California

Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Hollywood

I grew up in Southern California, so going to theme parks like Disneyland or Universal Studios was just something we did, even as an adult.  The last time I went to Universal Studios was probably 4 or 5 years ago.

Recently, Universal Studios opened a Harry Potter area inside the theme park.  On Monday, my BFF Karen and I took off work and went to check it out.  We bought our tickets online at AAA, saving us some money.  We even got our parking online, which I realized was general parking and not VIP parking.  Bad choice. If you’re lazy like me, never get general parking but splurge for the VIP… you’ll thank yourself at the end of the day.

We left Orange County at 7:20 am, and arrive Universal City around 9:15 am (yes it took about 2 hours in traffic).  We parked in the Jurrasic part of the structure in Level 2, which popped us out near the Starbucks at the City Walk, which finally led us to the security area of the main entrance.

We splurged on the “Front of the Line” tickets ($179 at AAA) and had to exchange our voucher for the lanyard. The “Front of the Line” (FOL) lanyard provides a special entrance, where you can skip most of the line at each attraction and show at least once.

From there, we had to decipher the map and find our way to Harry Potter. The land looked pretty much like Orlando’s Island of Adventure version. It was just as narrow, and just as crowded. 

Fortunately for us, we had the FOL pass, and zipped to the front of the line for the Forbidden Journey attraction. The Forbidden Journey in Hollywood is 3D, whereas in Orlando, it was not.  Just like Florida, they make you check in your personal items in a locker, which is free for 3 hours.  I didn’t bother to bring my cellphone, as the inside of the queue and ride was dark.

The ride is fast, but not rollercoaster fast.  There are dips and swings, but overall, its a simulation if you were riding a Nibus broomstick, and trying to keep up with Harry Potter and friends.

 

After the ride, we decided to grab a Butterbeer and get in line for the Ollivander’s Wand shop, which is a “show” where you, the wizard, gets selected for your wand.  The line took about half an hour, but it felt longer.  One person gets selected and at our show, a little girl celebrating her birthday got picked. At the end of the show, they dump you into the gift shop, so you can buy a wand.  Karen got Hermoine’s wand.

By this time it was a little past 11:00 am, and I suggested eating an early lunch before the restaurants got crowded.  We decided on the 3 Broomsticks for lunch, and split the lemon herb chicken plate, which was a 1/2 chicken, potatoes and corn.  Inside Harry Potter, they do not serve coca cola sodas (although they do serve alcohol) so we opted for hot tea.  If you want a coke, go outside the Harry Potter area.

With bellies full, and after washing our hands (you can hear Moaning Myrtle inside the ladies bathroom) we decided to do some shopping. Inside the Owl Post, you can mail yourself something with a genuine Harry Potter cancellation stamp.   Karen chose to keep with the Gryffindor theme (since she chose the Hermione wand) and got the House of Gryffindor scarf as well as a generic HP post card just so she could get the Hogsmeade stamp on it.

Inside the gift shops, there were animations all around the store.  In Dervish and Banges, there’s animated broomsticks overhead.

We also decided to test out Karen’s wand. Some wands are interactive, and you can use “spells” at certain places to activate things within the Harry Potter land. There’s a map inside the select wands which tells you where to find these interactive spots.

The area is not very large, and we were done with Harry Potter around 1:00.

More on Universal Studios on the next post.