Plan a Trip to Universal Orlando With This Ultimate Guide

Here at Lau Family Travels we like to think that we are Universal experts.  We went to Universal Orlando for the first time in the Spring of 2017 and have been 5 times since!  Are there people MORE qualified to call themselves Universal experts?  Sure!  However, we do have some REALLY great content that we hope with help you plan a trip to Universal Orlando as stress free as possible!

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Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley? | Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I have seen a lot of people ask on message boards and on Facebook “If I can only go to one of the Harry Potter parks which should I go to?”  I thought that would make an excellent blog post!  So, what do you think I’ll choose…  Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley?  Keep reading to find out which Wizarding World of Harry Potter park at Universal Orlando you should go to (if you can only choose ONE)!

*This post contains affiliate links*

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is located in both parks (Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure).  The parks are connected by the Hogwarts Express, which requires a Park to Park ticket in order to ride.  Due to this extra cost a lot of people end up only paying to visit one park and then are left wondering which would be the best park for them to visit.  So, the question is…  Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley?
Please be aware that my recommendations are just that (a recommendation), but that you really need to make the best decision for you!

If you want a FULL guide to Universal Orlando you might want to check out the Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando.  The Unofficial Guides are my FAVORITE!  I have been hooked on reading them since our first trip to Disney World in 2012!  You can get your own here –>  HERE!  If you’d like more information about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in general please check out this post:  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter… Is It Really Magical?

Go to Hogsmeade if you are looking for a classic Harry Potter experience!

Hogsmeade is located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.  This section of the park is definitely what I would consider “classic” Harry Potter World.  Here you will find Hogwarts castle, Hogsmeade village, and Hogsmeade Station to board the Hogwarts Express (only if you have a Park to Park ticket).

Hogsmeade Station

Attractions in Hogsmeade

There are two (soon to be three) attractions here as well.  Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey is located inside the castle. Flight of the Hippogriff is a family coaster that is fun for all.  However, coming in June 2019 will be a coaster that we’ve all been waiting for (ever since they demolished two amazing coasters, but don’t get me started on that)…  Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure!

Dining & Shopping in Hogsmeade

If you are hungry you can grab some grub at Three Broomsticks or get a sweet treat at Honeydukes!  If you are just looking for some Butterbeer or Pumpkin Juice head on over to Hog’s Head for a drink.
*Check out my review of Three Broomsticks vs. Leaky Cauldron here!

There are plenty of shopping opportunities at Hogsmeade as well.  Probably the most popular shop is Ollivanders where you can select your own interactive wand…  OR maybe one will pick you!

Hogsmeade Village

There’s an opportunity to see a castle projection show!

If you are a fan of night time projection shows then you will definitely want to be at Hogsmeade.  On select nights there is a projection show on Hogwarts Castle that will be sure to give you goosebumps!

Hogwarts Castle Projection Show

Choose Diagon Alley if you like the darker side of Harry Potter!

Enter Diagon Alley through the streets of London at Universal Studios and enter the darker side of Harry Potter.  Honestly, Diagon Alley is my FAVORITE part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but it has the least amount of attractions.  This side also tends to feel a bit more crowded since it is smaller in size, but there is so much to see!

Diagon Alley

Attractions in Diagon Alley

There are only two attractions in this part of the park, however King’s Cross Station is part of the Hogwarts Express and requires the Park to Park ticket.  My FAVORITE Harry Potter attraction is nestled into the back of Diagon Alley:  Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts!  This “multi dimensional” thrill ride will take you deep into Gringotts Bank on an exciting adventure.  It’s one of our favorite attractions in ALL of Universal Orlando!

Gringotts Bank

Dining & Shopping in Diagon Alley

If you are hungry you can feast at the Leaky Cauldron OR get some of the best ice cream ever at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour.  I love the strawberry & peanut butter!  There are also multiple establishments where you can get your fill of all the specialty drinks that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer (including Butterbeer).
*Check out my review of Three Broomsticks vs. Leaky Cauldron here!

Diagon Alley has a lot of shops!  Ollivanders is in this section of the park as well, so you won’t be missing out on selecting the perfect wand.  You can also go to Gringotts Money Exchange and have a talking goblin exchange your money for Gringotts bank notes!  But one of my favorite shops is located in Knockturn Alley…  Borgin and Burkes!

Diagon Alley Shopping

Step outside Diagon Alley for MORE magic!

Make sure you also check out the streets of London right outside of Diagon Alley.  The Knight Bus is a must see (and photo-op).  Plus you might see some other interesting things in the windows across the way!

The Knight Bus

Both sides have fun opportunities to try your hand at being a wizard!

Remember those wands I kept talking about?  Well, they are a lot of fun for kids (and adults).  There are opportunities to use your wands all over both areas of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley both have fun interactive areas to try your magic skills.  My son said he prefers Diagon Alley.   Knockturn Alley has a lot of unique (and kind of creepy) places to “practice magic”.

So, do I think you should pick Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley?

