I will preface this post by saying: I know that it is not a smart idea to visit Harry Potter World, or go anywhere (besides outside to explore, alone) during the pandemic. But after looking up the precautions the park was taking and considering our own precautions and health, I was convinced to go. Please do not hate on me, or this post or my blog. I am writing this post only for informational purposes and to record this experience as history. Additionally, I do not condone or recommend anyone go to Harry Potter World right now so that we can all stay safe. All that being said, here is my experience going to Harry Potter World during the pandemic.
A few months ago, I fulfilled one of the dreams I’ve had since I was a teenager and went to Harry Potter World Hogsmeade at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure. I’ve wanted to go to Harry Potter World (HPW) ever since it first opened many years ago, but it was never possible because I lived too far away. Now that I live in Florida, it’s just a few hours drive to Orlando. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I haven’t traveled to places like HPW. At the time that we went to HPW, there was still a mask mandate but vaccines were being more openly distributed.
The Universal Studios theme parks has taken a few precautions against COVID-19 (admittedly, not as much as Disney). Instead of 50,000 visitors each day, there are only 20,000 per park. Their lines are socially distanced, as are how many people are in each of the seats. Unlike Disney, the shops were still SUPER busy and they’re generally just small since they emulate the size of Hogsmeade shops. And, since HPW is so popular, Hogsmeade was a madhouse and filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of people (but it was better when you go to places like Jurassic Park and Dr. Seuss land and Marvel Studios). I can’t imagine what it would be like with the parks at full capacity. A true nightmare.
Anyways, we arrived to Universal in the late morning along with the rest of the late-morning crowds. It was quite a long walk from the parking lot (which costs $25 per day) to the park entrances, and by the time we arrived, there was a long line to get in. Like Disney, you have to buy and reserve your park tickets online a few weeks prior to the day that you want to visit, otherwise tickets will sell out. Tickets start at $109 and range up from there, although residents can get a considerable discount.
There are two theme parks and one water park. The original park, Universal Studios, has HPW Diagon Alley, Springfield Home of the Simpsons, New York – Jimmy Fallon, Shrek 4-D, Minions, Transformers, and Revenge of the Mummy. Islands of Adventure has HPW Hogsmeade, Marvel Super Hero Island, Jurassic Park, Dr. Seuss land, a cartoon area, and a few others. The water park is Volcano Bay and features, of course, a bunch of water rides and swim areas.
A unique thing about when you go to Universal’s is that they take your fingerprint. I’ve never experienced this at Disney or any other theme park, so if you’re nervous about that, maybe Universal isn’t for you. You are required to get fingerprinted before entering and they don’t really tell you why.
I, of course, wanted to see the Hogwarts castle so we went to Islands of Adventure and once we got inside, I made a bee-line straight for HPW. I swear, I was practically running with blinders on to everything else and my family was sprinting to keep up and didn’t understand why I was rushing when we had all day. But when you’ve wanted something for so long, it’s hard to hold back.
HPW is at the back of the park so after probably 10 minutes of sprinting, we finally made it. I saw the “Hogsmeade” sign and stopped and stared. It’s truly incredible what they’ve been able to do with HPW. I continued running around in awe trying to look at everything until we reached the castle, which is absolutely incredible. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed in how small Hogsmeade was, but I suppose that it couldn’t be as large as it appears in the movies. You can still spend all day exploring the shops, rides and restaurants.
I walked through the Hogwarts front gates, expecting to be able to walk through the castle, and instead ended up in line for a ride. I hadn’t done much research on Universal prior to arriving so I didn’t know the rides or anything like that, and we accidentally stumbled into line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Adventure, which is an absolutely incredible ride that we rode twice because we loved it so much. A HEAD’S UP: the new ride, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and a few others require DIGITAL line reservations through the Universal app, and you better book it first thing in the morning because I had no idea about this, and we were not able to get a reservation all day and ride the ride.
After that, we bought our school robes for the occasion (I’m a Hufflepuff!) and tried some butterbeer. In the movies it’s alcoholic, but at the parks, it’s not. It’s essentially a butterscotch-tasting cream soda and absolutely delicious. I would’ve bought more, but you have to wait in like for like 10 minutes because it’s probably the #1 drink for visitors.
Finding lunch at the parks was difficult. The line for the 3 Broomsticks (the place I would’ve loved to eat at) was insane so we left Hogmeade and ventured next door into Jurassic Park. There, we found a quick pizza place that had food options for everyone in our group.
We traveled around a few of the other parks and rides, going rides like Flight of the Hippogriff (very kid-friendly), the Spiderman 4-D ride (which was really cool), and the Incredible Hulk ride. Now, I absolutely ADORED the Hulk and could ride it over and over… but the rest of the group hated it. My uncle was pretty freaked out by it and my little brother had a meltdown once we got out and away from the ride. It’s a very intense ride – lots of G’s, speed and looping. Not for the faint of heart.
After accidentally traumatizing my brother, we took it easy for a while and walked around, ate churros and chilled for the rest of the afternoon. I wanted to wait until nighttime to see the castle at night, so we just meandered around and rode a few other rides and took photos.
The castle at night is beautiful. They light it up and if you have an upgrade camera with night photography abilities, you can get some really cool photos.
Eventually it was time to go and my final stop for the day was, of course, the candy shop Honeydukes. I bought some liquid luck, chocolate frogs and every flavor bean as keepsakes of an incredible day.
Overall, I thought that Universal’s Island of Adventure was incredible and I can’t wait to go back. I’m vaccinated now and restrictions are lifting here in the United States, so I’m excited to be able to visit again, safely.
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to Universal’s Harry Potter World? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!