A Little Declaration… Hogsmeade & Butterbeer Rocked My Socks at Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter World

Last updated on August 19, 2023

I’m shucking my mantle of sophistication to admit I’m a Harry Potter geek. And as a Florida native-born and raised, it overjoyed me when I first learned that Universal Studios Orlando had bought the rights to develop a Harry Potter World. Yes, please! 

All aboard the Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando
All aboard the Hogwarts Express! We all have our tasty butterbeer in our hands as we get ready to leave this section of Universal to explore other areas after arriving early, before the crowds. I’m second from the left. :)

Is the Wizarding World Ideal for Hardcore Harry Potter fans?

I wasn’t always a huge fan; I caught onto the series later than some, but earlier than many. When the book series first gained popularity (around the release of Book 3), I pooh-poohed the trend and refused to join the masses in the Harry Potter craze. Then, my best friend handed me Book 1 with pointed instructions to, “Shut my face and just read the book.”

Fast forward three years, and I happened to “accidentally” stumble upon—just by chance, of course—a Barnes & Noble midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The series had hooked me, and I was giddy with anticipation as I waited hours in line behind a doe-faced eight-year-old Hermione look-alike. Then, I read the book in one sitting (a very, very long sitting).

hagrid's house harry potter wizarding world
They even have Hagrid’s house on site! It’s truly a magical experience for all Harry Potter fans, no matter their age.

Now you’re thinking, “OK, thanks for the backstory, but what about that butterbeer you mentioned?” The backstory serves as a point of view check on the rest of this review of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida.

I am a hardcore fan. I’ve reread the books many times; I went to early release parties; I cried along with the main characters as the events of their lives unfolded.

And as such, if you’re a fan too, know that I went to the Wizarding World hoping and wishing for a level of nuance aimed at mega fans. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley deliver with inside jokes, nerd references, and a carefully executed layout designed to fulfill the magic promised throughout the book series.

Visiting Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Orlando

Hogsmeade Village from above at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando
View of Harry Potter World’s Hogsmeade from the roller-coaster!

As a native Floridian, I was instantly charmed by the snow-capped buildings sweetly nestled on the cobblestone street when I stepped into Hogsmeade Village, a fictional town from the book series. Florida suffers from a pervasive heat that bakes you down to your soul. But visually, walking through the Harry Potter World is an amazingly detailed trip through the intricacies of J.K. Rowling’s imaginative wizarding universe.

And if you’re observant, if you carefully read the books, Hogsmeade rewards you with fun nuance and deep layers to search for when you’re in the Wizarding World. There’s hidden writing on the walls, and small details etched into every aspect of Hogsmeade.

Hogsmeade Village in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando
A snow-capped Hogsmeade Village at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

The subtleties of the experience are what makes it stand out above my expectations. There is a bit of something for everyone, from the diehard fan to the casual theme park lover.

There is no doubting that Universal Studios took time and great thought into crafting the world, adding details throughout the Wizarding World that only true Harry Potter fans would find and appreciate.

All of the key elements from the series are represented: Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Dervish and Banges, Zonko’s Joke Shop, snack cakes, and pumpkin juice. Paraphernalia for each House is rampant—I was SO tempted to buy a Gryffindor scarf—they are quite striking.

Honey Dukes sweets shop at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando
The various Harry Potter shops line the streets for sweets, jokes, and souvenirs.

Every detail you could want is within the world. By stepping foot into this area of the Universal Theme Park, I had subsumed myself in the fictional universe I had lived in the 10+ years I had loved and enjoyed the books and films.

What Does Butterbeer Taste Like?

Delicious Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

Ah, Butterbeer. It’s worth the price of park admission just to try this delicious concoction. And although I love real beer too, rest assured that Butterbeer is non-alcoholic. (For muggles that is. Just like in the book series, if you bring some house elves it’s a different story. ;-)

But what does Butterbeer taste like at Universal Studios? Think cream soda with an extra hint of butterscotch, then topped with an incredible sweet creaminess dalloped on top.

The drink is delicious and the park offers it in two forms: frozen and liquid. The frozen Butterbeer is tastier than the traditional liquid one, which tastes like more like traditional cream soda. If you’re traveling as a couple or family, you get the shiny, happy ability to order both—and you should!

