I must confess, I'm not one for amusement park rides, I'll go on them, I just don't care one way or the other… but I like places like Disneyland and Universal Studios, mostly for the character appeal. Being a HUGE Harry Potter fan, Universal Studios makes me happy. I've been to Universal in Orlando so I wanted to visit Universal Hollywood at Christmastime. I love holiday decor so so much, and that part was more important to me than riding the rides. If you go during the holidays be prepared for very, very long waits, for everything. Rides, food and shops. I wanted to walk around and just soak it all in. It was decorated with spectacular detail. It certainly doesn't disappoint.
Honestly, I was most interested in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So we choose to concentrate on that, rather than the rest of Universal.
There are currently two attractions; Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey which is a mostly virtual ride but does include some real-life, stomach-turning moves and The Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a family-friendly roller coaster.
While I did not ride them in Hollywood, I did in Orlando and they are both fantastic. The Forbidden Journey is probably my favorite attraction ever. You start by walking through the castle. The details here are amazing. If you're a fan you'll find familiarity as you wind through the passageways and corridors of Hogwarts. You'll make your way through Dumbledore's office, the Defense against the Dark Arts Classroom, the room of the requirement, and my favorite; the Gryffindor common room. The ride itself is an indoor thrill ride, you'll soar above the castle grounds with a combination of technology and good old fashion thrill ride fun!
The best part of the Wizarding World is the atmosphere. The very first time I walked through the gates I felt a tear escape my eye. No joke. Of course, I am a crazy fan... but the feel of Hogsmeade Village, with its snow-capped roofs and jagged building design is nothing short of extraordinary. I could spend hours just walking around and looking at every, amazing detail.
My favorite shop is Ollivanders. The wand chooses the wizard and all that. You must buy a wand. You must walk around Hogsmeade with your wand out. I promise, no one will look twice at you. Bonus points for wearing your house robe. If you buy the interactive wand there are at least 15 magical opportunities for you to use your special wand.
You can buy all the Harry Potter memorabilia you can imagine at the shops, it's truly spectacular. There are plenty of options; The Owl Post, Zonko's Joke Shop, Dervish and Banges, Flitche's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment, Gladrags Wizaedwear and Hogsmeade Station. You may need additional luggage for all the cool things you'll want to buy!
When you are in Hogsmeade you absolutely must eat at the Three Broomsticks. Yes, the lines are usually long, but let me tell you, they've got it down, the lines move very fast and the food is fantastic! The Fish and Chips are a must-try as is the Shepard's pie. I love the rustic tavern feel, it truly feels as though you are a part of the Wizarding world. Part of what I love so much about Harry Potter is the transparency, when you read the books they are so well written you can feel it. Then when you watch the movies, you say "this is exactly how I envisioned it". Seeing it in person brings it all together and makes you believe in the magic of Harry Potter.
In the back of the Three broomsticks is Hog's Head, this is the place to stop for Butterbeer and Pumpkin juice, you can even get beer, wine and mixed drinks here. During the winter months, you can get hot Butterbeer which you cannot live without, I promise. If hot is not available you still need to try the cold version. In my opinion, the iced Butterbeer is better than the blended version. You can also buy them throughout Hogsmeade at Magic Neep carts.
During the Christmas season, the main attraction is the Lights at Hogwarts castle. The light show is every evening, Universal updates their website with all holiday attraction times and locations.
This was the highlight of our trip. It's a spectacular light show with the Castle as the backdrop, set to Harry Potter theme music, it was truly magical and I did not want it to end.
There is so much to see here at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, literally every single detail is perfected. So take your time, enjoy all there is to see. Oh, and here is a great tip; take an Uber or Lyft to the park. You'll thank me later.
The Bridge and River tour is a scenic 3-hour bicycle tour will take you from the Upper West Side of New York City up and over the George Washington Bridge for a ride along the river on Route 9W. Get the full touring experience and leave New York City for a few hours. During the ride, we make stops at Grants Tomb Memorial on the Upper West Side.