When I turned seven years old, the obsession began. I followed Harry all the way from Number 4 Privet Drive, to The Quidditch World Cup, to his final battle at Hogwarts -- re-reading each book until the next was released. I went to every midnight release party at my local Border’s Books, camped out for hours to see every film, and became incomprehensibly devastated after reading the last three words of The Deathly Hallows.
Years have passed, but my love for Harry Potter has wavered about as much as (spoiler alert) Snape’s love for Lily. When I found out that Universal Studios was opening The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I would’ve ran through a brick wall just to get there.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California is a dream come true. Potter fans around California and around the globe need to go, and here’s why:
- The Butterbeer is everything.
After reading about Butterbeer in every book and watching Hermione drink one too many in Hogsmeade during The Half-Blood Prince, I wanted more than anything to get my hands on one – or five. The Butterbeer comes either ice-cold or as a slush, with the latter being a bit more sweet and frothy. It tastes like butterscotch heaven, and is very rich. It is everything.
Tip: Instead of waiting in line for a Butterbeer cart, order one from the Hog's Head.
- The score from each film plays loudly throughout the park
This was one of the best details in the park. The score of each movie, cut in a very particular manner, wafts through the air of Hogsmeade. I’m not going to play down the obsession… I could name every song.
- The Stores are magically realistic
From Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes, to the Owl Post and Dervish and Banges, each store truly felt like it was in Hogsmeade. Each store was so stunningly detailed, from top to bottom, it would take hours to really take it all in.
For the stores that were closed or not truly functioning, the storefronts looked equally as real and equally as fantastic. Amazing.
In each store, there are a variety of objects one can purchase in order to truly feel like a witch or wizard. There are replica robes from each house (each with a hefty price tag), scarves, ties, headbands, socks – to name a bit of the magic. There are functioning quills in multiple colors, stationary, diaries, books, trinkets, magical jokes, candies… truly anything you could ever want.
And if you purchase a wand, there are locations around the park where if you say the spell and wave the wand in the correct manner, magical things occur. I cannot even describe how fantastic this place is.
- The Three Broomsticks is BEYOND Magical
It looks EXACTLY like it did in the films! It actually feels as though you are eating in Hogsmeade. And the food is phenomenal, with the menu offering traditional pub food and desserts. I tried the pumpkin juice, which was almost as good as the Butterbeer. If you go to Universal Studios, eat here!
Left: Pumpkin Juice - Right: Butterbeer in Slush form
- Waiting in line for Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey is almost as fantastic as the ride itself
The line winds its way past Mr. Weasley’s Ford Anglia, or what’s left of it, before entering Hogwarts itself. I won’t spoil it for those of you who go in the future -- but you walk past Dumbledore’s office, through the Gryffindor Common Room, into the Defense Against the Dark Art’s classroom, and much more.
You are greeted by a variety of characters from the series in a surprisingly real way. Each time I walked through, I noticed something different. Plus, some of the artifacts were really used in the film. If you (like me) have ever dreamed of going to Hogwarts, the wait is almost as fantastic as the ride itself.
- But not quite.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is by far THE MOST amazing ride I have ever been on in my entire life. And it’s not just because I have a deep obsession with Harry Potter. The ride features such stunningly real effects that it really feels as though you are flying two hundred feet above Hogwarts castle, alongside Ron and Harry, avoiding Dragons and Dementors as you go. The detail put into this ride is absolutely indescribable. I would have been content just going on the ride over and over again until the park closed.
- The magic is in the Details
As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I could still go back and find something new each time. In every window of every store there was an artifact or display representing some aspect of each book and film, from a Wizard’s Chess set to a variety of Howlers.
In every store, the top level featured a variety of magical details including floating brooms and moving owls. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so covered in little details that it is impossible to just attend once.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a must see, magical place. So get on your Nimbus 2000, and head to Hogwarts!
All Photos by Samantha Paul