THE BIG 5: Top fives secrets to getting the most out of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

THE BIG 5: Top fives secrets to getting the most out of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has now been on the Islands of Adventure map for over three years, and its popularity is so incredible that Universal will create the world’s first multi-park, centrally themed “land” when the resort connects the original Wizarding World to Diagon Alley next spring.

Even though millions of guests have traveled through the streets of Hogsmeade Village, and much of what was once a truly mysterious area is now well understood, I bet I know a few tricks inside the Wizarding World you haven’t quite figured out yet. Let’s take a look in today’s edition of THE BIG 5: Top five secrets to getting the most of out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

 

#5 – The butterbeer line is shorter inside Hogs Head

We’re going to start our collection of “secrets” with the one that you’re most likely to know (but if you don’t, it’s extremely valuable). 95 out of 100 times, the line inside Hogs Head, next to Three Broomsticks, is far shorter than the line at the two outdoor butterbeer carts. Hogs Head serves the exact same versions of butterbeer, frozen or regular, and offers the same container options, souvenir mug or disposable cup — so there just isn’t a reason to wait in the longer lines outside.

Hogs Head at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Hogs Head at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

What’s more, getting your drink at Hogs Head offers two additional benefits: First, they serve more than just butterbeer, so if you want a variety of drinks they can assist (I recommend trying pumpkin fizz if you haven’t yet). Second, Annual Passholders can use their food & beverage discount at Hogs Head, an option not available at the outdoor butterbeer carts.

 

#4 – The butterbeer souvenir mug is good for 95 cent refills

Staying on the topic of beverages for the moment, most Universal guests are familiar with the resort’s classic souvenir mug refill program, which is most often represented by the big, red cups you see every other guest carrying around the parks. However, what many don’t realize is that basically any souvenir mug you purchase at Universal can be used as part of the 95 cent refill program, whether the mug is shaped like a Transformer, Homer Simpson’s head, or that of the souvenir mug you got with your butterbeer.

Souvenir butterbeer mug at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Souvenir butterbeer mug at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Granted the butterbeer souvenir mug isn’t as large as the other options, nor does it have a top, but it still can be used if you really want to get a soda refill around Universal Orlando’s theme parks for only 95 cents. In addition, many of the stands that sell other varieties of drinks (like slushies) will offer you a discount if you use your butterbeer mug instead of getting a new cup.

 

#3 – Free photo print of your Forbidden Journey ride

A lot of folks are aware that Universal offers a Star Card Package, which, in very brief terms, allows guests to collect their souvenir & ride photos over a five-day period for the low price of only $59.95. Once their vacation is over, guests can access digital proofs of their photos online and share them as they please. One additional feature of the Star Card Package is that it includes a free 8×10 or 5×7 print, and you can use that free print for your Forbidden Journey ride photo — but here’s the catch — you can only do this if you get your free photo printed at the Forbidden Journey photo kiosks as you exit the ride.

Souvenir ride photo from Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Souvenir ride photo from Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

If you’re just learning about this option for the first time, this may not seem like any big deal. But it is, and that’s because any other photo you’ve collected throughout both theme parks can be used as your free print and produced for you anytime when you visit the main Photo Connect stores at the entrance to the parks. But, to get your Forbidden Journey ride photo as your free print, you must request it at Filch’s Emporium, the Forbidden Journey gift shop. If you try to get your FJ ride photo printed at the main Photo Connect stores as your free print, you’re out of luck.

 

#2 – See into the future on Dragon Challenge

We are all very sad that the coasters on Dragon Challenge no longer operate in dueling mode (although you can hardly blame Universal for making the permanent change after two guests were injured by flying debris). That’s why, if you are willing, you can consider it a new thrill of the attraction that Dragon Challenge now offers a brilliant look into the future of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Hogsmeade station construction viewed from Dragon Challenge.

Hogsmeade station construction viewed from Dragon Challenge.

