For those who’ve always wanted to walk the halls of Hogwarts or explore the shops of Diagon Alley (but who weren’t lucky enough to receive their Hogwarts acceptance letter at the age of 11), Universal Orlando offers the next best thing. The theme park opened every Harry Potter fan’s dream destination back in 2010.
For Potterheads everywhere, however, deciding when to make the trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — and how to pay for it — is no small feat. Because the themed lands of Harry Potter are found within Universal’s existing parks (one half in Universal Studios Florida and the other in Islands of Adventure), admission to Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley comes with a regular park ticket, and is therefore subject to Universal’s fluctuating ticket prices and crowd levels.
The Diagon Alley portion of the park, featuring the Escape from Gringotts ride, the Leaky Cauldron, and a number of shops, is located in the Universal Studios Florida park. Hogsmeade, on the other hand, which features Hogsmeade, The Three Broomsticks, and more shops is located in Islands of Adventure — an entirely different park.
The two sides of the Wizarding World are connected by the Hogwarts Express. This real-life, character-filled train ride transports guests between the two parks. In order to experience both parks and ride the Hogwarts Express, Potter fans must purchase a park-to-park ticket: a more expensive option than visiting just one park on one day.
In order to navigate ticket prices and crowds while still taking advantage of Potter-centric events, a little planning is in order. These tips will help you experience the best of the Wizarding World, whether you’re looking to save money, avoid the busy season, or simply experience the most magical times of the year.
The Cheapest Times to Visit Harry Potter World
The cheapest days to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter most often correspond to the cheapest days to visit Universal Orlando, in general. Typically, the cheapest (and least busy) months are January and most of February, excluding the days surrounding the New Year and winter break.
Other inexpensive times include the beginning of March and the majority of September and October.
If you can’t take a trip during any of these windows, keep in mind that there are still some ways to avoid the crowds in the Harry Potter parks. Guests staying on property in one of Universal’s resort hotels have the opportunity to enter either Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade (depending on the day) one hour early. This means that early risers are able to conquer half of the Harry Potter attractions before most guests have even entered the parks, meaning the streets are virtually empty and lines for the rides extremely short.
The Best Harry Potter Events at Universal
While they may not be the quietest times to explore Harry Potter's world, Universal holds numerous events throughout the year that fans won't want to miss.
A Celebration of Harry Potter
For a weekend every January, Universal hosts A Celebration of Harry Potter. It's the ultimate fan experience in the parks. Guests (donning their class robes, no doubt) will join other diehard Potter fans for three days of panels, demonstrations, exhibits, and cast Q&A sessions in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
In 2018, Harry Potter film cast members like James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) Stanislav Yanevski (Viktor Krum), and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) will join fans in all the Potter mania. For anyone who really loves the books and the films, this may be one of the best times of the year to visit.
Christmas in the Wizarding World
Additionally, Universal’s new additions to their holiday entertainment lineup make Hogwarts the perfect place to be around Christmastime. Decorations adorn the shops of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, the Frog Choir sings Christmas carols, and snow falls in front of Hogwarts as a festive projection show takes place on the castle’s facade.
Although the holiday season can be one of the most expensive and congested times to visit Universal in general, a small window in December exists for guests wishing to experience the holiday events in the Wizarding World without the crowds.
For a few weeks between the Thanksgiving rush and Christmas crowds, hotel prices fall (especially on weekdays), meaning a sample trip from December 10 to 13 of this year would only cost $130 per night at Universal’s affordable Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Halloween in the Wizarding World
Lastly (and perhaps most surprisingly), the Halloween season also makes for a magical visit to the Wizarding World. Although the Harry Potter parks don’t go through much of a spooky transformation, Universal’s main Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights, yields a special Harry Potter-related opportunity.
Guests can enjoy smaller daytime crowds during their September or October visit to begin with, but they can also find a quiet haven in Diagon Alley during the nighttime festivities.
While most guests are wrapped up in the late-night Halloween Horror festivities at the Universal Studios park, Diagon Alley remains open to visitors much later than usual.
True Potter fans will relish the chance to walk the streets of this wizarding marketplace in peace and quiet.