Before we had tadpoles, and before there were movies based on the books, Leap and I were huge Harry Potter fans. The two of us read the books, went to midnight book releases, saw each movie on opening night and even dressed as Harry and Hermione for Halloween. (Leap is a loyal Hufflepuff, but he's also a huge fan of Harry, of course.) We dreamed of visiting Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle and even tried making our own Butterbeer. We lamented being muggles, otherwise known as non-magical folk. Once the tadpoles joined our lives, we were hopping excited to share our love of all things Harry Potter with them. But then the most magical thing of all happened, and Universal Studios Hollywood opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That toadally brought the magic to life for us.
Finally, we were able to taste real Butterbeer, buy our own Chocolate Frogs — ribbit — choose a wand, cast spells and walk through Hogwarts Castle. We could hop into The Three Broomsticks for an English meal or have a drink at the Hog's Head. Finally, we could wear our wizarding clothes out in public! And we were not alone! It was a dream come true after years of fantasizing about living in a magical world. If you have your first trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood approaching, put on your wizard robe and hold onto your broomstick while we whizz through all of the details so you don't miss anything.
Exploring Hogsmeade in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is set in the village of Hogsmeade, the town located next to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in the books. As soon as you enter Hogsmeade, you'll want to have your camera ready to take all of those iconic shots. Right away, you will see many great photo opportunities, from the snow-covered shops to the Hogwarts Express and conductor to Hogwarts Castle itself. You'll walk past the Butterbeer cart, several shops and The Three Broomsticks restaurant. You'll stroll past Ollivanders, Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. — where you can watch a wand pairing or purchase your own interactive wand to cast spells in the Wizarding World — past the stage to Hogwarts Castle and two rides at the back. It's a lot to take in.
Now that you have the lay of the land, you can manage your day. We have a strategy that seems to work for us, kind of a Universal Studios Hollywood 1-Day Touring Plan that helps us avoid the longest lines and explore the land at the least crowded times. We've hopped through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood many, many times, and our trusty plan still holds up every visit.
Managing Your Time in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
You do not have a time turner, so you'll need to be smart about your time management, especially if you want to explore other parts of Universal Studios Hollywood. Try to arrive right at park opening, which is how you'll find the shortest lines of the day at any theme park. We love skipping the lines!
Head straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We know you are going to be so excited to see it all, but bear with us. Head straight to the back of the land towards the castle. Do not take too much time to explore now. You will have plenty of time for shopping and exploring later. Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside the castle first thing. Do not use the Single Riders line for your first ride. If you are a huge Harry Potter fan, you'll want to hop through the entire queue so you can take in all those cool details. That's why you want to ride before the line builds up.
Now that that's done, we actually recommend leaving the Wizarding World for a bit. Wait, what? Yes. You'll thank us later. Everyone else heads to the Wizarding World, too, first thing in the morning. It gets busy in the first two hours of park opening. The shops are crowded. The lines for a wand pairing or Butterbeer are longest in the morning. Go take advantage of the short lines elsewhere in the park. We like to hop down to the Lower Lot as soon as it opens and knock those rides out while lines are short. (Those wait times peak in the afternoon.) Then, we ride the Studio Tour and make our way back to the Wizarding World.
In the afternoon, all of the park ride lines are long and the Wizarding World's streets of Hogmeade are much quieter. You'll have space to shop and explore and watch the entertainment. The wand paring line will have magically shrunk. You can take time to eat. You'll have more elbow room for casting spells. This way, you'll feel less pressure and can relax and enjoy your time in Hogsmeade. If there is a Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle show that evening, hop back again later for it. The later shows have the thinnest crowds.
The Wizarding World Rides at Universal Studios Hollywood
Now that you have a plan of attack, let's go over the rides. There are two rides in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood. The Flight of the Hippogriff is Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster. It is family-friendly, short and appropriate for muggles 39 inches and up. Be sure to take notice of Hagrid’s hut and Buckbeak in his nest.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios Hollywood is the main attraction. It takes place inside Hogwarts Castle. If you have tadpoles too short to ride, there is a Child Switch room right next to the boarding area so that you can take turns riding. The Child Switch room has a Harry Potter movie playing to entertain you while you wait. You can also use the room to watch souvenirs or prizes that are too big to fit in the storage lockers. Here are some more tips for bringing toddlers and small children to Universal Studios Hollywood with you.
This adventure is more appropriate for brave muggles 48 inches and up and definitely not for those prone to motion sickness. I can enjoy the biggest and fastest roller coasters around, but even I get a little greener than usual on this ride. I have found that if I close my eyes on the parts that are based on video, it really helps me get through. Tad and Leap, however, jump back in the Single Riders line to ride again and again.