As you join the Triwizard Tournament and ride up, down, and all around the aggressive Dragon Challenge tracks, you will be given a perfect view of the Harry Potter expansion project now underway at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

The building in the foreground is the new Hogsmeade Station, which will be used for guests disembarking and boarding a real Hogwarts Express. But look a little further into the distance, following the Hogwarts Express track toward Universal Studios Florida, and for now you can also catch a glimpse of the actual Hogwarts Express ride vehicles…

Hogwarts Express vehicles viewed from Dragon Challenge.

Hogwarts Express vehicles viewed from Dragon Challenge.

(This isn’t the only way to see Universal’s Hogwarts Express before it goes into commission. Guests riding USF’s Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit are also treated to a gorgeous view of the trains, and now that Halloween Horror Nights 2013 has started, guests exiting the soundstage houses can also see the top of the vehicles.)

 

#1 – The perks of buttons & costumes

I’m about to turn your visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from the best vacation you’ve had this year into the vacation of a lifetime with these two tricks. First, if you are going to Universal Orlando and you can associate the visit even remotely with any kind of life event — be it a birthday, graduation, anniversary, honeymoon, new job, or even just your first visit to Orlando — stop by Guest Services and get a button. You have the option between the specific “Birthday” button or the general “I’m Celebrating” button. And don’t worry about dates; even if your kid’s birthday was last week, if you’re at Universal because of it, get the button!

I'm Celebrating & Birthday buttons at Universal Orlando.

Buttons at Universal Orlando.

Once you have this prized precession in full view for all Universal team members to see, you’ll start to notice that you get special attention throughout the parks. For the purposes of our discussion today, here’s what you might get inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Wearing a Universal button is the closest thing you can get to a guarantee you will be picked for the wand experience at Ollivander’s Wand Shop (keep in mind I said “closest thing to a guarantee” — I didn’t say it is a guarantee!). Once you’re done with Ollivander’s, mosey on over to the Forbidden Journey line and show off your button with all the enthusiasm you can muster. You may be given an Express Pass for the ride, which, besides not having to pay for it, is remarkable because Forbidden Journey does not offer Express Pass access aside from special circumstances.

Can’t think of anything to celebrate? Then consider showing your Hogwarts “house pride” by getting decked out in a Potter costume (it’s better if it’s homemade, not purchased at Universal). Again there are no guarantees here, but team members inside the Wizarding World often try to enhance the experience of guests who they know are celebrating a special event, or are die-hard Potter fans. Heck, you might even get a free butterbeer.

Harry Potter look-a-like at the Wizarding World.

Wonder what they do if you show up looking exactly like Harry Potter?

One more tip: If you are indeed celebrating something special at Universal and you’re staying at an on-site hotel, be certain to note the event on your reservation — the on-site hotels often give special treats to birthday boys and girls, etc.

 

Honorable mention – scavenger hunt

Even if you’ve done all of the things I mentioned above, I am certain you haven’t done this one: complete both of our Wizarding World of Harry Potter scavenger hunts. I know this because, even though our scavenger hunts have been available almost as long as the Wizarding World has been open, only one group has successfully completed both the First Year and Sixth Year hunts.

So go on, give it a try! View/download (PDF file)

After your visit, if you think you found everything, drop me a line via our Contact page and I might just getcha a free Orlando Informer t-shirt.

 

As with many of our BIG 5 topics covering Universal, I held back on including links to the OI Universal Center in the material above because the post would just be link after link after link. Instead, here’s a collection of what to check out next if you’d like to learn more:

Insider’s guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Universal Orlando souvenir & ride photos

Refillable cups, popcorn buckets & Coke Freestyle

Harry Potter expansion: Diagon Alley

Read and write reviews of the attractions inside WWoHP

 

I hope you enjoyed today’s edition of THE BIG 5, and I sincerely hope you get a chance to put the secrets shared on this page into good use very soon!

