My family, friends, and I were lucky enough to be a part of the Universal Studios preview day for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. The attraction is scheduled to open April 7, 2016. Preview days were not officially announced on any site or advertisement–we found out through friends who work there at the park and through social media. News in the wizard underground was that everything was up and running, but could be shut down with no notice to work out the Nargles. There was a chance that our portkey would not work, but we decided to try it anyway.
My daughter, who is five, and I have had the joy of watching Hogwarts Castle become part of the skyline on our drive up the 101 freeway toward Hollywood. Many times I told her we would be going there for butterbeer. After much anticipation and a day off work for Dad, we planned a trip. It wasn’t her first time to the school of witchcraft and wizardry. Last year we flew by Floo Network to Florida’s parks for a ten-year anniversary/fourth birthday combination celebration.
To our delight, the park was up and running yesterday and we experienced a full day of magic. Still glowing from the fun, we wanted to send word by owl on what to expect when you take your own Wizard or Muggle family there.
Here are some tips and tricks to make your day at The Wizarding World in Hollywood magical.
- Purchase a year pass from Costco travel: We paid ninety-nine dollars each and is it good for one year. Costco memberships are needed to purchase and there are many blackout dates but it is basically a “buy one, get a year free” deal that most likely won’t be offered directly through Universal.
- Take the Los Angeles Metro or Bus to avoid parking costs. The Universal Metro station is clean, well-lit, and right across the street from the free tram that takes you to the studio gates. It will add to the fun, feeling like you are waiting to see Harry or Dumbledore across the tracks or waiting with the Muggles at the station. Once at the top of the hill, the tram will drop you at Universal City Walk. It is only a five-minute walk to the entrance. There are lockers for rental inside the park gates and plenty of friendly people to help find bathrooms and give directions.
- The entrance to the Wizarding World is only five minutes from the Universal Studios main gate. There are new Harry Potter shops dotted along the way as you walk. You could even get a robe or a wand or any of your house merchandise before you get to Hogsmeade Gate. Once you arrive, take a moment and soak it in. It’s a great moment for a fan to see those snowy roof tops and curvy town peaks with Hogwarts in the near distance. The Hogwarts Express and the conductor are there to welcome you. Great family photo-op moment!
For the young ones like Ella, you may want to skip the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. She found Hogwarts to be bit too dark and scary, and she didn’t meet the height requirement anyway. Hogwarts does offers a “child switch” pass so parents can both ride if this is the case. The line wraps through all halls and includes details like talking portraits and Dumbledore’s Study. A good substitution for this was the Flight of the Hippogriff, which takes riders past Hagrid’s Cottage and Buckbeak’s nest. Ella went on it five times. It’s a great family roller coaster.
- Ella loved the “Frog Choir” featuring a capella versions of soundtrack favorites. You can line up after and take photos with the Hogwarts singers. They perform at several various times each day.
- Zonko’s Joke Shop carries all the Weasley brothers’ favorites. We picked out a pink pygmy puff and experienced a cute adoption announcement and a naming. Ella chose “Sweetie Pie.”
- Wands can be purchased at Ollivander’s, which you don’t want to miss with your older kids. There is a “wand chooses the wizard” reenactment. The interactive wands can be used throughout the park to cast spells with fun results. They are expensive, from $30 to $47. We chose to keep this for when Ella gets a bit older. She is doing fine with her training wand.
- Grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the Three Broomsticks. They offer a proper English breakfast, including beans and blood sausage. My vegetarian husband found a good lunch, too. Kids’ meals are in-theme and inexpensive. The restaurant is a beautiful replica of the Hogsmeade pub. It is chock full of details like cauldrons and even a shadow show of house elves coming and going from the upstairs lodgings. We want to have a regular board-game day there.
- Butterbeer comes cold or frozen; it is amazing (and dairy-free!) and there are souvenir cups available to take home too.
- Lastly, don’t miss Moaning Myrtle circling a drain and making noise in the bathrooms. Ella was a bit spooked by this at first but then got into the fun.