Being serious Harry Potter fans, or Potterheads if you will, when we visit Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure, we are drawn to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Having been there a number of times, we have taken some time to explore the areas and have found that there are a lot of hidden gems that people sometimes miss. Without doubt, the big thrill rides at both Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure Park (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dueling Dragons, and Flight of the Hippogriff) and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios (Escape from Gringotts) are not to be missed, but there are a few other jewels that any self-respecting Potterhead would not want to overlook:
- Be sure to locate and visit Knockturn Alley in Diagon Alley – Inside Borgin and Burkes, not only will you find some interesting merchandise, but you will also find the vanishing cabinet (go stand beside it and listen closely). While you are there, ask the clerk to see Lucius Malfoy’s wand. It is for sale, but I just enjoy looking at it.
- In Diagon Alley, go to the money exchange office and have a conversation with the goblin in charge.
- Watch for glimpses of the shadows of people you may recognize at The Three Broomsticks restaurant in Hogsmeade. Hint: Look up!
- Try the Butterbeer – you have some options! You can get it hot, cold, or frozen at several venues in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, or you can get Butterbeer flavored soft-serve ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s in Diagon Alley (our favorite, by far!). You should know that Butterbeer is quite rich and sugary, so you might want to get one as a snack rather than as dessert or alongside a meal.
- Ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions as the experience is different in each direction. Also, be sure to pay attention to both what is outside the windows and what is happening in the hallway outside your compartment. I don’t want to give spoilers here, so just take my word for it!
- The queue at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is as good as, if not better than, the ride itself. Brushing up on familiarity with the rooms and outdoor areas at Hogwarts Castle will make this experience even more magical! I suggest you watch the movies again before your trip. One of my favorites is found as you are getting ready to go through the turnstiles to get on the ride – you’ll see!
- Go inside the red telephone booth outside Kings Cross Station and pick up the phone and dial the number on the disc on the phone.
- Have a chat with the conductor and talking head at the Night Bus outside of Diagon Alley.
- While you are in the neighborhood of the night bus, look for Kreacher at Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
- Go to Olivander’s in Hogsmeade to watch a wand choose a wizard. Who knows – you might be the wizard it chooses!
- When in line at Kings Cross station, be sure to watch as the people ahead of you enter Platform 9 ¾.
- Be sure to visit Filch’s Emporium to the left of Hogwarts Castle. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride actually exits into this shop, but you can go in whether you ride or not. Look at the items for sale in the locked cabinets! You’ll find things here that you won’t find anywhere else! You’ll want to look at them, even if you don’t purchase them.
BONUS: By all means, buy a Park to Park ticket! It is the only way you will get to ride the Hogwarts Express.