As a huge Harry Potter fan I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my imagination come to life, so I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter during their soft opening in late March, and returned again a few weekends ago. The inaugural weekend was probably the most empty I’ll ever experience the newest attraction to the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood, but I didn’t mind coming back despite the hordes of people occupying every nook and cranny of the magical dominion because I absolutely enjoyed it.
At first glance, the Wizarding World seems larger than it actually is, thanks to forced perspective. However, the attention to detail on Hogwarts castle and the cottages and shops at Hogsmeade village were impeccable. You could even hear the ghostly presence of Moaning Myrtle haunting the public restrooms just as she did the girls’ lavatory in the book. If you’re not a Potter fan then it can be a little awkward hearing the sobbing cries of a girl while attempting to conduct your business, but I thought it was a cool touch.
There are two rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Flight of the Hippogriff is a coaster designed for families with smaller kids (minimum height of 39″ or 99 cm tall to ride). But the main attraction is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is a simulation ride for those 48” (120 cm) and up, and is far more technologically advanced than anything I’ve ever experienced before. The ride is a combination of spectacular set design, stunning visuals and 3D effects, and robotechnology – the seat bench you sit on is attached to a robotic arm mounted on tracks.
The Forbidden Journey takes you on an exciting adventure that follows Harry Potter on his broomstick as he zooms through and around Hogwarts castle while encountering various magical scenes and special characters (some frightful) from the series. I won’t say much more or else I’ll spoil it. However, I do have to warn you, the Journey does have a reputation for causing motion sickness, so that’s definitely something to think about. I also strongly suggest eating after and not before the ride. Overall, I absolutely loved the Forbidden Journey!
But perhaps my favorite part of the Journey experience came even before the ride, and that was standing in line for it. You first deposit your belongings in the lockers provided (free for the first two hours) and as you make your way towards the ride you’ll come across objects featured in the movies and books. Unfortunately, none of these are visible unless you want to go on the Forbidden Journey. Another warning here, the wait time can be extremely long. On my recent visit, I queued for more than two hours, but I personally didn’t mind because I enjoyed it.
When it’s time to eat, make your way to the only restaurant at the Wizarding World – Three Broomsticks. So as with everything else at Universal, it gets crowded there too and you’ll be standing in line. Actually, multiple lines; a queue outside of the restaurant to get in, another line to order the food, and finally, the line to be seated at a table. The restaurant offers a sampling of British fare, as well as some foods mentioned in the story. The hubs and I shared the lamb stew and the prime rib meal, as well as ordered the butter toffee bread pudding. Everything was surprisingly outstanding considering they were theme park food.
While at the Wizarding World, I just had to try the famous Butterbeer. Butterbeer is the drink of choice for Harry Potter and his mates. I convinced hubby to order the regular Butterbeer brew while I opted to try the frozen version. We both agreed that the slushy concoction was the better choice of the two. Think of it as a butterscotch slurpee. Yum! At $15 a pop, including the souvenir mug it was a little steep, but I didn’t mind since it was my souvenir of the inaugural opening. You can save money by just not purchasing it in the collector cup. We also tried the Pumpkin Juice, which kind of tasted like pumpkin-flavored apple juice, but I wasn’t a fan and will surely pass on it in the future.
To commemorate your visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter you might want to purchase souvenirs. For me, I was perfectly fine with my Butterbeer mug. But for the budding warlock, some popular pieces include replica wands and character robes. From my recollection, the “magical” wands were around $65.00 and the high-end character robes cost $200.00. I find that a little too steep for most of our wallets, so my recommendations: find a stick and paint it, if you want, and fashion your own cape out of inexpensive materials found at Michael’s or Walmart, and gift them to your unsuspecting kiddos or keep them for yourself. Or, just purchase souvenirs outside of the park.
Overall, I found the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an amazing experience for us fans of the Harry Potter books and movies. For a brief time, you’re transported into the creative and genius mind of JK Rowling and her magical world. I think it’s so good that even muggles and those unfamiliar with the story will appreciate and enjoy Universal Studios Hollywood’s newest feature.
Described by friends as “a giant cartoon character,” Jackie Loo is an avid animal lover. She has two dogs named after her favorite TV couple, Sheldon and Amy from The Big Bang Theory, and is majorly obsessed with penguins. She loves drawing them! Jackie has been married for almost five years and in her free time enjoys gallivanting to carnivals and fairs with her family.