25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hacks You Need to Know Before Going
To say that I'm a Harry Potter fan is kind of an understatement. Growing up, I was the kid at the midnight releases of the books and midnight premieres of the movies decked head to toe in proper Potter fandom attire. So, to say that I had high expectations for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida is putting it lightly. However, from the moment I rounded the corner of the wall dividing muggle London from Diagon Alley, I knew that the people who built this park had gotten it really, really right.
What makes the park stand out are the nuances and subtle references to the wizarding world that toe the line by keeping everything entirely canon while still making magic come to life. There are so many things to see and do — both big and small — but it's the Harry Potter World hacks you have to look out for. While there, we discovered some secrets in both the Hogsmeade/Hogwarts and Diagon Alley sections of the park, ones that any true fan should definitely not miss out on. Here's what to look out for when you're there.
— Additional reporting by Lauren Harano
You can exchange your muggle money for Gringotts bank notes.
At Gringotts Money Exchange, you're able to speak with an interactive animatronic goblin who will answer your questions, and then exchange Muggle money for bank notes that can be used like cash in all of the Diagon Alley shops.
The phone booth outside of King's Cross will connect you to the Ministry of Magic.
If you dial 62442 (MAGIC) in the phone booth in Muggle London, you can get the Ministry itself on the line.
You can catch a glimpse of Kreacher the house elf at 12 Grimmauld Place.
When you're in muggle London, you can climb the stairs of 12 Grimmauld Place, but make sure you keep an eye on the upstairs windows — Kreacher can be caught peeking out periodically.
You can send your purchases from Honeydukes and other shops to the park entrance.
It's pretty much impossible not to want just about everything you see in the magical worlds of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but carrying a bunch of wizarding supplies around all day isn't ideal (and the charm Hermione uses to stuff loads of items into a tiny bag is some pretty tricky magic). You can ask the wizards working at the registers to have your purchases sent to the front of the park, where you can collect them at the end of the day.
The Hog's Head has specialty drinks.
In addition to Firewhisky (which is a warm, cinnamon delight that goes down easy!), the dodgy Hog's Head pub also offers several Butterbeer options and a special red ale that comes from a beer tap with an awesome hog's head. The Hog's Head Brew is made exclusively for Universal — so make sure to get it while you're in Hogsmeade while you can!
Moaning Myrtle haunts a bathroom in Hogsmeade.
You won't find Moaning Myrtle in her usual haunt at Hogwarts Castle. Instead, she wails her laments while you're using the "public conveniences" in downtown Hogsmeade.
Nearly all of the Horcruxes are available for purchase at the parks.
The only missing Horcruxes are Helga Hufflepuff's cup and Harry himself. The locket, ring, Tom Riddle's diary, a stuffed Nagini, and even Rowena Ravenclaw's bedazzled diadem are for sale.
You can order Harry's favorite ice cream from Florean Fortescue's.
In the Summer before his third year at Hogwarts, Harry spent several weeks staying in Diagon Alley at the Leaky Cauldron. Florean Fortescue would give Harry ice cream sundaes every half hour while he studied, and you can get one at the shop, too!
Interactive wands allow you to do spells all throughout the park.
To truly get the full experience of both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, you need to be armed with an interactive wand (ideally the one that chooses you if you get picked at Ollivander's!). There are gold plates throughout the park with the spell name and wand motion for casting it — the results are magical, literally.
The Magical Menagerie animal shop has a snake in the window that will speak to you.
If you stand outside the window, the snake will say things to you in Parseltongue and English à la the Brazilian boa constrictor at the zoo in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
The talking shrunken Knight Bus head is interactive.
Stan Shunpike is there to greet you at the Knight Bus in Muggle London, and Dre Head isn't just for show. He can interact, answer questions, and make jokes — all specific to the person he's talking to!
Ask the employees in London's King Cross station how to find Platform 9 3/4.
They will look at you like you're crazy, bristle in annoyance or confusion, or make a sarcastic remark about how bonkers you are. The wizards working at both Potter-themed parks know their stuff — and they stay in character (and challenge your Harry Potter knowledge) at every turn.
The animatronic Weasley on the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes building has some tricks up his sleeve.
At first, it appears that he is just tipping his hat and wriggling his eyebrows, but if you watch carefully, you'll see that periodically a rabbit pops out of the hat, then disappears again.
The advertisement inside of King's Cross station is like the one from the Half Blood Prince film.
When you're on the way to Platform 9 3/4, don't miss the perfume ad that is almost straight out of one of the opening scenes in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
The Hogwarts Express does different things depending on which direction you take it.
While on the train, passengers will experience a variety of events, such as a dementor invasion, familiar faces outside the window, and even a visit from the trolley lady offering snacks. Make sure you take the Hogwarts Express both from Platfrom 9 3/4 to Hogsmeade, and then back to the Diagon Alley part of the park. You will see different things happen depending on the direction you're going!
You can catch special performances throughout the day.
Make sure you stick around Diagon Alley long enough to catch an incredible re-creation of "The Tale of the Three Brothers" (really — it's amazing!) or a performance by renowned singing witch Celestina Warbeck.
The mermaid fountain does more than just spout a bit of water.
When casting the Aquamenti spell to get the small fountain in front of the mermaid to spout water — watch out! While the frog fountain does indeed offer a reasonable amount of water, the spell also makes a large stream come crashing down on the spell caster unless they hop out of the way quickly enough.
The Gringotts dragon breathes real fire.
The massive winged creature that tops the wizarding bank randomly breathes throughout the day, and you can feel the heat of it from the streets of Diagon Alley.
The Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes has a special surprise — if you listen closely.
Throughout Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Malfoy is hard at work attempting to fix the Vanishing Cabinet in the Room of Requirement — the cabinet that has a match in Borgin and Burkes. One of his tests is to send a bird to the shop, and if you listen closely to the cabinet, you can hear a subtle chirping.
The Mirror in Madame Maulkin's talks.
While you're trying on your Hogwarts robes, you can expect to hear some quips and comments from the mirror in the robe shop.
The Gringotts ride has subtle differences depending on when you ride it.
The trip through the bank and up to the ride itself can vary — you'll either be led up a winding staircase to your destination or will pass Bill Weasley's meeting with a goblin on the way to a very realistic lift ride before you go on quite the adventure through the vaults.
The sky of Knockturn Alley is different than the rest of Diagon Alley.
If you dare to walk down Knockturn Alley, you'll notice that the temperature drops significantly, and that the sky changes from day to night, with ominous clouds rolling overheard as you traverse the uneven cobbled path.
Real props from the movies are scattered around the park.
The Quality Quidditch Supplies store keeps the Quidditch trophies from the movies on the top shelves, and the luggage in the Leaky Cauldron is from the set of the films.
Don't miss the dancing skeleton.
One of our favorite spells in all of Diagon Alley is easily missed because it's hidden down darkened Knockturn Alley. But don't miss the dancing skeleton spell that makes a seemingly stationary skeleton projection come to life and mimic your own movements.
There are hundreds of small details to look out for.
The Owl Post's owls move and make realistic noises, a Boggart rattles in a trunk in Borgin and Burkes, shadows move behind the windows of shops in Knockturn Alley, and wizards' names are carved over the fireplace in the Hog's Head. While all these are tiny details (and there are countless more just like them), each one adds to the overall experience significantly. You could easily spend an entire day seeking out all of the subtleties — we did, and it was amazing!