The Universal Studios Butterbeer is so tasty that my friends and I left Harry Potter World mid-morning to explore the rest of the park, but later we returned—which involved switching Universal parks and an extra 45 minute walk—just for one last taste.

Hogsmeade town at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

Wondering what Butterbeer is actually made of?

If you take a sip and think it tastes just like the cream soda of your childhood, then you’re right. That was my first thought, and it turns out Butterbeer at Universal Studios is largely made from heavy whipping cream and cream soda, with butterscotch syrup and hints of caramel syrup. The exact recipe is secret, but there are tons of great replicas online.

Best Ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey wowed me. The journey through the queue alone is fully a part of the experience. I’m an avid theme-parker—I grew up an hour from Orlando, how could I not be? I had a season pass to Universal Studios for my four years studying at nearby UCF. I have a high bar for theme park rides.

As I waited in line and wound through Hogwarts Castle, the level of detail, interaction, and care put into the experience made my inner geek smile at all the inside jokes. There are many delightfully geeky Harry Potter details.

Hogwarts Castle and the new ride at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando
Hogwarts Castle and home of the new Harry Potter ride.

If you have kid fans with you, they will stay plenty occupied looking for the hidden details (and you can cheat and find out some of the hidden ones ahead of time!). We luckily had just 20 minute waits for each of the rides since we had Early Park Admission thanks to a shared room at the Hard Rock Hotel.

None of us minded sharing beds and using the pull out couch because it meant we were able to “do” most of Hogsmeade before the crushing crowds. (Below I explain how to get Early Admission to Harry Potter World—a full hour before everyone else!)

One of the coolest parts of the Forbidden Journey ride is the holograms. The interior castle decorations have the best holographic technology I’ve ever seen.

The ride itself is nothing short of innovative. Or should I just give in and say it’s “magical?” In all seriousness though, words don’t do it justice except to say even the hours of queuing are worth it for the end result.

For the sake of full transparency here, know that the Forbidden Journey is not for the weak-stomached. Each person in my group felt ill walking out. I often get sick when they’re too much, but I was lucky not to need a sudden dash to a nearby trash can, thankfully. It’s a bit rough, but still doable!

Hogsmeade lit up at night at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando
Hogsmeade as night settles, and yes, more Butterbeer.

Diagon Alley at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter got even bigger than it did at launch with the immersive world of Diagon Alley, which may be even better than the original. It’s just so nuanced and so incredibly detailed.

The setup transforms this part into a charming London Street and directly into a world not meant for muggles. Anything that felt like it was missing from Hogsmeade made it here, plus all the greatest parts of the other half of the Wizarding World, too.

So you can find an expanded Ollivander’s here, but then look deeper. Knockturn Alley is a side-street for devotees of the Dark Arts, and Gringotts Wizarding Bank is just amazing, as is the ride.

It’s just too much to fully encapsulate who well Universal Studios Florida has done to make this world a reality for true Harry Potter fans. It lives up to the hype in every way. It’s delightfully creepy sometimes when they bring dementors to life, fascinating to find small touches meant for hardcore fans, and just plain fun.

Between the creamy butterbeer, the Universal Studios cast members dressed in robes, and the tinkling Harry Potter music throughout the village, I completely geeked out. Other Harry Potter fans will love it too, and even those fans in denial. :)

This was pretty much as good as it gets for a Harry Potter experience in the U.S. And I’ll admit that I am looking forward to visiting the Harry Potter studio tour in London when I next pass through the city. It looks like another geek-out worthy experience!

Insider Tips: Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, Orlando

hogwarts express
All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Here’s how to plan your trip and tips to make the most of every second at the theme park.

When to Visit Harry Potter World Florida

Weather is decent all year round for the Orlando theme parks, but school holidays are, naturally, the busiest and craziest times of the year. Visit in shoulder season if possible. I visited in fall and it was perfect weather and crowd levels.

If you must visit during school holidays, stick to weekdays and use this crowd calendar to pick the best days to enjoy the Wizarding World with, perhaps, a slightly fewer people.

Navigate Universal Studios Like a Pro

Insider guides offer tips and maps that save time. They are seriously amazing and make your whole visit smoother.

