We have been to the Universal Studios in California multiple times already. However, when our friend visited us from Malaysia, we all wanted to check-out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida because we all grew up with the Harry Potter books and movies. As we were planning, we decided to spend only three days in Orlando so we’d have time to drive down to Miami and spend a couple more days there before flying back home.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort is divided into two parks: Diagon Alley in the Universal Studios park and Hogsmeade, which is where the Hogwarts Castle is located, in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Staying at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort for two nights and three days worked great for the limited amount of time we had to spend at the park. Cabana Bay is an on-site, multi-wing hotel with multiple swimming pools, a huge dining area with a variety of food choices, and a cool retro theme. It is about a 15-minute walk to the Universal theme parks and the Universal City Walk, with a designated pedestrian path connecting the hotel to the parks. Complimentary shuttles between the park and on-site hotels are also available about every 15 minutes.
We only had half the day left upon arriving at the hotel on our first day in Orlando. We spent that afternoon hanging out at one of Cabana Bay’s multiple swimming pools while waiting for our friend to arrive. Once our friend arrived that evening, we all walked around and had dinner at Universal’s City Walk, where we spent the rest of the night people-watching and enjoying the lights and sounds of the vibrant entertainment complex.
Our on-site stay in Cabana Bay also included Early Park Admission passes, so on our first full day at the parks, we were already on our way to Hogsmead and the Hogwarts Castle around 7am, which is an hour before general admission. Our priority was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so for most of the morning, we stayed in Hogsmead and filled ourselves with everything Harry Potter, including mugs of Butterbeer. We also got on rides such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside the Hogwarts Castle and watched toads sing in the square.
Sometime around lunch, we then rode the Hogwarts Express from Universal’s Islands of Adventure to the King’s Cross Station in Universal Studios. It is easy to walk from one Universal park to the other, but the Hogwarts Express is a fun way to travel between parks. The ride immersed us more into the world of Harry Potter with the digital special effects throughout the ride.
Once we’ve arrived, we then went through the brick wall and into the bustling streets of Diagon Alley, which seemed just like the Diagon Alley in the books and movies. Many of the shops’ window displays could be controlled by wand gestures, so we saw many people waving their wands constantly in front of the shops. A gigantic, fire-breathing concrete dragon is perched atop Gringotts Bank and becomes animated every so often. It was at Diagon Alley where we attended Ollivander’s wand-pairing ceremony, dined at the Leaky Cauldron, and went on the Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts ride, among many other things.
We then spent the rest of the day enjoying the other attractions in Universal Studios before grabbing dinner again at the Universal City Walk.
On our second day at the park, we reversed our trip and went straight to Universal Studios first to enjoy the other attractions we didn’t get to the day before and also relive our Diagon Alley experience. We then rode the Hogwarts Express train again from King’s Cross Station in Universal Studios to the station in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. We drank more Butterbeer and got on the Forbidden Journey ride again before checking out the other attractions outside of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Buy the Park-to-Park ticket to enjoy both Universal parks with unlimited Hogwarts Express rides already included in the tickets.
- To get through ride queues faster, the Universal Express pass is also available, although not for all of the rides.
- Download the Universal Orlando app to access maps, ride wait times, show times, etc.
- Ride the shuttle back to the hotel to take naps mid-afternoon. This helped us regain our energy, especially during those hot and humid July days, to stay up and walk around the parks until closing time.