Walking into The Three Broomsticks and ordering a butter beer at the bar was certainly a surreal experience.
For someone like me who grew up with Harry Potter – first the books and then the movies - walking through the big stone arch that welcomes you to Hogsmeade was a bit of a squeal moment.
After two and a half years of construction the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood, which opened in 2016, is definitely a magical place. If you don’t leave here with at least a chocolate frog in your pocket, and a huge childish grin on your face, then something is up.
Walking down the main street the first thing that jumps out at you right away is the huge, life-size Hogwarts Express, waiting alongside platform 9¾, complete with friendly conductor, ready to pose for a photo with you.
If photos aren’t your thing, then there is no better place to hide than Zonko’s Joke shop and Honeydukes. Yes that means Bertie Botts every flavour beans and Chocolate Frogs (that don’t jump away) - in fact I may have overdone it in the chocolate frog department.
But of course magic is the reason we came. And magic is what you will get if you pop in to get a wand at Ollivanders. Because everyone gets their wands from Ollivanders.
The line here gets long quickly so best to line up early so you can spend as much time as you want at the eleven locations around the town where you can do ‘real’ magic.
Inside Ollivanders the walls are covered floor to ceiling with wands – just like in the movies – and the helpful workers are there to match you with your wand. I ended up with a Reed wand, meant to indicate that I strive for knowledge and I have the power of words. Great.
If you'd rather have the same wand as your favourite character, don't worry they have them too.
Then out I headed armed with my Reed wand and a map pointing to where the magic happens. Although at first I felt a little silly as a grown woman standing next to a six-year-old shouting wingardium leviosa at a shop front, the second that feather lifted I even did a little happy dance. Video will not be available for viewing. Sorry.
Wandering a little further into the village, decked in fake snow to give it that real wintery feel, you can deck yourself out in a custom measured Hogwarts robe of your chosen house.
And grab any other stationary products you might need before heading to the castle.
Now I have no idea what movie trickery was used in the building of the castle (actually I do, they make the windows smaller as they get higher to give a building the appearance of being massive) but setting foot inside Hogwarts was amazing.
Walking past Dumbledore in his office, moving portraits in the stairwells, getting tips from Harry, Ron and Hermione along the way, and even stumbling upon the sorting hat, all lead up to the most epic ride called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Fair warning here, this is not a ride for you if you have motion sickness. The combination of fast movements, hanging upside down and 3D glasses may have caused those chocolate frogs to start jumping in my stomach after all.
But it was completely worth it. Basically, the experience was like flying on a broom – while escaping a dragon and dementors – but we don’t want to spoil too much.
After all that excitement there was no better way to finish the day than sipping butterbeer inside The Three Broomsticks.
While in J.K. Rowling’s books, butterbeer is a creamy brew with the mildest touch of alcohol. At Universal, Butterbeer is an alcohol-free, foam-topped soft drink with a creamy butterscotch taste.
Inside you’ll sit under cast-iron chandeliers, weathered wood beams, and balconies brimming with curious bric-a-brac.
And if you’re hungry dig in to the tasty British fare on offer including ‘The Great Feast’, Fish & Chips, Shepherd’s Pie and Cornish Pasties.
The attention to detail everywhere you look is impressive and deserves a heap of praise. If Disneyland gets the title of ‘the happiest place on earth’, then The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood is definitely ‘the most magical’.
I know I’ll be back.
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