If you have kids who live and breathe all things Harry Potter, and you can’t take them on a trip to the motherland, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios is the next best thing. With the Wizarding World is now open on both coasts, we opted to check out Hogwarts and Hogsmeade in Hollywood. Read on for our best planning tips:
Rides at Wizarding World of Harry Potter:
There are two rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, both of which are pretty tame by theme park standards. However, here’s what you should know about each:
- The Flight of the Hippogriff is Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster. It is family friendly and appropriate for younger muggles over 36 inches tall.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios Hollywood takes place inside Hogwart’s Castle. This 3-D adventure is perfect for diehard Harry Potter fans who can brave the Quidditch pitch, Whomping Willows, dragons and dementors. We loved it, but there’s a lot of twisting and turning, and some of us felt a bit queasy afterward. If you get motion sickness, know this in advance!
Shopping inside Wizarding World:
Normally, souvenir shopping wouldn’t get more than a cursory mention in one of my posts…after all, no one comes for the shopping. Not so at Wizarding World! Shopping for Harry Potter souvenirs is truly part of the fun at Wizarding World, and you’ll want to take time to do some browsing. Be sure to go into the various shops, such as Honeydukes candy shop for some chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, chocolate cauldrons and more. Inside the castle and as you exit the Forbidden Journey are where you will find Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods. I could have spent hours in there! You can purchase clothing, house crest banners, toys, games and replicas of the movie props.
If your kid (or you!) want to buy a wand, do it early. Why? You can use interactive wands (the ones with the specially marked sticker on the box) throughout the Wizarding World. It’s really fun to perform spells at any location with an emblem on the ground. There’s always a Universal employee stationed nearby to give you tips.
To get a wand, you can either go through a wand ceremony (where you wait in line to watch the ceremony where one person is picked to be the recipient, then buy your own if you weren’t picked), or you can go directly to the wand shop. If you want to watch the ceremony, we suggest making this your first stop.
The wand shop is usually crazy crowded, but it’s also jaw-dropping to see the wand boxes literally stacked floor to ceiling. Wands will set you back $50 each (yes, really!) but it’s one of those things you should probably just budget for, because once in the Wizarding World, they’re hard to resist!
Food & drink of wizards:
Like shopping, eating is a big deal at Wizarding World. There are all kinds of edible treats from the candy in Honeydukes to the restaurant and pub, as well as Butterbeer. In the Three Broomsticks restaurant, you’ll find the Hog’s Head (bar), but also English fare for the whole family. You can snuggle up with a drink in a cozy booth or spot in front of the fireplace. We found it expensive but fun to eat a meal in the Three Broomsticks.
On the Hogsmeade stage you will find some entertainment throughout your visit. Some of the Hogwarts choir students (one from each house) perform with their large croaking frogs. You can also cheer on the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students as they get the crowd excited for the Triwizard Tournament. After each performance, you can take photos with the singers and dancers.
Dealing with crowds:
Universal’s Front of Line pass will be worth your while if you’re visiting during peak season (summer) or just about any time in the first months of the park’s opening, even though there are only two rides in the park. The pass is good for both rides, and lines are definitely long. It also includes front access to shows, saving you time (as you won’t have to hold seats). These passes start at $199. There is a single rider line available for The Forbidden Journey. There’s a VIP pass as well, which gets you all the perks of the Front of Line pass, plus a guided tour, breakfast, and lunch, but at over $300 a ticket, we don’t see the value.
As with most theme parks, Universal Studios gives you an array of options for ticket purchase (in addition to the aforementioned Front of the Line pass). Always buy tickets online ahead of time if buying directly through Universal to save some cash, but if you plan to do anything else in the greater Los Angeles area, do as we did and use a Go Los Angeles card attraction pass. A 3-day card gives you a day at Universal Studios, which you can upgrade to a Front of the Line pass should you desire. We loved that we didn’t have to wait in the ticket line at all: cards are fully integrated with the Universal Studios Hollywood ticket turnstiles.
Where to stay: Staying at a Preferred Hotel gets you early admission privileges, and may even get you shuttle service to the park (in some cases). What we like: there’s a large selection to choose from, making it possible for families on all budgets to book a Preferred Hotel. Be sure to use hotel loyalty programs when you book to ensure you come away with points as well as a great vacation!
Read also: our tips for Universal Studios Hollywood!
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Photo credit: Prayitno