The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

Jacob and I stole away to Ojai earlier this month for our dear friends' wedding - but that's a later blog post. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood conveniently opened last month - so naturally we had to stay a couple of extra days in L.A. and include a stop at Hogwarts. It was every bit as magical as you'd expect! I fully indulged in the "tourist at theme park" role for the day and I loved each moment. 

If you're like us, theme parks, big crowds and touristy things aren't usually your thing. Here are a few tips that I found really helped us on our day at the park:

It's smaller than Orlando: I haven't been to the Florida park in person yet, but the internet shows me that it's a lot bigger than the Hollywood one. We made it through all things we wanted to do in about two hours, and were able to spend the rest of the day enjoying the other parts of the park.

Go on an off-season weekday: We went on a Monday in early May. I bought two general admission tickets and general parking - nothing special, though I did contemplate the VIP passes. We got there right at 9:00a.m. when the park was opening, and didn't have to wait in any lines to get in. In fact, we didn't have to wait long in any line for any of the rides! 

The best bathrooms: are next to Ollivander's Wand Experience. They're clean and the stalls are aplenty in the ladies' room. Plus Moaning Myrtle is in there :)

Ollivander's Wand Experience: was the only line wait we had. If I'd known all it would be was a short wand-choosing-kid ceremony with a crowd of 25 other people, I would have skipped it and gone straight into the wand shop! If you get a wand, there are spots all over the park where you can stand and point your wand into a magical shop window to make cool things happen.

The butterbeer was delicious. Well worth the short wait (they're all over the park but the lines were fairly steady and growing throughout the day.)

Shopping for merchandise: I thought it was cool that most of the stores in Diagon Alley were actually connected, so if you went into the owl post you could also look through (and come out of) Gladrags WizardWear. I had to go into every store and look at every little piece of merchandise, but if you're looking for the best and widest selection, head to the gift shop inside Hogwarts!

Dining: We went through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter first thing in the morning and ate breakfast beforehand. It was too early for us to eat at Three Broomsticks, but there you'll find bangers & mash, shepherd's pie and other English fare. Side note: If you eat in the outdoor Mexican food court in Simpson's land, make sure you say tacos instead of nachos. I made that mistake :(

The other rides in Universal Studios: seemed a little jerky and dated after riding the Hogwarts one (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™) first thing. Still, it was fun going on the studio tour after two decades since my last visit! I still got scared at the drop during the Jurassic Park ride.

We did everything we wanted and left the park by 2:00p.m. If we'd had kids or family with us, I'm sure it would have been an all-day affair! We had a ton of fun playing tourist and getting swept up in the world of Harry Potter. I was really impressed by the architecture, design and production of Harry Potter and in many parts of the park itself. There's a lot going on and a lot of moving pieces. It's incredible to see it all happen so seamlessly!

More on the rest of our L.A. trip soon!