Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood Tips for Wizards, Witches & Muggles

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has remained the most spellbinding place in California since it opened in 2016. Whether you’ve just received your acceptance letter to Hogwarts or you’re already a Quidditch champion, these Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood tips will help you get the most out of this magical place.

Harry Potter Universal Hollywood

Get your Harry Potter fix at Universal Studios Hollywood (Photo credit: David Sprague, Universal Studios Hollywood)

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is especially enchanting during the winter holidays

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is especially enchanting during the winter holidays (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

1. Pick the right time of year to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

If you’re looking to experience Universal Studios Hollywood when it’s less crowded at the park, I recommend traveling mid-January, February, or September. Families are focused on school and work during these off-peak months. For longer park hours and more entertainment options, however, plan your trip for March, April, May, June, July, October, November, December or early January. My family visited the first week of the New Year and The Wizarding World was even more magical all dressed up for the holidays. No matter when you go, you’re sure to have a bewitching time.

Arrive early to make the most of your Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood vacation

Arrive early to make the most of your Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood vacation (Photo credit: irisphoto11, Depositphotos.com)

2. Get to Universal Studios Hollywood early.

If you want to be the first muggle (or wizard or witch!) in the park, plan to arrive at least 45 minutes before Universal Studios Hollywood opens. This is especially true if you’re visiting during peak season. Then head straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the most enchanting part of the whole theme park.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the star attraction in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the star attraction in the Wizarding World (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

3. Join Harry Potter on the Forbidden Journey ride.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the star ride in the Wizarding World. Be sure to queue up for this attraction early as the line will grow and grow as the day goes on. Riders (48″+) come face to face with mystical creatures while taking flight with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Soar above Hogwarts while visiting iconic locations like Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

Even if you don't attend a wand choosing ceremony, the friendly staff at Ollivanders will help you determine the correct wand for you and your little wizards

Even if you don't attend a wand choosing ceremony, the friendly staff at Ollivanders will help you determine the correct wand for you and your little wizards (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Find your wand at Ollivanders.

At Ollivanders Makers of Fine Wands, you can either purchase the wand of your dreams or have your wand choose you. If you would like to be a part of a wand choosing ceremony, you should probably line up for this popular activity first thing upon your arrival. Although you might not get picked to have a wand choose you, it’s still fun to watch.

Of course, you can also simply select your own wand or seek out a shopkeeper, who will ask questions to guide you toward the right choice. Wands of characters like Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore and Harry himself are available for purchase, too.

The wands bring magic to life at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The wands bring magic to life at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

These wands are not cheap. Keep in mind, though, that they are more than mere souvenirs. Use these wands to “cast spells” on interactive scenes within the Wizarding World. This was probably my kids' favorite part of our visit to Universal Studios Hollywood and well worth the investment!

Kids and adults 40"+ can ride the Flight of the Hippogriff at Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood

Kids and adults 40″+ can ride the Flight of the Hippogriff (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

5. Ride Flight of the Hippogriff.

If you have young wizards who aren’t quite tall enough to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, don’t worry. Flight of the Hippogriff welcomes riders 40″+ for a not-too-scary roller coaster journey around a pumpkin patch and past Hagrid's hut.

Buy Butterbeer cold and bubbly or frozen from carts in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Buy Butterbeer cold and bubbly or frozen from carts in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Taste Butterbeer.

Although house-elves may get tipsy off Butterbeer in the Harry Potter books, parents can rest assured that the Universal version is alcohol-free. Order your Butterbeer frozen or cold and fizzy. During the winter holiday season, you can also purchase a hot Butterbeer, but only inside the Three Broomsticks restaurant and Hog's Head Pub (not from beverage carts). I recommend getting one of each to taste and split among your park-going group. Whether you love the butterscotch flavor of this unique beverage or find it too sweet, a Butterbeer sampling is an absolute must at at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Dining at the Three Broomsticks is a must for Potterheads at Universal Studios Hollywood

Dining at the Three Broomsticks is a must for Potterheads (Photo credit: Kevin Kolczynski, Universal Studios Hollywood)

7. Eat at the Three Broomsticks.

The Three Broomsticks is one restaurant Harry Potter fans definitely don't want to miss at Universal Studios Hollywood. Here, you can try a variety of traditional British foods like fish and chips, shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and more. Save room for the Sticky Toffee Pudding!

