Two head injuries and rain….
It could have turned out to be a terrible day…
But it didn’t!
A couple weeks ago, I decided, to be spontaneous, and I planned a last minute trip to California. I wanted to surprise my boys by taking them to the opening day of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood!
They had been asking to go ever since they’d received flyers at school from Get Away Today. I really didn’t think we could pull off a trip until sometime next year…but I got the bug…you know the one I’m talking about. The travel bug. And all of a sudden, I was itching to put a little magic ╰☆╮ into my kids’ spring break.
We kept the trip a surprise as long as possible. We drove down to St. George Utah, to do some hiking and then let the boys know that we would be continuing on to California instead of going home. I have family in Temecula, California so it is nothing out of the ordinary to go down for a visit. But my keen 8 year old immediately guessed what I was up to.
My husband had to stay behind in Utah to work. Thankfully, I have a sister in California who was super willing to come along with me and help me with the boys. So, with garbed in Hogwarts robes, we set out for the opening day of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood!
If you’re thinking about traveling to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, or wondering if it is worth it to take your family, here’s what you need to know:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
What to expect:
Expect Crowds: I know we went on opening day, but really, as awesome and as well-loved by all ages as Harry Potter is, I really can’t see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ever not being crowded. Still, as crowded as it was, the entire experience was extremely magical.
Expect the staff to be very friendly and always in character: Okay, as someone who used to frequent the Happiest Place on Earth (which, while I love it, I’ll admit does not always have the happiest employees on earth), I was completely blown away by how incredibly kind, helpful, and cheerful all the staff were. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that it was opening day and everyone was on their best behavior, but I’d like to think it is because a friendly attitude is a big part of being a Hogsmeade staff member. I love how all the shop workers always were in character as we made our purchases.
I mentioned above that we had two head injuries while we were there. Unfortunately, both injuries were claimed by Little Z who seemed a bit accident prone that day. Not too long after we arrived, Little Z bonked his head on the corner of a line railing while we were waiting in line for the Wand Fitting at Ollivander’s Wand Shop. –You know how head injuries like to bleed.– I rushed him up to the closest employee (who, ironically, was the incident manager on duty that day) and she walked us to First Aid, stayed and chatted with us until Little Z was all fixed up, and then walked us back.
Later that day at lunch Little Z slipped off a damp bench (yep, it rained on opening day…a lot) and hit his head on the ground. He only got a nice goose egg from that one, but again, park personnel wanted to make sure he was okay so they sent an EMT and our friendly incident manager, Jenna, over to check him out.
Expect the food to be delicious: I was totally not expecting this! But the food was so good! We dined in the Three Broomsticks™, a rustic tavern where visitors to Hogsmeade™ can come to share a mug of Butterbeer™ or Pumpkin Juice™ and dine on hearty fare. You must try the frozen Butterbeer! So yummy!
If there is a line to enter the restaurant, don’t worry, it moves fast, and the food is worth it.
Expect to spend a fair bit of cash the first time you go: Why? Universal studios has their marketing absolutely perfected in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. From the food, to Honeyduke’s sweet shop, to Ollivander’s wand shop spending a bit of extra money seems to be part of the experience. You can’t wait for the experience of going to a wand fitting, be shuffled from the fitting into a wand shop filled with an awe inspiring assortment of wands (some of which allow your children to “practice their magic” at various places around Hogsmeade) and then leave empty handed.
The wands are just under $40 for a standard wand, and around $50 for the “interactive wands” that let you do magic around Hogsmeade. I just didn’t feel like my boys’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience would be complete without wands. On the plus side, they can bring their wands with them and practice their magic each time we come back. Were the wands worth it? Definitely!
Here are each of the two boys practicing spells at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with their new wands…
Fun to be had in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Wizard rides: There are two rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:
The Flight of the Hippogriff is Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster. It is family friendly and appropriate for younger kids over 39″ inches tall.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey takes place inside Hogwart’s Castle. This 3-D adventure is perfect for diehard Harry Potter fans who can brave the Quidditch pitch, Whomping Willows, dragons and dementors and giant spiders. You must be at least 48″ tall to ride this ride. If you have children under 48″ tall you can still take them on a tour through Hogwart’s Castle. There is a room inside the Castle for those who are doing child swap to wait in. One word of caution: if you have severe motion sickness, I’d take precautions before riding this ride.
Shop like a wizard: As I mentioned before, make sure you bring your wallet. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one place where you may want to let your frugality slip a little.
Honeydukes™: Visit the legendary shop for sweets including Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans™, Exploding Bonbons, Peppermint Toads, Fudge Flies, Chocolate Frogs™ and more. And, yes! the Chocolate Frogs have Wizard Trading Cards! I believe Zonko’s Joke Shop shares a shop with Honeydukes.
Dervish and Banges™: Quidditch™ equipment, Hogwarts™ uniforms, and more. Unfortunately, we were too spent (in more ways than one) to visit this one, so it is top of our list for next time we go.
Owl Post™: Here you can send a letter from here with a Hogsmeade™ postmark! You can also buy stationery, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ stamps, owl-related toys and gifts.
Ollivanders™: Experience Ollivanders, Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC! At the Wand Fitting you can see a wand choose a wizard. You can also purchase your own Ollivanders wand, or choose from a selection including Harry Potter film character wand replicas, collectible wand sets and more.
Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment: A variety of wizarding wares and supplies including crystal balls, telescopes, binoculars, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses.
Gladrags Wizardwear: Wizard apparel, hats, robes and accessories. This is also where to go to purchase an umbrella if it happens to rain on your trip to Hogsmeade.
The Bottom Line
Is it all worth it?
Totally! I would do it again in a heartbeat!
In fact, I can’t wait to take the boys again, so when I purchased our passes I tacked on the season pass option. It was just $20 more per ticket and has a ton of blackout days, but I’m hopeful that visit at least one more time before our passes expire. PLUS, your ticket gets you into the entire Universal Studios theme park which has more than enough to do to keep you occupied for the entire day.
If you’re planning on making a vacation out of your trip to Universal Studios Hollywood and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, make sure you check out Get Away Today! They’ll help you plan your Southern California Vacation while getting the best deals. They even have layaway plans for as little as $125 a month!