Here is the first time I talk about visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios But Universal Studios is actually two different theme parks in a brilliant and very obvious way to make money. And so then they went and built a second Harry Potter (this one is Diagon Alley while the original is now known as Hogsmeade) area so both parks would have some Harry Potter space and if you want the full experience, by god are you going to have to pay for it.
Unless you are me, and have a hook-up to get in for free at least this one time. Otherwise I don’t know when I ever would have visited. Universal Studios can be more expensive than Disney, but if you are over the age of 12 then the price difference is worth it because they got the good stuff over here and as much as I love Space Mountain, that Hogwarts ride still beats it in my book. But I already talked about how much I love what is now called the Hogsmeade side, so I’ll spend this post talking about Diagon Alley.
I did absolutely zero research on this before going. I didn’t know anything about it except that it existed and that there was a working train. I’m going to tell you, I am so glad I didn’t know shit. Because I walked in there and I wish I had a picture of my face because I’m positive I looked like Harry Potter walking into Diagon Alley with Hagrid in Book 1. So here’s my recommendation. Don’t read the rest of this post and when you visit go to the Universal Studios side first, the Diagon Alley side. Then take the train from there (the train entrance is next to the entrance to Diagon Alley) to Islands of Adventure and ride the Hogwarts ride. If you do nothing else do those things.
Ok, so you read on. Here’s the full blog.
The entrance to Diagon Alley is in front of the Knight Bus and looks suspiciously like a public restroom. There was someone out there directing traffic inside, but I hear that sometimes the staff pretends to be muggles and not know what you’re talking about.
It contains all the stores you’d expect, some real some fake. You can walk into the Quidditch store and then quickly walk out when you see the prices of merch which sucks cause I wanted the Slytherin Quidditch captain shirt. Or the Bulgarian jersey.
Honeydukes is in both parks and their selection has vastly improved since the Hogsmeade side first opened. I ended up buying Fizzing Whizbies which are chocolate flies with pop rocks in them. Super delicious. I also bought a chocolate covered pretzel shaped and decorated like a wand. This was just the tip of the iceberg, they had a lot of packaged and bakery selections.
Also, I tried butterbeer again. It tastes like butterscoth and I still find it gross.
The Gringotts ride was okay, but it doesn’t beat the Hogwarts ride. Bonus for the fire breathing dragon. The train is really cool. If your friends hang back a bit in line they can record you walking through Platform 9 3/4. They have a trick that does it. The train ride is unique depending on which way you are going so it’s worth taking the train ride twice so you see both “views”. Special Note to the makers of the train ride. Thanks for the depiction of a certain deceased character. Way to break my freaking heart again. Thanks so much.
There’s a new wand feature now. You can go to Ollivanders and buy a wand (with or without waiting in line for the full experience). The wands are remote controls and you can switch and flick all over designated Harry Potter markers to make things happen like water spraying and animatronics start-up. Pretty cool for kids. I’m holding off on buying any character wands for now because I have a special thing I want to do about that one. But they have wands based on your birthday you can also get. I hate mine. They say you can pick another one if you don’t get one you like, but I don’t think they understand that a true Potter fan wants the wand to pick them. Special Note to the makers of the wand store. I would really like to be able to buy my actual wand recommendation from Pottermore. Just tell me there is a dragon heartsring in it. Let me pretend.
I thought my friends were going to leave me in Knockturn Alley. It was so amazing I wanted to just spend all my time there. Funny enough I realized something while I was down there. Most of the merch in that area is Death Eater friendly. And as much as I boast being Slytherin, I am not actually evil (despite all evidence). I don’t actually want to wear Death Eater stuff, it’s not me. I don’t think Voldermort rules. I guess I truly am Draco Malfoy. Special Note to Harry Potter land merch designers: Please make candles in the shape of spinal cords like in the third movie. I have wanted those since the moment I saw them.
That’s about it. So next here’s some advice for those who want to visit both parks.
- Start at Universal Studios, not Islands of Adventure (Diagon Alley, not Hogsmeade).
- Show up when the park opens. At 9am the ride wait times are about 5-10 minutes. If you research before hand you can figure out which rides have longer wait times. If there’s a ride you want to go to that has a normal wait time of more than 30 minutes, go there first. Don’t stop to look around, just run there.
- End with Gringotts unless the wait time is already more than 20 minutes. If it is more than 20 minutes, forget it for now.
- Take the train to Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) and then do the Hogwarts ride and the Dragon Challenge if the wait time is less than 30 minutes.
- Go through the more popular rides at Islands of Adventure since it is early and the wait times are less.
- Finish by returning to the Harry Potter area and enjoying the little things or doing the lines for the rides.
Once you’ve done all that, you can now relax and enjoy yourself. You can ride less popular rides, have some butterbeer, check out the stores, and just all the cool little nuances of each area. Yes, the wait times are going to start going up, but when you walk out of the park and see a ride you waited 5 minutes for is now 45 minutes, you’ll be really glad you followed my advice here.
Good luck everyone.
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