View all of our BIG 5 posts

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20 comments
BrittanyPinsonneault
BrittanyPinsonneault

My sister has a Muggle shirt that she's had for years. Our first trip to WWOHP she wore it and EVERYONE got in on it. The people at the photos at the end of Journey were yelling "Looks like we've got a Muggle here!!" And every time we came back though they would yell "Look the Muggles back!" She also has a sweater with SPEW (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) on it. When we were being seated at 3 Broomsticks the lady ask my sister what it stood for and then got into character "Eh why would you want that! Hey! Look she wants equality for the elfs can you believe it!" The two waitresses got into a discussion with my sister about why its right or wrong! It was so amazing! We are HUGE Potter fans and were already in awe coming to WWOHP and the fact that they get SOOOOO into character makes it 1000 times better! I defiantly recommend wearing your house colors. On our last trip we were in Journey at the fork between single rider/express pass and the regular line. There were three workers, Hufflepuff, Slytherine and Griffendor and since we were stopped they took the time to joke around with us in our Ravensclaw and Griffendor shirts and we all had a great time teasing the man from Slytherine! There is never a dull moment in WWOHP and we cannot wait until the expansion is open so we can plan our next trip out to see how that is!

Cecelia Zbyszinski
Cecelia Zbyszinski

Thanks for all your wonderful tips. You definitely make things easier .

Maryl Whitford Rusch
Maryl Whitford Rusch

Went to IOA this past Sunday - no crowds - walked right on Harry Potter and Spiderman - no Wait - it was Great. At Universal Studios Transformers was only a 10 min wait. Love being a passholder during off season :))

Kathryn Simpson
Kathryn Simpson

Wow. Never knew about the AP discount for butterbeer!! Thanks for sharing this!

Kerry Watson
Kerry Watson

Yes Jody I can't wait! I'm already checking through old photos of previous visits! Sad I know lol

Caitlin Smith
Caitlin Smith

Yes! Dressing up worked amazingly when I went for Ollivander's. It was AMAZING :]

Jody Rakow Waltman
Jody Rakow Waltman

Kerry, you are going to have SO much fun completing the scavenger hunt!!

Natércia da Conceição-Garty
Natércia da Conceição-Garty

I used your tip for the butterbeer last time we were there - the queues at the carts were huge and there was no line at all in The Hogs Head :) Thanks!

Debbie Woodward
Debbie Woodward

Thank you so much for this! I'm a universal annual pass holder and despite getting birthday buttons for Disney, didn't realise that universal did them as well. I also didn't know that you could do refills with butter beer! Trish McVea Karen Wilson check this out :)

CaptainAction
CaptainAction

Great info Dan, thanks.

I have been visiting Universal since WWOHP opened and always stood in line outside to buy butterbeer until we went inside Hogs Head because the line was shorter. Then we discovered the Annual Pass discount worked here. Haven't been in the outside lines since.

Also, the Three Broomsticks opens earlier than Hogs Head and they don't mind selling you just a butterbeer and the Annual Pass discounts work there as well.

Kerry Watson
Kerry Watson

I'm gonna be flying over the pond in 8 days and I'm soooo up for this scavenger hunt!! :-D is it best to print it off and fill in on the go?

Jody Rakow Waltman
Jody Rakow Waltman

I respectfully request that you amend the .pdf of your scavenger hunt so that no longer says that nobody has ever completed both pages!! :D

jenniferlocke
jenniferlocke

On our first trip to Universal in 2011 we got picked to open the park, and while wearing the opening the park button, my son was chosen for the Olivander's show.  On my next trip, we wore matching group shirts and got an express pass and backstage tour of the Forbidden journey. I think the shirts helped us chosen to open the park as well.

mandy32
mandy32

I'm so gonna get a button! It's my birthday the 21st October and I'll be going the week after. 

I love this website!


Rosie Hatfield
Rosie Hatfield

You know it's an awesome post when MamaInformer learns something new :)

OrlandoInformer
OrlandoInformer moderator

@CaptainAction Yes, that's a good point about Three Broomsticks selling butterbeer. Usually the restaurant is busy during the day, but often in the evenings there is no line at all.

OrlandoInformer
OrlandoInformer moderator

@Kerry WatsonWhatever works best for you, really. If you're bringing a smartphone and it can view PDF files, you could do it that one. One person can have the PDF file opened on their phone, another can take notes on a different phone. You just need to email the answers to me in the end, a print-out isn't necessary.

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