Issue: Summer 2016
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter transforms Universal Studios
Photo: David Sprague.
Good news, Muggles. You don't need magic to unlock the doors to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the newest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Inspired by the Warner Bros. films based on J. K. Rowling's tales of Harry Potter and his cohorts, the magical land opened to a sold-out crowd in April this year after five years in the making. With your Muggle map of Universal Studios in hand, you can navigate the town of Hogsmeade as well as any first-year wizard at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Once you pass under the stone archway to Hogsmeade, you step into a story. Snow-laden rooftops and soot-dusted cobblestone streets frame the Scottish hamlet. Robed Hogwarts disciples meander about, while costumed merchants hawk goods from colorful street carts.
One of the first things that guests can do is step inside Hogwarts Express Photo in Hogsmeade Station, just past the Hogwarts Express train and its friendly conductor. There, you can don a scarf of your choosing and have a commemorative photo taken in a passenger booth for a price.
The looming centerpiece of the town, Hogwarts Castle, has reshaped the Los Angeles skyline with its fierce silhouette.
"I looked up at Hogwarts and got chills," said Stephanie Emi, who came with her husband and daughter from La Crescenta. "The size perspective is magical."
Within the castle walls is the feature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The thrill ride uses hyper-realistic 3D-HD and an aerobatics-simulating ride system to create the sensation of being whisked through the corridors of Hogwarts to high above the castle in a multisensory adventure. Even the line for the ride provides amusement as it wends its way through the castle with artifacts from the films and other surprises lining the walls.
The other ride, the Flight of the Hippogriff, is Universal Studios Hollywood's first outdoor rollercoaster. Before climbing aboard, approach the nesting Hippogriff with care. The exhilarating flight takes you soaring past Hagrid's hut and into the sky, where some of the best views of the wizarding world can be had.
"I really liked it! It gets your heart pumping," said Ventura resident Bianca Miguel Carlos, whose family, including her grandmother, exited the ride laughing.
Muggles and budding wizards alike can tick off back-to-school checklists at Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment and Gladrags Wizardwear, where you can find the latest fashions in wizard apparel. Robes, hats, ties, and scarves are in need of owners, along with an assortment of crystal balls, telescopes, armillary spheres, magnifying glasses, and other tools for proper wizardry and witchcraft. Quidditch players, get your brooms and other sporting equipment at Dervish and Banges. At the Owl Post, you can purchase stationery, writing implements, and special Wizarding World of Harry Potter stamps and also send a letter with an authentic Hogsmeade postmark. A variety of plush owls fill the shelves, awaiting new homes and wizards to assist.
Perhaps the biggest decision you make on this excursion will involve a wizard's most prized possession: a wand. Ollivanders, billed as "Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC," boasts over thirty regular and interactive wands which replicate those belonging to your favorite characters-from Harry, of course, to Professor Dumbledore and Sirius Black. Peruse the scrolls beneath the windows for tips on selecting wand wood according to personality type. If you're still uncertain about which wand is most suitable, ask the keepers of the shop how a wand can choose you. Delightfully, many of the merchants and staff speak in character. Upon overhearing a patron mention the dark lord Voldemort, a staff member explained with a smile, "We don't like to use his name. He's He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) enjoys a Butterbeer at the Hogs Head Pub.
If you've selected a wand of the interactive variety, you shall receive a map of town locations where it is ideal to practice magic. By saying the spell and waving the wand in the correct pattern, you can persuade tiers of pastries to spin at Madam Puddifoot's Tea & Cakes, stop a quill from scribbling at Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop, unlock a wooden chest at Wiseacre's, and trigger a number of other enchantments throughout Hogsmeade. Look for bronze medallions embedded in the pavement; they mark the spots and remind you of the incantation and wand gesture necessary to cast the spell. Don't worry if nothing happens on your first few tries; a helpful wizard will step up to provide assistance.
Quench your thirst and quell your hunger at the town tavern, Three Broomsticks, which welcomes weary travelers of all ilk. The bustling atmosphere, wooden tables, and vaulted ceilings will make you believe you're about to share a meal with Harry, Hermione, and Ron, whose world influenced the traditional British menu. You can take a swig of an ice-cold Butterbeer, which might soon replace your favorite beverage. Made without alcohol and available in traditional and slushy versions, Butterbeer was described as a combination of shortbread and butterscotch-and what could be better than that? Main courses include bangers and mash, roast chicken, spare ribs, and fish and chips. Muggles in the know can request a delicious off-the-menu vegetarian platter-a heaping portion of creamy mashed potatoes, roast tomatoes, sauteed cabbage, minted peas, and fat asparagus stalks. For dessert, try the Butterbeer potted cream, sticky toffee pudding, or both!
"I would come here just for this restaurant," said Altadena resident Ingin Kim, who enjoyed a helping of the shepherd's pie and garden salad.
And for those who wish to start the day off with a hearty breakfast in Hogsmeade, the Three Broomsticks offers a traditional English breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage links, bacon, black pudding, baked beans, baked tomato, mushrooms, and potatoes as well as an Eggy Bread baguette with bacon and maple syrup.
Inside the restaurant is Hog's Head pub, which serves specialty drinks such as Wizard's Brew, Fire Whisky, and Dragon's Scale, along with the usual array of Muggle beers and spirits. The food and beverage carts about town also provide nourishment on your journey, including such Hogsmeade staples as Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, and Gilly Water.
If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to visit Honeydukes to snag a few boxes of Jelly Slugs, Exploding Bonbons, Fudge Flies, and other sugary snacks from the fictional world. Fans of Butterbeer can find a Butterbeer-flavored treat in the dessert display case. Next door, Zonko's Joke Shop deals in whimsy, offering novelty items, curious toys, and jokes for the whole family. Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods carries jewelry, chess sets, plush creatures, replicas of movie props, and the Marauder's Map.
Also, keep an ear and eye out for the cheerful Frog Choir-Hogswart students singing and beatboxing on the stage in the heart of town-and the Triwizard Spirit Rally.
When your foray into this magical land comes to an end, be assured that though you arrived a mere Muggle, you leave an honorary wizard.
For an interactive virtual tour, visit wizardingworldhollywood.com. To join the conversation online, visit #WizardingWorldHollywood. DH