April 7, 2016 marked the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. Before the actual opening, there were “technical rehearsals” to work out any kinks. During our #palms16 Spring Break vacation, we got to explore Hogsmeade and Hogwarts before the full effect of the crowds. Very impressive!
The attention to detail is great. Lots of little things that add to the overall effect. Even in that high roof tavern area where the owls are perched, there’s owl “poop” marks covering the rafters. Funny! The Wizarding World is kinda small although it looks big. Hopefully Universal expands it over the years and adds more attractions. Right now, there are essentially two rides, the Flight of the Hippogriff and the Forbidden Journey. When we were there, both rides glitched, especially the Flight of the Hippogriff. For some reason, this outside rollercoaster kept stopping, making for a long backlog. To make matters worse, the ride is very short, not really worth the wait of 30+ minutes.
The Forbidden Journey is way more interesting though. On this 3D ride, you fly around with Harry and company. Because of this, you aren’t allowed to bring pretty much anything on the ride. There are lockers to store your personal items, but these lockers are small. Even the large lockers on the bottom are quite small. Just a warning if you have a medium sized backpack. But when you’re on the ride, you’ll understand why you shouldn’t have anything with all the simulated aerial gyrations. Most surprisingly, riders even dip backwards, traveling with your feet higher than your head, not upside down but reclined pass level. And that was the fun part when the ride stalled during our flight. I was stuck in that reclined position for a few minutes with a Dementor howling in my face.
Of course, you gotta try the Butterbeer both cold and frozen. Getting the commemorative mug might be worthwhile with a reduced refill fee.
If you have the time and want a wizard wand, you should wait in line at Ollivanders. There’s no ride in the store, just a dramatization of one audience member being matched with a wand. The acting during our performance was top notch and accordingly, many guests purchased $30+ wands. There’s two types of wands, a regular one and an interactive one that can perform magic in marked shop windows. While kinda cool, the magic tricks are simple and don’t always work so you can save some money and go for a regular wand.
If you want to save time, forgo Ollivanders and find the wand stand outside towards the Forbidden Journey. No show, same prices, and importantly, no line.
Like I mentioned before, the Wizarding World is small so you’ll be able to explore it all in an hour or two (without going to any attractions), but you may want to return at dusk as night falls. The lighting and look is different.
Having gone through the Harry Potter experience at the Wizarding World, I’ll stay away for awhile and avoid the crowds. During our visit, the crowds were manageable, but now, I can’t imagine all the fans and long lines.
Oh hey, not inside of the Wizarding World, but in Universal itself is the largest Starbucks location I’ve ever seen. There’s one location in the CityWalk and one in the Lower Lot too, but the main location is huge. I gotta blog about that later.