“Sorry to interrupt, but where did you get your jacket?”
The young wizard and wand seller had left his post to follow me toward Hogwarts. “It’s just, I’ve seen the jacket before with Slytherin on the front, but never ‘Seeker’ on the back,” he explained.
I turned and smiled at him. This was the same wizard who had recently provided me with an eagerly-sought map to all the spells I could cast in Hogsmeade.
“This jacket is actually really old. I bought it about 15 years ago at Hot Topic,” I replied. “You could say it’s vintage. I had to dig it out of a storage bin for this trip!”
In my admittedly short time in my 30s, I’ve never been so proud to be ‘old.’
When you hit a milestone birthday, what do you do?
I turned 30 three weeks ago, and for months leading up to my birthday, I sought to plan the perfect birthday trip. After all, I had set myself a 30 Before 30 goal to do so – I couldn’t let myself down on a simple thing like planning a trip.
As it became clear I couldn’t pack my bags for a two-week trip exploring the Harry Potter locations around Great Britain, I settled for the next best thing. Mr. Valise and I booked two tickets from Seattle to Los Angeles and shelled out the dough for a day pass to Universal Studios Hollywood.
Over two years after my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, I was headed back to Hogwarts!
What’s Different About The Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood Compared with Orlando?
Many people have asked me this question since my short foray into Hogsmeade in April.
The biggest difference, as you might have guessed, is that there is no Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Hollywood. As I explained in my recent post about spending the day at Universal Studios Orlando, the Parkhopper pass is crucial to getting the full Wizarding World experience. Universal Studios Orland has two parks, and two parts of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studios Hollywood only has one: Hogsmeade.
Funny enough, the Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Hollywood is almost identical to the one in Orlando. I don’t remember the layout of The Wizarding World in Orlando perfectly, but it’s close enough that it will feel very familiar to anyone who’s visited before.
This isn’t a bad thing to me: it means I can have the same quality of magical experience at either park!
How to Spend a Day at The Wizarding World in Universal Studios Hollywood
10:30 am – Arrive at Universal Studios Hollywood
Given that there is only one park to explore, I actually recommend seeing other parts of Universal Studios Hollywood when you visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. At the same time, many of the tips from my Orlando Wizarding World guide are still valuable. To start, I recommend waiting until at least 30 minutes after opening before you enter the park. The early admission and opening crowds will have begun to explore the park, cutting down on crowds.
11:00 am – Make Your Way through the Archway to Hogsmeade
As you approach Hogsmeade, you’ll have an amazing view of Hogsmeade High Street through the magical archway in Universal Studios Hollywood. Be sure to stop and grab a picture at the archway (along with about a million other people), and next to the Hogwarts Express. Head straight to Ollivander’s from here.
11:30 am – Let your Wand Choose You at Ollivander’s
If like me, you already have a wand, you can skip this step. #nerdalert ?⚡
However, if, like me, you’re truly a Harry Potter nerd, you’re willing to queue up to see a wand-selection ceremony again. Ollivander’s nearly always has a line, so if you plan to purchase a wand during your time at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I recommend doing it right away. As people move toward lunch, the lines will shrink making it a slightly less time-consuming experience.
Inside Ollivander’s you’ll see the wandmaker help a young witch or wizard find their wand through a series of magical tests. Often, the young witches and wizards are scared or nervous to perform magic in front of a crowd in a darkly lit room… but the look of wonder on their faces as they finally meet their ‘match’ is priceless.
12:00 pm – Take the Forbidden Journey, Ride a Hippogriff, or Tour Hogwarts Castle
Now that lunch is in full swing, head straight to ride either or both of the rides in The Wizarding World: Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey in Hogwarts or Flight of the Hippogriff on the nearby Hogwarts grounds. Mr. Valise and I noticed wait times drop from 25-60 minutes for each ride to 5-15 minutes during lunch!
1:00 pm – Lunch at The Three Broomsticks
Refuel with a late lunch at The Three Broomsticks (again, waiting this long helps cut down on the line to order lunch!). You’ll have your choice of British favorites like bangers and mash, fish and chips, meat pie, and more. There are also some healthy choices for those who don’t want extra inches on their waist as their souvenir from the day.
