Ride Experience & Single Riders Line at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort

I recommend going through the “normal” or full lines for every ride the first time you ride them.  The ride queues are an experience unto themselves and often help to set-up the story for the ride experience and immerse you in the environment which really adds to the experience.

Ride Experience

Many of the rides leverage the most technically advanced systems in the world, with intricately timed visual, audio and engineering systems that have to work in sync to produce the experience… so at times there are glitches!

If a ride has any complications at all… such as poor/missing audio, screens that do not display or anything else like that that seems “off” – don’t be shy and definitely tell the ride operator as soon as you exit the ride vehicle – and before leaving the loading area – that you experienced an issue.

Be as detailed as possible with describing the issue(s), at what point during the ride the issue happened, and they will most often be very grateful and allow you to re-ride immediately by going through the Child Swap area and not having to wait in line again!  For 3-D rides, you will surrender your glasses as usual for security/sanitary reasons, and they will give you a new clean pair before you re-board the ride.

Single Riders Line

After your first ride, you could consider the “Single Riders” line (if available) because you can get back on the ride usually quicker, but at the expense of bypassing most of the themed queue (e.g. a shortcut).  In this line, you must go 1 at a time even if you are in a group, as the Single Rider line is used to fill-in the ride vehicles whenever there is an odd numbered party and empty seat.  Often your wait will be less than half of the normal posted time, but a lot of people have caught onto this technique, and sometimes it’s actually the same amount of time or longer!

Most importantly: have fun, do everything you can, and immerse yourself in the experience!

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Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter & Saving on Food & Drink at Universal Orlando Resort


Butterbeer is THE most popular drink in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and you cannot get it anywhere else in the world, except at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

Butterbeer has been especially developed by the culinary experts at Universal Orlando Resort, and is described as “reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch”.  The base beverage is very similar to a cream soda, and all of the beverage versions (see below) are topped with a bubbly foam that infuses the beverage with vanilla and  butterscotch notes.

At Universal Orlando Resort, Butterbeer is available in 4 versions:

  • Cold Butterbeer (similar to a soft drink)
  • Frozen Butterbeer (similar to a smoothie)
  • Hot Butterbeer (only available during the “winter” months)
  • Butterbeer Ice Cream (soft-serve)

Not all locations serve all 4 versions, but for the cold and frozen variety – which are the most popular – there are several spots to buy them in each park.

We have found the shortest lines for Butterbeer can be found as follows:

Inside The Hog’s Head Pub which is attached to the Three Broomsticks sit-down restaurant, but also has its own front entrance so you can just order from the bar and see the Hog’s Head on the wall move and snort while you wait!  In Hogsmeade you can only get the cold and frozen varieties of Butterbeer.

Diagon Alley
The Hopping Pot beverage stand is integrated into the building facades and located at the rear of the Carkitt Market annex of Diagon Alley near where the live stage shows are performed.  At this location you can get all 4 varieties of Butterbeer!

Saving on Food & Drink

We recommend:

  • Eat light snacks throughout the day versus big sit-down meals
  • Consider a kids’ meal option to keep the meal less “heavy” and also cheaper
  • Consider a Dining Plan which will earn you a discount on your first meal, and include a snack and beverage for later in the day



Carrying Bags, Using Lockers & Shopping at Universal Orlando Resort

When visiting Universal Orlando Resort, I recommend travelling as light as possible.

Carrying Bags

I do not recommend bringing a bag, purse or backpack at all, and only carrying what you can fit into your pockets (money, ID, cards, sunglasses, tickets, small camera/phone).  That way you can avoid the extra time and stress of using the free lockers (for the 1st hour) outside every ride.

I usually go straight from the airport on arrival to the parks since you can’t check-into the hotel until 4pm anyway.  So, I usually just pack a small backpack for the trip, and then rent a standard locker which can be found just inside the park near the entrance/exit of whatever park we plan to be in the latest that day – and leave my bag there all day instead of carrying it around.

For larger bags like roll-aboards (which I recommend not using unless you are going for more than 3 days), there is a Guest Services area right inside the gate after you enter Universal Studios Florida (not Islands of Adventure) called “Studio Audience Center” that will hold the bag for you for free all day with a photo ID presented at drop-off and pickup.

