Universal-Orlando-Hotels

Selecting a Hotel for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Orlando)

Universal Orlando Resort currently boasts four (4) on-site hotels that offer Early Park Admission to the Harry Potter area in one or the other of the parks, which allows hotel guests into the lands 1 hour before everyone else is allowed in.  Additionally, all on-site hotels offer non-stop shuttles to and from the parks for guests that include – depending on the hotel – busses, coaches and water taxis.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
The most luxurious of the three on-site hotels at Universal Orlando Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel recreates the charm and romance of the famed seaside village of Portofino, Italy.

Hard Rock Hotel
Hard Rock Hotel showcases the unique style of a California mission-style mansion, complete with Hard Rock touches that range from classic rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia to rock star celebrity wake-up calls.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Loews Royal Pacific Resort captures the beauty of the islands with a South Pacific motif, complete with an open-air orchid garden and hand-carvings straight from Bali.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Take a trip back to the 1950’s and 60’s at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Guests can go for a swim or relax in the lazy river, or take the family for a game or two at the bowling alley.

Scheduled to open Summer 2016:

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort 
This Caribbean-inspired resort will whisk you and your family away to an island state of mind. With picturesque rivers and waterfalls, you’ll feel like you’ve landed on your own tropical oasis in the heart of an unforgettable adventure.

Off-Site Hotels

I have enjoyed multiple stays at the DoubleTree at the Entrance to Universal – which means it’s literally across the street.  Guests do not get the constant shuttle service or Early Park Admission as with the on-site hotels, but the DoubleTree is a “partner” hotel for Universal, so they do have a “scheduled” shuttle (ask the front desk for pickup/drop-off times) and park ticket services in the lobby.

The DoubleTree has two buildings (or towers) which are identified as North and South.  The North Tower has been fully renovated, and the South Tower is in progress, so some of the rooms may be a bit outdated by comparison.  Still, those familiar with DoubleTree’s guest experience will be pleased with any selection, coupled with the proximity to the parks.

Getting to the parks from an off-site hotel:

Most people – including me – just walk from the hotel to the parks.  It’s about a 15 minute walk if you go at a moderate pace and probably 1/4 mile distance along a beautiful fully landscaped and lit (at night) pathway.  Once you cross the 6-lane Universal Blvd. (they have timed pedestrian crosswalks, so it’s not scary) you are essentially “on” the Universal Resort and the pathways are easy to navigate with signs and directional arrows to the parks.

Uber or Taxis are an option, however the journey is so short that many drivers may pass up the offer, so be sure to ask in advance and confirm payment methods accepted for such a short journey.  If they accept your short journey, I would recommend over-tipping them!


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The-Wizarding-World-of-Harry-Potter

Selecting Tickets for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Orlando)

The Harry Potter areas at Universal Orlando Resort are separated between 2 parks with Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, and the Hogwarts Express train connecting the two.  So, to enjoy all of the Harry Potter attractions, you will need a “Park-to-Park” pass.

To make the most of your visit, you will need to make several decisions when purchasing your tickets online, in person or through a travel representative:

Step 1: Number of Days

Universal Orlando determines their ticket prices based on the dates you will be visiting.  When calculating the number of days your ticket should cover, consider whether you plan on visiting the park(s) for a partial day on your day of arrival and departure from Orlando.  Depending on what time your outbound flight is scheduled on the day of your departure, for example, it may allow you to go to the park for a few hours before you have to be at the airport.

Additionally, staying at a Universal onsite hotel gives you the added benefit of gaining Early Park Admission into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which is one hour earlier than the standard opening time for regular guests.

NOTE: Most of the time during the off-season, Universal will offer a 3rd day free with the purchase of a 2-day ticket.

Step 2: One or Both Parks

As mentioned above, the Harry Potter areas at Universal Orlando Resort are separated between 2 separate parks with Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley next door in Universal Studios Florida, and the Hogwarts Express train connects the two.  So, to enjoy all of the Harry Potter attractions, you will need a “Park-to-Park” pass.

Step 3: Extras

Several options to bundle your ticket purchase with upgrades will be available during your purchase.  One of the most popular options is ExpressPass which allows you to bypass the lines at most rides throughout the parks.

During the off-season which is generally November-February excluding holidays and special events, crowds are more moderate and ExpressPass will be less necessary than if you are visiting during the peak times which include holidays, Spring Break or Summer.

NOTE:  At this time, ExpressPass is not available for any of the Harry Potter rides.

Step 4: Delivery Method

Tickets must be assigned to the name of each guest in your party during checkout.  Universal offers several ways to obtain your tickets after purchasing including:

Print-at-Home
You will receive an email link to a printable PDF file which contains each ticket on a separate standard A2 (letter-sized) page.

