A few weeks back, Josh and I made a day trip up to LA. Both of us are long-time Harry Potter fans, as many of you are I’m sure, so we made the focus of this trip the Universal Studios Hollywood park. For those of you familiar with the Universal park in Florida, you’ll see many familiar things. Most of the major sights and rides are nearly identical, but there also fewer of them. This is understandable, as LA offers much less affordable real estate for parks to build on. Despite this, if you haven’t been before and you’re in the area, Universal Studios in Hollywood is an decent way to spend a day.
As soon as we got into the park (get your tickets online beforehand to save time waiting in line) we made a beeline to Wizarding World. While the Orlando park has had this one for a while, the Hollywood version of Diagon Alley/Hogsmeade and Hogwarts is fairly new, just opening its doors a few weeks back. The level of detail put into the park is breathtaking, as anyone who has visited the other location will attest. Of the two rides here, The Forbidden Journey is definitely the better experience. The almost consistently lengthy wait is made more bearable by the fact that the line cuts through several memorable recreations of key Hogwarts locations, from the office of Albus Dumbledore to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. The ride itself incorporates a lot of moving parts, including 3-D video and animatronics, which are fairly seamless and immersive. Kids and parents alike should find something enjoyable. Also, if you’ve waited through the line for your first time, you can skip a large portion of the wait by going in as a single rider (you do miss a lot of the cool Hogwarts walkthrough segments though.)
The other ride is a very short, kid friendly rollercoaster title “Flight of the Hippogrif.” Rollercoaster fans will be disappointed by the length of the ride, but the wait is also equally short, so it’s a good way to burn a few minutes. Beyond rides, Wizarding World also offers a few live shows that happen at multiple times throughout the day, including the toad choral group from the movies, and a good selection of shops to pick up some Hogwarts supplies such as wands, robes, and a standard size 2 pewter cauldron. You can also visit Fred and George’s Wizarding Weezes, Honeydukes sweets shop, and Ollivander’s Makers of Fine Wands.
There’s plenty to see and do in the park beyond Wizarding World, inlcuding a Jurrasic Park area, a pretty entertaining and informative special effects show, and Springfield from the Simpsons. There are, of course, many gift stores and restaurants (most of which a fairly priced for a theme park) to spend some time in, but we enjoyed just walking around and taking note of the level of effort that nearly every inch of the park. If you’re a fan of any of Universal’s major films or tv shows, you’re bound to find something entertaining here.
Theme parks typically aren’t on the top of our to do list when traveling, but we did enjoy a break from our routine during this trip and would recommend anyone spending some time near the LA area to check it out.