Hogsmeade in a Nutshell
Hogsmeade is the other half of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks (also the park that originally opened) located in Universal's Island of Adventure. To read more about the two parks refer back to our post on Diagon Alley.
Hogsmeade feels like a quaint little village nestled somewhere in the middle of winter--yes, you read that right. All of the buildings in Hogsmeade are covered with a dramatic blanket of snow on their roofs, which took a moment to adjust to because it was over 90 degrees the day we visited! The buildings are shorter and have a completely different aesthetic than those in Diagon Alley, as they should. If you read the Harry Potter books and saw the movies you'll absolutely love walking through the streets of this mini-village, which bears a striking resemblance to its fictitious namesake.
Date Visited: March 4, 2015
Crowd Levels: moderate for the most part (some rides were noticeably busier than others)
Here is a map of the entire Universal Florida campus.
As we mentioned in our intro post to Universal, these areas get very busy and Universal limits the number of visitors that can be in each of the Harry Potter parks at one time. While they didn't have to restrict those passing in and out of the parks when we were there, we've read it is a common occurrence during peak season, so keep that in mind if you plan to visit one or both halves.
Special Note: This area gets very, very crowded by midday, so if you want to do something like visit Ollivander's Wand Shop make sure you go there first. Also, in order to get to Diagon Alley from here you must have a park-to-park ticket and we strongly suggest taking the Hogwarts Express for both the experience and convenience. Keep in mind, most rides in both Harry Potter parks are for bigger kids--our youngest son (who was about 48/49 inches at age 6 when we visited) was unable to go on many of the rides.
- It gets crowded and very, very hot (we had unseasonably warm weather around 90 in March when we were there). Bring plenty of water!
- We found there were less places to simply sit and rest than other areas of Universal and other parks we've been to and what areas there were filled quickly and stayed filled. Plan to take breaks outside Hogsmeade if you're visiting with little guys.
- The parent-swap option at Universal is amazing! Since our youngest was too small to go on many rides and our oldest gets motion sickness and didn't want to go on many, Dad and I were able to make good use of the parent-swap option. It's fantastic because one adult waits with the little guys who aren't waiting in a nice cool room while the other gets plugged in as a single on a ride, then you swap and the other parent waits while the other parent rides. It really didn't add much time onto our total time there and we were able to skip a large portion of the line as a result because we were technically "singles".
- You cannot bring bags on many of the Harry Potter rides. You may not realize how much of a pain this is, but if you're NOT doing the parent-swap, you have to check your bags/handbags/backpacks into a locker at the beginning of the ride. It adds time as these areas are very crowded and it adds a little cost. If you are doing the parent-swap, you can keep your bags with the waiting parent and do not have to check them in.
- The lines get really hot during warmer months. Some parks make good use of large fans along the majority of the stretches of lines for rides. We found that our waits for some of the rides were outside and not super cool, so make sure you bring plenty of extra sunscreen, hats, water, etc.
- Over-budget for merchandise purchasing. I cannot stress enough how easy it is to spend a good amount at Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. Odds are, if you're visiting one or both you and/or your family are total Potter fans. The merchandise there blows all of the merchandise you've seen at Barnes & Nobles, Toys R Us and anywhere online out of the water! Quality is generally great, attention to detail is stellar and there are volumes of variety. Trust me, you will feel compelled to buy some goodies and since price tags are on par with park prices, you'll want to make sure you have enough budgeted.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a fast-paced ride well-worth going on. If you have a child that struggles with motion sickness (who is tall enough to ride on this ride) you may want to think twice. Our older guy gets motion sickness and was extremely nauseous after this ride.
- Butterbeer lines get long at carts. If you plan to try it, we found it much easier to order it with our meals as we waited about 15 minutes in line when we got frozen ones from a cart. You can also upgrade at the restaurants to include a souvenir mug (which is adorable and not badly priced), but we weren't given this option at the carts. The carts also sold water, pumpkin juice, etc.
- Family pictures are available at rides for purchase. Like many parks, Universal takes pictures of visitors before some rides and on others. You have the option at automated kiosks to purchase them. I actually thought the way they did them at the Harry Potter rides was pretty neat as they actually allowed us to pose at one of them! I'm the type that hates candid photos of myself, so it was a nice change of pace. The candids on rides of the kids were hilarious though. From what we remember, prices were what you'd expect for the photos at a major park.
- Stores are small. For the most part, stores are very small and cramped so if you have little ones that are claustrophobic or struggle with tightly packed crowds and stimulation, you may want to have someone check the store before going inside.
- Strollers could be problematic in stores and even in the main parts of Diagon Alley during super busy periods. We didn't see a lot of families with little ones in strollers (compared to Disney where the majority of families we see tend to have a stroller or two in tow) and we don't have anyone still in a stroller, but given how tight Diagon Alley can be when busy, you may want to look into "wearing" little guys that can't walk the park.