Consider this Universal Orlando Insider Guide with heaps of tips to Harry Potter World. Also pick up the Insider Guide for Walt Disney World if you’re heading that way, too.

How to Get Early Admission to the Harry Potter World!

You really, really want Early Park Admission—it makes all the difference in really getting the most out of your visit to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. You’ll have a much shorter wait to get on all of the rides. Start with the most popular ones.

Early park admission is essential to truly enjoying the Harry Potter World and it’s a perk offered to all guests staying at a hotel on Universal Property. So, if you book a night at the Hard Rock Hotel like we did (or the other resorts like Portofino Bay Hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, or Aventura Hotel on Universal property), you can enter the park an hour earlier than general admission.

Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando
Views of Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

This extra hour allows you to ride the major rides in Harry Potter World without huge lines and crowds. Everyone in our group found it convenient and worth the extra money.

In fact, that extra hour is probably the sole reason that we were able to see so much of the park besides Harry Potter World. Additionally, the Hard Rock Hotel offered another sweet perk: Free* Universal Express Unlimited ride access to skip the regular lines at most popular attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

If you don’t opt for Early Admission, budget an hour to two hours per queue for every ride you hope to experience (and Escape from Gringotts is regularly a 3+ hour wait in peak season).

Once you’re in Orlando, use this handy Crowd Calendar to figure out the best days to visit which parks in the area, as well as to determine if the Early Admission is for Diagon Alley in Universal or Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, or both (it varies throughout the year).

And super bonus is that you can use your Early Admission for a different perk each day, because it also gets you early access to Volcano Bay and its six rides. Truly, Early Admission and Express passes make it totally worth the expense of staying on Universal property.

Additional Harry Potter World Travel Tips

  • Wear a good sunscreen (50 SPF) or you will burn in the Florida sunshine. Remember, even in cool weather the sun is strong. And if you’ll be out around sunset, bring a mosquito repellent like Off! Botanicals, or they will eat you alive.
  • Frozen butterbeer tastes better than regular. If you’re only buying one, go with frozen.
  • All of the merchandise inside of the Harry Potter souvenir shops is available at other shops in the park—don’t stand in the 30+ min lines just to walk into the souvenir shop. That said, you will have to wait in line if you want to see the wand selecting ceremony, that’s only available at Ollivanders.

How to Prepare for Your Trip to the Wizarding World

Cozy up the week before you leave and stream the entire series so you can geek out like the other Potter fans.

Essential Travel Planning Resources

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37 thoughts on “A Little Declaration… Hogsmeade & Butterbeer Rocked My Socks at Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter World”

  1. This is wonderful! I had no idea Universal Studies had a Harry Potter theme park. Weirder even, that I just last minute finished reading Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince. Glad you enjoyed the park.

  2. I am so jealous! This is heaven for me, I love harry potter – unfortunately it would be Poi’s idea of hell. ONE DAY I WILL DRAG HIM HERE THOUGH!

    I’m glad it lived up to the hype, I’m always worried that things like this can be ruined. like the movies were a little disappointing for me esp the fifth when Ginny just turned into a weird creep!

    • Poi might actually like it!! There are a lot of roller coasters at Universal
      and unless he just unequivocally hates theme parks, then he only has to stay
      in the HP world for a couple hours, then you go and do the rest of the park.
      And if he does hate it, then arrange to go when I’m living in Orlando and
      I’ll go with ya :)

      As for your comment about Ginny in the 5th movie – hahahaha!! Yes. Just yes

    • The one negative thing I hear and agree with is that it’s small. I wouldn’t
      go there JUST to see HP world, but if you’re heading to Orlando and the
      theme parks already, it’s worth a visit for sure! And really, the butterbeer
      is fantastic, so there’s that :)

  3. It’s definitely on my “to-do” list in the very near future. I, too, am a complete HP nerd, and I’m dying to visit Harry Potter world! It’s just a matter of timing, and finding someone enthusiastic enough to drag along with me…

    • Having someone else to tote along with you is definitely necessary, the
      theme parks are a whooole lot more fun when you have a friend too! :)

  4. This is good advice as i use to live in Florida for 15 years and there are certain times of the year you can really get bad skin damage

    • So very true, the sun is really strong in Florida and some people just don’t realize how much sun you get in a full day at the theme parks! :)

      • Especially if you go to Epcot in Disney World because they have a lot of mirrors which reflect a lot of sunlight as well. So you get hit with direct sunlight and reflected sunlight and if you are standing in line for a long period of time getting that reflected sunlight you can get burnt a lot more quickly

  5. Hi Shannon, Butter beer for real? I wonder where else I can find it! Perhaps saying “Accio butterbeer” might work… no wait it didnt.