If you are a diehard Harry Potter fan who can brave the Quidditch pitch, Whomping Willows, dragons, giant spiders and dementors, then this ride is for you. If you are a Harry Potter fan who is afraid of getting sick, you can simply ask to do the castle walkthrough and skip the line. If your family members are waiting to ride, you can also opt to wait with them and then slip out before boarding.
This ride loads on a continuously moving conveyor belt-type system. You need to be able to move quickly. If you use a wheelchair or need extra time boarding, be sure to ask an attendant before hopping in line. There is a completely separate area to load for people who need it. (And be sure to hop over to our post on using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood for more tips.)
The queue is quite fun as you weave through the castle among the Mirror of Erised, talking portraits and the house league gemstone counters. Professor Dumbledore speaks to you from his study. Plus Harry, Ron and Hermione also talk to you from their Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. You'll encounter the Sorting Hat, who also talks! The line itself is as much fun as the ride, if you ask me.
The Universal Express ticket is good for skipping the line for both rides. We highly recommend getting a Universal Express Pass. There is also a Single Riders line available for both rides. And again, there is a special area to enter if you just want to walk through the castle without waiting in the full ride line. It misses a few details, but you'll hit the toadally cool major queue elements.
Shopping in The Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood
Be sure to go into the various shops, such as Honeydukes candy shop, for some Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, chocolate cauldrons, Fizzing Whizbees and more. We liked the dark mark suckers, as well as the feather quill suckers that actually can be used to write. Attached, you will find Zonko’s toy store. That's where you can find magical items from the movies such as extendable ears, sneakoscopes and Pygmy Puffs available for adoption.
Owl Post, Dervish and Banges and Gladrags are all attached to each other. Be sure to look out for the Monster Book of Monsters! You'll also find some dresses that appeared in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." This is the place to buy your robes and uniforms, as well as Quidditch equipment and materials to send items by owl post. You can get mail officially stamped outside.
Inside the castle and as you exit the Forbidden Journey are where you will find Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods. You can purchase clothing, house crest banners, toys, games and replicas of the movie props. If you want to buy a character wand, there is a stand outside of Filch’s Emporium. At Ollivanders, you can buy character and custom wands — including magical interactive wands that cast spells in both California and Florida parks. We recommend watching a wand-pairing ceremony first. You just might get chosen!
Choosing a Wand in The Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood
As all wizards know, the wand chooses the wizard. And where do wizards buy their wands? At Ollivanders, of course (they have been doing so since 352 B.C.)! In this unique, interactive experience, you can watch one child or young adult selected from the audience work with the wandmaker to be paired with just the right wand for them. Brace yourself if your tadpole gets chosen. He or she may want to buy the “custom” interactive wand that lets you cast spells around the Wizarding World. The interactive wands are about $52, so you might want to set up expectations before entering.
There is usually a wait to take part in a wand-choosing ceremony, so keep your eye on that. We find that the wait time is highest in the morning and dips in the afternoon. Find out more about choosing a wand in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Food and Drink in The Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood
They had me at Butterbeer, which you can find cold or frozen at stands in Hogsmeade. You can get hot, cold or frozen Butterbeer with your meal inside The Three Broomsticks, as well. The restaurant sells pumpkin juice, apple cider and pear cider to wash down your meals. The English food is quite good. To learn more about the food in detail, we have a whole post on the best food and drink in The Wizarding World Hollywood.
There are all kinds of edible treats inside Honeydukes. All of those fun candies that Harry Potter purchased off of the snack trolley on the Hogwarts Express are there! The Hog’s Head sells nonalcoholic Butterbeer, alcoholic beers, mixed drinks and whiskeys. You can snuggle up with a drink in a cozy booth or a spot in front of the fireplace.
Entertainment in The Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood
On the Hogsmeade stage, you will find some entertainment throughout your visit. Some of the Hogwarts choir students (one from each house) perform with their large croaking frogs. Ribbit, ribbit! The show can vary during the holidays.
You can also cheer on the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students as they get the crowd excited for the Triwizard Tournament. After each performance, you can take photos with the singers and dancers.
Be sure to check the show times for these shows early in the day. The times appear at the USHWaitTimes site under "Music." You can always ask a team member in The Wizarding World for show times. That site and the Universal Studios Hollywood app are a good source to check ride and Ollivanders wait times, as well.
During certain seasons, mostly summer and the Christmas season at Universal Studios Hollywood, there is a nighttime show at the castle once the sun sets. With music, projection and lights, it's pure magic. The theme of the show varies per season.
There are many other magical surprises and hidden gems waiting for you in Hogsmeade. We don’t want to spoil all of them. But if you are a true Harry Potter fan like we are, you will appreciate all of the storied details in the store windows and the magical folk working in the shops.
Have questions about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood? Drop us a line in the comments below! Your favorite frog friends can magically put some money back in your wallet when you purchase discount regular or Universal Express Universal Studios Hollywood Resort tickets for your visit.