Be sure to order a Butterbeer with lunch! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers two kinds of Butterbeer: frozen or cold. In order, I prefer my Butterbeer the following ways:
- Originally frozen but melted since it took me so long to drink it.
- Cold (with a frothy, sweet cream on top)
- Frozen (like a Butterbeer slurpee)
You can also order a Pumpkin Fizz (pumpkin pie in a glass!) or the specialty beers from the Hog’s Head pub next door. These two brews are perfect for adult wizards and witches and can only be purchased at The Wizarding World locations.
1:45 pm – Explore Hogsmeade & Cast Spells
After lunch, head out into Hogsmeade for any shopping or spell-casting you want to do. You can purchase robes, quidditch supplies, and much more at the many shops in the wizarding town. Here are some of the shops you should stop by for sure:
- Owl Post – You can buy stationary and send your friends a letter by ‘owl post.’
- Gladrags Wizarding Wear – for all your robe and Harry Potter-themed muggle clothing needs.
- Honeydukes – wizarding candy in every flavor (get it? A Bertie Bott’s joke!).
3:00 pm – Head out into the Muggle World of Universal Studios Hollywood
As I mentioned, I recommend taking a break from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to explore other parts of Universal Studios Hollywood. In particular, there are several attractions I consider ‘must see:’
- Waterworld – This show is possibly the best part of Universal Studios Hollywood to muggles (second best for us magical folk). The last showing most days is at 4:00 pm, so don’t miss it!
- Jurassic Park – The Jurassic Park ride always has a line, but it’s easily the coolest ride I’ve ever ridden (remember where I said I hate rides? This one was WORTH IT.). Even Mr. Valise got a thrill from the combination of a T-Rex attack and massive pitch black log-flume style end to the ride. Seriously. Awesome.
- The Universal Studios Lot Tour – If you love movies like me (?), the Lot Tour is a super cool way to spend an hour at the park. You’ll board a tram that takes you past some of Universal Studios’ coolest lots, sound studios, and landmarks (Amblin Drive, anyone?!). You’ll also get to take a few quick rides as part of the trip. During our visit, the ‘experiences’ featured Kong: Skull Island and Fate of the Furious.
There are plenty of other attractions and rides too, certainly enough to fill a whole day! Check out the entire Universal Studios Hollywood map here.
5:00 pm – End Your Day with One Last Walk Through Hogsmeade
Before heading home, be sure to take a last walk through Hogsmeade. Cast any unmissed spells (or re-cast the ones you most enjoyed), purchase any additional wizarding souvenirs or wear you need for the break between Hogwarts terms, and grab one last cup of Butterbeer for the road.
What You Must Do at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood
Like my similar list for The Wizarding World in Orlando, here’s the checklist of things you must do during your day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood:
- Drink Butterbeer. Lots of it! It’s delicious and sweet and one-of-a-kind! Be sure to try it cold and frozen to see which one you prefer.
- Tour Hogwarts. Whether you do it as part of the Forbidden Journey ride or as a walking tour, make sure you explore the huge castle to see what magical secrets it will reveal to you.
- Cast Spells. With your wand in hand, there’s no experience quite like waving it, casting the non-verbal spell, and seeing a window display come to life.
- Step Back into Childhood. Maybe your childhood wasn’t a particularly magical experience – I know mine was not all roses, despite being quite privileged. What I loved (and still do love) about Harry Potter was that it united children in seeing the world as a magical place and understanding the power of doing what’s right. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter may be artificial, but it evokes that same magic inside us all.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Time your arrival to try and miss the crowds. With a single day in Universal Studios Hollywood, you don’t want to spend the whole day standing in line! Consider times when others may be eating lunch or watching Waterworld, and time your explorations around that.
- Be sure to explore the rest of the park. With just one park, I advocate for spending a few hours outside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter exploring other attractions. It will make your last few minutes in Hogsmeade that much more magical before you head home.
- Wear sunscreen. It’s SoCal. It’s sunny. Don’t be silly; skin cancer sucks, and I’m pretty sure you can’t check into St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries to fix it.