Today was the day that so many of us Potterheads had been waiting for. The opening day of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Hollywood, but you should already know that. Unless you’re a dinosaur and don’t know how to use the internet.
I was lucky to have visited the park three times before the craziness ensued. The first time I went, I was a complete and utter mess. You would have thought I was at the altar, drunk, with a guy that I had met the night before, and I had just started to sober up, realizing what I was doing. I completely lost my sense of motor skills and couldn’t process what was going on. I was ready to walk back out.
It was February and my friend Christine had just started working on the Forbidden Journey ride. She was able to take me as a guest to see the park before it opened to the public. I have to say, initially I wasn’t that vocal about my excitement, not the way that I would have expected to be. I had grown up reading and watching the Harry Potter series, so an experience like this should have triggered more enthusiasm. Then again, I don’t like to amp up the experience before hand, just incase it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I’m a pessimist so that I could be an optimist. I haven’t been to the one in Orlando, Florida, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to except for the world JK Rowling created in my head and the world David Yates, Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell created on the screen. I knew that the one in Hollywood wouldn’t have a Diagon Alley and although I was disappointed, I realized that even a cobble stone that reminded me of the way I felt reading the books and watching the movies is good enough for me!
When I first walked in, I started giggling like an idiot. I honestly had no clue what came over me. I retracted to a corner and started to let out random gurgles of over excitement. Safe to say I was overwhelmed and couldn’t function for the first five minutes. Christine was shocked by my reaction and had no clue what to do with me. After cooling my self down and making my friends understand that WE NEED to take it slow and examine, and possibly touch, every single inch of Hogsmeade and the castle, I agreed to start making my way into the theme park.
My first step was starting the extremely annoying stream of Snapchats that would plague my friends stories for the next 24 hours. I wanted to document EVERYTHING, but soon realized it was impossible because it was dark, there was too much to see and I was driving my friends crazy because I kept stopping to take pictures or videos after every step. At that rate I would have seen everything in 16 days, which I did not have. So I accepted that seeing Harry Potter World through my phone wasn’t what I wanted, so I took pictures every four steps instead.
I took my time examining the window displays of the stores, which were sometimes ridiculously accurate to the ones that were portrayed in the movies. They were incredibly intricate and fun to watch.
We started with HoneyDuke’s. There was a line to get into the candy store, but once we were in, I was like a truffle pig, sniffing every corner of the forest, looking for that golden piece of fungus. I found two candies that made an appearance in the movies, the Chocolate Frog and the Every Flavor Beans jelly beans. The Chocolate Frog stayed true to the films by having a holographic card of one of the four Hogwarts Founders and a description of who they are in the back. I bought two! I got Salazar Slytherin and Rowena Ravenclaw. There’s also a Dumbledore card #goals. The candies are currently sitting in my room on display. The expiration dates are in the foreseeable future, so essentially I bought candy to stare at.
After I was done buying everything in sight at HoneyDukes, I made my way to the back of the candy store, to an area that was dedicated to Zonko’s Joke Shop! They had the oversized ear that Fred and George used to eavesdrop on the adults, which then got eaten by Crookshanks. They have the love potion sold in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and Piggmy Puffs you can adopt, which the staff make a huge deal out of. They ring a bell, make you pick the name for your Piggmy Puff and announce it to the entire store. So, if you hate attention, don’t buy a Piggmy Puff. If you love attention, buy 10.
Then we grabbed some Butterbeer. I suggest buying it frozen, the soda version was disgusting. It was basically a butterscotch flavored whipped cream smoothie. My friend and I call it diabetes in a cup.
Next stop was Olivander’s. Before buying our interactive wands, we waited in line for the show where the wand chooses its owner. You don’t need to wait for the show. If you just want to buy a wand and be on your merry way you can directly walk into Olivander’s and check out the store, but if you have time, definitely check out the show. It’s really cool! It’s about 10 minutes long, where they take about 15 people at a time into a small room. This is where you meet a wand keeper. The wand keeper chooses one person from your group, (yes, only ONE person gets matched with their wand during the show, not all 15 of you, so don’t expect to be chosen, you will be disappointed), and tries to pair that person with a wand. If you really want to get chosen, my suggestion is dress up. Like REALLY dress up and stand up front.
After a couple of failed pairings and disastrous attempts at magic, the right wand is found and handed to the chosen guest. It’s such a great way to get someone to buy a wand. How do you say no to the wand that CHOSE you? You don’t. That’s the point!When the show ends, you’re guided into Olivander’s where you can purchase a character wand or a wand that is custom to your character, see what I did there? You can either read about each wand and choose one that you believe best describes you, and not who you wish you were, but who you actually are, or talk to an employee who can help match you to the perfect wand by asking you a couple of questions.
You can either buy a regular wand or an interactive wand. An interactive wand can be used within the park to do magic in Hogsmeade. I obviously could not pass up on being an actual wizard, at least within the Universal walls. Without the interactive wand I would basically be a muggle with a stick.
After that, we headed into the restrooms to take a potty break and heard Moaning Myrtle visiting us while we peed. Wish we could have actually seen her though.
The three broomsticks restaurant was pretty good. If you can, sit inside, it’s pretty cool and so is Hogshead right next-door.
I got placed in Ravenclaw through the sorting hat quiz on Pottermore, which is the ONLY accurate sorting hat quiz because Pottermore is JK Rowling’s site so don’t even try to argue against it. So, I bought my Ravenclaw gear from Dervish and Banges, officially being a Hogwarts student, now frolicking through Hogsmeade.
Then we headed into the castle. If there is a ridiculously long wait, don’t panic too much. If you’re a diehard Harry Potter fan, the castle itself is JUST as much of a ride as the actual ride. You get to see the greenhouse, the entrance to the Gryffindor common room and the actual Gryffindor common room, the hall of portraits, Dumbledor’s office, the dark arts classroom, the sorting hat and so much more before getting on a 3D experience that will blow your mind, or blow chunks out of your mouth so that Christine can clean them up. She begs you to refrain from the latter.
Best part is that all the employees in Harry Potter World are actually IN Harry Potter World. They are ALL in character. They’ll treat you like a wizard or a muggle based on how you’re dressed. They’ll comment on Maurader’s Map if you’re caught with it, and wont dare to say Voldemorts name. They call your credit card muggle plastic and answer questions about why muggles can see and enter the castle when it’s usually invisible to the muggle eye. If you’re bored waiting in line for the Forbidden Journey or even for the Flight Of The Hippogrith, where you see Buckbeak and Hagrid, ask them anything you want, and have fun hearing their answers and testing their improv skills. The more you immerse yourself into the world JK Rowling created for us, the more magical it becomes.
The park did nothing but impress me, mostly because it’s surreal being dropped off into a world you never thought you could be part of. I went three times, and I could still go back a hundred times more. Just being in Harry Potter World feels like you’ve been teleported into a different reality. Whether you went today or you plan on waiting till the hype and chaos calm down, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is definitely something you cannot miss, but if you’re not really into Harry Potter, God forgive you, you may not be as impressed as I was.
Also, if you’re really into Harry Potter, dress up! Some people fantasize about Princes Leia in her golden bikini, I fantasize about dressing up as a student from Hogwarts. It’s a diverse world with diverse fetishes, so if dressing up in your house uniforms is something you want to do, do it!
Special thanks to Christine Mardikian for taking me all three times!