Okay, this is what the situation is: My family of 5 (17, 14, and 12) all love Harry Potter and we are First Timers at Universal. (My last time was in the mid 1990’s) My parents gifted us Unlimited Express passes with Park 2 Park tickets.
Obviously, it will be a crazy winter break day (Wednesday after Christmas) We are staying off site, so we will rope drop the 8 AM time. Any advice on arrival and parking is welcome.
From the research I have done thus far, it looks like we should head to Diagon Alley first and try to take in as much as we can. Head to Gringott’s (I hear we should do the queue), and I think we will buy one interactive wand at Ollivander’s.
So, big question: how much time should we allot before heading to the Hogwarts Express and into IOA?
Hoping it’s a good idea to do as much much Harry Potter before the park fills up and then use our Unlimited Express passes.
It sounds like we will need to save Hagrid’s until late afternoon and evening…
Obviously, there is a lot we would like to do outside of HP too, but I figure it is not physically possible even with the unlimited express passes to see all we want to see. So, we will prioritize…I personally would like to see the Grinch show and Grinch meet & greet if that is possible.
Thanks for ANY feedback- it’s greatly appreciated. - Katie
There’s a sweet spot around 11am*, so perhaps head to IOA aiming for getting to Hagrid’s for then. Remember to ride the HE both ways, so you could always head back with your EPs if you haven’t finished with DA.
Do NOT ride Gringott’s in standby. Use the express pass! You don’t really skip any of the line, you just walk through it faster without looping back. You can always pause in the bank to look around a bit more if you feel you need more time. The express pass line for Gringott’s can be slow enough sometimes on its own. You don’t want to add to that wait!
We’re going to be at Universal on Dec 29th for one day with the same tickets as you. Since we’re staying at Hard Rock, we’ll take advantage of early entry to do Hagrid’s but otherwise will rely on the express pass and hope it keeps the wait times down. Luckily, we have been to Universal several times before so we don’t feel like we have to hit every ride. The one thing we want to see that we haven’t before is the lights on the castle in Hogsmeade.
If you all love Harry Potter, I would consider the official TP Harry Potter touring plan part 1 & part 2, or a more detailed step by step in chronological order HP plan. By seeing everything there is to do, this will help you decide what all you want to prioritize in the Wizarding World, but also outside of it.
Visit the Leaky Cauldron or Three Broomsticks for a lunch/dinner break at an unpopular time, like 11am or 3:00ish so you don’t have to wait long for a table.
You’ll want to arrive at the Universal parking garage around 7:00am for an 8am opening for day guests.
Hogwarts Express from London to Hogsmeade will be the busiest from 1:00pm-ish on. Waits will be moderate, even with UXP.
If you can’t make the 11am-noonish time work for Hagrid’s, your best bet is riding as late as you can.
Hey! I’m a Universal Addict and a BIG fan of all things Harry Potter!
Going to Diagon Alley first is the right call for a couple reasons…
First, Diagon Alley really has the “WHOA” factor! You walk through the portal into DA and it’s everything a HP fan could wish for when you see it!
Second, Gringott’s can get to be as busy as Hagrid’s in the late day! Get in there early & use Express!!
You do not need to go into the standby queue to see the amazing features of the Gringott’s queue. The Express Line skips nothing of interest - I promise!! (On the other hand Forbidden Journey skip A LOT! I think FJ is worth going through the queue to see the 2 preshows and all the artifacts from the movie/books!
Third, wand/spell locations become a bit tedious once people fill in both WWOHP lands. If you really want to do spells, (those wands are $70 now!!) the locations are not monitored. This means everyone is on the honor system to take turns and queue properly. Kids & parents will stand at a single wand spot for 10 minutes trying to get it to work while a queue of a dozen people have to wait. The earlier you can do the spells the better… (Personally, I’m a great spell caster - now. However, it was a lot of trial & error / patience + having an AP / regular visitor that gave me many visits to practice)
If this were my first trip, I’d really have to rethink buying a wand. I adore my wand! But I bought mine years ago for $50 and I’ve used it so many times.
Doing spells is great, but it takes up so much time and with three kids everyone has to share / take turns… Maybe it could be something to come back for! (It’s totally up to you & I love the spells. It’s just so hard to do & see everything in WWOHP. (I don’t know how many days you will be there)
I will recommend seeing the Ollivander’s Wand Shop show! It’s very cute!
That’s a tough question. It will depend on if you want to see a show as well. “Tales of Beedle the Bard” is a stunning show of puppetry and so good overall! Celestina Warbeck & the Banshee’s sing Christmas songs this time of year & SPOILER… They make it snow in Diagon Alley as Celestina’s finale…
If you are not able to do Early Park Admission, I could see you being over there until close to 11am or so! (If you wander through all the shops / do spells, see shows & etc…)
OH! The Frog Choir does Christmas songs too!!
