Nearly a decade into its existence, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has become a must-visit attraction at Universal Studios Orlando. For the Potter devout, it’s Mecca, a rite of passage to prove your Hogwarts bonafides. For the other people who can’t be forced to give a damn about the young wizard, a trip to the park is still incomplete without diving into the wildly immersive experience.
As any muggle might expect after being cast into the world of wizards, there’s a lot to take in -- it can be more overwhelming than discovering your pet rat is actually an old man. Fortunately for the uninitiated, there are tips and tricks about what to do and what to avoid when visiting the park. Before you take your amusement park O.W.L.s, here are some things you should know.
Buy tickets in advance and go to both parks
The deluge of options at the Universal Studios site can be panic-inducing. There are multiple Universal parks, and each requires its own ticket. The cynical among you will be vindicated by the discovery that Harry Potter attractions are split between two parks: Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. So, yes, you have to buy two tickets to see it all, starting from $115 -- of course, it’s far more expensive to visit two parks than one. What super-sucks? You absolutely want to visit both.
The two parks are connected by the Hogwarts Express, which you can only ride if you have the two-park pass. At Universal Studios, you’ll find Diagon Alley, the Escape From Gringotts ride, and a fire-breathing dragon atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Over at Islands of Adventure, you’ll walk through the shops of Hogsmeade, see performances in the street (occasionally including the witches and wizards of Beauxbatons Academy and the Durmstrang Institute), and ogle the massive Hogwarts Castle. This is also where you’ll find the Flight of the Hippogriff coaster and the Forbidden Journey ride.
Since you want to see everything, it’s worth buying tickets in advance. You’ll save a few dollars by doing so, and you can get a calendar view of admission prices, which vary by day. You typically save money by going early in the week.