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From Butterbeer to magic wands: Everything you need to know about Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter

June 28, 2022
36 min read
Harry Potter World Universal Orlando
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Editor's Note

This guide has been updated with the latest information.

A visit to Universal Orlando to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter had been on my wish list for a while. Suspension of disbelief takes place here every day. Visitors don wizarding robes, grab interactive wands and — at least for a day or two — pretend that they are following in the footsteps of Hermione, Ron and Harry, truly inhabiting the magical world of "Harry Potter."

There are families racing from ride to ride in Hogwarts-style robes and Harry Potter-style glasses. We witnessed the engagement of two fans right in front of Hogwarts Castle. We might even have wondered for a minute or two what it would be like to be able to cast spells and brew potions.

If this sounds like your cup of frozen Butterbeer, here’s what you need to know to make the trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando a success.

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The dragon atop Gringotts breathes fire several times a day. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy.)
The dragon atop Gringotts breathes fire several times a day. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

When to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

There is no bad time to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, just times of the year when it may be more crowded or pretty darn hot. Don’t overly stress over the choice of dates. Just check expected crowd levels at calendars like the ones from Undercover Tourist and and then use some strategies — like skip-the-line passes, VIP tours and early starts — to evade crowds if you need to (more on that later).

Related: Choosing the best Universal Orlando hotel for your trip

No. It doesn't really snow in Orlando but it does in Hogsmeade. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor.)
It doesn’t snow in Orlando, but it does in Hogsmeade. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor for The Points Guy)

How to see more of The Wizarding World in less time

I won’t lie to you. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter gets very crowded.

We visited Universal at what is a slower time of year and the attractions in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley were still jammed. If you want to see as much of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as possible in the shortest amount of time, there are some strategies you probably need to employ.

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First, you can use Universal's Express Pass. This is a skip-the-line pass that works on most attractions at Universal's two theme parks. This includes within The Wizarding World, with the exception of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

When you stay in a Universal Premier hotel, your keycard doubles as your Universal Express pass. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

There are three ways to get an Express Pass. The easiest way is to book one of Universal’s on-site Premier hotels. If you stay at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel or Loews Royal Pacific Resort, you’ll get a free Express Pass Unlimited to use throughout your visit. If you have a Premier-level Universal annual pass, you’re entitled to Express Pass access beginning at 4 p.m.

Otherwise, you can purchase Express Passes:

  • Universal Express: Prices start at $79.99 per person per day for one park and $89.99 for two parks and go up to almost double that amount. This pass lets you skip the regular line one time per participating ride at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks.
  • Universal Express Unlimited: Prices start at $109.99 per person per day for one park and $119.99 for two parks, though prices vary quite a bit from day to day. An Unlimited pass lets you skip the regular lines at participating rides as many times as you want at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Be aware that the list of participating rides and attractions is subject to change, so check with Universal Orlando’s website before you purchase an Express Pass to make sure the rides you’re most interested in are included.

The best strategy to ensure you do as much as possible within the World of Harry Potter, short of a VIP tour, is to rope-drop Hagrid's at the park's opening and then use your Express Pass for all the other attractions.

Universal Orlando VIP tour group. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Speaking of VIP tours, there are two to choose from. You can book a small-group or private VIP experience at Universal. The price, while not cheap, packages together walk-on ride access during the tour, Express Passes and a dinner credit to use after the tour ends.

The small-group VIP tour starts at less than $200 per person while the private tour costs a few thousand dollars for the day. These tours will get you on rides like Hargrids that otherwise don't have short-cut access.

Related: How to get the most out of 1 day at Universal Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley

If you are staying at any of the on-site Universal hotels, you can get into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour earlier than general admission.

Which park opens early varies by day and sometimes both parks open early. The front desk agent should give you this information at check-in or you can check the Universal Orlando website for the most up-to-date information.

No matter which park is opening early, plan to arrive at the front gates at least 15 - 30 minutes before the Early Park Admission opening time. It's the only way to beat the crowds and make the most of your extra time.

You have to arrive before the gates open to be one of the first guests on the rides. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Only certain attractions open during Early Park Admission, but this typically includes all of the Wizarding World attractions. The ones you will most likely want to knock out are Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Islands of Adventure and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida.

For Hagrid's, head to Islands of Adventure, take a right after passing through Port of Entry and head toward Seuss Landing. Universal team members will be on hand to scan your hotel keycard and allow you to go deeper into the park. Continue through Seuss Landing to The Lost Continent and you should see team members directing you toward the start of the line for Hagrid's.

