This post is sponsored by Orlando Fun Tickets.
Harry Potter has been a part of our family life since the kids were old enough to listen to the stories. It feels like we’ve been on a pilgrimage to Hogwarts for the last five years.
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. While our pilgrimage has mostly been about fun, we’ve definitely picked up a few moral lessons about doing what’s right, standing up for yourself and your friends, and choosing which side you want to be on – even when it’s hard.
In this post, I’ll share our personal Harry Potter Pilgrimage, Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips, the best deal on Harry Potter World, Orlando tickets, and a scavenger hunt I’ve created to help you make the most of your time at Harry Potter World.
Our Pilgrimage to Hogwarts
I read the first book aloud to our boys, cuddled on the couch in our house in Livingston, Montana. Driving to California to see family or on camping road trips around the Southwest, we’d listen to the audio version of the books. After each book, we’d watch the movie, comparing and contrasting.
After we finished the final tome, we packed our books into a storage unit, sold our house, and started our travel journey around Europe. We were so enamored and inspired by the universe of Harry Potter that we sought out Harry Potter-related locations as we traveled the world.
In London we visited Leadenhall Market, used as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in the first movie; Kings Cross Station, where witches and wizards catch the train to Hogwarts; the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, the sound stages used for all the movies; and the Westminster Tube Station where Mr. Weasley gets confused about the muggle world (well, one of the times the muggle world confounds him).
In Scotland, we toured sights which inspired J.K. Rowling in the writing of the books: Greyfriars Kirkyard, where we saw tombstones for Tom Riddle, Sirius Black, and McGonagall; the Edinburgh Castle, which may have been the inspiration for Hogwarts along with the nearby George Heriot’s School; and the cafés where Rowling created the world of wizards, witches, and magic.
In Estonia we found the final Horcrux by solving riddles in a Harry Potter-themed escape room in Tallinn.
Hogwarts and the world of Harry Potter has been part of our family life, conversations, and travels for five years and will continue to be into the future.
All good pilgrimages need a destination or ending point and I can’t think of a better one than Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Florida. After years of visiting Hogwarts in our imagination, visiting the school in person is the foam on the butterbeer.
A pilgrimage to Hogwarts transcends ages. Our kids have loved it since they were little and as tweens, are still interested — with no sign of letting up. I first read the books in my 20s and am still excited to visit Hogwarts now that I am in my 40s.
Tip For Visiting Harry Potter World Orlando
While the official name is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I am going to call it Harry Potter World here since that’s what many people know it as.
Purchase tickets online
Get discounted Universal Studios tickets ahead of time rather than at the gate to save time and money.
To visit both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, you’ll need Park to Park tickets or 2-Park tickets. It’s worth it to spend the money and get into both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Island of Adventure since Harry Potter World spans them both. <36>Plan to stick to Harry Potter World on this visit
Yes, there is so much more to see at Universal Studios, but to really immerse yourself in Harry’s world you’ll need the whole day.
Get an early start
The sooner you enter the park, the more time you will have. And the first and last hour the park is open is the least crowded.
Make Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley your first stop
The rides have the shortest lines first thing in the morning. Fortunately, the lines for the major rides are shows in themselves, so you won’t mind waiting too much.
Ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions
The Hogwarts Express connects the two parks. When you look out the “windows” you’ll see totally different views depending on the direction you are traveling.
Don’t Carry Your Souvenirs
When you purchase souvenirs from the gift shops, ask for them to be sent to the front of the park. Instead of carrying them around all day, you can pick them up when you are done (keep your wand with you; you’ll need that!).
Don’t Miss the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
Time your day to catch the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle (shows typically start around 7:15 pm (8:15 after the Daylight Savings change), though this can be bumped up to as early as 6:45, and last for approximately six minutes. The performances take place about every 20 minutes, with a “final” showing at park close and a real final showing 20 minutes after the park closes.
How to Make a Pilgrimage to Hogwarts
- Your pilgrimage starts in London.
- Pass through a brick wall to Diagon Alley.
- If you want the shortest line, go straight to Escape from Gringotts.
- Explore Diagon Alley, Gringotts Bank, Ollivander’s, and the Leaky Caldron using the Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt list below.
- Go to Kings Cross station to catch the Hogwarts Express.
- Have a snack or drink at the Three Broomsticks.
- Explore Hogsmeade, popping in and out of shops and checking out the displays in the windows. Gawk at the snow-covered cottages and winding streets that lead to Hogwarts Castle.
- Ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Forbidden Journey.
- Enjoy the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.
Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt (for Universal Studios Florida)
- See which wand chooses you at Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
- Throughout the park, use your interactive wand to cast spells. Not all the spell locations are marked on the map. Don’t miss the one at the storefront of the Slug and Jiggers Apothecary or Srcibbulus Writing Implements in Horizont Alley.
- Put your ear to the Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes.
- Find Luna Lovegood’s beloved Crumple-Horned Snorkack and the snake that speaks in both English and Parseltongue at the Magical Menagerie.
- Watch the window at 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius Black’s family home.
- Find the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder (Harry used it to sneak into Draco’s train compartment in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. While you are there, look to the skylight for a surprise and keep an eye out for the terrible Professor Umbridge on her unicycle.
- Stand under the sign at the Leaky Cauldron, then go inside and order a butterbeer.
- Find pennants from the quidditch teams seen in the movies at Quality Quidditch Supplies.
- Seek out Knockturn Alley and dip into the world of dark wizards and witches. The many blacklights in Knockturn Alley can be used to find spell locations on the spell location map.
- Ask the goblin in Gringotts Money Exchange if he is a house-elf. You can exchange your muggle money for wizard cash to be used in the park.
- Try on a robe at Madam Malkins Robes for All Occasions and ask the mirror how you look.
- Dial 62442 (MAGIC) at the red phone booth outside of Kings Cross.
- Find Hedwig (Harry Potter’s Owl) waiting on the platform at Kings Cross.
- Approach The Monster Book of Monsters in Dervish and Banges. Go on, get close.
- Mail a postcard from the Owl Post with an official Hogsmeade stamp. Stand around too long, though and you might get a Howler.
- Buy some Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans at Honeyduke’s and try to guess the flavor.
- Ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Forbidden Journey. There is so much to see in the pre-show for both of these rides. Be sure to listen at the potions classroom door while waiting for the Forbidden Journey.
- Ask a cast member wearing your Hogwarts house colors to teach you the secret handshake.
- Kick back another butterbeer and traditional food at the Three Broomsticks while watching for house-elf shadows as they prepare your food.
- Listen to Moaning Myrtle’s reminders in the restrooms.
- Watch the Nighttime Lights on Hogwarts Castle. Cheer extra loudly when your house is featured. Listen carefully to the narration by the Sorting Hat and the musical accompaniment of John Williams’s musical score. The best (and most crowded) viewing area is in front of the Frog Choir/Triwizard Spirit Rally stage. The last show of the night is the least crowded.
You can download a .pdf of this scavenger hunt to take with you to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando: Harry Potter World Scavenger Hunt.