Using Lockers

None of the rides allow bags or loose items of any kind, and every ride has a bank of adjacent lockers for these items.  The ride staff are very strict about enforcing this policy, and there are several checkpoints along the ride queue to ensure you are not bringing any bulky items with you.  I have seen people actually at the point of boarding a ride vehicle with those small drawstring backpacks or hip pouches that take up no room and could be sat “against”, but they were asked to leave the vehicle and were directed to the locker area which is outside the entire ride and line area, in order to store their belongings and get back in line.

Using the ride lockers is by far the biggest time drain and nightmare experience, because the locker bays are very cramped, and of all the people who do not know any better are fumbling through the whole process of “renting” a locker or re-opening a locker which involves various steps on a single touch-screen that serves a bank of lockers, including:

  • Language selection
  • Action desired (rent a locker or open a locker)
  • Select size of locker (certain locations)
  • Select location of locker (top, middle, bottom)
  • Estimated time needed
  • Enter 6-digit security code
  • Complete payment (for usage beyond the 1st hour)
  • Fingerprint scan (certain locations)

… not to mention remembering where your locker is in the first place, and then working your way through all of the people to actually get to the touch-screen that services that bank of lockers.

If you travel “light”, then that time will not be needed and you can walk right into the line for the ride without having to stop and “rent” or “re-open” a locker.


As with carrying around bags or backpacks, I recommend the same for shopping bags.  Save your shopping for the end of the day when you don’t plan to go on any more rides.  Shops are open up to an hour after park closing, and the resort shops along CityWalk and inside the hotels are open much later and often carry much of the same things you can get in the parks.

Most, if not all, of the shops will ship your purchases to your home address via UPS if desired, and if you are staying at a hotel on property, they will actually deliver your purchases to your room so you don’t have to carry them around!

Previous Tip: Arriving at Universal Orlando Resort – Transportation Hub, Security Checkpoint & Ticketed Entry Process

Next Tip: Ride Experience & Single Riders Line at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort


Arriving at Universal Orlando Resort – Transportation Hub, Security Checkpoint & Ticketed Entry Process

Whether you are arriving by car, taxi, bus, drop-off or shuttle, you will begin your journey by passing through an expansive, elevated Transportation Hub that includes an information desk, security checkpoints, bag check and moving sidewalks that progress you along an elevated pathway toward CityWalk and then through to the entrances to each park.

Transportation Hub

Except for those walking to the parks, you will enter the hub and go through security at the same location which is a central hub with various “spokes” that service the parking decks which are accessed at the same elevation, and the guest drop-off areas which are at ground level and require a trip up an escalator or stairs to get to the hub.

Security Checkpoint

Often the bag check/security checkpoint can be very crowded since all methods of entry funnel into this hub area.

You can do a few things to expedite this process for both yourself, and those waiting behind you:

  1. Look for the “no bag” line at the far left.  If you don’t have a bag, use this line – even if you are travelling with others who need to have their bags checked.  This courtesy will cut-down on the volume of people waiting in line for the bag check process.
  2. Have all the pockets on your bags “unzipped” in advance before you approach the security guard, so they can check inside quickly.  Otherwise they will have you take a step back to do this, and check other people while you are preparing your bag as requested.
  3. Unzip and remove smaller bags that are inside your larger bags, such as toiletry kits or make-up bags.
  4. Avoid bringing beverages.  Guards may also ask you to throw away any water bottles or beverages before entering the park.   This is relatively a new policy, and may have just been in place for Mardi Gras to avoid alcohol being brought in secretly, but just in case… you have been advised!
  5. You do not need your park ticket at this point… so keep that in your pocket or packed away during the security process.

NOTE: When approaching the parks on foot – using the pathways and directional signs – you will terminate your walk at the Valet parking drop-off area, which is actually on the opposite side of the hub from the parking decks and drop-off areas, and as such, closer-in to CityWalk and often less crowded for bag check/security.

Ticketed Entry Process

Every time you enter either park through the front gates – or whenever connecting from one park to another via the Hogwarts Express – you will go through the following process, so be prepared:

  1. Present your ticket to the ticket taker
  2. The ticket taker will scan the barcode on your ticket
  3. Biometric scan – place your finger on the scanner
  4. Green light = proceed
  5. Red light = re-scan your finger*

*NOTE: choose your finger to scan carefully the first time you enter, as you must use the same finger every time you re-scan or the system will not see it as a match.

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

Next Tip: Carrying Bags, Using Lockers & Shopping at Universal Orlando Resort


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!

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

Next Tip: Arriving at Universal Orlando Resort – Transportation Hub, Security Checkpoint & Ticketed Entry Process


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:

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)