Attention all wizards and muggles (non-magical folk) who are spellbound by dark magic! Any Slytherins out there? The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle is a magical sight. We do not expect it to return for summer 2021 when Universal Studios reopens due to crowd limits. Croak! The viewing area does not allow for much physical distancing. The show is not running this year at Universal Orlando. We look forward to seeing it again in 2022 (hopfully).
There is more than one version of the show. In 2019, Hogwarts Castle transformed with "The Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle" show at Universal Studios Hollywood. The show took the place of "The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle" ... but the show can take several different forms depending on the season! The Dark Arts at Hogwarts unleashed the evil of the dark elements upon the castle with dramatic music, projection and special effects. At Christmas time, you can find "The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle" show in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Grab a hot Butterbeer and watch as classic holiday scenes from the films come to life on the castle. No matter the Hogwarts Castle show you're looking to watch, you can follow the guidelines below to get the best seat in the house.
'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. And at select times of the year we get a taste of that magic in the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle show.
For summer 2019, the Dark Arts at Hogwarts overtook the Nighttime Lights show. The Nighttime Lights provide the magical grand finale to a day in the park. As a proud self-proclaimed Ravenclaw, TYVM, I am all about using cleverness and skill to overtake evil. I enjoy seeing the dramatic battle played out on the castle and in the night sky. Ending our night with the castle show is like the whipped topping on the Butterbeer or the fizz in the Fizzing Whizbees.
Best Viewing of the Dark Arts at Hogwarts
There are a few things to know about getting the best viewing and finding showtimes. The showtimes 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. They often are not shown 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. On our recent visit, there were shows scheduled for 9:10 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. However, there were so many wizards and muggles packed in for the first show that they surprised us with an early 8:50 p.m. show. That has happened to us on more than one occasion, so be prepared for an early show if the area is full early. 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. 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.
Not to give away any secrets, but you definitely want to stay to the left side of the castle, closer to the stage, for the Dark Arts show. Keep your eyes to the skies to the left of the castle at times for some special magic. Expecto Patronum!
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; you will find the smallest crowds during the third and fourth shows. It's easiest to secure a great viewing location for the later shows. 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. However, 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. You cannot 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. You can 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 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 when summer end, 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.
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 next year bring? You’ll also want to hop over to experience Grinchmas beginning weekends and school breaks in December. Hop over to our Guide to Christmas at Universal Studios Hollywood for more tips and details. There is so much sweet stuff to look forward to at Universal Studios Hollywood in the upcoming months!
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