NOTE: During my visit on February 17, 2015, I observed that ticket scanners throughout the park were not reading this format, and the ticket takers had to manually type-in the barcode numbers from the ticket each time.

Will-Call Kiosk
Outside the main entrance to each park, there are automated self-service kiosks where you can retrieve your tickets by swiping the credit card you used to purchase them, and entering the confirmation code you received via email.  You must have both of these pieces of information to retrieve your tickets quickly and easily.  If you have ever used a kiosk at your local movie theater to buy or retrieve tickets, it’s a very similar experience.  Small card-like tickets will print out that easily fit in a pocket or wallet and scan consistently and quickly throughout the parks.

NOTE: You cannot purchase tickets at these kiosks.  They are for retrieval only.

Mail Delivery
Small, card-like tickets like the ones you would receive at a Will-Call Kiosk will be dispatched to your mailing address.

NOTE: This option may only be available for certain ticket types such as Annual Passes and may not be available if your arrival date is too near to the time of purchase.


Next Tip: Selecting a Hotel for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Orlando)

Diagon-Alley-Night

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley (at night)

Below, are some additional images of Diagon Alley at dusk and at night.

Visit our full Diagon Alley review with daytime photo galleries!

Carkitt-Market-Night

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Carkitt Market (at night)

Below, are some additional images of Carkitt Market at dusk and at night.

Visit our full Carkitt Market review with daytime photo galleries!

 

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Carkitt Market

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley opened officially on July 8, 2014 and features a variety of carefully recreated shops, restaurants and entertainment situated throughout Diagon Alley and the adjacent areas of Horizont Alley, Carkitt Market and Knockturn Alley. Carkitt Market features a variety of shops, carts and beverage stands as well as a stage area where two live stage shows are performed several times a day: Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, and The Tales of Beedle The Bard.

Immediately after entering, or once you have walked the length of Diagon Alley toward Gringotts Bank, if you turn to the right, you will enter Carkitt Market which is a glass-covered arcade-style shopping and entertainment area that runs between Gringott’s Bank and the Diagon Alley entrances/exits through the London Embankment building facades.  Specifically, there is an exit directly adjacent to The Hopping Pot beverage stand from which you exit through the Wyndham’s theater facade.

Below, are several photo galleries with detailed captions.

Visit our separate photo gallery featuring Carkitt Market at night!

Exteriors & Environment

Shops & Restaurants

Wizeacre’s Wizarding Equipment
Visitors will find a variety of wizarding wares and supplies including crystal balls, telescopes, binoculars, armillary spheres, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses. Don’t miss the unique selection of apparel and accessory products from your favorite Hogwarts™ house!

VIDEO: Rotating Armillery Sphere at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment

Gringotts Money Exchange
Gringotts Money Exchange is separate from Gringotts Bank. In this location you can exchange your U.S. currency to official Gringotts Bank Notes. $10 and $20 notes are available. This currency can then be used at various places around Universal Orlando Resort or kept as souvenirs. Other Gringotts merchandise can be purchased here as well. The goblin at the desk will interact with you while you’re in line. This attraction is located in Carkitt Market between Wiseacre’s and the show stage.

Scribbulus
Connected to Wiseacre’s and focusing on ink, quills, parchment, backpacks, stationery, paperweights, wax seals and other school supplies.

Photos to come

Shutterbutton’s Photography Studio
Shutterbutton’s is a small shop which offers park guests a photo or video oppurtunity. They have a couple rooms with green screens and old looking cameras which capture your moving likeness.  They put you and your family into Wizarding places in a moving picture scrapbook ranging between 3-5 minutes in length on a DVD. Its a 15 minute process to complete and costs $69.95.

Photos to come

Wands by Gregorovitch
While most aspiring wizards will want to visit Ollivanders, some might not have time to wait in the long queue. Don’t frett, there is another wizarding wand shop in Diagon Alley called Wands by Gregorovitch. Of course, purchases here come without the experience and show wizards and witches get in Ollivanders. The shop is also much smaller than Ollivanders, but has all of the classic wand options.

Photos to come

Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment
A beveral stand offering variety of “beverages” that consist of various “potions” mixed with Gillywater, creating a combination that allows the drinker to “experience a delightful flavour surprise”. Known potions used by Eternelle’s include the Draught of Peace, Babbling Beverage, Elixir to Induce Euphoria, and Fire Protection Potion.

The Hopping Pot
Outdoor bar with eleven different beverage options including Draught Beer,  Wizard’s Brew (a heavy porter), Dragon Scale (a hoppy amber) all four varieties of Butterbeer (cold, frozen, hot or ice cream), Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice, Fishy Green Ale, Pumpkin Juice, Gillywater as well as various snack items such as meat pasties and bags of British crisps.

