“Chloe, do you want a wand?” my friend Lala asked her daughter.
“I don’t know, mom, do you want a wand?” Chloe asked, with one eyebrow raised. Her question wasn’t unwarranted; after all, we were two 35-year-olds spending time with a tween at a theme park, and we were the ones acting like children.
But can you really blame us? I’ve been hooked on Harry Potter since I picked up my brother’s copy of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” that was lying around the house. Since then, I’ve read every book and watched every movie multiple times (and then read them and watched them all again before the last film came out). I geeked out at Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station and, when they ran out of tickets at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, I consoled myself by going on a Harry Potter walking tour around London.
I’ve eaten Chocolate Frogs and Every Flavour Beans, written my thoughts in Potter journals and worn Potter shirts, socks and glasses. So, yes, I was very excited to be at the newest The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios Hollywood.
And I wasn’t the only one. In fact, demand for tickets on opening day was so high that Universal Studios had to halt online sales for the first time. I wasn’t lucky enough to be there on opening day; my day at the magical world created by J.K. Rowling happened a couple of weeks later.
I gasped at the entrance of Hogsmeade, peeking at the snow-capped roofs that I had only seen before on paper and screens. “Please respect the spell limits,” the sign read. “Oh my god oh my god oh my god,” I said to Lala, clinging to her with one hand and trying to Snapchat with my other hand.
We were surrounded by wizards and muggles who were all there to spend a beautiful Friday.
Looking at the people who had come in full costume, I couldn’t help but wish I had thought of bringing the Moaning Myrtle costume I had made for the last Potted Potter run in Manila. But I told myself that having two unicorns on my sweater were plenty of magic—a fact affirmed by a wizard who said, “Bringing the unicorn pride, I love it!”
Outside Hogwarts Express, people were lining up to pose with the cute conductor.
We walked into Zonko’s Joke Shop and stared at the dizzying display of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products like the Decoy Detonator, Screaming Yo-Yos, Up Hill Spring Sprong and U-No-Poo.
But the true attractions were, of course, the adorable Pygmy Puffs. Each adoption was announced gaily with bells and cheers.
The shop was connected to Honeydukes, and inside was happy pandaemonium.
People were grabbing Chocolate Cauldrons, Jelly Slugs, Peppermint Toads, Fudge Flies, Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. There were sweets in jars, candy floss and sour worms in bags and fridge shelves lined with Pumpkin Juice and Gilly Water.
But there was something else I wanted to drink. Butterbeer was on top of my Wizarding World wish list. We joined the line of butterbeer-thirsty muggles and I ordered a frozen one. It was delicious as I had imagined.
Everywhere, young wizards stood in front of windows, casting spells. We looked on curiously until we realized that their wands actually worked… Oh yes, interactive wands are available at the theme park (interactive for $47.95, non-interactive for $39.95) and they even work at other Wizarding World parks.
Anyone can buy any wand but inside Ollivanders’—a special experience was reserved for a lucky few: the Ollivanders interactive wand experience.
Chloe was selected for the wand experience and, I swear, I got goosebumps as the right wand finally chose her, a ray of light shining on her and wind blowing her hair back.
We walked into Hogwarts and surely my jaw dropped after I spotted the Sorting Hat, gawked at Dumbledore’s office and stared at the talking and moving portraits.
We were there for the Forbidden Journey ride, and they weren’t kidding when they said it would take you through Hogwarts’ classrooms and corridors and allow you to soar above castle grounds. I never thought I’d close my eyes through a Quidditch match, but man, oh man, the Forbidden Journey made me crazy dizzy.
I’ve never been good at going on crazy rides, and my love for Harry Potter wasn’t enough to calm my queasy stomach. But I tried kept my eyes open, though, long enough to come face to face with a dragon.
Soon it was time for lunch.
We headed to Three Broomsticks where I asked the theme park staff, “Um, where can we hear the house elves? We heard that there’s a spot where you can listen to them work?”
I love how they didn’t even flinch at my question. We were pointed in the right direction, just near a flight of stairs, and Netflix’s new series is a rad supercut of nostalgia, a pitch-perfect visual ’80s mixtape we were able to hear the elves clattering and banging away as they prepared the food.
I was excited to see the menu because I had read that everything had been tested and approved by J.K. herself. There were Bangers and Mash, Beef Sunday Roast, Shepherd’s Pie with Garden Salad, Spare Ribs Platter, Beef, Lamb & Guinness Stew and Fish & Chips. There was also a Great Feast, a platter of food big enough for four people to share.
I decided to order the Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken and it was delicious. There were Sticky Toffee Pudding and Chocolate Trifle for dessert but the half chicken I ate was so filling I had to skip it.
There were moments of magic everywhere if you kept your eyes open: props and costumes from the films; the angry Monster Book of Monsters; the frog choir; Gilderoy Lockhart preening; Moaning Myrtle giggling in the toilets.
There were all kinds of merchandise, too (everything from sweaters and scarves to Marauders Maps and Remembralls) and a working Owl Post—yes, you can send mail from Hogsmeade.
It was wonderful to spend a day losing our muggle minds at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we left carrying with us plenty of magic to bring back to the muggle world.