Traditional English breakfast at the Three Broomsticks at Universal Studios Hollywood

Enjoy a traditional English breakfast at the Three Broomsticks (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

In the mornings, you can even get a traditional English breakfast here complete with eggs, sausage, black pudding, English bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms and breakfast potatoes.

Get your photo in front of Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Hollywood

Get your photo in front of Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo credit: David Sprague, Universal Studios Hollywood)

8. Visit Hogwarts Express.

Unlike the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, unfortunately there's no Hogwarts Express Train ride here. Thankfully, though, you can still take a peek at this mythical train at Universal Studios Hollywood. A photo of this train is definitely Instagram-worthy.

Honeydukes will tempt your sugar tooth at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

Honeydukes will tempt your sugar tooth at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Indulge in sweets from Honeydukes.

Even if you’re not a “Sirius” Harry Potter fan, Honeydukes will satisfy your sweet tooth. Honeydukes is filled with sweets like Acid Pops, Exploding Bonbons, Peppermint Toads, Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees and more. Those with a sense of adventure and a strong stomach will want to try Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. You never know what flavors you’ll discover!

A golden snitch at Dervish and Banges at Universal Hollywood

A golden snitch at Dervish and Banges (Photo credit: Kevin Kolczynski, Universal Studios Hollywood)

10. Shop Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

Ollivanders and Honeydukes aren't the only shops in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Honestly, shopping Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade was my favorite part of Universal Studios Hollywood. The theming and authenticity is spot on.

Dervish and Banges sells magical items like Spectrespecs and The Monster Book of Monsters plus all sorts of Quiddich gear. Jokesters will love Zonko's for its collection of Extendable Ears, Screaming Yo-yos, Pygmy Puffs and the like. Filch's Emporium of Confiscated goods is where to go for a Marauder's Map, along with lots of other souvenirs of the Boy Who Lived. Meanwhile if you really want to get in the Harry Potter spirit, head over to Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment, where you can purchase your very own house robe.

Zonko's Harry Potter Universal Hollywood

Zonko's will delight the jokesters in your group (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

Look up to the wooden rafters inside the Owlery to find a dozen resting owls dozing, hooting, turning their heads and ruffling their feathers. There you can buy all sorts of stationery, Harry Potter stamps, and owl-themed toys and goodies. You can even drop a postcard into the post box to be delivered with a Hogsmeade postmark!

Wander past the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom while waiting in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Wander past the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom while waiting in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

11. Use Rider Switch.

If exploring Harry Potter Universal Studios with young children, Rider Switch will be your best friend. Rider Switch allows two adults or older siblings to take turns riding attractions like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey while one stays behind with the youngster, without needing to wait in line twice.

Keep your eyes and ears open for the Frog Choir at Harry Potter Universal Studios

Keep your eyes and ears open for the Frog Choir (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

12. Look for live entertainment.

During your Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood vacation, be sure to check the daily schedule to see when the Frog Choir will be playing. This a cappella group of wizards and witches sing some favorite songs from the Harry Potter movies.

The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Hollywood

The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

Be on the lookout for special entertainment during high seasons like summer and the winter holidays, too. Ooh-and-ahh-worthy nighttime light shows are projected onto Hogwarts Castle, accompanied by music and topped off with fireworks.