Front of the line for Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

If Escape from Gringotts is first on your list, walk straight through Production Central and turn right when you reach the New York section of the park (in front of the Revenge of the Mummy attraction). Continue on until you see a replica of King's Cross Station on your left.

Be careful not to overshoot and walk past the somewhat hidden entrance to Diagon Alley. When you see an opening in a brick wall, you know you’ve found it.

Walk through the opening in this brick wall to enter Diagon Alley. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor.)
Enter Diagon Alley by walking through the opening in this brick wall. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor for The Points Guy)

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Once you’ve entered Diagon Alley, walk straight to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts indoor steel roller coaster ride. You can’t miss it; it’s the building with the fire-breathing dragon perched on the roof.

Tip: Find any wizard or witch working in Diagon Alley and ask when the dragon will breathe fire next. The schedule is sporadic so asking is your best bet. Also, when you hear a low growl, that’s your signal that this Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon is about to spew some fire.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. Photo by Leonard Hospidor.)
Diagon Alley. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor for The Points Guy)

There are free and paid lockers to the right of the line so you can stash your belongings before the ride.

Children must be 42 inches to ride; be sure your party meets that requirement so you don't get to the head of the line only to be turned away. There is also a "child swap" room where parents can take turns alternating riding or waiting with kiddos not tall enough (or ready) to ride.

There is also a test seat in front of the building where you can confirm whether or not the seating configuration will work for your body style.

Wait times can get long for this ride, but it does have an Express Pass line throughout most of the day. There’s also a lot to look at while in line since you’ll snake through the Gringotts bank lobby and see a multitude of goblins at work. The four chandeliers that hang inside the bank’s lobby are made up of 62,000 individual crystals.

There is a photo opportunity in the line as you pass through Gringotts “security.” You can purchase the photo after the ride if you’d like (this photo has been unavailable since the park reopened after a brief closure due to COVID-19).

This attraction was once The Wizarding World’s flagship attraction, but it’s been eclipsed by Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (both of which can be found in Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure). What’s neat about Escape from Gringotts is the motion-based 3D projections that make you feel as if you’re interacting with characters like Bill Weasley and the goblin Blordak.

Related: TPG’s complete guide to Universal Orlando


After exiting the Gringotts ride, you’re just across from Ollivanders, so get in line to see the show that depicts how a wand chooses its wizard, if this type of show appeals to you.

It’s a very personal process. One lucky guest is picked from the audience and the wizard in residence facilitates the wand choosing. After the show, you’re escorted next door to the wand shop where they’ll box up the wand for you to take home … assuming you want to spend the $50 or so for the wand, which is optional. You can also forgo the wand that was chosen for you and pick out a replica of your favorite wizard's wand.

You can see the "wand picks the wizard" show at Ollivanders in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)
You can see the “wand picks the wizard” show at Ollivanders in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

If you weren’t lucky enough to be chosen for the show, you can pick out and purchase your own wand.

Go for an interactive wand that helps you make magic — literally — at many locations in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Standard, non-interactive wands are also available if you are looking to save a little cash or your kids are too young to know the difference.

There is a map included with your interactive wand purchase. (Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Assuming you’ve purchased an interactive wand, look for brass medallions set into the pavement in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. These are the spots where you can cast spells and make magic. A map that plots each spot where you can cast spells is included with your wand purchase (including a few unmarked "secret wand spots"). Spells are categorized as easy, medium or hard. You also can order an interactive wand in advance of your trip or pick one up in the hotel gift shop at most on-site hotels.

Note that there is an identical Ollivanders wand experience at Hogsmeade, so feel free to skip the experience here if you’d prefer to see the show there later in your visit.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Dine at the Leaky Cauldron

If you didn’t eat breakfast before heading to Diagon Alley, now may be the right time to grab a table at the atmospheric Leaky Cauldron. Breakfast is pricey, but where else can you dine among witches and wizards? Breakfast plates for adults all ring in at $17.99 and include a small beverage (yes, you can have Butterbeer for breakfast).

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)
  • Traditional Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, sausage links, black pudding, English bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms and breakfast potatoes.
  • American Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, potatoes, crisp bacon, sausage link and a croissant.
  • Pancake Breakfast: Three buttermilk pancakes, crisp bacon, sausage link and a croissant.
  • Egg, Leek and Mushroom Pasty: Pastry-wrapped scrambled eggs, mushrooms and leeks served with potatoes and fruit.
  • Apple Oatmeal Flan with Yogurt & Fruit.

