If you are thinking of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort you need to know what each park offers so that you can decide how to plan your vacation.
Which Universal Park is better for Harry Potter?
There are two Harry Potter-themed lands at the Universal Orlando Resort based on locations from the books/movies:
- Diagon Alley, located at Universal Studios park
- Hogsmeade, located at Islands of Adventure.
Each park is linked by the Hogwarts Express attraction which you can travel on to enter the other park.
You do need a ticket for each of the Universal Orlando parks if you want to visit both of the areas of Wizarding World.
Both Wizarding World theme parks are amazing, but say you could only visit one, which should you go for?
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so let’s compare them category by category and see which one stands out as the best so you can see which Universal Park has the best Harry Potter experience.
Which Harry Potter Park has the Best Dining?
Let’s start with the food!
Restaurants in Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade each have their own restaurant.
Both are counter service but each has very impressive themed areas where guests sit to enjoy their food.
Diagon Alley has Leaky Cauldron, and Hogsmeade has The Three Broomsticks.
Both serve traditional – well… the correct word might be “stereotypical” British food, like Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, and for some reason, American Buttermilk Pancakes.
I’m pretty sure that Harry Potter never experienced a buttermilk pancake!
Their food and drinks menus differ, though they both offer popular items such as Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice.
They both have really tasty food, and over the years they have definitely improved their vegetarian and vegan options. Gone are the days when the vegan option was a baked potato and a corn on the cob.
In fact, Three Broomsticks doesn’t even have a vegetarian main course, unless you count the soup, which isn’t even that big.
In terms of which restaurant has better theming and atmosphere, I’d say the Leaky Cauldron.
It looks more like the restaurant from the movie, while Three Broomsticks is less recognizable.
It is a close call though as both restaurants are fabulously themed with attention to detail. Really take some time to look around to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the experience.
Snacks and Drinks in Wizarding World
There are lots of choices of snacks and drinks in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
The Hogshead in Hogsmeade, is much better than the pub in Diagon Alley, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, given that it’s a place we’ve actually seen in the Harry Potter movies.
Plus, there are more places to sit.
Both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley have a number of stands that serve Butterbeer.
An advantage that Diagon Alley has over Hogsmeade is its very own ice cream parlor.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor serves a variety of unique flavors including Butterbeer, Orange Marmalade, Toffee, and many more.
In case it sounds familiar, Harry Potter spends a lot of time at Fortescue’s in the third book Prisoner Of Azkaban while he is staying at the Leaky Cauldron.
That’s what I love about Wizarding World: it has a good mix of both books and movies, meaning that every fan will be satisfied in some way.
Overall, I prefer the dining at Diagon Alley given that there are a couple more options and there are more locations based on the movies and books.
Diagon Alley wins!
Best Shopping in the Harry Potter Parks
If you want to pick up some Harry Potter souvenirs and let’s face it who doesn’t, then there are plenty of options in both of the parks.
Hogsmeade features a number of stores based on Harry Potter movies and books.
My favorite is the sweet shop Honeydukes, seen in Prisoner Of Azkaban.
It offers a variety of different wizarding candy, including Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.
There is also the interactive Ollivanders experience, where you can try out your very own wand and see which one suits you best.
You can also purchase interactive wands which you can use to cast spells around both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
There are three other gift shops where you can buy Harry Potter merchandise, like Quidditch gear, quills, and uniforms.
Diagon Alley Shopping
Again, I’d say Diagon Alley takes the lead here.
There are twice as many stores at Diagon Alley each themed after stores from the movies and books.
My favorite is Borgin and Burkes, a dark, creepy store that sells all items based on the dark arts.
There is also Gringotts Money Exchange where you can exchange US dollars into Gringotts currency. You can use the currency anywhere at Wizarding World as well as at select locations throughout the resort.
Then there’s another Ollivanders, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions and many other shopping experiences.
Diagon Alley steals this win by a landslide.
Which Harry Potter Park has the Best Themeing?
Which one is more fun to roam around? Which has better theming?
This is a tricky one because both are highly immersive and truly make you feel like you’ve stepped inside one of the Harry Potter movies.
The attention to detail is breathtaking.
The highlight of Hogsmeade is Hogwarts Castle. It dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around. It is spectacularly imposing.
You can explore all its hidden chambers, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s Office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, and many more areas with lots of details and references to the books and movies.
You can either see it by going through the queue on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, or you can just go through the walk-through experience which is the same, just without the ride.
Another highlight is Ollivanders, an interactive show where you try a bunch of different wands and cast spells, just like the scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Comparatively, there is a lot more to explore in Diagon Alley. There are more restaurants and stores that are based on the Harry Potter books and movies.
My favorite area is Knockturn Alley. It’s dark, spooky, and a lot of fun to explore.
There’s another Ollivander’s, which is just as good as the other in Islands of Adventure.
For this round, Diagon Alley takes the win.
Best Attractions at Universal Harry Potter
Right off the bat, Islands of Adventure has an advantage because it has 4 rides instead of just 2.
