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Top Tips for Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Revelio! 11 secrets to help make the most of your visit

Published on: March 14, 2023

Two boys in Hogwarts robes and holding wands pose at Universal Studios Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter top tips for visiting with kids
Two boys get caught up in the fun at Universal Studios Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

Of the three Wizarding World of Harry Potter locations around the globe, the one at Universal Studios Hollywood is the closest to Seattle. Lucky for us, sunny SoCal is just a 2.5-hour direct flight away — a short hop to the land of butterbeer and chocolate frogs.

Universal Studios in California is sometimes maligned when compared to that neighboring iconic theme park in Anaheim (cough cough). But we think a visit to Universal Studios is 100-percent worth the money if your kids are Potterheads. It’s the ultimate experience for people who love all things Harry Potter.

Hogwarts Castle towers over the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section of Universal Studios Hollywood tips for families
Hogwarts Castle in all its grandeur. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

On our last visit, Hogwarts Castle and the village of Hogsmeade were dressed up for winter, complete with a dusting of snow on the peaked roofs. Just like third-year Hogwarts students who have their permission slips signed, you can visit Honeydukes Sweet Shop, Zonko’s Joke Shop, the Owl Post and more.

Make the most of your visit with our top tips:

1. Get there early.

The general parking garage ($30) is a-hike-through-a-shopping-mall away from the theme park entrance. Preferred parking is $50. Plan on extra time to get through security. (Another arrival option: Some area hotels offer a free shuttle.)

Boys in Harry Potter robes stop for treats at Honeydukes sweet shop at Universal Studios Hollywood's Wizard World of Harry Potter top tips for families
Stop for sweets at Honeydukes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel​​

2. Get your bearings.

This is important: Download the Universal Studios Hollywood app before you arrive. The park is no longer handing out paper maps. Also, the app lists wait times, making it easy to figure out your ride strategy.

3. Go in expecting to bleed galleons.

No big surprise here, everything is expensive. Set a budget, then double it.

There’s a reason J.K. Rowling is a bazillionaire. Universal Studios admission starts at a nonnegotiable $109 per person, and once you enter, it’ll take all of your willpower to not buy everything in sight. The cute little shops of Hogsmeade are filled with souvenirs for purchase, sweatshirts, stuffies, marauder maps, you name it.

A boy dressed in a Hogwarts robe holds a mug of Butterbeer at Wizarding Wold of Harry Potter top tips for families
Enjoy your butterbeer. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

That mug of butterbeer will set you back a ridiculous $15.33 — it’s basically super-sweet soda in a plastic cup. But, when in Hogsmeade …

If you want to dress up, you’ll be in good company. You’ll see lots of wizards and witches walking around in school robes. Robes at Universal run $140 apiece; we pre-purchased a knockoff on Amazon for a fraction of that price.

Boys pose in their Hogwarts robes at Universal Studios Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Looking smart in Hogwarts robes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

Universal Studios allows you to bring in your own snacks, just not a full-on four-course meal. Not as fun as ordering English pub food at the Three Broomsticks, but probably healthier and definitely more budget-friendly.

Two boys and a train engineer post in front of the Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter best tips for families
Pose for a photo in front of the Hogwarts Express. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

5. Conjure up a good geographic game plan.

The Wizarding World isn’t the only thing in Universal Studios! Hit the two Harry Potter rides first (see below), then take the escalators down to the lower lot. Save exploring Hogsmeade for the afternoon when wait times for rides will be much longer.

Do the three rides on the lower lot together (the Mummy, Transformers and Jurassic World), so you don’t waste time making multiple trips up and down the long flights of escalators. There’s also a cute dinosaur-themed playground for younger kids who may not be up for the rides.

The studio tour is a must; it’s a 60-minute tram ride through the buildings and sets where the movie-making happens. There are a few motion simulator stops as well as close encounters with dinosaurs and sharks.

Scene from Universal Studios Hollywood famous Studio Tour passing the Jaws lagoon with shark emerging best tips for families wizarding world of harry potter
An exciting moment on the can’t-miss Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

6. Ride the two Harry Potter rides.

Curious — or worried — about the rides? Look up point-of-view videos on YouTube for spoilers.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a 4D motion simulator, meaning you sit in a chair that tips you on your back and twists around while you watch a big screen and get sprayed a bit. You’re not physically careening through space, but it is dizzying. Flying on a broom looks so much easier when Harry does it. There are also dementors to watch out for, giant spiders, a dragon and the Whomping Willow.

Flight of the Hippogriff is a family-friendly roller coaster with no inversions. It’s a tame and short ride as far as roller coasters go. When you pass by Hagrid’s hut, you’ll hear Fang barking inside.

Team members are serious about height requirements (minimum 48 inches for the Forbidden Journey). There’s a chair outside the ride that you can try out to check if you’ll fit with the safety harness on.

Two boys pose in Hogwarts robes inside Ollivanders wand shop in Hogsmeade Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
Ollivanders Wand Shop. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

7. Buy the wand

The interactive wands are a must.

Go to Ollivanders Wand Shop for the wand ceremony. Afterward, you can browse the shop and let the wand choose the wizard.

Interactive wands cost $60 apiece. To save money, you could buy a secondhand wand off eBay. But you’ll miss the experience of picking out your wand at Ollivanders. Use your wand to cast spells at 13 spots around Hogsmeade. You will have to practice your wand work to get the spell just right. This was easily our family’s favorite part of our whole Wizarding World experience.

Display of wants at Ollivanders Makers of Fine Wands wand shop at Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
Wands on display at Ollivanders. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

Note: If your wand gets broken, you can take it back to Ollivanders and they’ll “fix” it for free (a.k.a. replace it with a new wand).

8. Make a pit stop.

Don’t miss the restrooms in Hogsmeade featuring a certain gurgling ghost.

9. It’s all about attitude.

Long lines? It’s hot? Don’t let the muggles get you down. Your visit is as magical as you make it.

Beauxbatons and Durmstrang perform at the village of Hogsmeade Universal Studios Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students perform in the village of Hogsmeade. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

10. For visitors with disabilities

Guests with special needs can go to guest services and ask for an Attraction Assistance Pass. It’s a paper pass that lets you go through the express lane, or get a return time if the current wait is more than 45 minutes. The guest services team members don’t ask for a diagnosis; they ask why queuing is difficult. You need to explain what could happen if you stand in line for long periods of time.

You can call ahead to request an AAP or just get it at the park when you arrive. The pass allows six people on the pass, so your whole family can ride together.

11. Note this travel tip.

Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) is the closest in the area to Universal Studios, but you’ll find more flights and more rental car options at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), roughly 45 minutes away from the park.

Dragon atop a building in Renton Washington is a fun complement to a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Can’t make it to California? Spot this nifty dragon atop a building in Renton. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

Bonus: Did you know there is a dragon in Renton?

Unlike Orlando, the Wizarding World at Universal Hollywood does not have Diagon Alley with a fire-breathing dragon. But we do have a local dragon curled up atop a business building in downtown Renton (826 South Third St.). This dragon, named Erasmus, lights up at night and can even change colors. The art installation is a nod to Dungeons & Dragons, a game created in Renton.

More spring break ideas for PNW families

Editor’s note: This article was first published in 2022 and updated for 2023.

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