1. Plan your trip around the Universal Crowd Calendar.
If you simply must go in the summer, mid-to-late August is your best bet because in Florida a lot of school districts start school earlier than in other areas of the country. The further into August you get the more likely Florida students are back in school thereby lessening the crowds a bit. I will say it is a surreal experience to be in a sweltering hot environment and then look up and see blue skies and the “snow-covered” rooftops of Hogsmeade. Even though it wouldn’t be conducive to attracting huge crowds, I do feel placing all the worlds of Harry Potter in a place like Washington or Oregon where it rains more frequently would create a more authentic environment.
2. Do your research and prioritize what is important to you.
If you are a big Harry Potter fan, seeing a real life incarnation of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts can be overwhelming. By familiarizing yourself with some of the rides and the lay of the land ahead of time you won’t be quite so overwhelmed and can enjoy the experience more. The actual size of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts is not that big, but it is all the incredible detail that will have you not knowing where to look next. By reading this post and others on the web you are already more prepared than most of the people you will encounter at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
3. Check out The Forbidden Journey on Youtube ahead of time.
I love behind-the-scenes stuff, so I particularly enjoyed watching a video of when the Forbidden Journey broke down and the riders are going through it with the lights on. It gave me a sneak peek into the mechanics of everything and a better appreciation for it when I rode The Forbidden Journey. It also helped my younger children not be so scared to ride it because they saw how it worked first.
4. Check to see if the Hogwarts Castle Tour Only line is available and do that first.
If the line is long this option is probably not available. If it is available, do the castle tour first and take all the pictures you want without being rushed. Then come back and get in line for the ride. This is one area where it is unfortunate that the locker line ushers you through so quickly. There is so much detail put into the castle but you simply can’t appreciate it if you are in the locker line.
5. Take extra care to remember your locker number on the Forbidden Journey ride.
The locker line for The Forbidden Journey ride has you meandering through forests and then the greenhouse holding area. Once you get into Hogwarts Castle, the locker line may start to move fairly quickly and make it hard to take in the details of the castle. Once you get really close to the ride you have to store your stuff in a locker and it is dark in there. Basically you are in a Hogwarts dungeon trying to store your stuff and get back with your group as quickly as possible to get on the ride. Your best bet is to store bags at the Dragon Challenge lockers and fetch them later.
6. Owl Post.
Next to Ollivander’s is the Owl Post. You can buy stationary or post cards and get them postmarked at the Owl Station next to it. I had all my postcards and stationary postmarked but took them home with me to use later. You can get Harry Potter stamps from Zazzle to complete the look. If you are really thinking ahead you could bring the Harry Potter stamps with you and mail them from Hogsmeade.
7. Use the Public Convenience (restrooms) to hear Moaning Myrtle.
She will speak to guests who use the lavatories in Hogsmeade.
8. Make any purchases the last thing on your list.
I know this might be a tough one especially if you have kids with you, but it is easier to go on all the rides with as little baggage as possible (see Tip 5 for the why). Also keep in mind that most items are available throughout the park and online so if there is a long line to buy one t-shirt you may want to hold off and get it elsewhere. Ollivander’s is notorious for long lines because of the wand choosing ceremony. If you must see it, by all means get in line. However, there is a wand kiosk available outside to buy the exact same wands sold inside.
9. Fast Frozen Butterbeer.
The Three Broomsticks is the only restaurant in Hogsmeade and it is a great place to sit down and take in the whole atmosphere without being jostled in a crowded shop. It is also a good place to cool off and regroup. We weren’t up for a full English meal in 95+ degrees heat and humidity but we did want to try the Frozen Butterbeer. The fastest way to get a Butterbeer is to head to the left once you get inside the Three Broomsticks and you will be at the Hog’s Head pub. There usually isn’t much of a line and you can get your drinks quickly and find a place to sit.
10. Use the back alley to exit Dervish and Banges.
There are usually huge crowds in all the stores. As you gather up your purchases in Dervish and Banges head toward the back of the store. There is another cash stand and a door that you can go out when you are done so you don’t have to fight your way back to the front of the store.