Sunday is both Harry Potter’s Birthday and the release of Harry Potter & the Cursed Child. In his honor, visiting Harry Potter is the topic of today’s Travel Thursday post (as it was the subject of Monday’s Summer Reading Recommendations).
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade was the first theme park to feature Harry Potter opening in 2010. This section of the Islands of Adventure Theme Park includes shopping in Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Castle. There are three rides in Hogsmeade. Hogwarts Castle houses the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, the Dragon Challenge is a dueling high-speed roller coaster, and Flight of the Hippogriff is a family coaster. You can also take the Hogwarts Express Train to Diagon Alley.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley
Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley opened in the summer of 2014 inside Universal Studios. Diagon Alley features the Escape from Gringotts ride inside of Gringotts bank and extensive shopping in both Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. The Hogwarts Express Train connects Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade.
Our Experiences & Recommendations
We visited Universal Orlando for Spring Break 2013 to see Hogsmeade and returned in 2015 so we could visit the new Diagon Alley. It is truly incredible how thoroughly they have recreated the world of Harry Potter in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. With Hogsmeade opening first, they have definitely made a few improvements for Diagon Alley. The Hogsmeade street is definitely narrow, and the shops are small. Diagon Alley has wider streets and larger shops so that it is better able to handle the crowds.
The lines can be quite long for both the Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringotts. If you are staying on-site, I recommend taking advantage of early opening. We also found short lines late at night. On our recent trip, we also used the Single Rider Line to ride an extra time. I do suggest riding at least once not using the Single Rider Line to take in the details of Hogwarts and Gringotts which the single rider lines bypass.
In addition to the two flagship rides, I definitely recommend riding Hogwarts Express between the two parks. The ride is slightly different in each direction, but if you can only ride it in one direction, I definitely recommend riding from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade so that you can enter through Platform 9 3/4.
When planning your trip budget, I suggest adding an interactive wand to your entertainment budget. While it is a souvenir, there are interactive stops throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade providing additional entertainment.
Also, plan to make a stop for Butterbeer either from a cart or in one of the restaurants. Personally, I prefer the pumpkin juice, but my husband is a big Butterbeer fan. We also really enjoyed the croissants offered from the carts.
We waited to make our first trip until our daughter was tall enough to ride the Forbidden Journey (48″ minimum). If you have children who don’t make the height cut or choose not to ride, both rides offer a rider switch room at the front of the line.
Universal Hollywood opened their own Wizarding World of Harry Potter this spring. The park has Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey recreated in Hogwarts Castle and offers the Flight of the Hippogriff family coaster. In addition to the rides, there is plenty of shopping and food options.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
If you’re headed to England, I definitely recommend the Warner Brothers Studio Tour where they have many of the sets, props, and costumes on display since 2012. The Studio Tour is located about 20 miles northwest of London. Some of our friends have been and their pictures were very cool.
Other Places to See Harry Potter
There is a traveling Harry Potter Exhibition that started in Chicago in 2009. It is currently in Brussels, but does not have a subsequent destination listed yet.
We also enjoyed seeing Harry, Ron, & Hermione at the Louis Tussaud’s Wax Works in Niagara Falls. Honestly, it was one of the museum’s highlights for my daughter since she ws too young to recognize most of the other figures. I would look for them at other wax museums as well.
Also, don’t miss Harry Potter right here in Ann Arbor in November when the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra performs two concerts celebrating the Music of Harry Potter. The first concert on Saturday night will feature a pre-show Muggle Photo Booth and Cocktails (for the adults). The Sunday show is a Family Concert and will feature live Owls from the Leslie Science Center and activities from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.