18 Secret Spots in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
It's not magic—you just need to know where to look!
Calling all Harry Potter fans!
Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter is full of magic and surprises. The attention to detail amazes Potter fans and keeps them occupied for hours as they try to find all the secret spots, identify the actual props from the movies, and experience the other magical minutiae. (For example, you’ll giggle reading the newspapers in the shop windows.) Here are some tips to help ensure you don’t miss a thing. But before you go, test your knowledge by taking this quiz that only die-hard Harry Potter can ace.
Two wizarding parks
Here’s the first thing you need to know: Orlando’s Wizarding World is spread between two Universal parks. Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle are in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley and Gringotts are in Universal Studios Florida. They’re connected by the Hogwarts Express, though you’ll need a Park-to-Park ticket in order to ride it. You can split your Wizarding World explorations and visit each park on different days, but the Hogwarts Express won’t be accessible to you with single park tickets. Instead, plan a multiday visit, as there’s plenty to keep you busy in both parks, as well as in the rest of Orlando. Orlando tops this list of the 15 most photographed attractions in the Americas—and for good reason.
12 Grimmauld Place
There are secret spots to see before you even enter the Wizarding World. At Universal Studios Florida, for example, when walking around the lake between World Expo and San Francisco, you’ll pass through a stretch of London. In addition to King’s Cross station and the hidden entrance to Diagon Alley is 12 Grimmauld Place. When you stop for a photo, take a close look at the second-floor windows right above Sirius Black’s childhood home. Every few minutes, Kreacher the House Elf peeks out the window to see what’s going on in the street below. If you’re also planning to visit the other Orlando parks, make sure you know these insider secrets for the best Walt Disney World vacation.
Dial 62442 for the Ministry of Magic
A red London phone booth is located near the entrance to Diagon Alley. Don’t just snap its photo—go inside. In-the-know Muggles make a point of picking up the phone and dialing 62442 (MAGIC). The reward is a message from the Ministry of Magic. Unfortunately, the elevator to the underground Ministry only works for wizards.
The Knight Bus
While it’s easy to spot the purple triple-decker Knight Bus as you make your way toward the entrance to Diagon Alley, most visitors just walk on by. They miss entertaining chats with Knight Bus staff like conductor Stan Shunpike, as well as banter with Dre Head, the shrunken head. Ask questions of Dre Head and see what happens.
And be sure to wander around the back of the bus to see what it looks like inside, with beds all ready for an overnight trip. Thanks to the bus’ chaotic mode of travel, we’re pretty sure that passengers can skip most of these 7 British etiquette rules without offending anyone.
Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station
When you enter King’s Cross to board the Hogwarts Express, ask the Muggle staffers for directions to Platform 9 ¾ and you’ll get some entertaining answers. They’ll also have some interesting comments for you if they spy you carrying a wand, a purchased Pygmy Puff, or another magical item.
Finding the secret entrance to Platform 9 ¾ yourself is easy when the station is crowded, but harder when the lines are blissfully short. Watch for Hedwig on the way there, and keep your eye out for a large pane of glass on top of some luggage on your left. The glass looks toward a brick wall marked with signs for platforms 9 and 10. Stand by the glass and get your camera ready to video your fellow Muggles seemingly walking through the brick wall to get down to the platform. As Mrs. Weasley says, “Best do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous.” Don’t miss these 23 funny Harry Potter jokes and puns every Muggle should know.
Bonus Hogwarts Express tips
The ride to Hogsmeade is different than the ride back to King’s Cross. Watch both sides of your compartment and you won’t miss the chocolate frogs hopping by (corridor side) or the lightning flash showing a menacing Voldemort at Malfoy Manor (out the window). You’ll have to watch closely, just as you would to spot these 15 tiny details you missed the first (and second) time you read Harry Potter. And thank goodness the Trolley Witch’s depiction sticks to book canon, rather than that from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Entrance to Diagon Alley
Many visitors to Universal Studios Florida walk right by the entrance to Diagon Alley without even realizing it’s there. No signs point to the entrance of the Wizarding World, as only wizards are meant to know how to get in. Once you do find it, the entrance aims to imitate Harry’s experience of facing the brick wall behind the Leaky Cauldron and then his awe when the splendor of Diagon Alley is revealed.
