Once we decided to go to Oregon and San Diego for our summer vacation, I started pushing to go to Universal Studios in LA. Beckett and I had just started reading the Harry Potter books in the spring and I was completely sucked into the Harry Potter world (Chuck and Mara had already read them). I think I was more excited than any of us to go and soak up all things Harry Potter.
We had early access (7am) to the park, but given our late night arrival, we didn’t get to the park till 8am. No worries though as it was still pretty empty. We made a bee line for Hogsmeade and to the 3D ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I was pretty nervous riding this as I’ve repeatedly heard how nauseous people get on it, and given how motion sick Mara and I get, I thought it could be a very bad idea. However, we really wanted to go, so I sucked down some ginger candies and hoped for the best.
The entrance to the ride takes you into Hogwarts and it’s AMAZING. You see the house point containers, a golden Griffin, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, a portrait gallery (with walking, talking portraits that were amazing), the Gryffindor common room, the Fat Lady portrait which talks to you, Dumbledore’s office, the Sorting Hat, and more. It was incredible. It was also incredibly dark so my pictures didn’t turn out.
The ride itself was one of the best rides I’ve ever gone on. It’s part rollercoaster and part 3D ride. At a few points we were “flying” all around Hogwarts and in another we flew into a game of Quidditch (and almost caught the Golden Snitch). At other points, we were in parts of Hogwarts and almost got pummeled by the Whomping Willow and attacked by dementors.
Unfortunately, halfway through the ride, it came to abrupt stop with warning messages sounding. We just sat there in our car waiting to see what happened and after a few minutes, the ride started back up and we were back on our way.
When it was over, it was hard to process what had just happened. We had just flown! And played Quidditch! And soared over Hogwarts! It was SO COOL!
However, we all felt a bit nauseous afterwards and needed to get our bearings again. So we headed to Ollivander’s Wand Shop for the wand choosing ceremony. There was a 45 minute line so I offered to stand in line while Chuck took the kids on the other Harry Potter rollercoaster, Flight of the Hippogriff.
None of us were picked for the wand choosing ceremony but it was still really neat to see. I’m so glad I stood in line for it. After the ceremony, we went into Ollivander’s to pick out our wand. We had agreed to get 1 wand and share it, but both kids picked out different wands so we bought one for each of them. Mara picked out her own wand made of vine and Beckett picked out Dumbledore’s wand. Once bought, it was time to go outside and try casting some spells!
There are about 12 different spots around Hogsmeade where you can try out spells with your wand. If you do them correctly, something happens. Of course the kids and I tried every spot and LOVED when the various spells worked! Such a neat feeling!
After trying out our wands, it was time for lunch at the Three Broomsticks! This place was so cool and it felt like stepping right into the movies. I kept expecting to see Snape come down the steps or Harry to walk in.
We ordered a Butterbeer with lunch and the kids went nuts for it. It reminded me of very sweet cream soda but was good. The kids could barely suck it down fast enough.
After lunch it was time to wander around Hogsmeade. First stop, Honeydukes! Man is this place a feast for the eyes. Beckett wasn’t nearly as interested in the candy as Mara was, and he made a beeline for the Pygmy Puffs in the adjacent Zonko’s.
From there, we took our time in Hogsmeade just wandering into the various shops, casting spells at the different locations and soaking up the wizarding world.
Once we covered everything in Harry Potter world, we left to explore the rest of Universal Studios park. First stop, Lard Lad Donuts for the giant Homer donut! We got the pink Homer donut and a giant chocolate one. Quite tasty!
Then we popped into a special effects presentation, wandered through Springfield (Simpson world), did the Movie Studio tour, popped over to the Despicable Me world, and took in the Waterworld stunt show.
As the day was winding down, we headed back to Hogsmeade. We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey again, this time it didn’t glitch, and thoroughly enjoyed it the 2nd time around too. Then we picked up a ton of souvenirs before reluctantly returning to the muggle world.
The entire Harry Potter experience could not have been better. I was blown away by how realistic everything was from the shops and souvenirs to the moving portraits to the wands casting spells to the town. And ride was just incredible – I really felt like I got to fly and play Quidditch and I swear I touched the Golden Snitch. We all really felt like wizards for the day.
I now really want to take the kids to the one in Florida!