Review: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure
By Dave Shute
In late June I checked out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This page is one of several resulting reviews, which include
- The Flight of the Hippogriff
- Dragon Challenge
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, overall
REVIEW: THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
- A delightful but small built environment meant to bring the village of Hogsmeade (and a few imports from Diagon Alley) to life
- A replica of Hogwarts Castle, and
- Three rides.
The three rides are the Flight of the Hippogriff, a minor roller coaster in the open air, Dragon Challenge, a world-class, very intense roller coaster, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the only new ride (the other two are slightly re-decorated versions of old rides.)
The Flight of the Hippogriff will be uninteresting to most.
Dragon Challenge will appeal to fans of top-level roller coasters, but be far too intense for anyone else.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has a stunning queue, and a pretty amazing ride, but will be off-limits to those with even moderate motion sickness.
The village of Hogsmeade is well-done and charming, but quite small.
The upshot: the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is absolutely worth a visit if you are going to Universal Orlando anyway. If you are, the best way to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is to stay at a Universal resort hotel. This will allow you to take advantage of its resort hotel early entry program, saving you hours of waiting in line.
(Note that Universal Express Plus passes will not get you in to the Wizarding World any earlier, and once you are in, can’t be used to go to the head of the line at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the signature ride.)
If, however, you are a first time visitor to Walt Disney World, and following one of this site’s Disney World itineraries, I can’t recommend taking time out of already over-packed days to see the Wizarding World, unless your children simply will give you no peace otherwise. (If you must fit Harry Potter into a Disney World visit, see the links at the bottom of the page for hints on fitting Harry Potter in.)
Instead, save the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for another trip.
MORE ON THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
I visited on a Friday and a Saturday in late June.
Each time, I was at the Universal parking garage by 7.15a–almost two hours before the park opened–and had made my way into Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure and to the Harry Potter line by 7.40a.
Because of the way Islands of Adventure is laid out, it seems as though there are two ways to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter–clockwise or counterclockwise around the park.
- One of these–the counter-clockwise route–is restricted to those who are guests of Universal Resort hotels. (These guests also get early admission to the Wizarding World.)
- Everyone else needs to go clockwise. You will end up in a line of people who are waiting to enter the Wizarding World.
Universal has established this clockwise line to limit how many people can be in the Wizarding World at a time–as otherwise Hogsmeade would be overwhelmed.
At the hour I arrived, staff clearly direct you to the correct side of the park for the line.
- However, later in the morning, I saw people walking right past these directions, heading the wrong way, and then needing to turn back and walk all the way around the park to get back to the Wizarding World.
- Given the arrival rate of guests into the park, this wrong turn could easily have cost them another 30-60 minutes of waiting.
So pay attention to the staff, and make sure you are going the right way!
If you arrive at the parking garage by 7a (a little earlier later in the summer, and during other busy periods.) you will be one of the first groups of standard guests to be admitted.
The wait for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, once you are in, will depend on how many Universal resort hotel guests (who were admitted an hour before) are re-riding.
- On the late June Friday I was there, the Universal resort guests were done by 8.45a, the first group of regular guests were admitted then, and the wait for the ride itself was only as long as it took to walk through the queue. I was done with my first ride on Forbidden Journey by 9a.
- In contrast, on the next day, the first group of regular guests wasn’t admitted until 9.05a, and the wait for the ride was already 40 minutes at that point.
If you arrive later in the morning, be prepared for two hours or more of waiting just to get into the Wizarding World, and at least another 90 minutes for the Forbidden Journey itself.
Universal has also instituted a paper pass into the Wizarding World for busy days–at the same Jurassic Park area, you can pick up a pass that lets you into the Wizarding World at a particular time.
Ask cast members if these passes are available, and if so, where you can pick them up–as you don’t want to be waiting in the wrong line!
On my Saturday, by 9.40a the line for admittance to the Wizarding World stretched well into the Toon Lagoon section of Islands of Adventure. (And remember–this is just the line to enter the area–the rides have additional lines once you are in the Wizarding World.)
For those not familiar with Universal Orlando, but familiar with Epcot, this would be equivalent to having a line stretch from the French pavilion, go past Italy, and end at the China pavilion…
Once you are in to the Wizarding World, you end up in a charming area about the size of Disney World’s Liberty Square. Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle are both stunningly well done. The small number of things you can do in Hogsmeade–for example, see the wand pick the wizard at Ollivanders, or buy butterbeer– are mobbed.
The way to work the Wizarding World is to see Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first–because as long as the lines may be, they won’t get any shorter until much later in the day*; then do anything in Hogsmeade that captures your fancy; and only then see Flight of the Hippogriff or Dragon Challenge.
Whatever you do,don’t leave the Wizarding World until you are done with it. If you leave, and wish to come back, you have to get back into the clockwise line…and by this time, it may stretch all the way to China–and I don’t mean the one at Epcot!!
*(Note for those planning to spend multiple days at Universal Orlando: staff there told me that the best time to go to Harry Potter was in the evening.
They said that the line to actually enter the Wizarding World was usually gone by then. (The Wizarding World itself is still packed.)
If so, then for multi-day visitors, the best approach would be to see the other great rides at Islands of Adventure the first morning (when, because of Harry, lines are short) and to try the Wizarding World that evening.
If for some reason this does not work, you can then still try the “Harry Potter at 7a” approach the next morning…)
LINKS FOR THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
- Review: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- When to Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- How Long to Stay at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- How Old/Tall Your Kids Should be for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Where to Stay During Your Visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- How Much to Budget for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- When Your Plans for Visiting the Wizarding World Should Be Firm
- How to Spend Your Time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- What to Do When to Get Ready for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter