In 2010, Universal Orlando Resort® revealed The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ in Orlando to record lines. The Wizarding World is contained completely within Universal’s Islands of Adventure®, so your ticket gets you access to all the attractions in Islands of Adventure in addition to the Wizarding World. Here are my top six highlights at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and six tips to enjoy your visit to Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme park in Orlando, Florida.
Top 6 Highlights of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™:
6. Ollivanders™ Wand Shop
Ollivanders™ Wand Shop is a fun little excursion if the line is short or if your kids love the movie. A crowd of about twenty people pack into the wand shop. Olivander picks a young volunteer (“wizard”) and tries to find a wand that fits with the person. Once the wand picks the wizard, the show is over, and the lucky volunteer has the option to purchase the wand in the gift shop (of course). Then, of course, the whole group exits through the gift shop.
5. Ride the Dragon Challenge
This is the rebranding of a coaster that has been at Islands of Adventure for years. While you wait in line, the Harry Potter theme is great. Overall, it’s a nice coaster, but there’s no real theming once you get on board. There are two dueling coasters, so you can ride it twice and get two different rides. Online reviewers differ in which is best, so pick one or ride both.
4. Buy the Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans
Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans look like innocent Jelly Bellys, but they’re not. Here’s a dare for you and a friend. Pick two matching beans from the bag and pop them in your mouths at the same time. Then watch the other’s reaction. It may be a harmless flavor, like cinnamon or watermelon. Or it may be a gross one like dirt, earthworm, earwax, or booger. No spitting allowed!
3. Take your picture
Take your picture with the Hogwarts™ Express, Hogwarts™ Castle, and along the snowy-roofed streets. Replacing the shorts-wearing tourists with actors from a Renaissance Faire would be the only way to make this more authentic.
2. Drink a Butterbeer™
This non-alcoholic drink is like a butterscotch cream soda . . . a very delicious butterscotch cream soda. You can choose on-the-rocks or frozen, but our group all preferred frozen. After you finish the first one, you will want another. Wait until later in the day so you don’t overdose on the sweetness. When you get home, you will want to make one for yourself, but beware of the online recipes. Some of them are not potable!
1. Experience Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey™
Without a doubt, the Forbidden Journey is the main reason to visit, and you can certainly expect long lines for this attraction, so arrive early. Seated on an “enchanted bench” you fly through the air to some of the memorable scenes in the movies. You face the dementors, play Quiddich, and fly through Hogwarts’ Great Hall, along with other adventures. It doesn’t sound like much, but it will blow you away with the effects. Ride it again if the line is short. Even waiting in line is a treat for this ride.
Top 6 tips for enjoying Islands of Adventure
6. You will need to buy Cokes in other areas of the park. There are no soft drinks in the Wizarding World. If you ask for one, the server will just get cranky. Trust me on this one.
5. Rush to the Wizarding World when the park opens. Then come back late in the afternoon. It seemed like the lines died down around dinner, but I can’t offer any guarantees.
4. Buy a two-day pass for Universal Orlando Resort® that will let you into one park per day. These can be purchased online or for a discounted price at AAA offices for AAA members. On the first day, visit Islands of Adventure®. If you get your fill on day one, then spend the second day at Universal Studios®. If you want more, then you’ve got the second day to enjoy Islands of Adventure again.
You may be able to buy discounted tickets at your hotel (call before you arrive in Orlando to find out). The key is to have the tickets in hand when you arrive so you don’t have to stand in the long line to buy tickets at the park.
If you stay at one of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels, you can often get into the park an hour early. The hotels are grand, but for the prices they charge, you will want to make use of every minute.
3. Eat lunch at Mythos. This has been voted the world’s best theme park restaurant for good reason, and it is the best dining experience I have had in a park. Despite the bad rap, it gets in online reviews, it sure beats theme park fast food, and the environment is one-of-a-kind. Located across Islands of Adventure from the Wizarding World, it feels like an underground Atlantis, carved out of the rock. For a sit-down meal, the price was very reasonable. There may be a wait, so get your name on the list early.
2. Take advantage of the big crowds at the Wizarding World to enjoy short lines at the other attractions at Islands of Adventure. During our visit, the crowds were packed at the Wizarding World, leaving the rest of the park comparatively crowd-free.
1. Visit off-season if possible. It goes without saying, but trust me on this one. On a Sunday in February, the longest line all day was 45-minutes long, but we never stood in line for more than 30 minutes. We rode the Forbidden Journey twice, as well as all the other rides at Islands of Adventure. Our friends who visited last summer scarcely had time to just enjoy the Wizarding World attractions.
Author’s Note: It is likely that every capitalized word (except for Sunday and February) is ™ or ® by Universal Studios. No freebies were accepted.