Universal Studios,what can I say about it...only that it's fantabulous! (That's my new word; it's a mixture of fantastic and fabulous, don't you just love it?!) But I didn't have to tell you that right?! You already knew! You probably already know this place is a visit MUST and NOT a place to visit in just in one day, right?
Harry Potter fan? Well of course you are! You came here, right? Of course you did and you'll be glad that you did. Why you ask...? I too am a big Harry Potter fan! I know, I know...that's so surprising! Just too fantabulous, right?! ;0) And being that I'm a fan, of course I would want to visit the Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter just like you!
OK, but seriously... I have visited Universal Studios Florida and several times. We bought the annual pass and if you're a Floridian, its worth the cost. It's not much more than a three day pass. I visit Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley each time I go and I definitely ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth a couple of times too. (First Tip: You need to have a pass to both parks to ride the train)
The tips don't stop there, I have more tips for ya and you'll want those tips because everyone likes tips, especially if it enhances that fantabulous Harry Potter experience. (ok, I will stop using that word)
I have these tips because before our inaugural visit, I did my own research looking for tips just like you and Pintrest offered a plethora of them! I went to each and every blogs, got the advice and made my itinerary.
I now share all those tips I gathered with you and you get them all at one stop! Hip Hip Hooray!
First thing's first, if you are staying at any of the Universal hotels, you get to get into the park an hour before anyone else does. If you are an annual pass holder (recently in effect summer 2016) you too get to get into the park an hour early. As an annual pass holder you pay for parking the first visit, but after that you park for free. If you want preferred parking, you only pay the $10 dollars to upgrade (covers the day, you pay this each visit). I recommend the preferred, it parks you closer to the entrance. You don't get the way top in the sun, so you're in the shade, close to the escalators and you're feet will thank you later.
Feet: Oh my goodness...thank you!
You: Why you're certainly welcome.
Now here's where you want to go first:
Olivander's Wand shop.
They have one at Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) and Diagon Alley (Universal Studios), but you'll want to go to Hogsmeade first, and here's why- the sun. If you are visiting during the summer time, it gets pretty hot in Florida, humid too. There's not tons of shade in Hogsmeade, so you'll want to get all of the sights in that section done first and then go to Diagon Alley (tons of shade).
Summer, early fall, late spring are the busiest of times for Universal, here's their crowd calendar to figure out the best time for you to visit.
Tip 2: If you...er... I mean you're child wears a robe, the odds are ever in their favor on getting selected by Olivander for the wand selection ceremony.
Tip 3: The robe. If you want the park robe, be prepared to pay $100 dollars for it. It's a nice robe, don't get me wrong, but there is an alternative to save you money- buy it on Amazon. It is a downgrade, but I ordered a few and and I am happy with the quality. There isn't much of a difference between the two (I compared) besides length and fabric. My Amazon robes survived the wash and there is even a wand pocket inside the robe just like Universal's.
Tip 4: Get yourself an interactive wand. This is the wand that you can use at the windows and have your own fun yelling out spells to make things move. We bought one, the "family" wand, and each took turns. You use it at Diagon Alley too. The interactive wand was about $45 and the basic ones were $35. There is a map that goes with it to find the window locations. Look for the gold star on the ground, that's what you stand on.
After Olivanders, check out the shops. During busy times at the park, the stores will be packed with other muggles and wizards doing their shopping, so be prepared for difficult shopping. Try the Butter Beer, you can't visit and not try it. Its good both cold and regular, but I tend to like it cold better. You can purchase at the Three Broomsticks or at a cart (you'll see them along the walk).
Tip 5: There is a collectible butter beer mug, but there is no discount on butter beer refills when using the mug. One blog had tipped that, it's no longer in effect. I think the mug was $14.99 (comes filled with butter beer) and butter beer is $6.99.
Oh my goodness!!! They have it all! Bernie Botts ever flavor beans, chocolate cauldrons, frogs and wands, even Professor Dumbledores favorite: Lemon Sherbets! Have to try the cauldron cakes and the butter beer fudge. MUST TRY! They are so good... At the shop you can fill a jar or a bag full of the beans or other candies and price is based on the lb. I believe it was $3.29 a pound.
Inside Deverish and Banges, you'll find the monster book, the Firebolt, robes and ties, all your wizard wardrobe needs.
Don't forget to visit the Owl Post, there you can get some quills and stationary. If you want, you can buy a post card and they even have Harry Potter stamps( they cost more than the average stamp).
If you are wanting to try it all, then visit the Three Broomsticks. The food is delicious! The City Walk offeres wonderful meals as well, so don't be leary to try there. I highly recommend Cow Fish. Burgers are so big and juicy...and they serve sushi! We love it so much, we go often. Prices are very reasonable, you get your bang for the buck for sure.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
This ride is great for the whole family, but you must be at least 48" to ride. It's not jerky or fast and mostly a motion simulator ride. It's so fun! We ride it every time. Don't forget to pose for the camera, its right after the spiders, before the whomping willow.
Tip 6: if you are a annual pass holder, I recommend getting the photo package. Right now it's for $99 and this gives you unlimited photos at every photo op place inside the park all year. You get two free printable photos with the offer. I would definitely utilize one for this ride.
Flight of the Hippogriff
This is a roller coaster, but a more tame one. This is great for those who aren't heavily into roller coasters.
The Dragon Challenge
This is a good sized coaster, my kids say a long one and not so scary, but if you get queasy easily, you may want to pass. They loved this ride.
