There was much excitement in our Muggle house when we realised Universal Studios in Hollywood was opening a Harry Potter attraction just before we were due to visit in November.
We visited Universal Studios as part of their VIP Experience. You can read about our day here. Unfortunately I fell ill at the tail end of our VIP day so I didn’t get to fully experience Harry Potter as that was the last stop on the tour, so we went back at night for a couple of hours when I was feeling better and there were no queues or wait times.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located on the upper lot at Universal Studios Hollywood and is easy to find as you go through the entrance.
Like the castles at Disney parks, Hogwarts is the main focal point of the attraction. To make it look particularly huge and impressive despite the fact that it’s built at a quarter scale to what the ‘real’ Hogwarts would be, the building takes advantage of forced perspective.
- The winged birds at Hogwart’s entrance are made from the same moulds as the ones in the movie.
- The actual costumes from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire are on display at Gladrags Wizardwear.
- The sweaters sold in Gladrags Wizardwear are made by the same company that produced the ones from the Harry Potter films.
- The broomsticks you see in the Three Broomsticks shop are made by the same team that made the ones for all the Harry Potter films.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is home to a number of props used in the films. The earmuffs near the mandrake roots; the desks and chalkboard in the Dark Arts classroom; Cho Chang’s dress from the Yule Ball; the carriage compartment in the Hogwart’s Express train and Hagrid’s motorcycle to name but a few.
- There are no signs or markers because the park’s designers wanted the recreations and real props to all blend together seamlessly, making you really feel like you’re in Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle.
- The main ride ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’ is a mixture of 3D and moving track effects. It is hands down one of the best rides I’ve ever been on. I came out of the ride feeling like I had faced off with Dementors, played a game of Quidditch, been spat on by spiders and been cheered on by everyone at Hogwarts. It brought a tear to my Gryffindor eye it was so real!
- However be warned: you will be asked to remove all your loose jewellery, glasses, loose change, handbags hearing aids etc before boarding. There are lockers available specifically for this purpose that are free. Not to give the ride away but I would highly recommend you take the advice. No amount of ‘Accio’ will get your lost items back.
- If possible visit Hogwarts at night. When we went back again at 6pm there were no queues and it was fantastic to see everything lit up.
- When arriving go immediately to Hogwarts Castle to get in line for the ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™’ Trust me when I say this is the best queue to be in, as you will get to see and experience parts of the castle as you work your way up the line.
- When you do get to the top of Hogwarts Castle, turn around. Supervising Art Director Alan Gilmore designed the castle so that guests would see the Californian mountains and not the cityscape. This adds to the illusion of actually being at Hogwarts.
- Listen to the sorting hat while waiting in line.
- Stop and read the animated newspapers and listen to the talking portraits. They have the most hilarious conversations about how many points their houses have and love insulting Muggles (non magical folk).
- Right across from the Hidden Journey ride is the ‘Flight of the Hippogriff’ rollercoaster that is based around a pumpkin patch. The view from the top of the highest hill is worth waiting in line for and the bonus is you get to see Hagrid’s hut while you wait.
- Go to the rest rooms and listen to Moaning Myrtle, well… moaning.
- Look for the shadow of Dobby in the Three Broomsticks.
- Send a letter from Owl Post™ and it will arrive postmarked Hogsmeade (pretty cool hey).
- Look out for the Nimbus 2000, the Nimbus 2001 and the Firebolt at Dervish and Banges™.
- Check out the Gringotts Bank Automated Teller Machine.
- Visit Ollivanders™ and see if you get chosen to take part in a wand ceremony, where the wand clearly chooses you. If you are not chosen you can still purchase your own wand at the shop, there are normal and interactive wands available. Interactive wands are specially designed to ‘cast spells’ within Hogwarts Grounds.
All the staff at Hogwarts are in character and sorted into their respective houses and they will stop and talk to you as you walk around. To really feel part of the experience my last tip is for you to get some house robes and take part in the fun.
Before you leave make sure you check out:
- Zonkos™ Joke Shop
- Filches Emporium of Confiscated Goods™
If you are not sure what house you belong to visit www.pottermore.com and do the sorting ceremony before visiting.
My daughter belongs to Hufflepuff and I belong to Gryffindor, which made for interesting house banter as we walked around. It’s all fun of course, although she got a little too competitive for my liking. It’s obvious that Gryffindor is the best house right?