Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Now Opened

It's official!  Universal Studios' Wizarding World of Harry Potter has opened it's door to the public! The girls and I have been getting tempting peeks of the top of Hogwarts Castle while driving on the 101 just before the Lankershim Exit.  For a muggle like me, Hogwarts is the magical school we all wish we went to- for my girls (who are a bit young for the books and films) IT'S A CASTLE!!!  And a castle is really the most exciting place Princess-obsessed preschoolers can imagine.  It's hard to believe that the first Harry Potter book was released 20 years ago and it's been almost 15 years since the first movie premiered. Now the franchise is getting it's third wind here in Hollywood. Our family was lucky enough to preview the Wizarding World before it's opening on April 7th, and let me say that it is as magical and mystical as any muggle (or Princess-in-training 3 yr old) could hope for.

How big is it? The Wizarding World was SOLD OUT grand opening day and sold out through the weekend. Over 200 people were waiting at Universal Studios since 2 am for the theme park opening of 6:30 am, regular hours are 9 am-6pm (please check Universal Studios website for additional  times, and special offers).


It's just like that little wizard in you always thought it would be... Magical. When we walked in, we left sunny California and were transported into fantastical Hogsmeade.  My 5-yr-old walked in and excitedly said, "It's Arendelle!"  Ok, not exactly what I thought she would say. With snow-capped rooftops, cobblestone streets, and a massive castle how can she be wrong?  And here is the thing, you walk in and are amazed by it all. Then you walk deep into the Wizarding World and are blown away by Hogwarts castle and I mean blown away.  For true Harry Potter fans the details are phenomenal.  There are storefront facades (only for show) such as a book store with Gilderoy Lockart book signing on display, the tea shop with hundreds of balancing tea cups and even props from the movies such as Hermione's dress from Yule Ball in "Golbet of Fire” to name a few. As a fan, it is almost too much to take in. You just want to jump up and down like a child and scream "Yay!!"

Long before opening day we heard about THE must-have item of the Wizarding World: the interactive magic wands sold at Ollivanders Wand Shop. And, oh yes, you will want a wand- your kids will beg for it and the little Wizard inside you will too.  With your new Wizard Wand the interactive displays come to life: you can make pens write magic letters, toss papers with a magic spell and so much more!   

Photo credit Erik

You will find that there is a line for just about everything at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, even gift shops- and a wait for Olivanders can be nearly an hour or more.  Completely worth it- but be prepared.  The shop only allows a certain amount of customers in at a time to allow for a truly personal during experience. First it begins with an interactive presentation in which one or two people are hand picked to participate. We felt that we ourselves were shopping for new wands, real wands. This was my 5 year-old daughters favorite part. If you want a wand my suggestion is that it be one of your first stops.

Cobblestone for conjuring spell. Photo credit Erik

After you wonder into the store and choose from stacks and stacks of wands for every character, many in regular and interactive varieties. There are the interactive wands, which go for $47.95, they come with a map to certain windows at which actual spells make the displays come to life (non interactive $39.95). As you venture through The Wizarding World keep a look out for brass plates in the cobblestones (11 in total). At these stops you can begin to conjure up some spells. Sometimes you will find you are more of a Ron-wizard then a Hermione one. It can be at times frustrating, but there is a professional "wizard" there most of the time to help. When the kids (and I!) got a spell working they were astonished with themselves. And when the spell didn't work don't well, they realized they had to work on that spell a bit more. We can't all be wizards overnight.

Now for the rides, my husband rode the Forbidden Journey ride, located in Hogwarts Castle. For the first time he really enjoyed standing in line. Since Universal anticipated long lines, the details included along the line path are incredible, some would say as entertaining as the roller coaster. There is the Mirror of Erised, Dungeon Corridor, Professor Sprout's greenhouse, Dumbledore's office, Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, moving portraits and so much more including being greeted by the chatty Fat Lady and read the iconic animated newspapers. Then you enter the Gryffindor common room and make your way onto the ride. He would gladly stand in that line again and think each time he would see a new detailed that he didn't see before.

Dumbledore Office

Dark Arts

Mirror of Erished

This 3D high speed experience includes a fire-breathing Hungarian Horntail dragons, a 360-degree spiral and special special effects and noise straight. 

The second roller coaster in The Wizarding World is Universal Studios Hollywood first out door roller coaster Flight of the Hippogriff. Though it's a family friendly ride, it is not meant for small kids due to several sharp turns and ups and downs. When my husband was done with the ride he did feel a quite queasy.

Photo credit: Kevin Kolczyns
Photo credit Erik

Every where you turn there is something to see and taste. There is the Honeydukes candy store where you can have yourself a leaping Chocolate Frog ($10.95) or a Peppermint Toads ($7.95). Walk just outside the shop and you can buy yourself a Butterbeer. They have it all here. Even with all that I have seen, I know there is much more that I've missed. That is why I am so looking forward to my next visit to the majestic Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  

I am share with you some of the things I missed, so that you can experince it for me until I make my next trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.
  • The Hogwarts Express carriage: It is not just for show. You can climb aboard as Harry did for the first time. It includes seats upholstered with the same fabric as those in the film. It makes for a great photo op.
  • Dinning: I hear the food is pretty good at such places like Hog Head Pub & The Three Broomsticks. 
  • Owl Post: You can get a letter stamped with a Hogsmeade postmark at a station in the center of the store
  • Bathrooms: Yes, even those have a special touch. I hear if you listen closely you can hear Moaning Myrtle

Photo credit: Mike Dan

I remember when my little sister asked if we could wait in line at Barnes n' Nobel for the midnight release of the latest Harry Potter book release. I am so happy to share this experience with my daughters. Now a new journey begins. Every detail at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is sealed and approved by J.K. Rowling herself. It's a magical world, a gift that J.K. Rowling has given us that just keeps on giving. 


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