Living in Southern California has its perks, especially when it comes to entertainment. Our family has never visited Orlando and had debated whether it should be added to our infamous “list” of #futurefuntrips (sorry, Insta has made us a bit hashtag crazy). One of the biggest of the draws to Orlando was a potential visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWHP) at Universal Studios Orlando. Well, imagine my glee to find that Universal Studios Hollywood would be opening a WWHP of their own. Check that one off the list!
Now, mind you, I just stated that we have never been to Orlando so I cannot compare the two. If you have experience visiting both, I welcome your comments. Based on our visit to the WWHP in Hollywood, we would give it SIX thumbs up! (hubby didn’t go…his vote will come in May) This is a very fun visit!
We visited on March 31st during one of the soft openings/technical rehearsals. The “real” opening is April 7th. We learned about these openings by following #PotterWatch on Twitter. People would tweet when WWHP was open…it was inconsistent. A big shout out to @NERDSLIKEUS who quoted insider scoop and told us that it would be open on March 31. We took our chances and went. As we entered the parking lot, we checked Twitter and saw that it had just opened. There was much rejoicing!
Our first stop was the Butterbeer line. I got Butterbeer from the tap in a souvenir cup. I had the option to get the Butterbeer frozen, but I don’t think it would have had the foam (which was super sweet). It was a tough call. I will say the Butterbeer from the tap was not very cold…think English beer. So you will have to weigh the pros and cons. Overall, Butterbeer is not my favorite, but I don’t like sweet drinks. I drink water, black coffee and dry red wine. So, perhaps I’m not a good judge. The taste is that of a very sweet cream soda with butterscotch. And the aftertaste was a bit too artificial-sweetener-ish for me. Sorry to be a downer. Others love it, so you must try it for yourself. The girls got Gilly Water (which was overpriced bottled water…but it must be done). Next time I plan to try the Pumpkin Juice just because.
Next we went wand shopping. We saw the line for the wand show. Apparently there is a way for a “wand to choose you.” We did not go that route, so you may want to explore that option. We went the capitalistic/consumeristic route: let’s just pay a lot of money for someone else’s wand. All sarcasm aside, a wand is a must-purchase in Hogsmeade. Inside Ollivanders, wands are stacked floor to ceiling. The box will tell you to whom it belonged (Harry, Hermoine, etc.). The gold stickers indicate interactive wands. Those are about $50 and the non-interactive are about $40. An interactive wand can be used throughout Hogsmeade to perform “spells” and make store window decorations move (among other things). See my girls in front of the Honeydukes window below. Honestly, I do not understand the point of a non-interactive wand. You will be so sad if you can’t do spells. You’re already spending money…so what’s $10 more?
After touring around and visiting the “spell stops” indicated on the wand map (inside the box), we shopped at Honeydukes for signature sweets from the Harry Potter series. The must-purchase item is the chocolate frog. Inside are wizard cards, just like in the book/movie.
After looking at owls and shopping for robes, we lined up at the castle for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This is a ride and a 3D adventure all rolled into one that takes you through scenes/stories from the movie. The Quidditch ride at the end was our favorite! But, the warnings they give about motion sickness are no joke. If you struggle to watch a regular 3D movie, you will feel the effects with this one. In my old age, I get sea sick and can’t ride roller coasters anymore. However I did this ride anyway because I wanted to go inside the castle, which is a must see. The castle is so well done…so much detail…with many of the rooms from the books/movies. I’m not sure if you can go through the castle (which is essentially your hour-long line to wait for the ride) without getting on the ride (?) That would be interesting to know. I did in fact survive the ride, but I regretted the Butterbeer for sure. And, I needed to rest and get my land legs back afterward. No joke. I won’t do the ride again, but I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. The girls LOVED it! They will go again with my husband for sure.
We passed on the Flight of the Hippogriff ride. It is a traditional outdoor roller coaster. My kids aren’t too fond of roller coasters and after the Forbidden Journey, I was toast. So, the Hippogriff will have to be a #futurefuntrips experience (sorry, couldn’t resist).
After Harry Potter, we went into the rest of the park. We loved the Despicable Me Super Silly Funland, by the way. We bought CA annual passes to Universal Studios Hollywood so that we could visit multiple times this year. We still have yet to the see any of the shows in WWHP and we didn’t take photos with the Hogwarts Express. Also, I think there were some shops that weren’t open during technical rehearsals. In addition, we will eat at Three Broomsticks next time when I’m not so motion sick. But, I am glad that Universal Studios Hollywood has so many other fun attractions to add value to our annual pass, because I think after a couple more visits to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, we will have seen all there is to see in the WWHP. That said, overall, it is a must-add to your family list!