If you are wondering “Is buying a wand worth it?”, “Do I need a wand to visit Harry Potter world?” or “Do I want to buy a wand before visiting the Wizarding World at Universal?” I’ve got answers for you (briefly; yes, maybe, and no — buy your wand at the park!)
If you are spending the day wandering around Diagon Alley at Universal Studios or in Hogsmeade within Islands of Adventure, I am going to guess you are a fan of the Harry Potter films or books. If you are even the slightest Harry Potter fan, or if you have fans in your family, especially kids, buying a magic wand is a MUST.
Having a magic, interactive, wand definitely adds to the fun of exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Univeral Orlando.
When in a wizarding world, be a wizard!
There are two types of wands available for sale at Universal Orlando — a cheaper plain wand and a more expensive “interactive” wand.
You can find wands for sale at Ollivanders in Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure Park), at the wand cart on the path to Hogwarts, at Ollivanders in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios Park), or at Wands by Gregorovitch in the Carkitt Market part of Diagon Alley.
You can also find them in the various generic souvenir shops throughout Universal, like the big Universal shop within the CityWalk area. But personally, I can’t see why would you want to get your wand from some muggle shop when you could instead have the magical experience of actually shopping at Ollivanders (I recommend the Diagon Alley Ollivanders location specifically).
There is a very small price difference between the plain wands and the interactive ones (as of writing this post the difference is $6 on Universal’s online shop). For such a small price increase it is definitely worth it to get the “magical” interactive version to use to while at Universal (but again, I suggest against buying it online, wait and get your wand in person at Ollivanders).
Fun Fact: None of the officially licensed wands are wood. At J. K. Rowling’s insistence, all wands are made from resin.
All of the wands sold are made from handpainted sculpted resin. The interactive wands are slightly thicker and have a sort of rounded bubble at the tip. (The tip is basically a special kind of reflector, which interacts with the special sensors located around the two parks.)
The interactive wands also come boxed with a lovely double sided fold out map, which is a pretty awesome souvenir in and of itself. The art style is similar to the infamous Marauder’s Map and shows each of the “marked” magic spots in both parks (the cheaper non-interactive wands do not include a map).
On your map, you’ll find that there are eleven marked spellcasting spots in Diagon Alley, plus five more within Knockturn Alley and nine over in Hogsmeade. Follow your map and look for the big metal medallions set into the ground.
My kids loved casting spells with their interactive wands. They would hoot with glee each time they spotted one of the special metal spells points set into the ground. They would carefully position themselves, standing on the big medallion, facing the spot it pointed at, arm extended, making small deliberate movements with their wands. Swish and flick.
Small movements made with the wrist work best, and not big movements made with the arm, just as the pleasant helpful wizards and witches found hovering near various wand spots showed them.
These helpful witches and wizards located near each spell spot will step in and offer tips if you’re having a hard time getting a spell to work, and also help to keep any line ups moving along. Everyone we met was wonderfully friendly, fantastic at talking with kids, and 100% playing along in character, which only adds to the fun.
And it was undeniably fun. It felt like magic. My two girls had a blast. My husband, my mom, and myself, we all took turns. Swish and flick and grin.
Incendio. The second story window lights up.
Herbivicus. A plant rapidly blooms before your eyes.
Locomotor. A wee chimney sweep comes to life and scurries to the top of it’s sign.
Revelio. The oversized display box opens to reveal a gigantic chocolate frog.
Fun stuff. Magic.
(Ok, you don’t have to say the magic words for the spell spots to work. But why wouldn’t you? It’s part of the immersive fun!)
What to Do When Your Interactive Wand Doesn’t Work
Tip: If you see an anti-jinx sign, or one of the helpful witches or wizards tells you the spot has been jinxed, that spell is down for repairs.
Sometimes it’s the location, but sometimes it’s the wand…
Sometimes the special tip at the end of the wand gets scratched. If your wand suddenly becomes fiddly and difficult, or impossible, to use, this might be the culprit. The good news is Ollivanders offers a free repair service.
This happened with my daughter on our last visit. A helpful wizard who was watching as she was trying to cast Repario at the Blacksmith shop took a look at her wand and suggested that it needed repairs. We hopped into Ollivanders and someone immediately took care of us. The clerk whisked the wand away into the back of the shop to be repaired, almost instantly returning. I highly suspect it might have simply been swapped out for another wand.
Magical Secrets to Find
The map that comes with the wand has a special “magical” property — when held open in the dim, black-light lit, corridors of Knockturn Alley, certain parts of the map are revealed, parts that you can’t see during the light of day.
Tip: Step in and look up.
Take a few steps into Knockturn Alley, well out of the sunlight. Now look up, look for one of the many small “black lights” shining down, position yourself just so under the light and VERY FAINT magical marks will appear on the Diagon Alley side of the map. These marks show the magical symbols for the “dark” Knockturn Alley spells.
Some younger children may find this area too spooky for their tastes. Check out my article that talks about just how spooky it is, tips on what to see in Knockturn Alley and how to help your children overcome their fears with some help from your magic map.
Unmarked Magical Secret Wand Spots
There are also several secret unmarked spots where you can stand and let spells off. There are lists to be found online that detail the secret spots — hit Google if you want spoilers — but we found it much more fun to hunt around blindly.
(Hint: If you manage to spot wee red dots of light from an interactive sensor you’ve probably found a secret spell spot. Aim your wand and give it a try.)
Overall, if there are Harry Potter fans in your group an interactive wand is a MUST. Being able to cast spells is such fun, and the wand and map also make good souvenirs to take back home (my kids use theirs to play pretend All Of The Time).
Tip: Get your wand at Ollivanders, but only after lining up to watch as “the wand chooses the wizard” — if your lucky a wand may choose you (or your child). (Check out my previous article for tips on how to have the best experience at Ollivanders).