Magic has come to Hollywood

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter no longer requires a trip to Florida.


Marika Adamopoulos

Photo courtesy of Olivia O’Brien

Hayley Langdon, Writer

Students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry traditionally receive their acceptance letters at 11-years-old, but now “students” of all ages can attend Hogwarts by visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Hogsmeade exudes magic

Right inside the entrance to Universal Studios and cushioned by the Waterworld attraction and the Simpsons land stands the entryway to Hogsmeade, the village just outside the grounds of Hogwarts. When you enter through the arch, you simultaneously enter into another world and become a Hogwarts student. Immediately to your right is the train station where the Hogwarts Express rests during the duration of the school term. If you have any questions about what shops to stop by during your visit, ask the conductor and he will gladly point you along. This place also provides a great photo-op and the conductor is more than happy to have a chat with you about your experience as a Hogwarts student.

Colorful shops that are filled with curious items one could only find in J. K. Rowling’s magical world line the rest of Hogsmeade. Unfortunately, due to the size constraint, The Wizarding World does not have Diagon Alley like its Orlando counterpart. To accommodate this change, Hogsmeade Village has an Ollivander’s where students can participate in the wand choosing ceremony. This attraction has a wait and typically only one to two students are chosen from a group of 20 or more. But it is well worth it, in my opinion.

Afterward, students are guided into the storefront and can purchase either a collector’s wand or an interactive wand, which is around $10 more than the collector’s wand priced at $37 before tax. With an interactive wand, students can cast various spells around the park in designated spots. This was one of my favorite things to not only participate in, but to also watch. Seeing students from all ages swish and flick their wands as they chanted “wingardium leviosa” was something I can only describe as heart warming. I can only imagine how Rowling would feel to see fans live out her story.

Along with gathering the essential for any witch or wizard, students can stop by Zonko’s Joke Shop or Honeydukes if they have a taste for something silly or sweet. Across the way are the Owl Post and Dervish and Banges, where you can send a postcard from Hogsmeade. Quidditch gear, house paraphernalia and replica school supplies can also be bought along with the sweaters Mrs. Weasley knit for Harry and Ron each Christmas. I walked away with a Gryffindor house pennant and a collector’s replica of Hermione’s wand.

The main storefront within the village is the Three Broomsticks Inn, the favorite pub of Harry, Ron and Hermione and home of the famous Butterbeer. You can enjoy reasonably priced and well-portioned food in the dining area that resembles the one seen in the movies. Or, if you would rather just grab a Butterbeer, two cart stations serve it cold or frozen. Buy the frozen one and spend the extra dollar to get the souvenir mug — it is worth it.

An attraction unlike anything else

At the end of the village lie the gates of Hogwarts and the entrance to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, an attraction unlike anything else. Combined with animatronics like the snake in Disneyland’s Indiana Jones ride, the 4-D ride takes you through an adventure guided by Harry and Ron on their broomsticks. But beware, you will also face the same monsters they did — Dementors included. Although the line will no doubt last a couple hours, the wait is enjoyable. As you move along in line you walk through the castle, passing the scorekeeper for the House Cup, the griffin statue outside Dumbledore’s office, the office itself, a hallway of moving portraits and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. After the ride ends, students can stop by Filch’s Emporium for a souvenir or two.

For a more relaxed ride, Flight of the Hippogriff is directly across the way from Hogwarts. The line is set up to be much shorter than the castle ride and you will also get an up-close view of Hagrid’s hut while you wait. The only downside is the ride’s extremely short length, which is about 20 seconds.

Small size packs a punch

One final stop is the small stage set up for the Hogwarts frog choir and a Triwizard tournament rally including students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. Crowds will make for long waits, but the performances are a great way to pass time.

Despite the smaller size of the land in comparison to the one in Orlando, you could easily spend hours there and forget you are in Hollywood, not the highlands of Scotland.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood officially opens on April 7.

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