When you're finished, head over to Kings Cross Station and ride the Hogwarts Express on over to Diagon Alley. You can take a photo with the Conductor in front of the model train just before you enter the station. Inside you'll get a fun show looking out the window. Ride it both ways, the show is different each way.
Ohh, one more thing...
If you need to stop to use the restroom, you'll want to listen out for Moaning Myrtle. Yes, she's still complaining...
As I said above there is an Olivanders shop here too that also does the wand selection ceremony. I have to say its fun and it sure tapped into my inner child (Olivander picked me!) Yep, I bought a wand that day.
The best part of Diagon Alley is the Dragon over Gringotts Bank for sure! I believe every 15 minutes the dragon spews fire, so have your camera ready!
In here you can purchase uniforms, robes and other clothing as well. Must stop inside for the mirror, its honest, so be thick skinned (wink).
Quality Quiddich Supplies
Every Quiddich player or fan has to stop here. This is where you can purchase quiddich uniforms, a bludger and even a snitch!
Weasly's Wizzard Wheezes (betcha can't say that three times in a row!)
They have all kinds of goofy stuff! if you remember the Weasly twins and what their shop carried, you'll find it here too. There are even Pygmy Puffs in which you must adopt one. There is even a naming ceremony. You name yours let the shop keeper know and they will ring the bell and announce your adoption and name of your pygmy puff. The kids love this. Look up and you will see Professor Umbridge balancing the scales of justice on a tight rope.
Speaking of looking up...
Tip 7: Look up and around yourself as you visit both the Harry Potter worlds. Especially in the shops. A lot of effort and detail went into these places and you will amaze yourself on what wonderful things you will find. Look at all the decorations and advertisements and look inside all the shop windows.
This place too is worth a stroll in. This has your wizarding equipment. Telescopes, hourglasses and magnifying glasses. Definitely look around at the decor, very nice.
Florean Fortesques Ice cream shop
Must stop in for some ice cream. They have some interesting flavors. Butter beer flavor was good, but intensely sweet.
This is another place you can buy butter beer and British meal favs. The interior is nice in both eateries. Lots of detail. We tried the toffee pudding inside here; it was divine!
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
This ride you can ride at 42" and above. There is a drop on this ride that teases at the belly, but not too bad. This is also a motion simulator ride. We love this ride as well.
Tip 8: If you have a family with young children, definitely utilize the child swap. This helps with having to stow away your goods in lockers.
Outside of Diagon Alley go visit the Knight bus. Chat with the shrunken head and the driver. Take a photo too! Call the ministry of magic from the phone booth and don't forget to look into Sirus Black's house; upper right window you will see creature his house elf. Use the bathroom inside Diagon alley too, it's just like the one that leads to the Ministry of Magic!
Knockturn Alley, the dark alley. It is dark, nice and cool if your visiting during the hot season (which is almost all year round in Florida, right?!). Here you get to visit Borgin & Burkes. Look all around this shop for cool decor and pieces. Inside this alley there is an interactive window as well. Again the interactive wand comes with a map that shows you each place to go and most places you'll have a wizard to assist you if you are having troubles with your wand waving.
Tip 9: Be careful with your interactive wand, the tip can get broken if dropped or hit, but don't worry, take it to either wand shop and they can repair it right there on the spot for ya.
Both Hogsmead and Diagon Alley have shows. There is the Frog Choir and Triwizard Spirit Rally in Hogsmeade and Tales of Beetle the Bard in Diagon Alley. The puppets are fantastic! Well crafted!
Now for some other tips for your Universal experience:
Buy a popcorn collector container. Its $5.99(comes full of popcorn) and refills I believe are $1.29. Buy the regular popcorn with the container, its $1 less than buying with the caramel popcorn ($6.99). You can refill with the caramel popcorn for the same price as the regular popcorn later.
Food- If you're not wanting to spend alot of money on meals, you can do this: Eat a big breakfast outside of the park. Next, you are allowed to carry in small packs into the park. My family packed PB&J sandwiches, granola bars, protein bars and beef jerky. We carried in our own water bottles (hydrate, especially during summer time, don't go so much for soda) and clipped on our bags with those mountain climbing clips you can buy at Walmart. You can get free ice from the coca cola machines, but have to refill water at the water fountains. You can find them near bathrooms. We fueled on this until 4 pm and then ate a large dinner. This is where you can try out the City walk places or Harry Potter food. Burger King and Panda Express prices are increased at the City walk. It's worth dining in. Bubba Gumps was pretty good. As I said above, my family really loves Cowfish. Oh, did I mention they have kid chop sticks?!
The refill soda collector cups, the refills are only good for one day, so the next day you will have to purchase just so you know. I think it was $9.99 for a cup and 1day of refills. We never purchased, did the water/gatorade thing. (BTW, Gatorade has packets you can add to water, need those electrolytes!)
Wanna ride the rides more than once/ shorter lines:
Universal has an app that you can download onto your phone. Tells you the wait times of each ride and updates every 15 minutes. Click here to get the app. This makes for great strategy on getting the most out of your visit. If you loved the Harry Potter rides, wait till after 6pm and your chances of shorter lines increases. (kids are tired and ready to go home about this time)
Single rider line:
If you don't mind riding alone or split up, you can go through the single rider line. You're pretty much together until the ride. The Express pass helps with lines (much shorter), but the price for this pass changes day to day, depending on the season and how busy. If you are going on a down time, you may get the express pass for less than $100. I believe this is on top of your ticket price.
I think that's about it! Thanks for dropping in and have a magical time!!