11 Secrets of Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort brings the Harry Potter universe to life, and any world rooted in wizards, witches, and magic is bound to have a few secrets. Some, like the cleverly disguised entrance to Diagon Alley, are hidden in plain sight, while others are buried a bit deeper.
Discovering these secrets is part of the fun of visiting the Wizarding World, but we’re going to let you in on a few to get you started. These 11 lesser-known details will take you from mere muggle to certified wizard and ensure your next trip is just a bit more magical.
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The Leaky Cauldron sign actually leaks.
The Leaky Cauldron is the spot for hearty English fare in Universal’s Diagon Alley. You can start the morning with a full English breakfast or stop in to try the fish and chips, bangers and mash, or cottage pie for lunch or dinner.
Designed to look like the pub and inn of the same name from the Harry Potter books and films, the Leaky Cauldron’s dingy brick exterior opens to cathedral ceilings, weathered furniture, and a large cracked cauldron in the hearth.
Despite the crack, this cauldron doesn’t leak, but the wrought-iron sign above the inn’s entrance does. If you look at the ground beneath the sign of a witch stirring whatever potion is brewing in her cauldron, you may notice a small puddle. If you look up, you’ll see small drops of water falling from the crack in the witch’s cauldron. It’s a tiny detail that’s easy to miss, but it’s fun once you spot it.
You might miss the hidden entrance to Knockturn Alley.
As it is in the books, Knockturn Alley is a bit more seedy and mysterious than the bright and bustling Diagon Alley. It’s also easy to miss. The entrance – marked only by a small sign on the wall – is through an archway next to the Leaky Cauldron.
As you step into the dimly lit corridor, you may worry you’ve taken a wrong turn, but the shadowy world of Knockturn Alley will soon reveal its secrets. Once inside, you’ll find spots to cast wand spells, decrepit decor, and dark arts supplier, Borgin and Burkes.
The shop carries Death Eater masks, skeletons of various worldly and otherworldly creatures, and plenty of Azkaban and Deathly Hallows merch. Even if you don’t intend to purchase any sinister souvenirs, it’s worth stopping in for the atmosphere alone.
There are secret spots to cast wand spells.
When you purchase an interactive wand from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (or let the wand choose you at Ollivanders wand shop), you can test out your best “swish and flick” at magical wand spots throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
Each wand comes with a map that marks the spell-casting spots, which are also denoted by bronze medallions on the ground. There are 34 official spell spots between the two lands, but there are also a few secret spots you can’t find on any map.
We won’t ruin all the fun, but you may have some luck at the window outside Scribbulus in Diagon Alley and with the shrunken heads in Knockturn Alley. The best way to find any others is by asking a friendly witch or wizard (a Universal team member) to point you in the right direction.
The beers are specially brewed for the land.
Butterbeer may rule the drink menus in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but the land’s popular pubs also serve up custom beers specially brewed by a local beer company for Universal Orlando.
At the Leaky Cauldron, The Hopping Pot, and The Fountain of Fair Fortune in Diagon Alley, thirsty muggles can try Wizard’s Brew or Dragon Scale on draft. Wizard’s Brew is a stout with notes of chocolate and Dragon Scale, an amber lager. The Hog’s Head pub in Hogsmeade offers Hog’s Head Brew, a crisp red ale.
You can even combine these brews with others they have on tap to create a one-of-a-kind drink. We recommend The Triple – a layered drink made with Strongbow Cider, Hog’s Head Brew, and topped with Guinness.
If beer isn’t your thing, those same Wizarding World locations serve a cinnamon-flavored whisky made exclusively for the park called Fire Whisky, best enjoyed with Strongbow Cider for a refreshing apple cinnamon cocktail with a spicy kick.
You can call the Ministry of Magic.
The red telephone box in the London area between Kings Cross Station and the hidden entrance to Diagon Alley is more than just clever decor. If you step inside and dial M-A-G-I-C (62442), you’ll be connected directly to the Ministry of Magic. You’ll hear a funny message from the Ministry and, if you have kids along for the trip, you can show them what a rotary phone is.
Keep an eye on the upstairs window of 12 Grimmauld Place.
Another little secret to look out for in the London area is hidden in the window above the row of houses past the entrance to Diagon Alley. If you take a look in the second floor window of 12 Grimmauld Place, a house-elf peeks out every few minutes. Harry Potter fans will recognize the address as the home of Sirius Black, and the house-elf peering out as Kreacher. If you time it right, you can take a photo on the stoop with Kreacher looking out from the window above.
Hogwarts Castle is full of references to the films.
There’s so much more to Universal’s Hogwarts Castle than the thrilling Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, and the towering stone castle is just as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. Guests walk the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while queuing up for the ride, encountering familiar Harry Potter scenes and characters along the way.
In addition to passing through Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and the Gryffindor common room, you’ll see walls covered in talking portraits, the Mirror of Erised, and the famous Sorting Hat. You may need to ride more than once to take it all in, though this one can be a bit intense, so maybe have a snack (or, better yet, a Dramamine) before your second go-round.
You can hear Moaning Myrtle in the restrooms.
In the Harry Potter series, Moaning Myrtle is the young ghost of a Hogwarts student who haunts the school’s restrooms. In the films, she sticks mostly to the girls’ facilities, but if you visit the real-life Hogsmeade at Universal, you may hear Myrtle moaning and wailing in the men’s and women’s restrooms. Look for the “Public Conveniences” sign near Hog’s Head Pub to find Myrtle’s favorite haunt spot.
There’s a money exchange where you can get Gringotts bank notes.
Next to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley, you’ll find the official Gringotts Money Exchange. Here, you can trade muggle money for Gringotts bank notes that can be used to make Wizarding World purchases or kept as souvenirs.
While inside the money exchange, you’ll see a cantankerous goblin working behind the counter. He may even talk with you if you ask a question, though you may not like the answer. Goblins aren’t known for their hospitality, especially if you interrupt their work.
You can see real props used in the Harry Potter films.
Many of the props seen throughout The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are replicas of those used in the films, but a few came to Universal directly from the movie sets. The barometer on display in Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment was seen in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Universal also shared in a blog post that 90 percent of the props on the second level of Borgin and Burkes are straight out of the films.
You can mail a letter from Hogsmeade.
Yes, it really is possible to send mail through the U.S. Postal Service from Hogsmeade, complete with a Hogsmeade postmark stamped on it. Just stop by the Owl Post, which also carries stationery, quills, ink, and Harry Potter-themed stamps. The postage will obviously cost you, but the postmark stamp is free. Located just next to Ollivanders wand shop, you can bring your own letters and postcards or purchase them from the Owl Post and then drop them straight into the letter box to be mailed.