Feel like a Hollywood VIP with the Universal Express Pass

Feel like a Hollywood VIP with the Universal Express Pass (Photo credit: marcorubino, Depositphotos.com)

13. Purchase a Universal Express Pass.

To make the most of your visit to Universal Studios Hollywood, consider buying a Universal Express Pass. Lines for rides can be enormous at Universal Studios Hollywood, especially if visiting on summer weekends or during the winter holiday season. During our visit during the first week of January, lines stretched to 2.5 hours+! This upgrade will allow you to get to the front of the line of each attraction once. The best part? The Universal Express Pass can be used on both Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff. This will save you valuable time that you can use casting spells in Hogsmeade, drinking Butterbeer or exploring the rest of the park outside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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14. Save money on your Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood trip with Get Away Today.

Now that you’ve passed your O.W.L. exam, make sure to put your wizarding skills to the test at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To book your vacation to Hogwarts, visit getawaytoday.com or call 855-GET-AWAY. Plus, get an additional $10 off your hotel and tickets vacation package when you use promo code TravelMamas. Make sure to mention Travel Mamas sent you!

Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood Tips

Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood Tips

Save these tips for future reference!

Unless you can conjur up a memory spell, you're going to want to save these Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood tips to make the most of your vacation. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest for future reference. You might as well follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you're at it!

Be sure to take a look at these tips to maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood with kids. I bet you'll also love following in the footsteps of Harry Potter in London.

Have you ever visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in California or Florida? Let us know your tips or questions in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I did not receive any discounts or comps from Universal Studios Hollywood related to this story. This post includes affiliate links for which Travel Mamas receives a small commission at no additional cost to consumers. Your clicks and purchases help to keep Travel Mamas free for readers like you. All opinions are my own, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. We were just there last week and I am loving your tips, but I have to disagree with the express pass. Save your money – the lines are MUCH shorter than the ones at Disney.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Robin – I think it really depends on when you visit. A lot of the rides were 1 – 2.5 hours+ wait times when my family visited the first week of January. We were wishing we’d invested in the Universal Express Pass!

  2. These are all excellent tips! We’ve been to Universal a few times, and we always get the pass. Even though the lines are shorter than Disney, they’re still not THAT short, and waiting really kills the fun.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Smart woman! The lines were HUGE when we went the first week of January. Next time, I think we’ll invest in the Universal Express Pass!

  3. I always love your guides and tips so much! This one couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re currently in the process of planning a trip to Universal next year, and this info is a HUGE help.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your tips. Having a pass sounds like a great idea for getting to the fun quicker!

  5. Danielle Smith says:

    I know the kids would love to visit Harry Potter at Universal Studios! Everything looks like you’re in the movies!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      They’ve really done an incredible job of bringing Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade to life!

  6. KIM CROISANT says:

    I bet that place is a site to see. Your photos sure proved that. My son would go crazy around all that candy too. Bucket list for sure.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Honeydukes has so many unique candies to choose from! My kids loved their chocolate frogs, which come with Harry Potter trading cards.

  7. Kelly Stilwell says:

    I’ve been to the Florida park but now I want to go to the one in Hollywood! The food looks incredible, too. I think it’s time for us to do a California vacation again.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Meanwhile, my kids are begging to check out the Orlando Wizarding World. I think both parks are must for Potterheads!

  8. I remember I went here and I had to get there early to make sure we got in the Harry Potty side. It gets crowded but it is a great time!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      It’s so fun to see all of the “wizards” dressed up in their robes and everyone embracing their love of all things Harry Potter!

  9. Love You Wedding says:

    Standing and waiting in line in my pet peeve! I have to make sure we get a Universal Express Pass when we visit Universal Studios. I will also let my friend know about this. Oh, she will be thrilled. She is a huge fan of Harry Potter movies and anything related to it.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I have no patience for waiting in lines either. Thanks so much for sharing this story with your friend!

  10. Shannon Gurnee says:

    We loved visiting Universal Studios Hollywood and checking the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Next time I would love to get our kids the magic wands.

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