Many young people grew up with J KRowlings’ Harry Potter, and the next generation is quickly getting to know this fantastical world of magic and wizardry. The main series spans seven books, eight movies, and a recently welcomed prequel titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Hence it was only a matter of time until theme parks based on this world would be created. After its successful launch in Orlando, Universal Studios finally created a Harry Potter World in its Hollywood Park.
The Wizarding World was first built in Universal Orlando in the summer of 2010. Due to its popularity, Universal developed a version of the park in Universal Hollywood in the summer of 2016. Since, Universal Hollywood has access to much less land than Orlando, the park section in Hollywood more compact but still, includes all Orlando park highlights.
What You Will See
When we first got there, we got to pay at an automated kiosk since we purchased our tickets by credit card. Unfortunately, the kiosk malfunctioned and didn’t print us our tickets. Luckily, we were directed to the service area where the customer service agents not only gave us our tickets but handed us two front of the line passes as compensation for our time.
We made a beeline for the Harry Potter World as soon as we got in the park. Guests enter this section of the park through a stone gate. The first thing we saw was a recreation of Hogsmeade, the small shopping town where Hogwarts students go to have fun. This area was an almost perfect recreation of the one seen in the movies, complete with off-kilter chimneys and magical window dressings. Needless to mention, the rooftops were covered in fake snow, which looked perfect during our Christmas visit.
The Three Broomsticks
We headed to The Three Broomsticks restaurant first. As we had arrived near lunch time, we did encounter a bit of a line. The other half of our party arrived before us, and apparently, people are not allowed to save seats inside, so we sat separately.
Appropriate for Christmas, the Three Broomsticks offered a Holiday Feast. The Holiday Feast included Turkey, Beef Wellington along with various vegetables, delicious stuffing and cranberry sauce.The portions were large and could easily feed a family of four, maybe more. WE were told that during the rest of the year, diners can still try the Great Feast, which includes chicken, spare ribs, corn, roasted potatoes, and salad.
Along with the holiday platter, we also tried the Spare Ribs and the Fish and Chips. The Three Broomsticks venue offers many different British-based food items, such as Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, and Beef Lamb and Guinness Stew.
For breakfast, patrons can try Eggy Bread, a traditional English Breakfast, an American Breakfast or a Continental Breakfast. They do have a children’s menu which offers smaller versions of most of the adult meals.
While at The Three Broomsticks, we, of course, had to have our first taste of butterbeer!
Butterbeer is a signature drink of the Harry Potter franchise that fans all over the world wish to sample. Butterbeer in the park came in three types-frozen, regular, and hot.
We tried the regular in a specialty mug. It tasted much like a cream soda mixed with butterscotch and was delicious yet incredibly sugary. The Three Broomsticks also serves a Butterbeer Potted Cream, and adults can enjoy Butterbeer with a shot of whiskey.
Buying a Wand
After dining at The Three Broomsticks, the Harry Potter area got exceptionally crowded, so we decided to check out the rest of Universal until the crowds died down. After going on the Studio Tour and checking out the Simpsons area, we returned to the Harry Potter area to buy ourselves a wand at Ollivander’s.
Just like at the Orlando Park, Ollivander’s does offer a wand choosing event. However, we only recommend this for the patrons willing to wait in long lines for the chance to be chosen for the ceremony. Word of warning-only one child is selected per event. Those wishing to skip the ceremony can just go straight into Ollivander’s shop and just buy a wand directly.
Ollivander’s turned out to be a small shop. The staff at the door limit those coming in and out, but even then we still moved through crowds. The store stocks all the wands in long boxes on shelves. One one side of the room featured all the “celebrity” wands, aka wands based off those owned by the characters. On the other end of the room we saw wands sorted by “wood type,” and along this side, patrons could read little descriptions of the various wand woods, how they looked, and how they matched up to distinct personalities.
One of the most interesting aspects of Harry Potter world is getting an interactive wand. These are a little more pricey but well worth it for its ‘magic ‘ capabilities. We bought one of these interactive wands, which came with a map to show us where we could use them. One of the first places we went was to a decorative flower in the window of a shop. By standing on a point and waving the wand in a particular pattern, we got the flower to bloom. There’s plenty of other places where one can cast spells throughout the park to various effects.
Something that I noticed was that I sometimes had difficulty making the wand work. We figured out it was because I am left-handed, and therefore making the wand movements with my left hand, with my arm likely blocking whatever mechanism the item uses to communicate with the scenery.
We wandered around for awhile casting spells in various places before going into Honeydukes.
In the Harry Potter books, Honeydukes is a sweet shop that sells all sorts of magical candies. We bought a chocolate frog, which came in a box that looked exactly like the ones in the movies.