The kids breakfast plate — traditional, pancake or American — is $12.99. Pumpkin juice will set you back $4.99.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

If you’re not a breakfast eater, leave this stop for lunchtime instead where you can order things like fish ‘n’ chips ($16.99), a ploughman’s lunch (cheese, chutney, bread, pickles and Scotch egg) for two ($21.99), bangers and mash ($13.99) or a beef, lamb and Guinness stew ($15.99). Kids entrees include things like mac ‘n’ cheese and fish ‘n’ chips for $7.29. Desserts — sticky toffee pudding, Butterbeer potted cream or chocolate potted cream — shouldn’t be missed.

Take in a 'Harry Potter'-themed show

While you’re finishing breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron, take a look at the Universal Orlando app and find out when the shows in Diagon Alley will take place.

During our trip, we saw two shows here, including "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" — complete with puppets — and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. There’s seating around the stage if you arrive early enough, or there’s always plenty of standing room.

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees
A fun holiday-themed show with Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

Gringotts Money Exchange

After the show, walk toward the Gringotts ride and you’ll come upon the Gringotts Money Exchange. Go inside and don’t be fooled. This isn’t just a bank. Sure, there is a human clerk assisting with money exchanges here, but there is also a Gringotts goblin behind a teller’s desk. Talk to him and he will interact with you. It’s a neat experience — especially for curious kids.

The goblin at the Gringotts Money Exchange may frighten young children. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)
The goblin at the Gringotts Money Exchange is interactive; just be cautious as he may frighten very young children. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

Knockturn Alley

Knockturn Alley is dark, seedy and so well hidden that you might miss it. There are two entrances — one next to the Leaky Cauldron and one next to the Fountain of Fair Fortune.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

The enclosed space is dark and a cool break from the heat. There are also five neat spots where you can use your interactive wand to cast spells. There’s also a shop, Borgin and Burkes, that’s oozing plenty of dark magic and a few benches where you can rest a bit before continuing your exploration of Diagon Alley right outside.

Explore Knockturn Alley. It's dark and cool! (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)
Explore Knockturn Alley. It’s dark and cool! (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

Explore the shops of Diagon Alley

Once you’ve tried casting spells in Knockturn Alley, go back out into the bright Orlando sun to finish exploring Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy.)
Diagon Alley. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

Visit all the shops, and be on the lookout for a few "magic moments." Among them is a snake speaking Parseltongue in the window of the Magical Menagerie and a talking mirror in Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. Be forewarned, she isn't always complimentary of your wardrobe choices.

Related: Unlock more magic: 16 Universal Orlando secrets to know before your next trip

Pick up some souvenirs on Diagon Alley. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy.)
Pick up some souvenirs in Diagon Alley. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

And maybe get an ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, or a Butterbeer at The Fountain of Fair Fortune or The Hopping Pot.

The Hopping Pot is a nice spot to grab a drink and rest for a bit. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy.)
The Hopping Pot is a nice spot to grab a drink and rest for a bit. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

One word of caution: Harry Potter souvenirs are pretty expensive. You may want to set a budget with your kids before exploring the shops or explain to them why you won’t be purchasing certain items. Robes — with the emblem of your house stitched on them — will set you back $125. A Gryffindor Quidditch robe replica is $150, while Hermione Granger’s Yule Ball Gown in youth sizes is $99.95. Yowza. No wonder many parents bring robes from home.

Check out the Knight Bus and 12 Grimmauld Place

Once you’ve seen everything on Diagon Alley, leave this part of The Wizarding World through the opening in the brick wall. Directly across you’ll see the Knight Bus. Here you can meet the conductor and the shrunken head that hangs at the front of the bus. Kids and adults love interacting with these two. Sit by the fountain to listen in.

You can speak with the Knight Bus driver and his companion at Universal Studios Florida. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Then, look across the way and you’ll see a replica of a London street. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see 12 Grimmauld Place, the home of Sirius Black (Harry Potter’s godfather). He gifted the property to the Order of the Phoenix, which used it as a headquarters. Look up toward the second floor and you may catch a glimpse of Kreacher, the Black family house-elf, peering at you from the window.

