Dreams are coming true here... I'll be honest, I am not the biggest theme park fan. I love a museum, a movie, a fashion exhibit, a late lunch...etc. I've been to Disneyland twice since living in Los Angeles and I am saving the next trip for my future children. But the second I heard about Universal Studios opening a Harry Potter themed park a few years back I was not far from booking a ticket to Florida, Orlando, not Miami. Fortunately, the Los Angeles park got it's own version not too long after and I immediately felt the immense pressure to live out my childhood fantasy. I have since been twice, most recently with my sister who of course felt the same strong calling to venture into the replica of Hogsmeade, the fictional town outside Harry's famed boarding school, Hogwarts. For all fans hoping for a Diagon Alley don't worry, the Los Angeles location still includes all the charming little shops your small English countryside town dreams inspire, just beware of the butterbeer, the sugar content alone is worse then the Cruciatus curse! Enjoy. 

My first thought upon entering this magical place was; it's small! Which there is no sugar coating around, I haven't been to the original in Florida, however, I have heard that it is bigger and has a bit more than it's Los Angeles counterpart. However, I will say that it was still a wonderful experience and most certainly worth doing, especially if you're not willing to commit to a vacation in Orlando. 

We arrived pretty early, despite the theme park's own advice to visit later in the day, as we just couldn't contain our own excitement. However, I think I will have learned by my third visit to go in the afternoon/early evening, as the lines will be shorter, the sun less blaring and the atmosphere a bit more like the Hogwarts we expect; particularly one with less strollers. 


On our way into Hollywood, my sister and I had quite a long drive and so per her suggestion we listened to a perfectly befitting podcast called Binge Mode: Harry Potter which offers wonderfully thought out recaps and commentary on each and every Harry Potter book. My sister absolutely loves the podcast and apparently they also recap the wildly popular Game of Thrones show as well. It was fun listening to some of the thematic connections made by the hosts who clearly have done their research and are great fun to listen to. I'll be honest that one of the things I look forward to most about becoming a parent someday is re-reading the books to my future children. Right now, my only option is a sleepy French bulldog who's likely to be much more interested in chewing paper edges than the magical journey of a young British orphan, but I digress.

Like I said before, the attraction is setup to be Hogsmead, the small fictional town nearest to Hogwarts, which in the books and movies is typically frequented by the students in the wintertime while at school, hence the snow-capped buildings. Hogsmead still has the infamous wand shop from Diagon Alley and candy store, among others. You can certainly get any and all the different wizarding house paraphernalia you like and I am fairly certain an unsolicited sales person determined I belonged in Hufflepuff, based on limited and likely unfounded, anecdotal information I might add. 

However, I was most excited about the thoughtfulness behind Three Broomsticks's, the tavern-like eatery Harry and his friends would drink butterbeer at assuming the legal drinking age in the magical world (and Europe) ceases to exist. I think they did a fantastic job creating a very on brand menu, with turkey legs, fish & chips, Shepard's pie and also some reliably kid friendly snacks. I also really appreciated the Hog's Head bar, with a full bar menu; a perfect stop before waiting in a 45 minute line for the main attraction. 

And a main attraction it was. I loved it so much on my first visit, that I got everyone to ride it four times that day. I am extremely impressed with how well drawn to scale the castle was, appearing perfectly from every angle we could see it, let alone the fabulous interiors which housed real set designs from the films. On my first visit the lines weren't too long, particularly because we went later in the afternoon, however, my second visit was quite a long line and unfortunately without a refreshment from the Hog's Head bar. But once inside the castle, the decoration is truly spectacular, with all the elements that came to life in both my childhood imagination and on the big screen, the portrait of the singing lady being my favorite one of all. 

All the elements and digital effects leading up to the ride were great and the ride itself very entertaining, my only wish is that it lasted about 20 minutes longer! It was combination of traditional ride effects and big screens with very effective wind effects; I really felt like I was flying around Hogwarts and it was so fun. My only complaint is the big spider who spits in everyone's face which I found very distasteful. I really hope they invent a broomstick I can fly on before the end of my lifetime, especially for those of us living in Los Angeles traffic. 

The other attraction wasn't too special but fun for younger kids I suppose and had a nice little setup resembling Hagrid's home. After many rides we eventually collected a bunch of treats from the candy shop and made our way back into the real world. I must say, visiting this place was very fun but left me craving a long weekend experience in the English countryside, with Harry Potter themed activities and an open bar. If anyone in England reads this can you please create an opportunity for us all to go to Hogwarts, but without any tests or scary spiders please? 


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