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Urban Safari : Universal Studios’ Harry Potter World

It IS like magic!!!

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.

Our local tour guides

The last time we were at Universal Studios was in 2010; eight years later, a LOT has changed.

The biggest addition was, of course, Harry Potter World. Built on the phenomenal success of the seven-book Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Universal did not disappoint.

Pro Tip: Buy tickets online, print them out, and beat the wait at the gate.

The only reason we knew we weren’t in London was the sunshine.

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.

Yes, this photo makes us hum the happy Hogsmead music, too.

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.

I have a very good friend who went to school here. His name is Harry; do you know him?

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.

Where are your robes? School rules, you know.

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.

Yes, yes, and yes.

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 🙂

Watch out for the Cornish Pixies!

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.

Don’t call him Ollie. Just don’t.

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.

Thank goodness they’re magic – there’s no way a person could pick the right one on their own.

Pro Tip: If you plan on buying a wand, get it before you start wandering around Hogsmead, in order to enjoy the hidden surprises there.

Everything, everywhere, is Potter-rific.


Honeydukes – where you can buy your very own chocolate frog!


I’ll take one of each please, thank you.

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 🙂

Yes, we, tussled, over who got which one.

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!

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