Typically I blog about our family’s adventures after the fact, but this time I thought I’d get out in front of one of our trips and share a bit about my planning process. As I’ve blogged before, researching and mapping out a trip is absolutely one of my favorite things to do! When that trip involves immersion in the magical world dreamed up by one of my all-time favorite authors, even better still.
Our family is about to take a fall 2018 getaway to visit my in-laws in Florida – and one full day of the trip is dedicated to our first-ever visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.
I’m excited for a number of reasons. First, I adore the Harry Potter book series and movies. Second, I love theme parks – and our family doesn’t typically visit many theme parks. Although I’ve long been a Disney fan, my darling family does not share my love of the house of mouse. We went to Disney a few times when Z was very young, but at age four she eloquently let me know she’d much rather go to the beach than to Disney because she hates crowds and long lines. We haven’t been to Disney since!
But now, she’s a little older and pretty into Harry Potter – she’s being Hermione for Halloween this year, plus we had some incredible Harry Potter experiences in England this past summer, as you can see in these photos. So I think it’s time to brave another theme park and hopefully find something new we can bond over. I’m hoping that she falls madly in love with Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade the way I already know that I will!
Still, a visit to Harry Potter world is not cheap, so in order to get the most bang for our buck, some serious pre-planning and research is required. For example, which of the myriad forms of butterbeer will you indulge in?!
My research thus far
I’ve been doing some googling, reading and planning for this trip to make our one day at the parks – yes, there are not one but TWO Harry Potter themed parks at Universal Orlando, and you have to see them both – as fantastic as it can possibly be. I’ve found and compiled some great resources which will hopefully be useful for anyone else planning a day at the Wizarding World. Here are the articles I’ve gotten the most information from – and which have gotten me the most excited about our upcoming adventure:
- Orlando Informer’s comprehensive guides to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were a tremendous resource that I’ve come back to again and again. I especially loved their articles How to Ensure Your Trip to Harry Potter World is a Success and Interactive Wands and Spell-Casting in the Wizarding World, complete with a downloadable spell-casting guide they warn is basically one big spoiler for the park (I’ve downloaded it and may use it a resource in the park, but I won’t be sharing it with my daughters in advance so they can experience some fun surprises!).
- Huffington Post’s fun 21 things to know before going to Harry Potter World was another great source of reference material, ideas and links. It’s where I first learned about Fishy Green Ale, which is definitely on my must-try list now!
- Speaking of Disney, the Disney Tourist blog also provides some good insider’s guides to Universal Studios Orlando. This is where I learned that you can purchase your tickets from ParkSavers and save a few bucks (I could have saved $17 had I decided to purchase our three tickets this way, but I opted to buy directly from Universal Studios instead).
- For the absolute latest news about Harry Potter world, go to the source: the Universal Orlando blog. Here’s the link to all of their blog posts tagged Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Some great stuff here, including food guides and more!
Our general 2018 park strategy
After compiling my resources, reading through the articles and clicking through all the relevant links, I’ve devised a basic plan for our day which ensures we won’t miss out on any of the high points or hot spots – and also allows flexibility if we decide to spend more time in a particular area than we had initially planned. I’ve also already purchased our tickets, since nearly every resources I found online recommended doing so in advance to cut down on waiting in lines. Following are the attractions we want to hit in each of the two parks, treats I know we’ll want to keep our eyes open for and possibly try, and even a list of possible souvenirs that are recommended by other bloggers.
Universal Studios Florida/Diagon Alley:
- Ollivander’s for wands and then interactive spell casting
- Escape from Gringotts (coaster/3D sim)
- The shops, shows, and dining of Diagon Alley
- The Leaky Cauldron
- London Waterfront – Knight bus inside & out, taxi huts, Kreacher in window
- Carkitt Market, Gringotts bank
- Horizont Alley, Knockturn Alley
- King’s Cross Station & Hogwarts Express (different both ways)!
Islands of Adventure/Hogsmeade:
- Forbidden Journey (ride/flight sim)
- Flight of the Hippogriff (kiddie coaster, great views)
- The shops, shows, and dining of Hogsmeade
- The Three Broomsticks
- Frog Choir and Triwizard spirit rally
- Honeydukes for sweets!
Treats to try:
- Butterbeer: frozen, cold, hot, ice cream, fudge or potted!
- Fishy Green Ale
- Gilly Water with Elixirs
- Sticky Toffee Pudding (Leaky Cauldron)
- Gringotts bank notes ($10)
- Fizzing Whizzbees or Chocolate Frogs (Honeydukes)
- Adopt a Pygmy Puff ($19) from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes
- Postcard and Hogsmeade postmark ($1) from the Owl Post
This is about as far as I’ll take things between now and when we leave for our trip, although the girls and I may daydream a little by watching YouTube videos of the Harry Potter parks in order to pique our interest even more and amp up our excitement. Plus, there are a few things I’ll continue to check on. For example, Universal Studios Orlando only posts show times a few weeks in advance, so I don’t know yet which nighttime events will be going on while we’re there. I’ll keep checking the show times link to see if we’ll get lucky and see the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts show – I’m certainly hoping so.
What have I missed? Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below or over on Facebook!