We also purchased a bottle of pumpkin juice. The store had stacks of Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans on sale, specialty jelly beans that come in interesting (and disgusting) flavors. Other items we found interesting were chocolate wands and cauldron cake pastries. The shop was very crowded and filled with merchandise, so it was sometimes difficult to move around.
Honeydukes in Universal is in the same building as Zonko’s Joke Shop (Universal Orlando has Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes instead.)In the Zonko’s area, guests can buy all sorts of nonfood merchandise, such as old fashion joke and prank items, many of which have some magical theme.Photo credit K Casey
Flight of the Hippogriff/Frog Choir
We decided to go ahead and check out Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride now that we could wait in a reasonable line. On our way, we passed Flight of the Hippogriff, a more traditional roller coaster suitable for younger kids. We also saw the stage on which the Hogwarts Frog Choir was performing, and we stopped to watch. Four Hogwarts students sang magic themed acapella songs accompanied by the croaking frogs they held aloft on pillows. Those who observe the show for awhile can see the students interact as they sing, part of which includes three of the students getting terrified in various ways by the fourth Slytherin student.
They don’t allow guests to take bags or even their wands on the ride, but they do provide lockers at the ride’s entrance. It was crowded, so it took us some time to find a free locker, but once we did it was a breeze to store our items. Guests get the first two hours free for lockers.
The line itself is worth walking through, and we highly recommend it even for those who don’t want to go on the final ride, since there are plenty of exit doors along the way. We first walked through a greenhouse area which was calming and got to see Mandrakes in pots.
Once we got inside the castle, we saw lots of moving paintings which communicated with each other. In one room, they had portraits of the four Hogwarts founders which all bickered with each other as we passed. In a nearby classroom, a screen replicated Harry, Ron, and Hermione appearing above us from under their Invisibility Cloak to talk to guests. There were lots of interesting little details that any Potter fan will enjoy.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
To get on the ride itself, guests walk on a moving platform similar to Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Overhead bars straps guests in the seats, but visitors should be prepared that their feet will be dangling in the air.Photo credit K Casey
This version of the ride is different from the Orlando version in that the 3D elements were excluded to alleviate headaches and motion sickness for riders. However, the ride itself can still cause plenty of motion sickness. Riders move through simulated environments, partially on a 360 view screen, occasionally through constructed environments with animatronics. Though no one is entirely upside down or moving down or up at fast speeds the seats do tilt back and forth to simulate movement.
Once we got off, we walked right into Filch’s Emporium, another merchandise shop. There’s plenty of items here for guests to show off their house in mugs and plates as well as cute stuffed animal toys and puppets. We got a plush Fawkes the Phoenix as a gift.There are plenty of other great shops throughout the park, such as the Owl Post. These stores sell items like house robes, perfect badges, and other great things to get for oneself or as a gift.
Ending the Day
We decided to end our day at the Three Broomsticks again. Most people had cleared out, so we could freely walk in and sit wherever we wanted. We decided to get the warm butterbeer this time. After trying it, we think they use a different recipe for each type of Butterbeer, as it tasted distinct. Either way, it was still delicious and the perfect way to end our time at Harry Potter World.
Location, Cost, and Hours
Universal Studios is located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
Prices vary depending on the season and day, but typically sit at around $105 for adults, with discounts for kids. We highly recommend ordering tickets online for the best discounts.
Universal is usually open from nine AM to ten PM.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Guests need to empty their pockets of all metal items and go through a metal detector. If the metal detector beeps, a staff member wands the guest before they can continue walking.
- We went right after Christmas, a particularly busy time for Universal. However, there are still crowds in this small part of the park. The shops are also smaller and filled with lots of merchandise, making for tight spaces. We recommend going to the park either early in the day or the evening.
- Universal’s Front of the Line pass doesn’t work on any of the attractions in Harry Potter World.
- Those visiting should stop at Guest Relations before entering the park. Universal Studios offers a special assistance card similar to the one in Disneyland. Parents just have to have staff scan the card at the ride to receive a return time to avoid lines.
- At The Three Broomsticks, as guests walk through the line they can see a display of most dishes the restaurant offers. This display is an excellent way for parents and kids to look at the food and see portion sizes and what looks appetizing.
- The Three Broomsticks does not allow patrons to save seats during busy times. However, those who get to the front of the line before the rest of their party can wait to the side.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey features some “4D” effects like heat and water sprays.
- Those who want to cast spells with their interactive wands should know that the spells only work for one person at a time. Guests might sometimes have to stand in small lines to try out spells. The spells are also sometimes fickle, which can be frustrating, especially if there’s a line forming behind the spell caster.
- The main bathroom in this part of the park is right next to The Three Broomsticks. Parents should be aware, however, that in the bathrooms a voiceover of the ghost “Moaning Myrtle” speaks to guests. This fact can be frightening for some kids – it was certainly a little unsettling for some of our adult party members.