I solemnly swear I am up to no good…
In case you didn’t know this about me, I am a HUGE Potterhead. I started reading the books not long before the first movie came out and I never looked back. I used to sit there as a child self-deprived of all coolness watching the movies with subtitles on. With a notebook at the ready, I wrote down each and every spell and it’s purpose so that when I did venture outside I could add some authenticity to my fake British accent and wand-like stick I toted around.
You can imagine the extreme and downright giddy joy I experienced being able to go to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter:Universal Studios Hollywood on it’s official opening day. It is about time LA added Hogwarts to it’s skyline, after years of us west coast potterheads eyeing longingly at Orlando’s expansive Wizarding World.
We shall briefly touch on the rest of Universal Studios, as it was my first time going to the park. All of the sets and photo opps are great. I have to say we had a lot of fun and the rides were pretty impressive! My top recommendations are the Transformers ride, Montezuma’s Revenge, and surprisingly the Simpsons ride. Now, onward to what we came for!
That was my first thought as I entered the pearly gates of wizarding heaven.
I was instantly greeted with the oh so familiar soundtrack from the movies, which honestly adds so much to the experience. Walking around, seeing people dressed head to toe in House gear and Hogwarts robes, it was just like dreams I’ve had but this was real life!
April 7th, 2016 also turned out to be one of the 8 days a year LA rains, which left us wet and with less photogenic hair, but made the park much more realistic than the usual sunny and clear forecast of Southern California.
When you first walk in, you are transported into Hogsmeade, the village near Hogwarts in the books/movies. There are shops and window displays everywhere you look, and the detail is impeccable.
Absolutely unable to be pecked.
In the bathroom, you hear Moaning Murtle’s voice echoing throughout each stall. I have never been so excited to hear voices while I am peeing.
You can imbrace your inner Weasley at Zonko’s Joke Shop, shop for wizardwear at Dervish & Banges, get your filling of Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans and Chocolate Frogs at Honeydukes, send a letter or buy a howler at the Owl Post, dine at the Three Boomsticks (which serves traditional English cuisine), and my personal favorite, watch a wand choose a wizard at Ollivanders. The line for the show at Ollivanders was quite long when I was there, but it made the shop much more magical.
If you buy one thing at the park, I would suggest it be a wand. It’s part of the whole experience. They have non-interactive wands for $40 and wands that are interactive with the shop windows in Hogsmeade for $50. The ability to “cast spells” and make the trinkets in the windows move like in the books and movies was worth the extra $10 in my opinion. If you have one from Orlando’s Wizarding World, it will work here too. Ya girl’s grown up and has a real wand.. no more pretending with sticks.
Okay, I lied. Forget the wand (not really…still get a wand). If you only get one thing, whether you are a muggle or a wizard, get a butterbeer.
You have to. It is your duty as a visitor to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I, like everyone else, wholeheartedly recommend butterbeer of the frozen variety. There are carts selling the stuff everywhere you turn, as well as pumpkin juice. Pumpkin Juice is verrrryyy sweet, it was something fun to get and try, and not bad, just not something I could drink very much of.
Now I have to say that like all theme parks, this is a money pit. Things are expensive here, so plan accordingly and prioritize which souvenirs you would like to have. Unless you are rich. Then by all means buy everything. Many souvenirs are actually great quality. The robes are very substantial, just like you’d imagine they’d be if you were really attending Hogwarts. There are wool sweaters, ties, and scarves for every house as well as t shirts, keychains, socks, journals, and every other item you can imagine a Harry Potter reference or logo slapped on. Take a lot of time to explore, but be careful if you don’t want to swish and flick yourself magically into debt.
Alright, alright, alright. Let’s get down to the star of the show. The muthaflippin Hogwarts Castle.
Ain’t she a beauty! I may or may not have cried at the sight of her. I did. I did cry several times this day.
Dear Universal Studios Hollywood, can I pretty please take residence in your Hogwarts Castle?
So the number one question I was asked by friends and family was “Do you get to go inside the castle?”. Yes, and no. The Hogwarts Castle is home to the main ride of the park, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The line for the ride takes you through the castle. If you can, really take your time and absorb all of the details, because they are plenty of them. Pictures that really move and talk, the herbology classroom, Snape’s classroom door (which had a Lily placed on it when I was there…be still, my heart), and Dumbledore’s office.
The ride is FANTASTIC. Easily my favorite ride in all of Universal Studios Los Angeles. This opinion was also equally shared between both of my brothers (one isn’t into Harry Potter at all) and my sister. During the ride, you are made to feel like you are hovering and flying along with Harry Potter. The ride is a MUST DO if you go to Uni Studios.
There is another ride called The Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a very small rollercoaster (doesn’t go upside down). While it’s nothing crazy special, it is worth going on once, as you get to see Hagrid’s Hut while you wait in line.
In short, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will have a great time. It does not have as much as Orlando’s version (which now has King Cross Station, Diagon Alley, and Knockturn Alley…still jealous, Florida) but I am very happy with what we have so far. I still get a little teary eyed looking at pictures thinking “I can’t believe I went there”. It is, in fact, a magical place.