The 11am - 11:30am “sweet spot” for Hagrid’s is true! I, personally, tested & reported on it in September. (I used to be a doubter!)
If you have the energy to stay late - I HIGHLY recommend riding Hagrid’s after dark. They ride was designed specifically for this experience. I try to make sure I get at least one ride on Hagrid’s after dark each trip.
The Castle Lights Projection / Fireworks show will be happening throughout the night.
PRO TIP - If you go see the show you WILL NOT be allowed to backtrack into Hogsmeade. They force you out of the land via the bridge past Hogwarts and into Jurassic World. If you want to reenter Hogsmeade you have to go all the way back around. (I’ve watched the show & then RACED back around to get into Hagrid’s about 2 minutes before closing! )
This is the best idea!!! I wouldn’t do it any other way!
The ONLY queue in WWOHP I wouldn’t skip is Forbidden Journey. HOWEVER, I can’t ever advise anyone to sacrifice a chunk of their park time to see a queue UNLESS they are MEGA Harry Potter fans.
If the posted wait for Forbidden Journey is 30 minutes or less I’d definitely go through the queue. When it gets past 40+ minutes I feel too guilty tell people to go inside & see all the replicas and such!
Here’s my TP for my next trip. I’m doing a full WWOHP day without Express Pass…
It’s in two parts, as TP doesn’t have a single plan for both parks… Plus, I go back & forth on the Hogwarts Express. (It’s TWO DIFFERENT SHOWS - see it going each way!!)
I’m going to Hogsmeade first, but only because I stay on-site & will get to do Early Park Admission…
The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular is AWESOME! It’s my favorite version of the classic tale! I’ll try to see it twice on my next visit!
The Grinch M&G hasn’t been announced…yet. Last year there was a meeting, but it was done by Virtual Queue. It was awful! The queue would “sell out” in under a minute (No hyperbole or exaggeration!)
The only way to be “guaranteed” to meet The Grinch is to do the character breakfast. However, it’s $60 per person. Also, they’ve changed the venue & menu this year. no one know for sure what is happening or served. I’m going to do it as The Grinch is a “must-do” for me. I LOVED the meal last year, but it was a buffet and this year it’s unknown…
The dates & times for the breakfast have already sold out on most dates. The dates that were available only had times at 7am - 7:45am. You’d have to figure out how to get into the parking garage & etc… to do that… I guess???
Keep an eye on the Universal News 7 Planning thread here on the forums. We’re always discussing all the latest news & such!!
Thank you! We may have to try for that sweet spot :). My extended family will be there also- but my next nephews are 7, almost 7, 5, almost 3 and 1! So, my parents understand that we will work at a bit different pace then them. We will want to connect with them for meals and hopefully, the Grinch show!
No worries… Here are the digital maps of both parks! The shows are all listed in the areas they are located… (I do recommend “playing” with the Universal App as much as you can before you go. It has so many great features!
Most of the shows at UOR will be doing Christmas themes…
Celestina Warbeck & the Banshees
Marilyn & the Diamond Bellas
The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle (Night Show)
The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular (Seasonal only)
The other shows - Animal Actors, Beat Builders, Tales of Beedle the Bard, Tri-Wizard Spirit Rally and Vamonos! (street show) do their usual routines
Oh!!! Do not miss The Bourne Stuntacular!! It’s the best stunt show in Orlando & maybe anywhere! (not Christmas themed… )
Thank you- this is amazing intel! Question: I saw a video that said that some areas were taken out of the Woody Woodypecker land- are all of those still there? Fievel’s playland, etc.? Curious George? I have 5 young nephews coming with us although we will be separate part of the time.
Any Harry Potter areas/ shows that the little ones like?
The entire KidsZone has been demolished. At this time it is undergoing a complete redo as “DreamWorks Destination”. It’s not going to open until 2024
They will love the Olivander’s Wand show, Tales of Beedle the Bard and, possibly, The Tri-Wizard Spirit Rally… (Celestina is amazing, but maybe “boring” to little wizards & witches. It’s beautiful singing though)
Flight of the Hippogriff is a perfect “coaster” for small ones! It’s like “Barnstomer” at Magic Kingdom.
The kids should also like Animal Actors and probably Beat Builders (It’s like the show STOMP!)
Take them to Camp Jurassic for an awesome rope course, slides, water guns and more! Plus, there’s a GREAT ride that adults can ONLY do with a small child - Pteranodon Flyers!! (I paid $300 once to do it at a private event. It was worth it!!)
The Jurassic Park Discovery Zone is “cute” too - if they love Dinos
Also, check out the Raptor Meet & Greet!! It’s so funny watching people react to the raptors!!
I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time at Universal. If you get a chance to report on how it went, I’d love to hear all about it. We’ve never gone at Christmas before and are not sure how crazy it will be!