The All-New Wizarding World of Harry PotterKim Inman
written by Bri Totsch, Travel Specialist
I was fortunate enough recently to have the opportunity to visit the brand-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood. I visited on the 4th day it was officially open, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the crowds weren’t at all overwhelming. If you’re familiar with the Wizarding World in Orlando, Florida, you’ll know that there are two main sections to Harry Potter’s domain: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. In Hollywood, only the Hogsmeade side currently exists. I’m hoping they’ll add the Diagon Alley half eventually, but for now Hogsmeade offers plenty of entertainment for Potter lovers everywhere.
When you enter the Universal Studios park, Hogsmeade is located just a few minutes’ walk from the main entrance. A giant stone walkway welcomes you to the village of Hogsmeade. Immediately upon entering this magical world, you can find a stationary model of the Hogwarts Express, along with a conductor who is there to talk trains and pose for pictures. The famous score from the Harry Potter movies swells as you begin walking further into Hogsmeade.
From there, you can begin to see nearly the entire land as you proceed down the shop-lined main path. You will see many familiar stores: Honeydukes, Zonko’s Joke Shop, Ollivander’s for wands, the Owl Post, Dervish & Banges, Gladrags Wizardwear, Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, and the infamous butterbeer Cart. The butterbeer is a must-try; you can order it frozen, cold, or hot. You can purchase it in a keepsake mug to recreate the experience at home!
If you want to make some of the magic of Harry Potter come alive for you, I would suggest purchasing a wand. There are a couple of different ways to obtain a wand; you can take in the show at Ollivander’s where there are special wand-choosing ceremonies throughout the day. This Ollivander’s location also serves as a wand shop, but there can be significant waits in line because of the show that comes with it. However, there is also a wand cart right outside Hogwarts Castle. We decided to get a wand from the cart and had no wait.
The major benefit to splurging on a wand is that you will be able to cast your very own “spells” throughout Hogsmeade. The wand will come with a map that directs you to a number of locations where spells can be cast. When you find the appropriate symbol on the ground, stand on it and follow the instructions to move your wand in the right motions. If you’re skilled at spell-casting, you will see your hard work pay off in the form of the storefronts coming to life! I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises, but this is an incredibly fun and interactive touch that I think is well worth it. Plus, the wands can be used on both coasts at each Universal Studios theme park.
Hungry? Head inside The Three Broomsticks for a proper English meal! They serve up such favorites as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, along with pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and more. The atmosphere and theming is that of a proper wizard pub and is just as immersive as the snowy village outside.
As for the rides, there are two. There’s Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a mild, family-friendly coaster (riders must be at least 39 inches tall) that takes you past Hagrid’s Hut as you soar like the hippogriffs do. Then,
there’s the main event: Hogwarts Castle and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The attraction queue for Forbidden Journey brilliantly doubles as a walking tour through Hogwarts Castle. You’ll get to see fan favorites like the Pensieve, Dumbledore’s office, the Potions classroom, the Sorting Hat, the Gryffindor common room, and so much more. Immersive and grand, the castle is almost an exact replica of its counterpart in Orlando. The big difference lies in the ride itself. Once you near the Forbidden Journey ride, you’ll realize that this is not the same exact voyage. You are given 3D glasses, or “Quidditch Goggles”, right before taking off. The entire screened portion of the ride is in 3D which makes some of the images leap out at the rider. It makes the ride even more lifelike and thrilling! Note: riders must be at least 48 inches tall.
Once you’re finished with rides and shopping, you can sit back and relax to some authentic wizarding entertainment. There’s the popular Frog Choir, which has to be seen to be believed. And there’s periodically a Triwizard Spirit Rally, since this land is themed to be occurring at a point in Hogsmeade’s history when the Triwizard Tournament occurs.
There’s so much to see, experience, eat, drink, and do at the all-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood. I highly recommend trying to see it for yourself if you’re in the Hollywood/Los Angeles area. If you pre-purchase your park tickets, you will get a discount along with early entry into the park!