I’d love to tell you Dadmissions was granted exclusive access for a sneak peek at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, but truthfully, like many things in life it was all luck, or maybe just maybe we can believe there was some magic involved too.
We took the kids to Universal Studios figuring we’d get in one more day before the huge Harry Potter lines begin this Spring and we hit the jackpot instead. Soft Launch. Everything in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was open. Rides, stores, and restaurants too. Everything was open for final tweaks and “rehearsals” as one cast member explained to me.
So here is the spoiler alert:
I did what any good journalist and dad blogger would do. I took notes and a ton of pictures to give YOU the first look inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from an impartial dad who PAID to get in just like everyone else and wasn’t given any special treatment.
Welcome to the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
When you enter the gates to Hogsmead, the architecture is awe inspiring. You don’t feel like you’re inside a theme park anymore. Not at all. You took the Hogwarts Express and you have arrived! The surroundings are larger than life with sculpted stone buildings, cobblestone walkways, a castle that towers several stories above you, trees galore, and Harry Potter music flowing through the air.
You can take photos with the conductor of the Hogwarts Express and even dress up and take photos INSIDE a compartment of the train. Pick the scarves and wands of your favorite characters for added authenticity. We took the pics but then passed on taking them home because of the high price. Then you follow the stone trail further in. There are stores and food stands, and buildings, and hidden nooks, as you walk the trail. This seems like a very large and impressive area to cover for a theme park. Keep walking. Some of the best stuff is all the way at the end of the very long stone path.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: Follow the path deep under the castle and prepare for the most intense and amazing simulator ride you’ve ever been on. After a series of pathways, you walk the moving platform, grab a seat, quickly pull down the shoulder bar and prepare for flight. Immediately you are immersed into every part of every Harry Potter book you’ve read before. There’s good, there’s evil, there’s magic, there’s quidditch, and there’s Harry keeping you safe as you slide, and move, and fly with your feet dangling in the air. Trust me: you really DO feel like you’re flying and at one point you do a near flip all the way over. The ride feels long and well worth the wait. It is a little stomach churning. And yes, it could definitely be scary for little kids. But it is incredible. My 8 year old sat this one out. My 10 year old cried, tears of excitement, and rode it again. The queue outside the castle looks like it could easily be HOURS long this summer. On this day we just breezed in, but the “front of the line pass” might be the only magic to save you after the official opening this Spring.
Flight Of The Hippogriff: This is being billed as Universal Studios’ first outdoor family-friendly roller coaster. The green track takes you to the top of the hill, but instead of a steep drop, you bank into a series of fast turns. Don’t be fooled, Dadmissions still observed people screaming with delight as they hit that first turn. No flips on this one. No huge hills. The ride is short but “really fun” in the professional opinion of my daughter.
Ollivander’s Wand Shop: you walk in to a small shop covered wall-to-wall with wands. Beware of the cool secret door which opens up and takes everyone into another room. My daughter was picked out of the crowd to see which wand had “picked” HER. The room is dark. The room is filled with magic tricks that reveal themselves. And after a few bad wands, when the correct wand chose my daughter her hair stood up on end! Literally. It was really cool. And she got to keep the wand (after it chose $47.95 out of my wallet). Yes, no one ever said magic is free. The interactive wands then come with a detailed map that you can follow all around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to complete special spells. The girls took their wands and their maps, and went to a dozen or so spots where they could cast “spells” opening drawers, getting quills to write, moving brooms, stopping noises. This was a HUGE hit. The kids really loved it and both took home their wands for the next visit.
Along the stony path you see all the stores tucked away, filled with candy and costumes and keepsakes, all Harry Potter themed and disguised from the normal amusement park stores you might see.
Three Broomsticks Restaurant: I’m happy to report the food in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is WAYYY more than burgers and fries. It takes a page from all the Harry Potter books. The butter beer was delish… a little like cream soda with a buttery top. Don’t forget to give the kids a butter beer mustache. The butter beer in a keepsake plastic glass will set you back $11.99. One of my girls also got the Pumpkin Juice. It is best described as a bizarre and sweet pumpkin pie in a bottle. We got lunch there as well. There was a lot of seating but we still had to stand in a line to pay. We opted for the Great Feast- it was four family style courses of chicken, ribs, veges, and potatoes for $54. It was A LOT of food. A LOT. And you know what? For theme park food it was pretty darn good.
We spent several hours in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter looking in the shops and watching the little shows like singing frogs that popped up. It easily kept our attention. More importantly, the kids were so psyched and are already planning a return trip.
It is expensive. Yes. The lowest priced annual pass at Universal Studios now blocks many weekends and much of the Summer. We opted for a single day admission and will take our chances the next time we visit. There’s new parking too which is great but the regular parking which was already twelve dollars is now eighteen dollars. You can add more money for “preferred” parking or for “front of the line” privileges. But the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is pretty incredible. So at least you know what you’re paying for.
Are the theme park wars in full effect this summer in Southern California? Absolutely. And everyone else better watch out. This summer Universal Studios has captured the magic.