The idea of “Hollywood magic” takes many forms at Universal Studios Hollywood, but it seems especially apt in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even if you don’t know all of the nuances of the bespectacled kid with a lightning-bolt-shaped scar, this six-acre attraction offers an abundance of whimsy and fun. With world-class action rides, wizard-worthy shops, and no shortage of Butterbeer, you’ll find your disbelief suspended in no time at all.
The eye-popping centerpiece is 200-foot-high Hogwarts Castle, home of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Pass through the castle gates and wander the hallowed halls lined with portraits that talk, just like in the books and movies. Peruse the office of headmaster Albus Dumbledore, peer into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and scope out the Gryffindor Common Room, where Harry and his fellow housemates have been known to dish about those sullen Slytherin kids.
Then it’s time to board the site’s signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You’ll ride on your own broomstick for a set of thrills that combines a robotics system, elaborate filmed action sequences, and immersive visceral effects. Expect to be as impressed as the stars of the Harry Potter movies who have also ridden it. “It’s so immersive,” reports actor James Phelps, who played one of the red-haired Weasley twins. “When you’re in it, you can’t see anyone else riding the ride as well. It’s just you.”
Outside the castle, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is also home to the first outdoor coaster at Universal Studios Hollywood, the family-friendly Flight of the Hippogriff. In the re-created wizard town of Hogsmeade, the immersive experience includes cobblestone streets, snowcapped roofs, and an assortment of locals, from the train conductor welcoming new arrivals to merchants peddling all manner of sorcery (wands at Ollivanders, screaming yo-yos at Zonko’s, and chocolate frogs at Honeydukes). Don’t miss the Owl Post, where resident owls hoot as you pass by. Mail a card from this location (written with actual pen, or quill, and paper) and it will get a Hogsmeade postmark.
The Three Broomsticks restaurant offers hearty Anglophile fare such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and beef pasties, as well as classic desserts like chocolate trifle. And there’s good news for Muggles over the age of 21: The adjoining Hog’s Head pub has original draft beers and spirits created exclusively for the attraction, including Dragon Scale, Wizard’s Brew, and Fire Whisky. All around Hogsmeade, you can also order an all-ages-friendly Butterbeer (think cream soda, with a twist), along with Pumpkin Juice, Pumpkin Fizz, and gently flavored Gilly Water. After all, fending off the Dark Arts works up a thirst.
HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s17)