In early February, a few of us from the East Coast office went West to visit the RainyDayLA crew.
We wanted to see our LA colleagues IRL, of course we did, but…we really wanted to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios.
The last time we were at Universal Studios was in 2010; eight years later, a LOT has changed.
Pro Tip: Buy tickets online, print them out, and beat the wait at the gate.
The first and most obvious thing we noticed was how the entire Village of Hogsmeade was amazingly detailed, from the stone entryway, the sign hanging from the arch, to the (sadly) non-functioning Hogworts Express on Platform 9 3/4.
We went on the rides and and saw the performances first, and then wandered around the village. We saw/rode:
- “Wand Choosing a Wizard” ceremony at Ollivanders (performance)
- Tri-Wizard Spirit Rally (performance)
- Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey (motion/virtual ride)
- Flight of the Hippogriff (physical rollercoaster)
Pro Tip: If the line for the “Wand Choosing A Wizard” show is too long, go into Ollivanders wand shop first and wander around.
Hogwarts Castle is at the center of the Harry Potter World attraction. It is where the queue is for the Forbidden Journey 4D motion/virtual ride.
While we wished we could have looked out from the Castle’s towers and turrets, they were more decorative than functional. Still, an imposing and impressive structure nonetheless.
We were there in the middle of a work week. While we didn’t exactly have the place to ourselves, we were not elbow-to-elbow with families and kids on school vacation. None of the lines were more than 10-minutes long.
The funny thing was, some of the line-distractions (moving portraits, Sorting Hat, Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, etc) have been designed to entertain the crowds while they wait in line, and we missed them because we breezed right through.
If you happen to attend on a light day, slow down a little as you go through the line and look at everything you’re passing in order to have the “full” experience 🙂
Pro Tip: Drop off the backpack, cameras, etc. in the free lockers before getting to the ride. You won’t be allowed to take them with you, and there isn’t room for them anyway. Trust us on this one.
While the biggest collection of wands for purchase are inside Ollivander’s, the carts outside have a better display of unboxed wands, for those who want to see the differences between the ones used by Harry and everyone else in the books.
- Three Broomsticks Restaurant
- Hog’s Head Pub (Butter Beer… sweet, but surprisingly delicious!!!)
- Magic Neep Cart
- Zonko’s Joke Shop
- Honey dukes (of COURSE the chocolate frogs come with a Wizard card)
- Ollivanders Wand Shop
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment (Owls)
- Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods (TimeTurner, Marauder’s Map, Sorcerer’s Stone)
- Gladrags WizardWear
- Dervish and Banges (Book of Monsters)
- Owl Post
- Hogsmeade Station (London to Hogwarts ticket)
The amount of themed merchandizing—TimeTurner, Marauder’s Map, Sorcerer’s Stone—was truly impressive. Normally, we are immune to such manipulations, but we actually found ourselves BUYING stuff (scarfs, journals, etc) at HPW. The quality of the items was quite high, and the prices, while not inexpensive, were JUST at the point where it did not stop us from pulling out the credit card.
For Universal Studios, THAT probably was the best magic spell of all 🙂
All in all, we loved our Harry Potter World experience at Universal Studios.
There is already talk of going to the one in Orlando, because the Hogwarts Express there actually takes you around the park!
Links to items mentioned:
- Harry Potter Paperback Series (Boxed Set)
- Harry Potter Complete Book Series Special Edition Boxed Set
- Harry Potter Complete Hardcover Collection
- Harry Potter: Complete 8-Film Collection (DVD, 2011, 8-Disc Set)
- Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection (Blu-ray / DVD Combo)
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter Deluxe Ravenclaw House Metal Crest Journal
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter Deluxe Gryffindor House Metal Crest Journal
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter Deluxe Slytherin House Metal Crest Journal
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter Deluxe Hufflepuff House Metal Crest Journal