The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando, Florida is made up of two parks; Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Both parks are of full of details to spot and savor, I already gave our ultimate list of everything there is to see and do in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. What follows here is an equally obsessive post of all there is to see in Hogsmeade and Hogwarts in the Islands of Adventure park. See the post where I gave our tips for planning a crowd free experience at both Harry Potter parks here.
Hogwarts and Grounds
Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside of Hogwarts Castle. This is the main attraction of the park and takes riders through Hogwarts on “an enchanted bench.” I don’t have the strongest stomach and this was right at my limit. I rode the ride twice with my Sister and Tom to assure myself that yes, it did make me feel a little ill and I didn’t want to ride it a third time.
Tour the castle as part of the “tour only line”. This was hands-down my favorite thing in both of the parks. You can request the “tour only” line which lets you wander through Hogwarts castle at your leisure, with your camera in hand.
The only part of the regular “ride line” you miss in the “tour only” line is the greenhouse. You do get to see everything else and study the amazing details in the castle for as long as you’d like.
You can hear Snape telling off a student behind the potions classroom door, you can find Gryffindor’s sword in Dumbledore’s office and spot other bits and pieces that played an important role in the books.
The humpbacked one-eyed witch statue that hides a secret passageway to Hogsmeade and the Gryffindor common area bulletin board were some of my favorite details. I also loved staying in the portrait hall long enough to hear the entire conversation between all of the portraits.
We did the “tour only” line at the end of the day and told one of the Witches that we really, really wanted to see the greenhouse as well. She shrugged and let Tom, my sister and me start in the greenhouses and move slowly through the whole line since it was the end of the night and the line was closed. It was by far the most magical time of our entire Harry Potter weekend.
Go by Hagrid’s hut where you will hear Fang barking and ride Flight of the Hippogriff. This cute, little ride, was just my speed, and you get to see Buckbeak at the start of it!
The town of Hogsmeade is an adorable recreation that felt like it was straight out of the books. As with everywhere in the parks, it felt like the designers knew and loved the books just as much as I do!
Ride Dragon Challenge, or just take advantage of the cool things to see in the line. Dragon challenge is two different, high-speed, upside down, spinning, rollercoasters that I wouldn’t ride for anything. There are a few things to see in the line of the ride though, and Tom and I studied those while my braver sister rode the ride.
At the very beginning of the line, midway up the pathway, there is an opening that gives you a perfect view of Hogwarts. This is where we took all of our best photos of the castle. This area is also right above the stage where the two different performances take place; the Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally. If there is a large crowd around the stage during showtimes, this would be a great place to watch the show from.
This area is usually empty since the ride is too scary for people like me, and the younger children who visit the park. This means that the line is short, and the people entering it are rushing to get on the ride, leaving the viewing area empty.
Farther along the line, you can see Mr. Weasly’s crashed flying Ford Anglia that Ron and Harry took to school at the start of their second year. This is one of the actual vehicles used in the movie production. As with the rest of the rides in the park, you cannot bring your camera on the ride. If you are actually riding the coaster (you daredevil you!) you will have to put it in the Dragon Challenge lockers the first time you walk up the line to ride the ride. When you’re done, grab your camera and head back up to take photos. Or, do what my Sister did and go with someone with a weak stomach who will hold your camera while you go on the ride.
Visit Honeydukes and the other shops, of Hogsmeade. There are shops you can go into, like Dervish and Banges or Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, and there are windows you can peer into, like Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop.
Visit the Owl Post. There is a howler in the window of the Owl post that screams out different messages, and we loved how every owl slit was also liberally coated in owl poo; that is attention to detail!
Visit Ollivander’s and watch the wand choosing ceremony if you have not already done so in Diagon Alley.
Have a meal at the Three Broomsticks. Look for the shadows of the house elves dancing upstairs and go around the corner to the alley to watch the dishes being done through the window.
Have drinks and dessert at the Hog’s Head Pub where you can try a frozen Butterbeer.
We got a cauldron cake and a pumpkin cake from Honeydukes and brought them to the Hog’s head to enjoy them with our drinks. My sister and I had (more) butterbeer and (another) actual beer for Tom.
See the shows of Hogmeade; The Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally performance. Check Harry Potter World showtimes here.
Ride the Hogwarts express from Hogsmeade station, the ride is different in both directions, so make sure you ride it both ways! You can also see a coach being pulled by invisible thestrals at Hogsmeade station.
The Hogsmeade station master is quite friendly if you’d like to stop for a chat. The park tries to hire as many British people or, at least, people with Britsih accents that they can to lend to its authenticity. This station master, and all of the British actors, either really enjoy their jobs, or are REALLY good actors!
Though I knew I didn’t want to miss anything, hence the reason for the long, detailed “to-do” lists, I also loved just wandering around with no agenda in mind, enjoying the park and savoring all of it’s details.