…or The Crushing Mob at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando (Spring Break edition)
Gotta love Spring Break. After we spent our day over in the land of all things Mickey, we traversed the good city of Orlando to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure where we were transported from the Muggle world to the world of Harry Potter. The park has lovely kiosks that you can pick up your pre-paid tickets from which made things so much better than standing in line! I’m not a fan of lines. (Yes, I know… go to a theme park … Blah, blah.)
Okay, there are two ways to go about this. You can go the way of storylines, which would be the ultimate fan version of doing things or you can go and do this the logical way. Whatever way you decide plan on a minimum of two days for just the Harry Potter experience. If you want to do all the other things that both Universal parks have to offer then a four day experience isn’t out of the question.
So, the storyline way …
1. Diagon Alley
Gringotts Money Exchange – I did not go visit this place. Basically, you can exchange your Muggle money for Wizard money and use it a vendors that accept it. I never saw vendors that accepted it, so investigate this before you go.
Ollivander’s – You can tour Ollivander’s where some lucky child will be plucked to participate in the wand selection. This is where you purchase either a regular character wand or an interactive wand. You will have the option to purchase a wand that is not a character but based on tree material. We purchased a hazel wand for my nephew. These types of wands are all interactive. (More on interactive wands later!)
Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions – You can buy your robes here. You will not get fitted like the films. Sorry! (If you want to get fitted and purchase custom fit robes you may contact me. Warning, I charge more for Slytherin and less for Hufflepuff.)
Scribbulus – This is as the name suggests, a stationary shop. (This takes the place of Flourish & Blotts. The storefront is there but it’s not a functional shop. The “shops” aren’t all there to visit.)
The Leaky Cauldron – Yeah, I know, not exactly right but you don’t go through this one to get to Diagon Alley.
King’s Cross Station – A must! The line for this will get longer and longer the more you put this off. I do recommend that you do a round trip on this.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – Here you will wait for a very long time if you don’t go early! This is where you ride the broomsticks. Okay, it’s a car with four people, you’re harnessed in, you have to go across a conveyor belt to get to the car and you’re suspended in the air. I understand why people say it’s like flying on a broomstick. It’s pretty awesome. You’ll probably get to experience this once. The wait time averages 65 minutes plus an hour after the park opens, during peak season.
Flight of the Hippogriff – This one is more family friendly. It’s a roller coaster that even the faint of heart can tolerate. It has twists and turns but no upside downs and it even has a Buckbeak, I mean Witherwings *wink, wink*, in one of the turns in his nest.
Dragon Challenge – Now, if you’ve been to Universal before but it’s been awhile, you’ll recognize this ride. It has just been incorporated into the WWoHP. There are two options once you get up to the front of the line. You can choose the Hungarian Horntail or the Chinese Fireball. Both of these coasters end at different locations. The lines weren’t really very long, so I got to experience them both. I would have loved to go again, but to be fair to the holder of our stuff (she doesn’t do roller coasters) we skipped the multiple rides.
- Back to Diagon Alley for…
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – This is the only ride in Diagon Alley. The rest of the experience is shopping and eating. The wait for this during peak season is also 65 minutes plus. We got stuck a lot, for a couple of minutes at a time but at the end my daughter and I got Express Passes for the rides that don’t take Express Passes (which included Forbidden Journey! Woohoo!).
And this completes the storyline adventure in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Now, my suggestion is, get there early. Do Forbidden Journey first. (Shop at the end of that too. You won’t be able to get in there later and there’s some stuff you won’t find other places in the park.) Then do Ollivanders. If you have more than one day planned (which you really do need more than one day!!) plot out how you want to tackle things and I recommend downloading the app. It tells you wait times and has snippets of the map. It will navigate you to where you want to go if you’re directionally challenged. You can save favorites, flip between Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, CityWalk and Wet ‘n Wild Orlando, explore rides, plot your shopping and plan your events. The app even has lockers and restrooms listed. Can you tell I love the app and I used it a lot? It was a lifesaver and we were only there two days.
Wands… everyone asks about wands from Ollivanders. Yes, you get to pick one out and purchase them. No, not everyone gets to go through the wand selection. There are three different kinds of wands: character wands, character interactive wands and custom interactive wands. What’s the difference? Well, the interactive wands have inferred sensors in the tips and they interact with cameras and sensors at different points through out the WWoHP. Each interactive wand comes with a map that gives the want movement and pronunciation of the spell. This is one of the reasons it takes so long to get through the WWoHP. Everyone clogs the streets to tryout their hand at magic or to see if they’re a Muggle playing dress-up.
If you want to do more than just WWoHP, you will need more than two days and most certainly don’t go when it’s peak season. When is that, you ask? Well, Spring Break, Thanksgiving/Fall Break, Winter/Christmas Break and Summer. I know! All times when kids are off from school. If your kid can handle missing a week somewhere else, I recommend doing your Universal Orlando trip in September or October. Not too cold, not too crowded. But with a version of WWoHP now open at Universal Hollywood, maybe the crowds will thin out.