Having been lucky enough to experience both, which did I prefer and how – if money is no obstacle for you – do you decide which to prioritize?
Attending the UK tour is the equivalent of being gifted a book of notes by JKR and the various cast and crew members of the movies and delving into their experiences. Behind the scenes secrets run rampant as well as nods to the books you may have missed before.
Being at the park is the equivalent of opening your Harry Potter books and diving head first into the wizarding world. It’s immersive, entertaining, and – of course – magical.
For covering the same series, these two are as vastly different as they are strikingly similar.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Location: Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure near Orlando, Florida, and Universal Studios Hollywood, California
Opened: 2008 (Florida) & 2016 (California)
Cost of Entry Ticket: Best Florida option for the die-hard Harry Potter fan is the 2 Day Park to Park Hopper Pass – This is the only ticket option that will allow you to ride the Hogwarts Express attraction
Website: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Warner Bros Studio Tour (Harry Potter)
Location: Leavesden, UK
Cost of Entry Ticket: Best option for the die-hard Harry Potter fan is the Complete Studio Tour Package
Website: Harry Potter Studio Tour
I visited The Wizarding World on November 15 & 16, 2015, and the Studio Tour on July 28, 2016. Having been to both, I thought of some categories to compare that might help you narrow down your choice!
Harry Potter is a world that has affected and touched countless people. As a result, both these attractions receive thousands of visitors a day, so you’ll never be alone at either. The Studio Tour only allows a set amount of people in at each time. This means that if you get the earliest ticket slot available, you’ll deal with the smallest crowd possible. That reprieve is short-lived, as waves of people enter in their time slots and add to the ever-growing crowd. On the flip side, at the Universal parks, everyone can enter from the moment the park opens. You’re still likely to have the smallest crowds early in the morning, but you’ll have plenty of people surrounding you. If you’re able to stay on-site at one of the three official Universal resorts, you’ll have the benefit of an hour’s early entry into the park, but the hour passes quickly.
At Universal, there are several restaurants within the Harry Potter sections of the parks to choose from, the most popular being The Three Broomsticks (in Hogsmeade) and The Leaky Cauldron (in Diagon Alley). Although the breakfast menu seemed pricey to us, the lunch and dinner menu prices are pretty on par with regular restaurants. We ate lunch/dinner at each place, and we found the quality of the taste of the food to be impeccable. It went far beyond what I expected of park food, and was well worth the money. Plus, it had frozen Butterbeer! At the Studio Tour, there is a small cafe just before the exterior sets. I can’t vouch for the quality or taste of the food, as I only purchased a Butterbeer from there. You cannot take your food or drink out of the backlot area, but the cafe boasts a sizeable cafeteria to sit in.
If you’re interested in rides, The Wizarding World is the place to go. The parks together have four rides, and all are well worth the experience. The parks also have the occasional performance. While there, we caught the singing frogs in Hogsmeade and the short but spectacular performance of The Tale of the Three Brothers. If you’re interested in getting a picture of yourself flying on a broomstick or sitting in the train compartment from the first movie, the Studio Tour has you covered. There are no rides, but you do have plenty of options for taking pictures in notable set pieces such as the Dursleys’ living room or in front of the ruined Potters’ house in Godric’s Hollow.
If you have the money/time/opportunity, then absolutely do both. If you have to prioritize one – and this is based solely on my personal choice – I would choose the Wizarding World. In the end, I prefer to immerse myself in the world and imagine that I am actually standing in front of Hogwarts and entering its doors, ready for my magical education. The level of detail throughout the parks is astounding, and I could have easily spent ages there without being bored.
That said, if you’re based in Europe and longing for a bit of Potterhead mania, you can’t go wrong with the UK studio tour.
Have you been to either? Which do you recommend?