When my 8-year-old daughter started becoming super obsessed with Harry Potter, I knew it was finally time for us to go to Universal Studios. For years I had wanted to go, but I knew that a lot of the rides were geared towards adults and bigger kids. Plus, Harry Potter was one of the main reasons to go to Universal. If she didn’t care about Harry Potter, then she wouldn’t get much out of it.
With her Harry Potter fandom in mind, I created a plan that allowed us to get the most out the experience. I constructed a plan that focused on delighting my daughter by making as much of the day as possible about enjoying Harry Potter.
Strong Recommendation -go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter until your kid has read at least the first 3 books of the series or seen the first three movies. The third Book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the first book to really take place in the town of Hogsmeade. That town is the setting for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood. So while you would still enjoy the park if you knew Harry Potter a bit, the place becomes SO MUCH MORE MAGICAL if you’ve been there through the books.
Main Pillars of This Approach
- Make all things Harry Potter priority #1
- Deprioritize other parts of Universal Studios that kid won’t care about
- Do all of your eating, drinking, shopping and even going to the bathroom in Harry Potter Land.
- It’s not about you. It’s about the kid. Make the kid super happy, and you’ll be happy.
Key Steps Ahead of Time
- Read the books and watch the movies
- Buy Tickets in Advance
- Arrive Before the Park Opens
- Find the Shortest Line to Enter
- Get an Express Ticket
Set a Souvenir Budget
Get the Lay of the Land Ahead of Time
Unlike a lot of other theme park experiences, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter allows visitors to step into real life places that are referenced in the books.
We reviewed the various attractions on the Universal Studios website. For us that meant checking out a lot of the stores like Honey Dukes and the Owl Post.
We also watched this video on YouTube:
Come dressed in your Harry Potter gear
My daughter wore a Gryffindor t-shirt, and employees called it out several times. It was a nice way to get into the spirit of the place and also to feel like part of the club. She could have worn a robe, but it was a hot day. Glad she didn’t wear it because it was hot, and she would have been uncomfortable with it on. If the weather were cooler, she totally would have worn it.
Ride the Harry Potter Ride Right Away
See the Olivanders Show
It may be a little scary for tiny tots. There was a little boy about 4 years old who was freaked out being the dark room with super dramatic music playing.
Buy a Wand at Olivanders
These wands allow you enable little mini attractions by casting “spells” throughout the park. When you’re walking through the park, you see people with the wands giddily trying to get the attractions to work. I was initially unsure if my daughter should get the wand, but I’m really glad that she did. Some of the most fun she had was casting these spells.
Have an Olivanders Employee Help You
There are lots of wands to choose from, and honestly they all look pretty much the same from the outside. There are two types of wands. One wall has wands based on characters from the books. For example, you can get Hermine or Ron’s wand. On the other wall, there are regular wands. My daughter has always had a hard time making her mind up when it comes to buying things. So this story was kind of a nightmare. So when i insisted she get help from an employee, things got much better.
The employee asked her several questions such as, “how would you describe yourself?” What’s your favorite subject in school?”
She then went behind a closed door and came back a couple of minutes later with two wands to choose from. She explained what each one was and to my surprise my daughter made her decision quiet quickly.
You can use the map that comes with the wand. You can also stroll around and look for markers on the ground.
Interact with the Cast Members
There are lots of local experts stationed around the wand areas. They are all in character. One talked to us about doing research on a “muggle device.” It’s super charming and really extends the feeling of actually being in the same world as Harry Potter.
Soak in All the Details
Explore every nook and cranny. The area isn’t that big. But there’s some areas that slightly off the beaten path. Even the bathroom has sights and sounds familiar to Harry Potter fans.
Eat at the 3 Broom Sticks
Again this establishment comes straight out of the books. And the whole theme of it all and the decorations help you forget that you’re basically in an amusement park cafeteria. I got ribs, and the kid had the kid’s fish and chips.
Visit All of the Shops
We were here for Harry Potter, so there was no point in going to any of the other souvenir stores in the park.
Don’t miss the Monster Book of Monsters.
Here’s the itinerary we took:
- Harry Potter Ride
- Olivander’s Wand Shop
- Hippogrph Ride
- Olivander’s Wand Shop
- 3 Broom Sticks
- 3 Broom Sticks
Front Gate Parking – $50
Preferred Parking – $35
General Parking $27