Unfortunately due to the time we went, we were unable to purchase the fast passes. Had we been able to, we would have purchased them to make our experience just a smidge better.
This is a LONG post with a lot of pictures, so I hope you enjoy it!
Tip: See all those people that have backpacks? Take a cue from them. Bring a backpack for all of the stuff you'll but if you're a fan and a shopper. If you feel like lugging your shoes in your backpack, I have a friend that does Disney a lot and swears by switching between flip flops and tennies half way through the day to trick your feet into thinking they're resting even though you only changed shoes.
Most of the rides in WWoHP have lockers you can use while you're on the ride to store your things.
We started our day off just after the gates open at 8:00 am by entering the front gates of Universal Studios. Almost immediately, we headed way back in the park to where Diagon Alley is. You enter Diagon Alley by going near the London Underground.
The Leaky Cauldron is just to the left as you walk in, but I'll talk more about that later. The first glance in Diagon Alley is very overwhelming, even to someone that has only seen the movies and knows very little about the world. You are literally immersed into the world of Harry Potter. From what I've been told by diehard fans, Universal did a fabulous job of recreating the experience of the books and movies.
You can't miss the fire breathing dragon sitting on top of Gringotts Bank for two reasons. One, that's probably where you're heading since it's one of the longest lines in the park and the first place we were going. Two, you can "feel" the heat from the fire every time it goes off if you're standing near it.
Gringotts isn't just a ride, it's an experience. After you've waited in line (it took us about 1.5 hours from start to finish) you get to walk through Gringotts and see the tellers hard at work. Then there's a 3D show you walk through before you get on an elevator "ride" that takes you to the actual Escape from Gringotts Ride. My mom stood in line with us for the whole thing, so she was thrilled she got to experience even just a little bit of a ride before getting out of line and waiting on us.
Tip: One of the things we did while waiting in line was take quizzes like Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In? Of course I also had a book I was reading through and luckily I had received a portable charger for Christmas and this thing was a lifesaver!
You will have to stand in line outside for a little bit, and the day gets hotter so it makes it more appealing to do this ride first thing. They have done a very good job keeping the heat away though, kind of creating an outdoor air conditioner and a lot of shade in Diagon Alley.
You're not allowed to have anything not in pockets on the ride, so this was the only shot I could get on the actual ride before I put my phone away, but I was glad to get a little something.
Right after we got off the ride, our first stop after browsing that ride's shop was the Fountain of Fair Fortune for a Butterbeer! *claps* The regular price of a Butterbeer is $5 I think, but if you buy the souvenir cup for $13 you'll also get $0.99 refills of soda and tea throughout the parks. We knew we were planning on staying all day, so the drinks would be worth it and wanted to also have another thing to bring home.
Tip: If you don't have a backpack, your backpack is too full or bag large enough for your souvenir glass, bring one of the stretchy no-kink hair ties and loop it through the handle then around your wrist.
FYI - You are allowed to bring water and drinks into the park in your hand as long as they're not in glass containers.
You can get other things besides Butterbeer through out the WWoHP, including alcoholic beverages if you're of age.
The frozen butterbeer comes with a straw, which was right up my alley.
There are other places you can purchase butterbeer, including The Leaky Cauldron where we ate lunch and the Hopping Pot.
I didn't get a picture of the outside of a sign, just the menu because we wanted to decide what we were eating as we were walking through the park, lol. We ended up sharing the fish and chips and the kids macaroni and cheese. So yummy, and plenty of food!
Of course no trip is complete without the Ollivanders wand shop, but we didn't do that. I had asked my sister if she was interested in a wand, which runs about $50 and she said she would rather have a wand pen so I ordered this one off Amazon.
I will say that if I had a child that was gaga for HP I would have wanted to get them a wand there. They give you a map and have a lot of places you can stop with your wand to cast your spells.
They have a fake Owl Post in Diagon Alley, but you MUST visit the functioning Owl Post in Hogsmeade so you can get your postcards stamped with the seal. You can purchase stamps at your local post office outside the parks that are Harry Potter commemorative stamps and not marked up.
Knockturn Alley was dark, obviously so I didn't take a lot of pictures but I managed to get one shot of the talking heads.
The last thing we really did besides walk through more shops was rest for a while by the Knight Bus. It's a great photo op and listening to the driver and the talking head is quite entertaining too.
One of the things I was really looking forward to was getting the chance to ride on Hogwarts Express AND also being taken to the other WWoHP park, Hogsmeade inside of Islands of Adventure. Genius. Now, you MUST have a park-to-park pass for the SAME DAY in order to ride the train. Many people are turned away from riding this ride because they didn't have the proper ticket.
Throughout the line they have plenty more things to look at and take pictures of. Most are things seen in the movie, like the perfume advertisement.
We ended up having to wait about 45 minutes to ride the train over to the other park at about 3:45. When my brother and his GF got to the parks, they started at Hogsmeade and rode the train to Diagon Alley with no wait.
I shared this on Instagram because it was one of the coolest things. There's a spot when you're walking through the line that it appears as if you're walking through the wall like they do in the books/movies.
This is what the actual wall you walk through looks like. Nothing special. I kind of wish I would have waited to take a picture of my mom and sis walking through the wall but there's always next time if we go again.
Finally you get to the train!!
They play videos through the windows outside and the windows that show into the hall. Complete with sound and everything. The images they show you inside the train through the "windows" are different depending on which park you're riding to and from.
When you step off the train into Hogsmeade they'll direct you through the gates and it'll be much more crowded and less shaded than Diagon Alley was. There are two rides over here, but since we didn't have the fast passes we couldn't ride all of them and experience other parts of the park like the Macys Parade so we opted not to do them. We're also more shopping people than riders when we're in amusement parks, anybody else?
Of course there are a couple of places that we had to visit, like the bathroom where you can hear Myrtle moaning.
Honey Dukes where you can buy all different kinds or overpriced candy, but it's so worth it to get a chocolate frog.
I couldn't leave without getting a shot in a quintessential London phone booth. Especially since the ones in London when A and I tried to get shots were not photo op worthy.
Even though I'm not an uber fan / Potterhead, I had such a great time exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and am very appreciative of Universal Studios for putting together such a great experience.
For general tips about the park, including parking check out my Beginners Guide to Universal specifically at the Holidays.
Have you been to Harry Potter World or have a desire to go?