Last week, I was in Orlando, Florida visiting Universal Studios. We bought the Wizarding World of Harry Potter package for a 3-day, 3-night super-fun time. And it was! In a follow-up article I might gush about how much fun we had and the great stuff we did. For this edition I’m going to give tips, tricks, and warnings.
Universal Studios is comprised of two theme parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, each of which contain multiple themed areas and require separate admission. The entrance to each park is through CityWalk, an entertainment park (no admission required) comprised mostly of restaurants, a movie theatre, and the Blue Man Group show (tickets required).
For the Harry Potter experience, Islands of Adventure has Hogsmeade and Universal Studios has Diagon Alley. You can have a great wizarding experience in either of these. The differences are not major but Diagon Alley is probably the best, experientially.
The package deals are always the best way to go because a la carte is so much more expensive.
+ Park-to-Park Passes: The pass is good for both parks (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios). You can ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth between the parks.
- 1 hour early admission: This is a highly promoted benefit that is a crock. Only a few of the popular rides are open before 9:00 a.m. Early admittance lets you in through the Islands of Adventure park entrance only. There you are herded to the back side of the park to Hogsmeade. All rides say they start at 9:00 a.m. but we were able to ride the Hippogriff at 8:30 a.m. I think the main benefit to early admittance is to be able to get in line early for these rides—I think the bigger benefit would be to buy an express pass. These are expensive but, in the busy season, may be worth it.
+ Breakfast at The Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade) and The Leaky Cauldron (Diagon Alley): A hearty, filling breakfast but the coffee was bad. Good bacon.
+ Hotel stay: Loved our hotel. More below.
+ Trollies: Hitch a ride to the parks and back run every ten minutes. This saves time and the enormous headache of dealing with traffic around the park.
+ Purchases taken to room: Although there are lockers in the park, they are pricey and require you to make multiple long trips back-and-forth to store stuff. If you stay at an on-site hotel, you can have any purchase you make in the park sent back to your hotel. This is a great feature. Anything you buy in the park will make it back to your hotel by midnight the same day so you can use this feature even on your last day in the park if your check out is the next day. We were told by some cashiers in the park that our purchases might not make it to the room until noon the next day. This is not true.