The Hogwarts Express is arguably the most immersive experience you can have in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The ride connects the original Wizarding World (set in Hogsmeade and located in Islands of Adventure) with the latest addition - Diagon Alley, over in Universal Studios Florida.
You can go through all the motions of boarding this iconic train for yourself and travel in both directions. Before you head to the station, however, there are some things that you should know...
Note: There are, necessarily, some minor spoilers in this article, but nothing that will ruin the plot of the Hogwarts Express for you if you have yet to experience it.
1. It offers more than one journey
The Hogwarts Express takes you on two very different journeys, so this is one ride that you’ll definitely want to board twice. The ride from Hogsmeade to London is more cheerful than the ride back, so this is a good place to start if you’re travelling with very small children. When you ride from London back to Hogsmeade, you’ll see Death Eaters flying over London and even experience dementors boarding the train.
There’s really no science as to which side will offer a shorter wait. Within a matter of hours, the queue can jump from 10 minutes to over an hour on either side. You may think that everyone will head to Diagon Alley first and thus the station in Hogsmeade will be less busy, but you won’t be the only person with this plan. If anything, the limited space allotted to Hogsmeade seems even more confining and crowded when compared with the incredible expanse that is Diagon Alley.
2. There’s no lunch trolley, but you can snack in queue
While you’re riding the Hogwarts Express, you’ll see the Lunch Trolley pass by your closed doors, but you won’t have the opportunity to grab a snack. If you’re hungry, however, you can grab something to eat in the queue on the London side.
There’s a small food stand right in the line with sandwiches, fruit, and other light meals and snacks. This is particularly handy if you’re visiting on a day when the line is long. If the wait is short you’ll breeze right past, but if all the available queue is open, you may want to grab something to keep you going during the wait.
3. Each station is dramatically different
If you’re not familiar with Potterlore, you may not know how different the two train stations will be. On the Hogsmeade side, the station is themed to the Wizarding World. This queue is both indoors and outdoors, so you should be careful getting into this line if you can see clouds gathering on the horizon.
The Kings Cross Station in London offers a much richer experience, and is conveniently indoors the entire way. Here you will enter through London, where the Team Members are muggles just like you and me. The station remains a close replica of the real King’s Cross Station until you ascend to the second floor and cross through the magical barrier between platforms 9 and 10. Once through, you transition to the Wizarding World where you’ll find more magical Team Members and a completely different look and feel.
4. You must Have a Two-Park ticket to ride
This fact can be a bit disappointing if you’re not prepared for it, but Universal is trying something radically new by offering up a ride that you must have a two-park ticket to experience. This is because the train doesn’t just pick you up and drop you off in the same location. It doesn’t even drop you off in the same park.
Fortunately, you can upgrade your ticket at the conveniently placed booths at each train station. You will scan your ticket before you enter the queue to make sure you have the proper admission, so there’s no sneaking past this rule.