  6. Here is Similar Story

    There’s no need to travel to Hogsmeade — or to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando — to get a taste of butterbeer. The drink is one of the features of the new Harry Potter attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and now the recipe for the beverage is available to all.

    The 20-acre park brings the Harry Potter books and movies to life with detailed reproductions of the fictitious village of Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the steam-belching Hogwarts Express train.

  7. As a regular visitor to the theme parks of orlando, I am not going to attempt a visit to the Harry Potter attraction due to reviews by friends and strangers alike, the service by the staff has been noted to be very poor and rude. The attraction itself said to be too small, the restrictions on many accounts have been deal breaking events that would make me never wish to walk on their property ever again. No one person should have to travel that far and spend that kind of money to be mistreated by an uncaring staff. I myself will be telling my friends of the mishaps of my friends and others in the horrible vacation trap created by universal studios theme park

    • Sorry to hear that your friends had such negative experiences. I will give you the point about the attraction being small, it is pretty tiny compared to the huge rest of the park, but I haven’t yet experienced rude staff and I’m often a season pass holder. It’s the smallest things that can ruin a place, so I’m sorry to hear that happened to those you know :-/

  8. Hey, I’m a fan of Harry Potter too! Even though I have to say I love the book much more than the movies. Ryan used to make fun of me about that. I didn’t know they have this in Orlando, but then, I was focusing in Disney and NASA shuttle launch when we were there. Fun thing to see if next time we go there again :)

    • That gives you a reason to go back to Orlando for sure! :) As a HP fan,
      you’ll love it…and if you head back that way, let me know, I live nearby
      and would love to meet up if you come to FL!

  9. I’m so jealous! I definitely want to do this on my next trip to Orlando. What does butterbeer taste like, anyway? Regular beer, only nonalcoholic?

    • You’ll love it! It tastes like cream soda and butterscotch maybe…with a
      really delicious creamy top – very, very sweet and un-beerlike :)

  10. So fun! A few of my girlfriends are huge Harry Potter fans too so we’re thinking about making a girls trip there and then going to the Caribbean! We’ll see if we ever follow through–that butter beer sure is tempting!

    • Yay, go! You guys will love it, especially as a precursor to a Caribbean
      vacation…when are you planning on going? If you’re in Florida late
      summer/fall let me know, that’s where I live when I’m back home and would
      love to meet you :)

  11. I want to go so badly! When I heard about the ground breaking for this endeavor I flipped out! There is a theatre here in town that serves 5 course meals with butterbeer during the Harry Potter movie releases. The little I have had I still dream about.

    • Wait!?! Now I’m jealous – butterbeer during the movie showings? My theatre
      doesn’t do that and I feel like I’ve sorely missed out on something, lol!
      You’ll love it when you make it there, it’s really well done :-)

  12. I’m not going to lie, this is RIGHT AT THE TOP of my travel list right now. I am fucking DYING for some butterbeer. So jealous!

    • Muwhaha! It’s so good, you are going to love it once you get there – plus
      Universal is one of my favorite theme parks, so once you’re HPed out you can
      go ride all the other rides :) If you make it there while I’m in Florida,
      let me know, I live nearby!

  13. The fact that they spared no expense or detail in the recreation of his world is really amazing. From those buildings to the brewing of the butterbeer, I think I would have a blast there even though all I have seen is one of the movies and vaguely remember it. Thanks for the review!

    • I agree – even if you’re not a fanatic, the world they created is a whole
      lot of fun to walk through and enjoy! Thanks for stopping in and sharing
      Scott :-)

  14. You’re the third person in the last month to write about the Harry Potter area and the deliciousness of butterbeer. It’s almost as if the blogging gods are sending me a message that I need to go and immerse myself in Harry Potter-ness.

    • That’s EXACTLY what the blogging gods are saying! It’s a lot of fun and
      worth a visit if you’re heading to Orlando anyway :)


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