As mentioned in my DIY Harry Potter tote bag tutorial, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is set to open here in Hollywood later this week (April 7th to be exact). But tons of “soft openings” have been happening over the past couple of months, so last week, Squirt and I headed over to Universal Studios to check it out. A full post on Universal will be coming later, but in terms of the park in general, suffice to say that Disneyland has spoiled me. Universal is definitely not as toddler friendly (and it’s not really a park for small kids so I guess that isn’t their goal). I did end up buying a pass since it was only $40 more than the one day ticket (for So Cal residents) and I’m interested to see just how often I actually use it. The nice thing is that Universal is super close to my mom’s office, so I parked there (free parking woot woot!) and she drove Squirt and me up to the park. Not paying for parking = awesome.
Okay, so onto WWHP itself. First, let me declare my Potterhead status. I love Harry Potter. I was one of those
freaks awesome people standing in line at midnight to buy the newest book. I have already ordered my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (affiliate link). Once a year, I start the series at the beginning and read all seven books. Oh, and I have a Harry Potter tattoo. So I am a legit HP nerd, and proud of it. To say that I had high expectations for WWHP would be an understatement. From my first visit alone, I overall was really impressed with WWHP. The detail is amazing and I had a lot of fun exploring Hogsmeade and checking everything out. Because I made my journey with Squirt, I didn’t get to ride either attraction, but it seemed like everyone who did was enjoying them. I am not sure how WWHP is going to hold up to the crowds, and that is my biggest concern (along with toddler unfriendliness, more on that later). But enough from me, let’s check it out!
The entrance to WWHP can be found very close to the entrance of Universal, on the right hand side behind Shrek 4D (which I’m assuming will be transformed into Diagon Alley soon, if the popularity of WWHP is what is expected). In the front entrance is the Hogwarts Express, which sadly does not run, but does make for some awesome pictures. The conductor (not pictured) in front is also really fun in his interactions with guests as they enter.
Immediately to the left of the entrance is Zonko’s and Honeyduke’s, both of which were some of my favorite parts of WWHP.
Honeyduke’s was probably my favorite of the stores I went into. It was themed so well and everything is so bright and colorful. Just down the road from Honeyduke’s is The Three Broomsticks, the main eatery in Hogsmeade (though there are several butterbeer and snack carts throughout). I was super excited for The Three Broomsticks, but it ended up being one of the biggest disappointments, not because of the food or atmosphere, but because of how unprepared Universal is for moms with small kids. I take Squirt to Disneyland by myself all the time and it is never a hardship, but being at Universal with him on my own was tough. First, strollers are not allowed in TTB, so I had to carry Squirt, the diaper bag, and my (heavy) tray of food on my own. There were plenty of employees around who could have offered to carry my tray for me (I feel like at Disneyland, they would have), but I had to get to our table on my own. Even though TTB is a counter service restaurant, they have employees to walk you to your table. I asked for a highchair and was taken to a small table for two, in the middle of two larger tables. I had to put Squirt in the highchair across the table from me, which made lunch both difficult and dangerous. I had to continually reach across the table to give him his lunch and when he started to kick the table and almost knock his highchair over, I had to get up and move around to him (more than once). And since I was at a two person table, I had no where to put the diaper bag. It meant that I didn’t really get to enjoy my lunch and ended up throwing most of it away. But let’s focus on the food itself…
The two highlights for me were the butterbeer goodies. First is the butterbeer potted cream, which is only available at WWHP Hollywood (West Coast is the best coast y’all). It was freaking amazing and I am really bummed I didn’t get to finish it (and since it is in a glass dish, I couldn’t take it with me). Of course, when in WWHP you must drink some butterbeer. I liked it, and will definitely order it again, but the combo of the cream and the butterbeer was a little much.
The entrees at TTB are all standard English fare, which would not be my first choice, but the fish and chips was good. A little greasy, but in terms of theme park food, it was pretty tasty for the price.
There is plenty of shopping to do in Hogsmeade, but the main attractions are Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff, neither of which I have experienced yet, but I will definitely keep you posted. Forbidden Journey is inside the Hogwarts castle, which is super cool to look at (though it seemed small to me).
The views of Hogwarts are pretty impressive, but I was a bigger fan of the village of Hogsmeade…
So what’s my overall verdict? Well, I love Harry Potter so much I am willing to overlook some of the design flaws in the space, mainly, everything is just too small. I was there when WWHP wasn’t even officially open (ride wait times were less than 20 minutes), but the stores and walkways were really crowded. It is going to be tough to navigate (especially with a stroller) once it is officially open and packed. But it was definitely a magical experience to be in the world of Harry Potter. I’m really hoping for an expansion and I really can’t wait to go back sans toddler to get the full experience.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? Do you have plans to visit Wizarding World West?