On April 7, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open at Universal Studios Hollywood, which is inspired by J.K. Rowling‘s iconic stories and characters that were brought to life in the Warner Bros. films. To celebrate the west coast opening, Glamour got an early look at the park, which took five years to construct. The land is true to the visual landscape of the books and films, including Hogwarts, which is one of the most impressive structures ever and, dare we say it, rivals the Magic Kingdom in terms of size and detail. Follow along for all of the magic, and an insider’s guide to what you need to know for your first visit!
Welcome to Hogsmeade Village, complete with snow-capped roofs and cobblestone streets.
The Hogwarts Express, which travels from Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross station to Hogwarts, is stationed at the entry and the Hogwarts Express conductor welcomes new arrivals.
From there, you’ll notice the Owlery, an open air, covered barn, where majestic Great Horned and tiny Scops owls perch high above the heads of visiting guests. The lifelike owls hoot and click, turn their heads, and ruffle and flutter their feathers as they rest lazily between postal deliveries.
Speaking of postal deliveries, there’s an actual working post office at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! The Owl Post, located adjacent to the Owlery, is a fully functioning post office where visitors can mail postcards and letters with a “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” stamp, postmarked from Hogsmeade.
Window shopping at a glance includes Dogweed and Deathcap (a shop that sells exotic plants and flowers), Madam Puddifoot’s (a cozy tearoom of delectable sweet treats), Spintwitches (a small merchant where Quidditch supplies and other fine sporting equipment is sold), Tomes and Scrolls (a specialty bookstore), Ceridwen’s Cauldron Shop, and Dominic Maestro’s Music Shop.
Hungry? No problem when you’re at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Hogsmeade offers visitors an array of British fare thanks to its main restaurant, Three Broomsticks, a rustic tavern. There you can order bangers and mash (grilled English sausages with creamy mashed potatoes and minted peas), shepherd’s pie (ground beef and vegetables, crowned with potatoes), beef Sunday roast (prime rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy), beef, lamb and Guinness stew, and fish ‘n’ chips. Rounding out the hearty fare are decadent treats like Butterbeer potted cream and sticky toffee pudding.
Thirsty? They’ve got that taken care of also, plus Gilly Water!
Located throughout the lively village are large barrel-shaped Butterbeer carts, where guests can sample Butterbeer.
Shopping in Hogsmeade Village features Dervish and Banges, a general store that offers school supplies to those attending Hogwarts. On display—and carefully secured within a protected cage—is The Monster Book of Monsters, used in Care of Magical Creatures courses. The particularly vicious book snarls and growls at anyone who attempts to get too close.
Gladrags Wizardwear is a place to buy apparel, hats, accessories, and jewelry, as well as house Robes, ties, and jumpers. Prop replicas from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire are on display, including Hermione’s enchanting Yule Ball gown. All sweaters and knitwear sold in the land are made in Scotland and created by the same wool maker from the Harry Potter film series.
Perhaps the most exciting shop of them all is Honeydukes, a sweets emporium filled with colorful confections, including Bertie Bott’s every-flavour beans, cauldron cakes, fizzing whizzbees, and chocolate frogs.
If jellybeans aren’t your jam, then there are plenty of cakes and cupcakes to satisfy your sweet tooth!
Attached to Honeydukes is Zonko’s Joke Shop, which has everything from extendable ears to sneakoscope to screaming yo-yos.
In the market for a new wand? Not a problem! Ollivanders, maker of fine wands since 382 B.C., is an interactive experience where the wand chooses the wizard. Located within a small, dusty shop, surrounded by wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling boxes of wands, the Wandkeeper engages guests in a moment of mysterious magic in which a wand selects them. With an interactive wand in hand, you can then venture through Hogsmeade village to practice actual spells at any one of the 11 magical windows. A special medallion, encrypted with the spell incantation, will be featured beneath each magical window for guests to practice their spells. If done correctly, they will come to life before your very eyes.
Most impressive of all is Hogwarts Castle, which can be seen from the 101 freeway miles away from the actual theme park. The entrance is guarded by two towering winged boars, providing access to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the land’s signature 3D-HD ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.”
The ride requires 3D glasses, which will add to the excitement when you soar high above Hogwarts alongside Harry and Ron and partake in a number of the movie’s most memorable scenes. Those include a Quidditch match, narrowly escaping a dragon attack, and experiencing close encounters with Dementors and the Whomping Willow. The ride is not for the faint of heart though—you’ll spiral and pivot 360-degrees along an elevated ride track.
The castle itself houses narrow stone passageways, classrooms, dormitories, and a treasure trove of props and decor both original to the film and recreated to adorn its impressive rooms and halls. Once you enter, you’ll follow in the famous footsteps of the film’s heroic characters, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley as they queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, encountering many familiar places along the way.
Outside of Hogwarts and surrounded by Scottish standing stones is a stage set for daily performances that bring the Harry Potter books and movies to life even further. The Frog Choir, comprised of Hogwarts students who are accompanied by large frogs on pillows, sing and croak an assortment of songs from the films.
For little ones who aren’t quite ready for the 3D-HD ride, there’s the “Flight of the Hippogriff” Roller Coaster. The enchanting family coaster is Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor coaster. On your way to the coaster, you can enter the Care of Magical Creatures grounds, where sounds of creatures can be heard in the distance. The winding path leads visitors through Hagrid’s pumpkin patch and by Hagrid’s Hut, where Fang’;s booming barks and occasional wails emanate from within the walls. As you pass the hut, Hagrid instructs you how to properly approach a Hippogriff. Once Hagrid’s lesson is complete, you’ll climb aboard two-seat wicker baskets that string together to form the Hippogriff and begin the training flight, where you’ll spot a Hippogriff in its nest. And FYI, Hagrid’s motorcycle is the original film prop and can be found in the queue to “Flight of the Hippogriff.”
If you want to witness more of the magic, check out our Snapchat video from our day:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter official opens at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 7.
Photos: Jessica Radloff; Universal