the pictures talked with one another, just like the movies. It was all really fun!

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Dumbledore was there to give us some instructions!

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Harry, Hermione, and Ron were there to talk with us as well.

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They use the talking pictures to give you an idea of what the ride will be like.

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Then, you make your way to the loading and unloading area.

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If you’re not riding, you can wait for your friends in the “Child Swap” room.

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In this room, they are playing Harry Potter movies. Pretty good idea if you ask me. Of course, the ride doesn’t take too long. So, the wait in the room won’t last too long.

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Both Brooke and I love Hogwarts!

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After Hogwarts, we headed off to Ollivanders. They do a little show in this shop. After all, the Wizard doesn’t pick the wand. The wand picks the Wizard. In the show, the worker picks out a child from the audience and has them try out a few wands until they find a winner. It’s a fun little show with some fun effects.

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Once the show is over, you head into Ollivanders the store. All of the stores we went into were pretty small, with lots of fun Harry Potter themed merchandise.

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All the latest items are there. Including broomsticks.

IMG_7151Yes, they do sell broomsticks. Of course they aren’t as nice as the Nimbus 2000.

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In the candy store, they have lots of things you saw in the Harry Potter movies. Chocolate Frogs anyone?

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No trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be complete without some Butterbeer.

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I do love me some Butterbeer! If you’ve never had it, you must!

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You’ve got to hand it to the folks at Universal. They have some Disney style attention to detail in the Harry Potter lands. The owls in this picture are animatronics. On the beams, you can see the owl poop. Like I said…details, details, details. Good job Universal!

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After wandering around Hogsmeade for a while, it was time to head over to the Hogwarts Express.

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Again the details are impressive!

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Brooke and I were really excited to take a ride on the Hogwarts Express!

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The Hogwarts Express isn’t any train. They keep the Harry Potter theme going with some very fun tricks. The window isn’t actually looking outside. There’s a film that plays as you make your way to Universal Studios Orlando.

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The film that plays from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley is different from the one that plays from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. So, if you’re planning on riding Hogwarts Express, plan on riding both ways.

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Before we knew it, we were arriving in London…where Diagon Alley is.

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The feel of the train station here is much more like London than Hogsmeade.

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Once you get out of the London Train Station, you’re in a London themed area. Of course, you can see other parts of Universal Studios. So, the theming isn’t perfect.

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Diagon Alley is back this way. Unless you ask someone, there is not way of knowing it’s there. There are no signs pointing you to Diagon Alley. So, I was initially a little miffed at that.

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Since we don’t have Hagrid to tap on the stones, opening the path to Diagon Alley, it’s alreay open for us.

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Welcome to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley! As you can see, it’s just as crowded as Hogsmeade.

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The main attraction in Diagon Alley is Gringott’s Bank. Look! A dragon!

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And he breathes fire! There is music that plays to alert you that something is about to happen. However, the first time I saw the fire, it was surprising.

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My favorite store in Diagon Alley was the Quiddich store!

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Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s is the main attraction of Diagon Alley. As you might imagine, you get to walk through Gringott’s to get to the attraction. Just like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, this attraction is another motion-sensory type of attraction. If that’s not your kind of attraction, you can still walk through Gringott’s. They don’t have a place to wait for your friends. However, you can get to see the inside of Gringott’s.

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I love the banker guys! They were busy at work as you’d expect!

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Is this Harry’s vault? Hmmmm. We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldren. I had the fish and chips. This place is very Harry Potter and London themed. The food is good. However, if you’re not a fan of either of these, you might consider going somewhere else. I wasn’t a fan of the drink options and ended up with Butterbeer. Let me tell you, that was a mistake. I don’t think I finished the Butterbeer because it didn’t go well with an actual meal.

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After a few hours, I was all Harry Potter’d out. So, Brooke and I took off to explore other parts of Universal Studios Orlando while the others continued wandering around Diagon Alley. I saw that some of the Fast and Furious 7 cars were on display. So, we headed there. On the way, I passed these two vehicles from the Back to the Future movies.

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As fun as the Back to the Future vehicles were, we were heading to see these bad boys! Cool Cars!

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Look! The Pantages Theatre! It does look different in Hollywood. However, they mad a pretty good try.

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Mel’s Drive In is right out of the 1950’s. I walked around inside to see what they offered for food. Maybe next time, I’ll go to Mel’s.

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There were lots of cool prop cars around! This one is from American Graffiti.

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I love their entrance to Transformers: The Ride 3-D! That Optimus Prime is AMAZING!

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After grabbing a quick snack, we met back up with the rest of our group and headed off to go on the E.T. Ride. I’ve never been on this one. So, it was a fun, new experience!

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I know that this isn’t a thrill ride. However, because it was my first time, I really enjoyed it.

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Then, we were off to Springfield U.S.A. to see the Simpsons.

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This was one HUGE doughnut!

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I love the theming of the Simpsons area!

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From there, we made our way back to the London Station and ride the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade.

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It was a different show going back!

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One final look at Hogwarts as we made our way back around to the front of Islands of Adventure.

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There are some pretty parts to this theme park!

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The next land in the loop was Jurassic Park.

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Outside of the Harry Potter lands, my favorite land is Marvel Super Hero Island. This is why Walt Disney World is so limited in what they can do with the Marvel characters. Universal got the rights long before Disney bought Marvel.

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This land is very cartoon-ish. However, it works well for me. Captain America is located just outside….

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of his diner!

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Inside, there are lots of Marvel Characters…including Cap himself of course.

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This Comics store was amazing! I could have bought so much inside, but kept it under control. I did purchase a few shirts here which I love!

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I wore my Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon “I Did It” shirt especially for a picture with Cap himself!

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After hanging out in Marvel Super Hero Island, we were on our way out of the park. But, the adventure lives on!

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We had a blast at Universal Studios Orlando…both parks! As you might imagine, the pictures I shared here are only a sampling of the pictures that I actually took during the visit to Universal Orlando. To see all of the pictures, click here. I have them uploaded to Flickr. I took way too many pictures. So, if you’d like to only see the pics from the Marvel Super Hero Island, click here.

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By the way, on our way back to our resort, I finally was able to get this picture! I know it’s a little blurry. However, I’ve seen so many people get this picture on their trips to Walt Disney World that I’ve wanted one of my own. When Brooke and I have been on the Magical Express, we’ve never been in a good place to get this picture. I ended up riding shot-gun in the cab on the way back. So, as I saw this coming, I rushed to get my phone out to grab this picture. It was a great end to a great day!

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5 comments on “Checking out the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
  1. I have to say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Harry Potter areas of Universal. Like you, we visited before the second section was finished and went back again after. I loved the train ride between the parks and even videoed the video playing. I’d go back over and over again if I could.

    • gloucks7 says:

      I totally agree! If you’re going to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you absolutely need to get a park hopper (or whatever Universal calls it) and take the Hogwarts Express between the two. I’m glad that the person selling us the park tickets gave us the advise to ride the Hogwarts Express both ways. Fun times!

  2. This gets me so excited-I will be at Universal a week from tomorrow! I think the level of detail that is put into Diagon Alley is incredible and it blows my mind every time. and the food is great-the ice cream is top notch as well as the breakfast and dinner and the pumpkin juice is awesome and the hot butterbeer is my favorite thing ever (yes, I will rock the hot butterbeer when it will be 95 next week).

    • gloucks7 says:

      I hope you have a blast at Universal Orlando when you go! Butterbeer is simply an awesome drink! We didn’t get the ice cream because the line was too crazy long.

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