Hogwarts Express – King’s Cross Station

When you’ve thoroughly explored Diagon Alley and the streets of Harry Potter’s London, it’s time to make your way to King’s Cross Station, where you’ll board the Hogwarts Express and ride the train to Hogsmeade. Remember: You can only ride the Hogwarts Express if you have a Park-to-Park ticket. If you’ve got one-day, one-park tickets, there is no way to experience this attraction.

Hogwarts Express. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy.)
Hogwarts Express. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

The wait queue is convincing and it appears as if you are waiting for a train in London. Pay attention to everything as you near the train platform. A neat mirror trick makes it look like you burst through a brick wall to reappear unharmed on Platform 9 3/4. The train whistle builds excitement, and when you see steam escaping from the locomotive, you’ll know you’re almost ready to board.

Eight passengers are loaded onto each car and it truly looks as if you’re departing London on your way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The ride’s spectacle takes place on the train windows. Be prepared to see some Dementors on the four-minute trip to Hogsmeade. The show is slightly different on the return trip, so be sure you ride it both ways.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade

You’ll find Hogsmeade inside the Islands of Adventure theme park. Here, you can visit both the town of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

If you have your heart set on riding this thrill coaster, get in line as soon as you arrive in Hogsmeade. Wait times can get intense and the attraction does not accept Universal Express.

Should you miss riding at park opening, then rather than walking to the back of the park where Hagrid's is located, you can check wait times in the Universal Orlando app. You can even set wait time alerts and receive a push notification on your phone when the wait time drops below your designated limit.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

This is by far the fastest ride in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It reaches speeds up to 50 mph and includes both spikes into the air and fast drops. You need to be at least 48 inches tall to experience it. You’ll either ride Hagrid’s motorcycle or get in the sidecar.

Either spot will make your heart pound, but I think the ride in the sidecar is a bit easier for anyone that might be nervous.

Hogwarts Castle

While we’ll talk about the ride that takes place inside Hogwarts Castle next, I wanted to mention the castle itself first.

You can see Hogwarts from many distant points in Islands of Adventure. It looks magical from afar but even more impressive as you stand beneath its turrets. There is a bridge with wonderful views of the castle as you leave Jurassic Park and enter Hogsmeade. This is where you can grab that quintessential photo of the castle -- don’t miss it.

(Photo courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

We visited during the holiday season and were treated to "The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle." As the sky gets dark, the castle is lit up with projections that include scenes from the books, faux fireworks, lasers and more. It is one of those experiences where your jaw will drop and you’ll feel like magic is happening. If you’re visiting during the holidays, it’s worth it to stick around after dark to see this unique show.

On select nights during other times of the year, Universal shows "The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle," a similar show, but without the holiday music and wintry scenes.

Christmas at Hogwarts Castle
Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was my favorite ride in all of Universal and the queue itself is filled with interesting scenes from the books.

When we visited, we zipped right through the line with our Express Passes and were disappointed that we didn’t see all the neat things leading up to the ride. We decided to ride a second time and went through the normal wait line. We didn’t wait that long (maybe 25 minutes) but we were able to take our time to inspect things like Professor Sprout’s herbology greenhouse and Dumbledore’s office with his talking portrait and the Mirror of Erised.

There are a lot of details to take in as you wait in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)
There are a lot of details to take in as you wait in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

I was a little worried that I might not be able to ride this attraction since I’m heavyset. Universal’s park guide notes that certain body types might not comfortably fit in the seat, which has a safety bar that comes over your head and shoulders to lock into place at your waistline.

For that reason, there is a pair of seats in front of Hogwarts Castle at the entrance for this ride. If you’re not sure the seat will work for you, you can try it out before getting in line. If your waist is larger than 40 inches, you might not be able to ride.

There is another set of test seats about halfway through the queue and I did see two people turned away after an attendant tested them. If there’s any doubt that you may not fit comfortably in the seat, try it out before waiting in line.

On this ride, you “ride a broomstick” in and around Hogwarts Castle. The attraction is a “robocoaster,” where a robotic arm holds your seat above a track and you pivot in a multitude of directions. It makes you feel as if you’re flying through the air and, if you are prone to motion sickness, may make you feel like you need to relieve the contents of your stomach when you disembark.

The ride is dark at times, with encounters with dangers like Aragog the spider in the Forbidden Forest, the Whomping Willow and a gang of Dementors. But you’ll also screech around the Quidditch field. You must be 48 inches or taller to ride Forbidden Journey. There are lockers to the right of the castle entrance to store your belongings. Trust us, you don’t want anything on your head or in your pockets during this ride.