Entertainment

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees
A concert-style street performance featuring “The Singing Sorceress” and original music titles created by J.K. Rowling including: “A Cauldron Full Of Hot, Strong Love,” “You Stole My Cauldron But You Can’t Have My Heart” and “You Charmed The Heart Right Out Of Me”.

Photos to come

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Re-telling of the “Tale of The Three Brothers” by Beedle the Bard by actors and puppeteers who bring the story of The Deathly Hallows to life during a live on stage performance using intricate puppets inspired by the feature film’s animation sequences.

Photos to come

Hogwarts-Castle-Exterior-Night

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade – Hogwarts Castle (Exterior – at night)

Below, are some additional images of Hogwarts Castle at dusk and at night.

Visit our full Hogwarts Castle daytime photo gallery!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley & London Embankment

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley opened officially on July 8, 2014 and features a variety of carefully recreated shops, restaurants and entertainment situated throughout Diagon Alley and the adjacent areas of Horizont Alley, Carkitt Market and Knockturn Alley.  The featured attraction is Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts – a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey that combines an indoor roller-coaster with a 3D dark ride themed around an incredible adventure  where riders navigate their way through the perils of the Gringotts vaults and encounter many familiar friends and foes.

After exploring the London Embankment – which includes a row of landmark building facades for King’s Cross Railway Station, Charing Cross Rd Sandringham Building (with Screed & Sons Bookshop), Leicester Square Underground Station (with “Record Shop”), Wyndham’s Theatre, Grimmauld Place, plus a courtyard featuring the Statue of Eros from Picadilly Circus and a full-sized replica of the Knight Bus from Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban – you walk “through” the secret brick wall and are instantly transported into Diagon Alley.  Everywhere, music from the films and thematic sound effects are playing, the air is “cooler”, it smells wonderful, and it is common to see adults and children alike moved to tears. There is literally magic happening everywhere – some ongoing as set pieces, some as performance art and some provoked by muggles, wizards and witches possessing the new interactive wands that enable spells to be cast upon specific magical objects throughout the area.

Below, are several photo galleries with detailed captions.

Visit our separate photo gallery featuring Diagon Alley at night!

Exteriors & Environment

London Embankment

Diagon Alley

Shops & Restaurants

The Leaky Cauldron
Step inside the famous Diagon Alley pub and fill up on traditional British food including cottage pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash. And of course, you can enjoy a frothy Butterbeer.

Madam Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions
Shop for a variety of wizardwear such as a selection of authentic wizard’s robes, character costumes and more.

Eeylops Owl Emplorium

Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
Guests looking for something on the sweeter side can visit this Diagon Alley ice-cream shop for frozen treats in interesting and unique flavors like strawberry and peanut-butter, Butterbeer and many others.

Quality Quidditch Supplies
Purchase your Quaffle balls, Quidditch brooms, Quidditch apparel and team souvenirs.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes
Fred and George Weasleys’ colourful shop offers a cornucopia of magical jokes, tricks and toys including Pygmy Puffs, U-No-Poo, Skiving Snackboxes, and more.

Ollivanders Wand Shop
This is where young wizards come in search of their most essential wizarding supply: their wand. Inside, towering walls reveal thousands of wand boxes stacked to the ceiling. And inside each box, a wand is waiting to choose a wizard.

Hogwarts-Castle-Interior

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade – Hogwarts Castle (Interior)

Below is our collection of photos that capture the interior of Hogwarts Castle which is also the ride queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL.  Be sure to click though each photo to see our unique and detailed descriptions.

NOTE: Guests may take a castle tour only if they do not intend to ride, and depart just before the boarding area for the ride.  However, the castle tour does not include these portions of the ride queue: Herbology classroom, the Mirror of Erised, Hogwarts Architect Statue, House Points Hourglass and Entrance to Headmaster’s Office.

Hogwarts-Castle-Exterior

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade – Hogwarts Castle (Exterior)

Below is our collection of photos that capture the exterior of Hogwarts Castle which houses the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL.

Visit our separate photo gallery featuring Hogwarts Castle at night!

The-Wizarding-World-of-Harry-Potter-Hogsmeade

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Orlando

We visited the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on January 20-21, 2014 and September 5-6, 2014.  Below is our collection of photos that captured all aspects of our visits.  Universal Studios contains Diagon Alley, the London Embankment and the rides Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express (from King’s Cross to Hogsmeade).  Islands of Adventure contains Hogsmeade village, Hogwarts Castle and the rides Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, Dragon Challenge and the Hogwarts Express (from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross).  During our January trip, we captured some photos of the London Embankment and Diagon Alley which were still under construction.  Be sure to click though each photo to see our unique and detailed descriptions.

We have created several themed galleries which can be accessed directly by using the links below: