As a book lover since I was old enough to read, there is nothing more exciting then to be able to see an author's vision of their book world come to life. For years, I have been telling my husband I wanted to go back to Universal Studios. I haven't been since they used to offer 3 hour studio tours and much to my excitement in early May, my hubby managed to plan both a Mother's Day gift and fulfilling our Bucket List for California item all in one. I wanted to take the time to share some of that with you today.
Our first trip in so many years commenced with the official opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in April of 2016 at Universal Studios Hollywood. To be able not only to walk into the book of J.K. Rowlings but for all the employees to stay in character as well. Just walking under the arches of Hogsmeade almost brought tears to my eyes. Once you step within the borders, you are immediately transported to the world of Harry Potter. You begin with the Hogwarts Express, and even though it is merely a prop, it is still amazing to see it all in living color.
The first thing I noticed was the attention to detail in every place you looked. From the smoking chimney's to the props lined within the windows of all your favorite places in Hogsmeade. The soundtrack of the Harry Potter movies is consistently playing in the area, and it is hard not to believe you are walking around a imaginary world.
From seeing all the candy delights in Honeydukes, from Sherbert Lemons, to Bertie Botts every flavor Jelly Bean, and even Chocolate Frogs. I knew I had to bring these home.
The first thing I really wanted to do was try both Pumpkin Juice and Butter Beer. Pumpkin Juice is like a blend of Apple Juice with pumpkin pie spices added. You can get it cold off a cart in the area or getting it carbonated at the Three Broomsticks Restaurant. Butter Beer is served cold or frozen, and my recommendation is frozen. Kind of like an icee with a buttery caramel whipped topping. You can get it with a commemorative cup or simply in a plastic cup. I opted for just the plastic cup.
The cost of the commemorative cup was around $6.00, I believe. The only way to describe Butterbeer is that it tastes like cream soda topped with a buttery caramel topping on either the cold or frozen drink choice. I am still craving them. They also sell Gilly Water, which is simply their Bottled Water. Still it's fun to pick one up to keep for a souvenir.
There are only 2 rides currently at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Both of the rides employ a brilliant use of movie props to engage you while waiting in line. The Flight of the Hippogriff is a roller coaster ride for the whole family as long as you are 39 inches tall. It allows you to capture a breathtaking view of Hogwarts Castle set high on the hillside and gives riders a peek at seeing Buckbeak. It was my favorite ride of the park.
Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey requires one to have a pretty strong stomach and not subject to motion sickness. I was feeling pretty poorly once I got off, but hey, I can say I rode it. For me, the best part was the ride queue. You get to venture into Herbology and see mandrakes keep behind their cages.
Then its off into Hogwarts castle, where you get to see the Hall of Portraits.
They actually talk and move just like in the movie. You get to go inside the Gryffindor common room, see the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, hear and see the Sorting Hat, along with the mirror of Erised. It is worth it just to walk through the line queue.
The ride takes riders of 4 into a 4D experience, where you get to follow Harry Potter riding his broomstick through the grounds of Hogwarts, battle a Dragon, and wrestle with both Dementors and the Whomping Willow. For me, I would recommend taking a dramamine before riding it to keep down the queasiness. All guests are required to check in their bags before riding as it really does twist you all over the place while watching the screen, like most motion sensor rides.
For meals, there is only one amazing place to visit and that is the Three Broomsticks. The prices are amazing for the quality and quantity of the food you get. Since we had a large party of 4, we opted for what is called the Feast, which garners you 4 spareribs, 4 chicken breasts, roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables and 4 ears of corn, along with a giant bowl of salad for about $50.00.
Drinks are extra but you can get Pumpkin Juice, Butter Beer and even Sparkling Pear Juice here. This is the only place you can get fizzing Pumpkin Juice. The food is brought out to you and you can sit inside, which is pretty loud, or sit outside where you can view the Hogwarts castle and enjoy the music.
For entertainment, there are a wide variety of things to do, from visiting Ollivander's wand shop and picking out either a wand from the movie's characters or one of your own. You can even get an interactive wand which comes with a map to let the users cast spells from the movie in the windows of the storefronts and cause things to move. It is pretty tricky to get it to work just right, but there are plenty of employees to help encourage you.
You can see a Tri-Wizard show or even listen to the Hogwarts choir during various times in Hogsmeade. I would recommend seeing them both, Afterwards, you can get pictures with both groups.
There are so many amazing opportunities to buy all your favorite props and apparel from your favorite house cloak, scarves, hats, and even Quidditch attire.
You can even purchase collectible autographed items like movie scripts, broomsticks, Deatheater masks and more, but simply just sitting in the area and watching the movie come to life was well worth the experience. I can't wait to go back in the fall and during Christmas to see how they bring it all to life in a unique way.