- Movie characters on the rides are done with holograms not actors. We actually really appreciated the fact that Universal (due to J.K. Rowling) didn't try to plug in look-alike actors to pretend to be main characters from the movies. I read ahead of time she felt it would break up the authenticity of the experience and I agree with her. Holograms of the real actors interacting on rides and in different parts of Hogwarts were very well done in our opinions.
- We don't have a favorite Wizarding World of Harry Potter side, try to do both if you can! We've talked about it and really feel like you get a more complete experience if you visit both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. While there is a little crossover between the two (2 Olivander's for example), they are so different in look and feel and they both offer different rides and shops. If you can only do one, read through our posts and determine which your family would most likely prefer based on your personal opinions.
Hogsmeade Universal Studios Florida Experience & Ride Review
Much like Diagon Alley, the Hogsmeade experience was sensationally magical. As we mentioned, the aesthetic of Hogsmeade is very different from Diagon Alley. Hogsmeade really embodies the wintry village feel we got in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
I have to admit, it is a little crazy at first to walk around with snow peaked buildings to either side in 90 degree weather, but it's fun. Our little guys had a great time going in and out of the shops and using their interactive wands at some of the shop windows. We also really enjoyed seeing the Hogwarts Frog Choir perform--pretty cool!
|The only thing that would have made this trip better--getting to ride in one of these! Little details like this scattered around make these parks really exceptional.|
|This was such an exciting view--look at those snow-covered buildings!|
|The snow on the roofs was super believable--at least in these New Englanders' opinions. You can see Honeydukes to the left and a butterbeer cart straight ahead. We loved the view of all the rooftops against the sky, it was just so real!|
|This is the Dragon Challenge roller coaster. We didn't go on it as Dad and the boys don't like roller coasters, but they have all said they'd try it next time. I'm holding them to it! It looked fun.|
|The Frog Choir was really impressive. They sang "Double Trouble" complete with giant frogs croaking some heavy bass.|
|Of all the things we saw at Hogsmeade, the first glance at Hogwarts was definitely the most exciting to us!|
|Hogwarts is technically scaled way down in size (though still large) and houses the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. You get a really great view of Hogwarts while waiting in the outdoor portion of the line.|
|The day we were at Hogsmeade the line was fairly long, but thankfully we didn't spend too much time outside because it was incredibly warm and there were no fans pointed on the line.|
|The view of Hogwarts as you got closer to the entrance was pretty awesome!|
The ride itself has roller coast-style harnesses that come down over the front of your body. This ride really moves, simulating your adventure riding a broom through some pretty dangerous situations. It is awesome!
Keep in mind you must be at least 48 inches and if you have a child that get motion sickness or who isn't comfortable with fast-paced rides and loud noises, this probably isn't the right ride for them. Our oldest got off this ride feeling very nauseous, but enjoyed it aside from that.
|Honeydukes mini-haul! The boys grabbed the Fudge Flies and Peppermint Toads. They were okay, but the chocolate was your stereotypical slightly waxy chocolate. Not awful, but nothing special aside from the shapes and packaging.|
Honeydukes, as you probably already know, is the delicious candy store in Hogsmeade. While they don't have everything from the books, they have a moderate selection of Harry Potter themed candies in addition to some other goodies. Of all the places we visited in both parks, Honeydukes may have been the least magical feeling. If it weren't for the fact the exterior looked amazing, it would have felt like any other candy store in our opinions. It's not bad, just not magical feeling like so many of the other shops. The quality of the candy was also a bit lackluster compared to the exceptional quality of all the other merchandise found in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. It's still worth dropping in as we found candy available here was not available in much of the rest of either parks.
Hogsmeade at Wizarding World of Harry Potter Florida 2015 Final Thoughts
Overall, Hogsmeade is a great experience. We ate lunch here (coming in a separate post soon), rode one of the rides and did some shopping as well. Everything is so fun to look at and the ride in Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is absolutely fantastic! We really feel strongly that you can't do one side of Wizarding World without the other. Not only is the trip on the Hogwarts Express worth it, but the two parks complement one another. Most of the stores in each park are different and each have their own unique feel and setup.
It can get very busy in Hogsmeade and small size of the shops really allows you to feel it. I could see little ones that get over-stimulated easily having a rough time during busier seasons and days. During busier times there aren't many places to sit and rest as they fill up quickly, especially in the shade.
If you want to go to Ollivanders in Hogsmeade go there first if possible! The wand choosing show is well worth the trip.
Really a great family experience in our opinions!
Don't forget to check out all of our features from our 2015 Orlando Family Travel Guide:
Note: This trip was in no way sponsored. All opinions mentioned above are our own based on our experiences.