My trip to California kicked off with a day at Universal Studios Hollywood. Yep, the home of hundreds of film sets and a wonderland of different worlds from the most loved films, cartoons and TV shows out there. But little did we know that the most magical surprise wouldn’t reveal itself until we walked through the gates.
You see, while the Orlando counterpart to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been open since 2010, the official opening for Hollywood wasn’t listed until April 7th this year – still one month away as I write this. But as we walked through the park, our excitement turned from “LOOK, you can see the castle already” to “hang on…” “are the gates open?” “there’s people going in…” “can we go in already?” “Oh my God…”
We had unwittingly stumbled into Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood on one of its ‘soft launch’ days and hopped straight onto the Hogwarts Express to the village of Hogsmeade.
Being one of the most ridiculously obsessed Harry Potter fans, I was pretty excited to be there…
Even in the gorgeous warmth from the sun, the snow topped buildings were utterly enchanting and as the soundtrack was piped gently through the street, I was absolutely beside myself with excitement.
We checked out the supplies on offer at Zonkos, Honeydukes, the Owl Post Office and Madam Malkins (it’s true, I nearly came out fully decked out in Hogwarts robes).
Shopping done, we made our way up towards the castle – stopping briefly for a chat at Hagrid’s.
The Flight of the Hippogriff is short, speedy and gets you geared up for the main attraction.
Hogwarts looks pretty spectacular in real life. Students outside the castle gates proclaimed the castle open to Muggles for the day (although I’m not sure who they were talking about because it certainly wasn’t us…) so we made our way inside for our first taste of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
With it being an extremely quiet Tuesday in the park, we didn’t queue at all for the ride but they’re prepared for the worst with an entire castle full of waiting line! We toured the Herbology greenhouse, took a peek inside Dumbledore’s office, chatted to some talking portraits and even got some tips and tricks on Defense Against the Dark Arts from Harry, Hermione and Ron before we reached the Great Hall.Here, you get into your seat while floating candles hang overhead before you are whisked away by Floo Powder on a magical 3D journey. The idea of the ride is that you’re following Harry and Ron around the grounds on a broomstick, encountering Aragog and his terrifying family, Dementors and even dodging the Whomping Willow along the way and the sensation of flying was unmistakable. The attention to detail in every aspect was just phenomenal and we couldn’t help but go back for more!
When we’d had our fill of flying – for the time being, anyway, we checked out the singing frog choir and watched students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang show off their skills. We even made a bathroom pit stop only to encounter Moaning Myrtle wailing and splashing somewhere in the pipes! It truly was remarkable and I was absolutely bursting with happiness and excitement for the entire day because of it. Although, by reading this back, it sounds like I still am…
I could live here. Just saying. If Universal wants to hire me to be a Hogwarts student, I’m in.