Harry Potter World
I never got my letter on my 11th birthday,
But that didn't stop me from entering the wizarding world ;) IT WAS SO COOL & WELL DONE!!! First off, I'm a super fan. I've read all the books and watched the movies multiple times. They picked up on little details both from the books and how thing appeared in the movies. I almost don't want to spoil some of it, more than the pictures already have, so you can have the same "in awe" experience, too.
What you have to know...
Everyone who cares about Harry Potter (all normal & cool people) probably want to go check out Harry Potter World. Millions of people visit every year and the makers know this so they kinda take advantage of you. Universal Studios Orlando consists of two theme parks (Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure), Volcano Bay water park, Universal CityWalk Orlando, and five resort hotels. Originally, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade (the Hogwarts train station) were created in Islands of Adventure. A few years later, they made King's Cross Station and Diagon Alley in the Universal Studios Orlando park with the Hogwarts Express connecting the two. Consequently, instead of buying a one-park ticket at Islands of Adventure for ~$100 1-Park-1 Day, you have to buy a 2-Park-1 Day pass for $179 per person. Annoying! But you have to do both to get the full experience. Well played, Universal.
What you have to do...
Bottom line: you have to do it all to really appreciate it (and your money's worth!) First, enter on the Universal Studios side and go straight to Gringotts for the 'Escape from Gringotts' ride. Then, go in all the little shops around Diagon Alley, get a butter beer, and enjoy all the details in the town. When you feel satisfied, head to King's Cross Station and Platform 9 3/4 to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade station. You will then be in the Islands of Adventure park. Right when you get out of the station, go on the 'Dragon Challenge' ride. Then, work your way through the snow-capped village until you get to Hogwarts. Then, go on the 'Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey' ride. For lunch, you can eat at the Leaky Cauldron to get the full effect. However, since I knew it would be packed and had access to the whole park, I left Harry Potter World and explored some of the other attractions. We ate lunch at a random restaurant with no line and amazing food. Of course, all this is just what I did and you can do it in any order ;)
1) Buy your tickets online in advance. If you are only doing a day trip, you want to maximize your time and not worry about finding the ticket kiosk and waiting in line before the day even starts. I would just buy the ticket through the Universal Studios website instead of 3rd party to ensure you get your ticket. I got stressed for about two hours because I bought my ticket the night before and it took ~2 hours to get the confirmation email and online tickets. When the email did finally arrive, all I had to do is print the tickets and then just scan that when entering the park after the security check.
2) Get there early in the morning. The lines are much shorter and you can get a low-level parking place. Parking is $20 for the day.
3) Go during the week. The weekends get absolutely crazy! If possible, avoid all the crowds. I read horror stories about people waiting up to 3 hours for the rides and that would be horrible. My friend and I never waited more than 20 minutes and the wait is never bad because they add details to the waiting areas. Plus, they're air conditioned! :)
4) Use the single-rider lane. It is fun to share experiences with people, but the rides are the exact same every time. In my opinion, you don't need to always be next to the person you know the whole time because you will focus on the ride anyway! Then, you can talk about it when you meet up right after and do it one or two more times before that other group in line has even gone once! ;)
5) Just a note: before you go on every ride, you have to check your backpack/phone/purse into lockers (for free). It uses your fingerprint and is a pretty efficient system. Remember your locker number and don't bring a huge backpack so you can stuff it in the little locker!
If I were back in Orlando, I probably wouldn't go back to Harry Potter World. I SO appreciated the creativity, detail, and even the rides. However, Disney World Parks have much more to offer and you can repeat everything easily. Harry Potter World was quite pricey for a day trip and I feel like I did almost everything. It's truly a once in a lifetime experience! :) But for me, probably actually only once unless someone reallyyyy wants to go with me again. Thanks for reading and I hope you get to check out the wizarding world sometime soon!
Any questions or comments? Ask away!