I feel like you are reading this because you REALLY want me to decide for you which park you should visit…  BUT…  my honest opinion is this:

I think that if you are ONLY going for ONE day and you ONLY want to focus on Harry Potter attractions then you really need a Park to Park ticket!  The difference (as of right now) between a 1 day base ticket and a 1 day park to park ticket is around $50-55.  It is definitely worth it to upgrade if you want to be able to experience everything the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer.

However, if you truly can only pick one park then it really depends on what you are looking for in your experience.

Do you want a classic Harry Potter experience with lots of attractions?  Then you should go to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and visit Hogsmeade.

Do you like the darker side of Harry Potter and want to experience one of the best attractions (as of right now)?  Then you should go to Universal Studios and visit Diagon Alley.

Do you want more tips & tricks for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?  Check out my 15 Tips & Tricks for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter HERE!

If you could only pick one (Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley) which would you choose?

Should I go to Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley?

If you need help planning your vacation to Universal Orlando I’d love to help!  I’m a travel agent as well – so feel free to contact me today to get started!  

Are you interested in reading MORE about Universal Orlando?  Check out these posts!

Harry Potter Restaurants Universal Orlando – Three Broomsticks VS Leaky Cauldron

There are TWO unique Harry Potter restaurants at Universal Orlando. How will you ever choose which one to go to? You can take a seat at the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron at Universal Orlando!  Enjoy British styled meals, delicious Harry Potter inspired beverages, and a truly unique dining atmosphere at either location!  Keep reading to find out which dining establishment we enjoyed the most and why!

*This post contains affiliate links*

You have TWO unique Harry Potter restaurants to choose from…  or maybe you don’t have to choose!

If you are familiar with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter than you know that it is spread across both of the Universal parks.  Three Broomsticks is located in Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, while the Leaky Cauldron is in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.  Both Harry Potter restaurants serve breakfast, lunch, & dinner.  However, we only ate lunch while we were there.  Both locations have similar offerings, but there were differences!  We thought there was a clear winner, but it was opposite of what everyone else said!

If you want a FULL guide to Universal Orlando you might want to check out the Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando.  The Unofficial Guides are my FAVORITE!  I have been hooked on reading them since our first trip to Disney World in 2012!  You can get your own here –>  HERE!

Three Broomsticks

Three Broomsticks is located in Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.  This rustic tavern is a cozy place to relax and fill your belly!  If you sit on the back patio you have a beautiful view of Hogwarts!  The featured item here is The Great Feast!  This meal comes with a salad, rotisserie smoked chicken, ribs, corn, and roasted potatoes for the whole family to share.

We got the Fish & Chips and Chicken & Ribs Platter to share (plus my son got the Kids Chicken Fingers).  We thought the food was delicious, but my husband said the fish was the best hands down.  It reminded him of a fish fry from Buffalo, NY!

One of the Harry Potter Restaurants: Three Broomsticks

Chicken & Ribs and Fish & Chips

Chicken & Ribs and Fish & Chips

Kids Chicken Fingers

Kids Chicken Fingers

Enjoying a FROZEN Butterbeer

Enjoying a FROZEN Butterbeer! Those are delicious too!

The view from Leaky Cauldron

The view of Hogwarts from Leaky Cauldron back patio!

Leaky Cauldron

The Leaky Cauldron is located in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.  You will feel like a local in this dark pub & inn.  Get your fill of traditional British cuisine such as Bangers and Mash, Fisherman’s Pie, Toad in the Hole, & the Ploughman’s Platter.  They also serve Fish & Chips and kids meals like Macaroni and Cheese…  but if you are trying the Leaky Cauldron you really should probably try the traditional menu!

I got the Bangers and Mash, but my husband who isn’t quite as adventurous got a Banger Sandwich instead.  My son wasn’t adventurous at all…  he got the Macaroni and Cheese which he said was delicious!  I thought that the food was good, but it wasn’t really our taste in food.  My brother & sister-in-law LOVED this restaurant though and most of the reviews favor Leaky Cauldron!

Bangers & Mash

Bangers & Mash

Banger Sandwich

Banger Sandwich

Kids Mac & Cheese

Kids Mac & Cheese

Enjoying a hot Butterbeer at the Harry Potter Restaurants

Enjoying a hot Butterbeer

Can you go wrong?  I mean…  you’re eating at a Harry Potter themed restaurant!

Honestly, you are probably really eating at one of the Harry Potter restaurants for the experience and not really the food.  The food isn’t outstanding at either location, but none of it was awful either!  I was just happy to be sitting there with my family geeking out at my surroundings!  Eat at both if you have the time, but honestly you can’t really go wrong!

Do you want more tips & tricks for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?  Check out my 15 Tips & Tricks for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter HERE!

What’s your opinion?  Are you team Three Broomsticks or team Leaky Cauldron?

Harry Potter Restaurants - Three Broomsticks VS Leaky Cauldron

You might like to check out my other Universal Orlando posts!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter… Is It Really Magical?

I had BIG expectations for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. Everything I’ve read and heard about it made it seem like you FELT the magic when you walked into it. My sister has always been the BIGGEST Harry Potter fan I know. I bought her the first book for Christmas the year it came out and ever since then she was the biggest fan. So right off the bat I felt a little guilty going here without her, but I was determined to give her a review (and I Marco Polo’d her during my trip too)!

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