There’s an endless list of secret spots and fun details to admire in Diagon Alley, such as the rabbit that periodically pops out of the hat outside Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. And the dragon atop tilting Gringotts breathes fire every 15 minutes or so, with a warning gurgling to tell you to get your camera ready. Photos are great from straight on, but you’ll catch a more unusual angle and see the whole dragon if you walk down the street to the right or left of the bank.
You can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Diagon Alley’s Leaky Cauldron. But if you’re deciding whether to head in or not, be sure not to stand underneath the sign (unless you need to cool off). When you’re reviewing the menu, it might help to know these 14 foods you didn’t know were called by different names in the U.K. And when you leave the restaurant, be sure to read the amusing instructions at the right of the exit.
Don’t leave Diagon Alley without catching the live performances. They’re near the Hopping Pot and include the Tale of the Three Brothers and songs from Celestina Warbeck.
Inside Diagon Alley, you’ll find the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride, a virtual-reality roller coaster. The route inside to board the ride can change throughout the day, so be sure to visit it more than once. The luckiest visitors go through Bill Weasley’s office, meet Blordak the Goblin, and take the elevator down to the ride.
While you’re in Diagon Alley, make sure to stop at the Gringotts Money Exchange. (Changing your U.S. dollars into wizarding money is optional.) The entrance is to the right of the bank down the alley, and it’s easy to miss. Look for the gold bars on the scales in the window. When inside, ask the Goblin a question (speak loudly and clearly) and see how he responds. Be creative: There’s a wide range of possible answers. By the way, do you know the hidden meaning of Professor Snape’s first words to Harry Potter?
Perform your own magic
Whether your wand chooses you at a ceremony in Ollivanders or you pick one up at one of several other wand outlets, it’s worth it to buy an interactive wand. Fun fact: Did you know that there’s a wand wood associated with the Celtic calendar? You can buy your wand based on your favorite Harry Potter character or one with the wood associated with your birthday. Like a horoscope, each one has personality attributes.
You can use your magical wand to cast spells at various spots on both sides of the Wizarding World. There are more than two dozen official spots marked on the map that comes with your wand. The gold medallion symbol on the ground shows you which way to face and the wand movement to make the spell work. A few places have a double spell effect, so experiment a little.
Interactive wand spots
There are secret spell-casting spots, too. For example, when you’re window-shopping in Diagon Alley, be sure to stop by Slug & Jiggers Apothecary. In the right-hand window, there’s a display of dragon dung. Wave your wand and the lid will levitate and you’ll smell the not-so-sweet scent of this fertilizer used in Herbology class.
Some more secret spots: At the end of Horizont Alley, cast Incendio toward the second floor of Flimflam’s Lanterns to ignite the lanterns. Cast Meteolojinx at the umbrella in Horizont Alley—and then stand back quickly! Spells require a varying degree of expertise. Only wizards as skilled as Hermione are likely to be successful at casting Wingardium Leviosa at the secret spot at the window at Scribbulus to levitate the feather quill.
Wand not in the budget? No problem. Just talk to a friendly Universal staff member—they’ll often lend you their wand to try out a spell or two. If you avoid purchasing a lot of souvenirs, Orlando can be a very affordable vacation. In fact, it’s on this list of 24 last-minute, cheap winter vacation deals to book for 2020.
In addition to the interactive wand spots, the designers of the Wizarding World have added countless other spots where something magical happens, even for Muggles. For example, when shopping at Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley, check out the Vanishing Cabinet in the corner to the right of the cash registers. Stand beside it, and put your hand on the handle. You’ll hear and feel the bird that Draco Malfoy used to test whether the Cabinet could be used for Death Eaters to enter Hogwarts. Also in Knockturn Alley, check out the tattoo shop with “moving” tattoos that you can try on.
Or step close to admire the snake in the window at Diagon Alley’s Magical Menagerie and you’ll hear it speak in both English and Parseltongue. At Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, stand in front of the mirror at the center of the shop and wait to see what happens. Take a close (but not too close) look at The Monster Book of Monsters at Dervish and Bangles. But be careful when you cast Aquamenti at the Mermaid Fountain—even Muggles can figure out what that spell conjures. Mystified by magic? Here are another 14 “magical” things in Harry Potter that are actually real.
One of the best secrets of Knockturn Alley is that it’s an ideal spot to hang out in the heat of the day (and it’s even spookier at night). The twisting alley full of Dark wizarding shops is shaded, air-conditioned, and often quiet. Watch the sky change as you walk over from Diagon Alley, preferably with Butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour in hand. Outside of Orlando, these are the craziest ice cream flavors you can buy right now.