Flight of the Hippogriff

Flight of the Hippogriff, dubbed a “family-friendly coaster,” is across from the lockers at Hogwarts Castle.

The twists, turns and drops reminded me of a slightly tamer Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. My husband is not a fan of roller coasters and didn’t want to ride this one — even if it is just a “junior” coaster — so I went alone. Plenty of little kids were riding and loving it; children have to be just 36 inches tall or taller to ride.

This "junior" roller coaster is a hit with kids and adults. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)
This “junior” roller coaster is a hit with kids and adults. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

This ride is super quick, so I had to ride a few times to take it all in. The track is elevated so you get a nice view of Hogsmeade. The queue is neat, too, as you walk by Hagrid’s Hut and on to an open area where you’ll recognize the Care of Magical Creatures class site.

Related: 7 magical places every 'Harry Potter' fan should visit

Take a break and see a show

After enjoying the rides, it might be a good time to see one of the shows staged in Hogsmeade throughout the day.

When we visited, we saw the Frog Choir (a special version for the Christmas holiday) and the Triwizard Spirit Rally. The stage is small but we never had trouble getting a close-up spot as long as we arrived a few minutes before showtime. Check the paper guide given out at the park entrance or the Universal Orlando app for showtimes.

Triwizard Spirit Rally
You can catch the Triwizard Spirit Rally several times a day in Hogsmeade. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)


If you didn’t see the “wand picks a wizard” show at the Ollivanders location at Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, you can get in line to see it here. (See the Diagon Alley section above for a full description of the experience.) After the show, shop for a wand if you don’t already have one. There are some neat spots in Hogsmeade where you can cast spells with it.

Dine out, enjoy a drink and go shopping

You can’t truly say you’ve seen Hogsmeade until you’ve had a meal at the Three Broomsticks or grabbed a drink at the Hog’s Head bar next door (serving Butterbeer, beer and spirits).

Hog's Head. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor.)
Hog’s Head. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor for The Points Guy)

At Three Broomsticks, many families opt for The Great Feast, which includes a salad plus a combination of rotisserie smoked chicken, spareribs, corn on the cob and roast potatoes. (A platter for four is $69.99; additional servings are $17.99.)

You can also buy British favorites like fish ‘n’ chips, beef pasties, smoked turkey legs and shepherd’s pie, and there are soups and salads on the menu at both lunch and dinner. Kids ages 9 and younger pick from fish ‘n’ chips, chicken fingers, chicken legs and mac ‘n’ cheese — each entree is $7.49.

Nonalcoholic Butterbeer (regular or frozen) is $7.99, while pumpkin juice and pumpkin fizz are $4.99. Two draught beers on tap are Hog’s Head Brew and Dragon Scale (both $9.49).

Three Broomsticks also serves breakfast daily until 10:30 a.m.

When you’re ready to roll out of Three Broomsticks, get ready to do a bit of shopping. Honeydukes is a sweet shop filled with confections like Exploding Bonbons, Cauldron Cakes, Fizzing Whizzbees, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and Chocolate Frogs.

You can mail postcards or letters from the Owl Post, complete with an official Hogsmeade postmark. You can also purchase all kinds of writing implements (think quills and seals) as well as owl-themed souvenirs.

If you didn’t ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, you would have missed Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods since the ride empties into this shop. This is a terrific shop if you’re looking for house crest banners, T-shirts, hats or scarves.

Get your Hogwarts uniforms and robes, Sneakoscopes, Quaffles and Golden Snitches at Dervish and Banges.

Hogwarts Express – Hogsmeade Station

When you’re ready to leave this part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, walk through the arch toward Hogsmeade Station and get in line for the Hogwarts Express.

Hogsmeade (Photo by Leonard Hospidor.)
Hogsmeade. (Photo by Leonard Hospidor for The Points Guy)

The train will take you back to “London” at Universal Studios. The experience is a bit different in each direction, so be sure to hop on — even if you rode the train from London to Hogsmeade earlier in the day.

Hogwarts Express - Hogsmeade Station
If you have a Park-to-Park ticket, you can take the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure to King’s Cross Station in Universal Studios. (Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

Related: Choose the best hotel at Universal Orlando

Buying the right ticket for Harry’s world

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade is part of Islands of Adventure while The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley can be found at Universal Studios, this is important when it comes to choosing your ticket.

