The rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are incredible; there is no doubt about that. But there is so much more to Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in Universal Orlando than that. So, the next time you’re in either park section and your favorite ride is down or you don’t want to ride anything, consider doing these fun things that aren’t rides in the Wizarding World.
1. Take Part in the Ollivander Wand Ceremony
When watching the Harry Potter series, I’m pretty sure there has been at least one point where I wished we could enter Ollivander’s Wand Shop and have my moment of the wand choosing me. Lucky us, we can now go to Ollivander’s shop in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley for a chance to be chosen for the wand ceremony. Here, you take the role of a witch or wizard testing out different wands with one of Ollivander’s apprentices until you have your own moment like that in the film, complete with swelling music, winds, and almost heavenly light from above, and you’ll be allowed to purchase the wand.
It’s important to note that lots of people want to be chosen to be the person to participate, but only one per crowd is picked. There also tends to be a long line to get in, so I’d recommend going first thing in the morning. There will be fewer people, and you may even have a room to yourself, like I did. At the very least, it will give you a greater chance of being chosen.
2. Buy an Interactive Wand and Do Spells
If the wand-choosing ceremony isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to benefit from purchasing a wand. In the shop section of Ollivander’s, you can buy a replica of your favorite witch or wizard with an extra dash of magic. Interactive wands come with a map showing different areas in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, where you can cast various spells.
As a little tip from me, keep an eye out for little brass signs on the ground. They’re a good indicator that a spell can be done nearby. There will also be plenty of witches and wizards wandering around to help you if a particular spell is giving you trouble.
3. Watch the Tales of Beedle the Bard Come to Life
When Diagon Alley opened in Universal, I was so excited to watch the performances of different stories from the Tales of Beedle the Bard, especially the Tale of The Three Brothers. Several years later, it's still one of my favorite shows to watch. Select tales are brought to life through beautifully crafted masks and puppets by Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts members. There are two stories that the actors can perform, so consider stopping to watch more than once.
4. Catch Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees Live
Fun fact: Celestina Warbeck was only mentioned in the books and is Molly Weasley’s favorite singer. I think you'll understand why after watching her perform with her backup singers, the Banshees. In her show, Celestina will sing some of her hit songs and may bring someone up from the audience to join her in musical selections. Finding her is pretty easy, too! Her performance and the Tales of Beedle the Bard both take place in the same area in Diagon Alley next to The Hopping Pot.
5. Go Through the Shops and Find Easter Eggs
If I could only say one word to describe Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade that wasn’t “magic,” it would be “detailed.” Each section of the Wizarding World is filled to the brim with details! The shops look like they were ripped straight out of the movies, and with that comes details.
Some of my personal favorites in Diagon Alley would have to be Umbridge on a tightrope in Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, Gilderoy Lockheart’s outfit in Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, and The Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes, complete with tweeting bird sent by Draco Malfoy. For Hogsmeade, I love the Monster Book of Monsters that can give guests a little jump inside the shop connected to the Owl Post, and the moving Marauder's Map inside Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods (aka the exit gift shop for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.)
6. Exchange Money for Gringotts Bank Notes
There’s something special about going to an immersive park and even being able to use in-universe currency. Although not the exact currency people in the Wizarding World use (though I don’t think a lot of people would want to have a giant pocket full of coins), you can exchange your money for Gringotts Bank Notes in the Gringotts Money Exchange close to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. The conversion is exact, so no worries about feeling cheated, and you can use it all over the parks, not just Diagon Alley.
7. Explore Knockturn Alley
Through dark, mostly unmarked entrances, visitors can take a stroll through the infamous Knockturn Alley. You can see sights such as singing shrunken heads, enchanted tattoos, and even wanted posters for a dark wizard or two. Of course, this is also where Borgin and Burkes is located for those looking to make a more sinister purchase.
8. Grab a Butterbeer
Taking a Butterbeer break is always a must when visiting the Wizarding World. Of course, there is the classic Butterbeer and its frozen version, but the parks have a few other variations that may strike your fancy. In The Leaky Cauldron and The Three Broomsticks, there is a Butterbeer potted cream dessert, Butterbeer fudge in Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop and Honeydukes, and even Butterbeer ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, The Three Broomsticks, and The Leaky Cauldron! If you find yourself feeling a bit chilly, there’s also an option to get your Butterbeer hot!
9. Take a Peek at the Knight Bus
Before entering Diagon Alley, you’ll see the Knight Bus from the third movie. Often, there will be a conductor and the shrunken head at the front of the bus happy to talk and take photos with you. However, if you go towards the back of the bus, you can step up and look inside!
10. Look For Creature at 12 Grimmauld Place
Diagon Alley is nestled among the hustle and bustle of London. Do you know what else is in London? Sirius Black’s childhood home and Order of the Phoenix headquarters, 12 Grimmauld Place. Along with the Knight Bus, you can see Grimmauld Place before entering Diagon Alley, but make sure you stop and take a good look. The Black family’s house elf, Creature, can be seen pulling back the curtain and snooping out the window occasionally.
11. Send a Letter by Owl
Though you may not get the chance to see an owl fly off and take your letter, sending a letter at the Owl Post can still be magical. You can send both letters and packages with merchandise via owl in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Letters will have a special postmark, and packages can be customized with wax parcel paper, colored twine, stamps, and even a wax seal.
12. Watch the Triwizard Spirit Rally
One of my favorite parts of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the introduction to the visiting students from the Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. The Triwizard Spirit Rally in Hogsmeade is like watching that scene in real life! Both schools do acts that match their entrance. The Durmstrang students do a quick combat and athletic demonstration with wooden staffs, and the Beauxbaton girls present a ribbon dance as beautiful and elegant as the students themselves.
13. See a Frog Choir Sing
Students in the Hogwarts School Choir, with a student from each house and two pet frogs, will do a show on the same stage in Hogsmeade as the Triwizard Spirit Rally. Here, they will sing well-known songs from the movies. If the fact that there are singing frogs in the show wasn’t enough to get you interested, maybe the fact that the songs are sung a cappella will.
14. Talk to the Hogwarts Express Conductor
Found at the entrance to Hogsmeade near The Lost Continent, visitors can take photos with the front of the Hogwarts Express. However, you may just get lucky enough to find the conductor there, too! If you see them, be sure to stop. They are always happy to have a quick chat and take a photo or two with you by the train.
15. Catch the Hogwarts Nighttime Show on Select Nights
The Hogwarts Nighttime Show can be tricky to catch; sometimes, you won’t know if the show will be on until that evening. However, if you do end up being at Islands of Adventure on a day that it will be available, I would recommend watching it without a doubt.
Depending on when you go, the show can be a different theme. There’s the standard light show, the Christmas-themed show around the holidays, and the Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle show for the spooky season! The light show will happen multiple times on the nights it’s available, with the finale show for the evening having fireworks!