Of course, there are interactive wand spots in Knockturn Alley, too. On the map, they’re written in invisible ink that can only be read under the black lights in this area. Don’t miss the dancing skeleton spell, and be sure to dance and try interacting with the chimes after you cast it.
Hogsmeade village also has plenty of interactive spots, as well as rides like Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Here’s a Forbidden Journey secret: You can ask attendants at the lineup for a castle tour. It’s not offered during especially busy times, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! And when you exit the ride through Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, ask to try on the Sorting Hat and see what happens.
When you arrive in Hogsmeade, it’s easy to pass by the horseless carriage outside Hogsmeade’s train station. But if you pause here on your way into the village, you’ll see that there are, indeed, Thestrals pulling the carriage. Muggles can’t see them, though. Also be sure to pop into the “public conveniences” in Hogsmeade to hear Moaning Myrtle complaining.
Staff members at the Owl Post will stamp your postcards with a Hogsmeade postmark for you, making it some of the most unique snail mail to be found anywhere. While you’re there, keep an ear out for a Howler—and be glad you’re not the recipient.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
The Wizarding World’s newest ride, in Hogsmeade, is a roaring roller coaster aboard Hagrid’s “flying” motorbike. As with all Wizarding World rides, there are treats to watch for in the lineup (including one with Fang).
Once you’re on the ride itself, watch for the spot where Potterheads get their first-ever view of Blast-Ended Skrewts, never seen in the movies. You might even get to see one emitting fire from its blasting end or smell their rotting-fish scent as you zoom by. You won’t miss 8,000-pound Fluffy or the Centaur with the bow and arrow, but only eagle-eyed riders will spot all 20 of the Cornish pixies. Listen for the Thestrals and gnomes, too. One of the most fun spots on the ride is when you get entangled in Devil’s Snare. If you know your Potter lore well, perhaps you’ll predict the surprise that comes next. Here are more of the most amazing theme park attractions you’ll want to see in 2020.
The best lunch spot
Eateries in the Wizarding World can get busy, but there’s a lesser-known spot at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. After you’ve picked up your food (and yes, you can order Butterbeer here in several forms, including ice cream), go toward the back of the restaurant. You’ll find an outdoor patio that is quieter than the restaurant and has fab views of Hogwarts Castle (it’s a great place to watch the nighttime projection shows, too). Inside The Three Broomsticks, be sure to watch for the shadows of House Elves busy preparing your meal for you.
Secret drinks menu
Connected to The Three Broomsticks is the Hog’s Head Pub. In addition to the snarling head above the bar, it has three beers brewed exclusively for the Wizarding World: Wizard’s Brew (a dark stout), Hog’s Head (red Scottish ale), and Dragon Scale (a pale ale). You can also find standard nonalcoholic Wizarding World drinks like Pumpkin Juice and Butterbeer here. Plus, there’s a secret cocktail menu. Ask for cinnamony Fire Whiskey, a Black Hog, Hogs Bite, Hog’s Tea (like a Long Island), or a Pear Dazzle. Here are another 9 restaurants you never knew had secret menu items.
Just ask for magical fun
Staff members inside the Wizarding World are very knowledgeable about all things Potter, perhaps even these hidden messages in the Harry Potter books. So go ahead and ask all your questions. They’ll teach you the secret handshake of their house, explain all the details inside their shop, and tell you fun backstories, such as the one about Trolls and Crumple-Horned Snorkacks at the Magical Menagerie. There will be consequences, though, if you dare speak the actual name of He Who Must Not Be Named.
Fun fact: Wizarding World staff members can choose which Hogwarts House uniform to wear (one assumes under the guidance of the Sorting Hat). Unusually, the majority are Slytherins and Hufflepuffs. Perhaps the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws are all working inside the Ministry?
The best way to see all the secret spots
There’s a lot to see in the Wizarding World, not to mention in the rest of Universal’s two parks (and soon to be three!). And when you add in crowds and lineups, seeing everything in one day is a challenge. Universal has a solution for those with FOMO who want to make sure they hit everything on their must-see list. Add on Universal’s Orlando Resort VIP Tour Experience to your park ticket(s) and you’ll have benefits including a guide who will show you all the secret spots, whisk you to the front of the line for rides, and wave a magic wand to take you behind the scenes. You won’t miss a wizarding thing.
And just so you know, Universal is one of the theme parks that go all-out for the holidays, so that might be the perfect time to plan your trip!