'Sup? Tad here. You know, when I was turning 11, I dreamed that an owl would deliver my acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on my birthday. I enjoyed imagining which of the four houses the wise old Sorting Hat would sort me into. Of course, that letter never came, but The Wizarding World of Harry Potter did come to Universal Studios Hollywood that year and that’s almost as good. Plus, we get a taste of that clever Sorting Hat in The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle show. It provides the magical grand finale to a day in the park. It’s like the whipped topping on the Butterbeer or the fizz in the Fizzing Whizbees.
This nighttime topper debuted in June 2017 and ran nightly through Sept. 4 that year. It returned for summer 2018 with some added pyrotechnics and promises to return for select dates in 2019 (we’ll hop on those and share the 2019 dates once they are released). In the show, the Hogwarts' Sorting Hat takes viewers on a journey celebrating the four houses of the famous school, complete with a dramatic musical score and projected images and light. Do you fancy yourself in Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin? Be sure to show your pride in your house by cheering for it. Perhaps the real questions to ask are when and where to watch The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle so you don’t miss out. Here’s our advice on how to see the show. Oh, and I'm a proud Hufflepuff, TYVM.
Best Viewing of The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
Scoping out showtimes for The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
The show times may vary each night, and your best source for showtimes is going to be a team member in a wizard robe. You can check the Universal Studios Hollywood app or ushwaittimes.com to see if the times are posted there. Universal no longer gives out printed showtimes. The first show will usually begin once it is dark, and then the 5-minute show will run every 15 to 20 minutes. The number of shows per night may vary based on sunset and park hours. During past summers, the shows on some nights were scheduled at 9:05 p.m., 9:20 p.m., 9:40 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. However, there were so many wizards and muggles packed in for the first show that they surprised us with an early 8:45 p.m. show. It’s magic so they can do what they want. We’ve experienced the surprise early showing during The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle show, as well, so it seems to pay to hop in place early. Mommy Frog always says, the early frog gets the flies.
Where to watch The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
It is important to know where to watch The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle. It is surprisingly difficult to see the entire castle from anywhere in the park except the Wizarding World, so you’ll definitely want to watch the show near the castle with the proper sound and angles. The viewing areas are in front of the castle from the Hogsmeade stage area all the way past the entrance to Flight of the Hippogriff. You do not need a front row view for this show, and we do not necessarily recommend being too close. We recommend the viewing area that begins by the Hogwarts Street sign in front of the stage and reaches to just before the Flight of the Hippogriff entrance. The viewing area just past the Flight of the Hippogriff and across from the exits to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is less desirable and almost too close for a good view. We tried a few spots out for size and found that we most enjoyed standing where you can see that broad left side of the castle and the winged hogs at the front gates of Hogwarts with a solid view of the face of the largest turret.
You can get a sense of the angle from my YouTube video of the show. I was standing in the middle of the large viewing area in front of the stage. You can certainly move a little closer to the entrance to the castle to better see the winged hogs at the castle gates. Most of the photos in this post were taken across from the castle’s front gates at the back of the viewing section (our backs were against the wall about 20 to 30 feet before the entrance to Flight of the Hippogriff).
Strategies to land that sweet viewing spot for The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
It does not take a magic wand — mine is Ash, in case you were wondering — to see this show because there are multiple showings. That really takes the pressure off getting the right spot. And the good news is that there are not a lot of obstacles in the way. The show is pretty high up on the castle, so you don’t need to worry about seeing over people’s heads, either. And you can even plan multiple viewings into your night if once is simply not enough. OK, we watched it three times in a row, but we are diehard Harry Potter fans and can never get enough of the Wizarding World!
The first show will have the longest wait, with most guests camping out for their spot 60 to 75 minutes before the show. The steps of the stage and wall locations went about two hours before the show. Those are the only places you can sit while you wait. Employees will make everyone else stand to make room for more people. After the show, most of the crowd clears out and the next crowd moves in. Let’s say they have three or four shows in a night, then the third and fourth shows will be the least crowded and easiest to secure a great viewing location. If you can wait until a late show, you can hop in place as soon as the previous show ends. You’ll have a great spot 15 minutes before the show without all the waiting. You can maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood by visiting other attractions while people camp out for the first show. But if you really cannot wait for a later show, keep your eye on the viewing areas at least an hour before the first show.
A wizarding word about crowd flow
Before the first show, the crowd spills from the castle all the way through Hogsmeade out the main Hogsmeade gates into the park. You can enter Hogmeade through the main gates near showtime, although if the Wizarding World gets too crowded, they will temporarily stop letting people in until the show ends and people exit. The back route behind the buildings that lead to Springfield USA will be an exit only, and you will not be allowed to stand there.
Make the most of your night in Hogsmeade
With The Nighttime Lights show giving you a reason to stay later in the park, you are bound to get hungry. Here’s our guide to the best food and drink in the Wizarding World, plus, you can do some shopping or spells to keep you busy until show time. The rides remain open during the shows. You might wait in line for Flight of the Hippogriff to catch of a glimpse of an earlier show and get a ride in before you get in place for your viewing. The evening is also the best time to catch a wand pairing at Ollivanders Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC because the line almost magically disappears at the end of the night. Seriously, we walked right in at 6:30 p.m.
Magical holidays in Hogsmeade
If you will be sad to see this show disapparate in September, we have some good news. Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is just around the corner in mid-November. It features a holiday-themed nighttime projection show — The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. It runs nightly through the holiday season, with multiple showings per night. If you are lucky enough to visit during the holiday season, be sure to linger in Hogsmeade after the show because you will be treated to snowfall, which is a rare treat in Southern California. The Hogsmeade Village will be decorated for the holidays, and you will be able to enjoy holiday foods and beverages. I can’t stop drooling thinking of the hot Butterbeer and English Holiday Dinner from last year. What tasty treats will this year bring? You’ll also want to hop over to experience Grinchmas beginning weekends and school breaks in December. There is so much sweet stuff to look forward to at Universal Studios Hollywood in the upcoming months! Come summer, look for me at The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle! As soon as we know the dates, we’ll let you know.
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