Looking for some family vacation ideas? How about a Universal Studios Hollywood with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter trip? For those of you that don’t know, I am a huge Harry Potter fan, like huge. It has been a dream of mine for years to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I got the chance to visit Universal Studios Hollywood while going back home to visit family in Southern California, and let me tell you, the WWoHP did not disappoint.
Family Vacation Ideas – Universal Studios
Universal Studios Hollywood is a fun place to visit, especially if you’re a movie buff. As you walk into Universal the whole place looks like one big movie set! We were told by the staff as we entered the park to start at the lower lot first and work our way up. The WWoHP is pretty close to the entrance so a lot of people head there first.
While there are some fun rides, the main reason to go to Universal Studios is for the live action experiences. A majority of the rides are now 4-D which means wearing the 3-D glasses while being jostled around escaping from Transformers, the Mummy, or turning into a Minion. For me, those types of rides are not my cup of tea, call me old fashioned, but I’ll take a roller coaster any day. But these rides immerse you into the world of these movies and really make you feel like you are in it as you can feel the heat of the explosions or the spray of water.
A majority of Universal Studios Hollywood is really catered to the teen or adult film lover. A lot has changed in the 15 years or so since I have been there. There is not a ton of rides that little kids can go on because 39 inches is the smallest height restriction. If you have a little kid, especially one under 39 inches, Universal Studios may not be the best to go to with them. Also, a lot of the rides are for more mature audiences, so depending on your kids personality, they might not be able to emotionally handle a majority of the rides. However, while my 5 year old was not a fan of these realistic rides, he still loved running around “Super Silly Fun Land” and meeting all his favorite characters like Spongebob, the characters from Despicable Me, Curious George and Scooby Doo. He also loved meeting the giant Transformer and the realistic Dinosaur even though he was scared of rides.
While there, don’t forget to see some of the live action shows like the Universal Animal Actors which is a fun show for all ages that shows how they train animals for movies or WaterWorld which we were told could very well be it’s last year, after 20+ years at the park.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Now on to the main event! Walking into the entrance of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was a magical experience. If you have read the books or watched the movies, you will feel like you are actually in Hogsmeade Village.
While at Universal Orlando you can actually board the Hogwarts Express while it takes you to the park, in Hollywood you can only get your picture taken in front of it. The conductor is funny and personable and comes up with witty remarks on the spot. Because I was wearing a striped shirt he remarked that “it was so nice to see Azkaban prisoners walking around and enjoying Hogsmeade”. For those that don’t know, Azkaban is the wizarding prison where many of “he who must not be named” supporters were held.
Speaking of “He who must not be named”, if you say the word Voldemort in any of the shops, you will get a stern SHHH from the store employees. I learned that when I saw Voldemort’s wand in Ollivanders Wand shop. Ollivanders is the maker of fine wands where when you go to his shop, the wand chooses you. Right next to the shop you will stand in a line (for us it was only about 10 minutes) to wait for a small
group to be allowed in to see a wand choose a member of your group. It is a pretty neat experience, especially for those Harry Potter fans. You have your pick of wands in Ollivanders, from character wands, to wands unaffiliated with any characters, to kids wands where the tip lights up like the spell Lumos. Wands range in price from $25 for the kids wands to $44 for a regular character wand, and $49 for a character wand that performs magic throughout WWoHP. For the couple extra dollars I splurged on the “Sirius Black” magical wand and made my way to perform some magic of my own. I had as much fun performing the magic as the kids did!
Looking for some of the famous Harry Potter treats like Chocolate Frogs, head over to Honeydukes, but be prepared because it is very small, but you will want all the treats! It also opens up into Zonko’s Joke Shop where you can buy some magical pranks. Head over to the Owl Post where you can buy all your Harry Potter stationary needs. Here you can send a letter from Hogsmeade with an official Hogsmeade postage mark to all your friends. Bring your own letter and stamps, or be prepared to pay around $30 for a book of HP postcards and HP forever stamps. The Owl post opens into Devirsh and Bangs where you can see the Monster Book of Monsters and purchase some Harry Potter Quidditch wear.
Stop into the Three Broomsticks for some traditional British fare like fish and chips, bangers and mash or shepherd’s pie. In need of an alcoholic beverage after being at a theme park all day? Stop into the Hog’s Head Pub for some specialty craft brews made specifically for the WWoHP. Don’t forget to try the most sought after beverages at the WWoHP, Butterbeer! You can get Butterbeer over ice, or Frozen. I had both, and the frozen Butterbeer was much better than the other.
There are two rides at WWoHP, Flight of the Hippogriff which is a small roller coaster that younger kids can go on, or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey which is another of the 4-D rides. This ride has one of the longest wait times in the whole park. On a Monday before school in California let out for summer the wait was still about an hour and a half. Since we had kids that couldn’t go on the ride we decided to just to the Hogwarts Castle walk through. This allows you to see the magical talking paintings, see Dumbledore in his office, and Ron, Hermione, and Harry talk to you without waiting in the whole line. To get to walk through just ask the person standing at the ride line entrance for the passes to just walk through the castle. Universal Studios also has a great parent rider program where if you have a child that is too small for rides you can wait in line, one or more go on the ride, then when they get back the second person or party goes and passes the child to those that just returned.
Universal City Walk
In my opinion, you can definitely do the entire Universal Studios Hollywood park including the WWoHP in one day. To end the evening you can visit the Universal City Walk where they have great restaurants, bars and fun shops. Some of my favorite places at Universal City Walk is Howl at the Moon piano bar or Saddle Ranch where you can watch people ride the mechanical bull.
All in all, we had a great time at Universal Studios Hollywood and this is a great place to consider for your family vacation ideas. If you are a Harry Potter fan this is a must and prepare to spend several hours at this portion of the park alone. If you are interested in Universal Studios Hollywood or Florida, or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter contact Tahnee at 281-363-0808 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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