Plus, while I’d say the experience is better coming from Diagon Alley, you can ride The Hogwarts Express on either side.
So in some ways, you could say Diagon Alley only has one unique attraction.
Which Rides are in Each Harry Potter Park?
It is important to know which attractions are in each of the Harry Potter parks so that you can see which you would prefer to experience if you can only visit one park.
The question of which Universal Park is better for Harry Potter really is ultimately personal preference but that is going to have a lot to do with the rides in each area.
Rides in Diagon Alley
- Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
- Hogwarts Express Kings Cross Station
Rides in Hogsmeade
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade Station
Now we will look at each ride so that you can get an idea of what you will experience.
Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts is Diagon Alley’s signature attraction.
It’s based on the heist Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 where Harry and his friends try to obtain a Horcrux out of Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault.
It’s a combination of Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride – 3D.
It has some roller coaster elements which, while short, are very thrilling, but not too intense. It has a small drop and a launch section and that’s about it.
It has a number of 3D effects, including one where it feels like you’re falling straight down.
I’d say the biggest problem with this attraction is it relies too heavily on 3D effects. Some of the time, you’re just sitting there, looking at a screen.
There are many impressive sets and it’s very thrilling. But if I were at Universal for a few days, I’d probably just ride it once or twice.
It’s great but not as great as some of the other attractions at the resort.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
The newest addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hagrid’s is a roller coaster where you ride a motorbike and blast through the Forbidden Forest.
You’ll see Fluffy, a unicorn, and even have a close encounter with Devil’s Snare.
This is possibly the best-themed roller coaster in any Orlando theme park.
There are lots of animatronics and huge sets which immerse you in the story.
Not only that, the roller coaster is incredible. There are seven launch sections, a backward drop, and a free-fall drop.
It’s up there with my favorite roller coasters. And it’s a much better roller coaster than Escape From Gringotts…
Flight of the Hippogriff
A small family roller coaster themed after the scene where Harry Potter flies on a Hippogriff in the Prisoner of Azkaban.
It’s fun for kids and the roller coaster itself isn’t too bad.
However, there isn’t much theming around it. It’s just an outdoor roller coaster with a couple of references to Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
More than ten years after its opening, Forbidden Journey is still considered one of the best attractions in the world.
It takes place inside Hogwarts Castle. The queue takes you through Dumbledore’s Office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom, and more.
I love waiting in this queue because there’s so much detail and it’s incredibly immersive. Plus, it moves pretty fast.
You ride a magic flying bench and soar over Hogwarts Castle. You’ll encounter many different dangers and live out many scenes from the movies.
They cram so many iconic moments into such a short space of time.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is on another level. You really feel like you’re flying.
And the sets and effects are so realistic, you’ll swear it’s all real.
Keep in mind, this isn’t one I’d recommend for small kids. It obviously depends on the kid, but there are a lot of scary creatures that get pretty close to you.
Also, don’t go on if you really hate spiders…
As you can see, not only are there more attractions in Islands of Adventure, but they’re also better.
Which Harry Potter Park Should I Go To First?
There are of course some differences of opinion as to whether you should go to Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley first.
If you are just focussing on the Harry Potter elements of both Universal parks I would say visit Diagon Alley first.
This is the part of Wizarding World that you will want to spend less time in – mostly because there is only one attraction here.
The other reason to start in Diagon Alley is that the ride on Hogwarts Express is a much better experience from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure park.
The journey on the Hogwarts Express in the other direction is worth experiencing but is not quite as entertaining.
I would suggest that you spend part of the morning in Diagon Alley and then get the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade.
Get in line for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
You can then have lunch in The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade and head for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Flight of the Hippogriff is not a must-do attraction – the line can be long and you can use your time more wisely.
Depending on how much time you have left in the day you could then head out of Wizarding World to experience some of the other Islands of Adventure attractions.
Return to Hogsmeade in the evening as this really is a place that you want to experience at night as well as in the day.
Can I do Both Harry Potter Worlds in One Day?
Yes, you can visit both the Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade areas of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in one day.
They are of course connected by Hogwarts Express so you don’t have to walk all the way out of one park and into another.
Remember though that you do have to have a valid ticket for both Universal Orlando parks to visit both areas of Wizarding World as they are in separate parks.
Don’t worry if you arrive with a ticket for just one of the Universal parks. There are places at each Hogwarts Express Station where you can upgrade your ticket if you decide that you want to visit both parks.
Is It Worth Going to Both Harry Potter Parks?
If you are able to go to both Wizarding Worlds then absolutely do! Both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are amazing and the ideal is to see both of them – but you do need a ticket for both parks.
So Which Harry Potter Park Is Better?
It comes down to personal preference.
Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Park is best for people who want to take in the atmosphere and those who have always wanted to explore the world of Harry Potter for themselves.
Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure is for thrill-seekers looking for groundbreaking, jaw-dropping attractions.
No matter which way you go, you’ll get an amazing Harry Potter experience.
Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando. In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.