Splitting this land into two sections was a brilliant move on Universal’s part since it means you need to purchase the upgraded Park-to-Park admission ticket if you wish to see both parts of Harry’s world on the same day.

That also means holding a Park-to-Park ticket or a Universal annual pass are the only ways you can ride the Hogwarts Express train attraction between the two lands. The Hogwarts Express is more than just a mode of transportation — it's an attraction in and of itself. Leave time to take the train in both directions because the experience is different depending on which way you're headed.

You can use single-day one-park tickets to visit each land separately, but there’s no way to use those tickets to board the Hogwarts Express.

Hogwarts Express (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy.)
Hogwarts Express. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You can buy Universal tickets for one, two, three, four or five days.

Universal’s website sometimes offers special promotions for multiday passes that throw in extras like a skip-the-line Express Pass, discounted admission to the Volcano Bay water park or a free day at Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure.

The least expensive tickets let you explore one park per day. Unless that’s the only option on the table, for Harry Potter you really want the Park-to-Park tickets that allow you to visit both theme parks on the same day. That gives you the ultimate in flexibility and access to the Hogwarts Express.

If you plan to visit the parks for more than just a few days, or you think you may visit Universal Orlando twice or more in 12 months, consider a Universal annual pass. I never dreamed I’d become a Universal annual pass holder, but when I planned our trip, I had my eye on a special promotion that gave you an extra day in the parks when you bought a two-day pass.

I thought that was a good deal — but when I looked at pricing for a Florida resident annual pass, I found out it was only $8 per ticket more than the special promotional pass. For just a few bucks more, I went for the annual pass; now we can go back to Universal and get free admission until the pass expires.

When buying Universal tickets, look at all the combinations and prices to determine which is the best deal for your family.

Related: TPG’s complete guide to Universal Orlando

Where to buy Universal tickets

You can purchase your tickets directly from Universal. Alternatively, you can buy from well-respected third-party vendors like Undercover Tourist. This can be an especially good idea right after a ticket price hike. Often, Undercover Tourist will have some tickets left over at the lower price for a few days or weeks after a ticket price increase.

Additionally, ticket purchases from Undercover Tourist typically code as travel for the purposes of earning or redeeming credit card points. Bookmark that site and comparison shop whenever you are buying tickets for Universal or other theme parks like Walt Disney World.

Related: Best credit cards to use for Universal Studios

How to use points to buy Universal tickets

Savvy parkgoers might want to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points to buy their Universal Orlando theme park admission. But, at least for now, this option may not be available when you search.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. Or, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can redeem for travel through the portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.

Historically, Univeral Orlando tickets have often been available through the Chase travel portal at rates comparable to Universal’s direct pricing. However, as of writing this article, we weren't able to find any Universal Orlando tickets bookable through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. So, although it's worth checking, don't get your hopes up.

If you’ve got a stash of Citi ThankYou points, you can use them through the Citi ThankYou travel portal to redeem for activities, including tickets to select attractions and theme parks. However, as of writing, we didn't find any options to redeem for Universal Orlando tickets. This may change though, so check out the Citi ThankYou portal to review your options.

Related: How to use points to save money at Universal Orlando

What credit card to use at Universal

There is no one answer to the question: Which credit card should I use at Universal Orlando? The answer depends on how and where you purchase your theme park tickets and how that credit card codes purchases.

Data points from many travelers tell us that tickets bought at an on-site Universal hotel and charged to the hotel room have coded as “travel,” but tickets and VIP tours purchased directly from Universal have coded as “entertainment.”

If you know your charge will code as travel, you’ll do well to use any of the best credit cards for general travel purchases, including:

However, if you think your purchase will code as entertainment, you'll want to use one of the best cards for entertainment spending.

Related: Best credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations

Bottom line

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is an incredible place to visit for muggles and wizards alike.

The rides and attractions are fantastic. It’s fun to watch the daily performances that all relate to an aspect of Harry's magical world, and you must raise a pint of Butterbeer (or one of the beers specially brewed for The Wizarding World) in one of the themed establishments across the land — from the Leaky Cauldron to the Three Broomsticks to the Hog’s Head and other neat spots.

To get the most out of your visit, splurge on Park-to-Park tickets and pair that with an Express Pass (might as well throw in valet parking while you are at it). Only then will you be able to get in early and (with a little magic) skip the worst of the lines. The added expense is truly worth it. If you’re a "Harry Potter" fan, this is a theme park you’ll want to return to again and again.

Featured image by (Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.