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A trip to Los Angeles is not complete anymore without a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood and Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The Harry Potter book series has created not only a wonderful read (times 7!), but it has created memories for children and parents alike. I can still remember sitting on the edge of my children’s beds and reading them the first chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It is one of my most cherished moments, and each of my children owns every book in the series!
J.K. Rowling’s unbelievably engaging and savvy imagination has captivated generations of children and adults, and the characters are carved in pop culture and households everywhere forever. Just the other day, I was speaking to a friend, and we were discussing a situation common to each of us wherein we said, “she who must not be named”, and then we both laughed because we realized the reference. I also overheard a conversation between young adults recently where one of them stated, “I always wanted to be Hermione.”
It makes me wonder how J.K. Rowling herself must feel knowing that she has etched her creativity on the world in such an everlasting way. Her story, and how she came to write these wonderful works of art, is of course now legendary. Check out her bio here from her website.
To step into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is to witness firsthand the popularity of the book series. It is full to overflowing with people! It is fashioned after Hogsmeade, the fictional village in the Harry Potter book series which is also home to the train station for the Hogwart’s Express. Visitors enter under a stone archway with a sign reading “Hogsmeade” and “Please Respect The Spell Limits”. The magic begins before you even enter!
The replica of the village itself is exactly what you would expect, but of course, the movies helped lock the images in our minds prior, so this was easily achieved by the architects. It is, nonetheless, an enchanting experience to walk through Hogsmeade and be surrounded by all things Harry Potter. It also gave me yet another appreciation for J.K. Rowling and the detail of her imagination.
The village shops include Honeyduke’s candy store, Zonko’s Joke Shop, Dervish and Banges, The Owl Post, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, Gladrags Wizardwear, and of course, Ollivander’s wand shop. I mean, what trip to Hogsmeade would be complete without Ollivander’s (I don’t know which was more prevalent in the wand shop though – wands or people!)
The shops offer for sale many of the items from the books including chocolate frogs, every-flavour jelly beans, Pygmy puffs, screaming yo-yos, golden snitches and brooms galore, as well as sweaters, shirts and other clothing depicting each of the Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin houses. You can even buy the official robes.
The Owl Post has stuffed owls in every shape and size, as well as all things stationery including feather-topped pens and wax stamping sets. There is also a functional mailbox outside, and if you place a letter or postcard in it, it will bear a stamp from the official Hogsmeade Post Office upon arrival at its destination. Pretty cool, eh!
And, the piece de resistance is Ollivander’s Wand Shop. To walk into this shop is to walk into the book series itself. It features wall to wall wands in every shape, size and name you can imagine. Of course, there is the Harry Potter, the Hermione Granger, and the Ron Weasley, and, dare I type it, the Lord Voldemort amongst many others, and there are also wands which tell you the personality characteristics you should have to own it, based on the type of wood it is made of. At certain times, you can also attend a “wand pairing” show and have a wand chosen for you. One of the other fun things, is that you can purchase “interactive wands”, which come with a map of the village displaying various places and corroborating spells, which can be done to make random magical things happen.
To top things off, there are two rides to choose from in Hogsmeade. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey takes riders on a ride soaring above Hogwart’s and visiting many of the magical creatures featured in the books, along the way. Flight of the Hippogriff is a roller coaster-style ride above Hagrid’s pumpkin patch and his hut.
And lastly, for hungry muggles, there is a restaurant in Hogsmeade called the Three Broomsticks which offers traditional British and medieval-type fare – turkey legs, corn on the cob, fish and chips and Shepherd’s pie (it was delicious by the way!) and Cornish pasties.
There is a pub at the back of the restaurant called the Hog’s Head pub which serves all kinds of drinks including pumpkin juice and … wait for it … butterbeer! Frosted shortbread anyone? Of course, they are keeping the recipe secret, but that’s what it tasted like to me! I have to say though that it was the perfect cold frosted drink for a hot day at Universal Studios, and I indulged myself more than once in it’s non-alcoholic splendour!
I very much enjoyed my trip to Hogsmeade … my only wish is that I could have turned back time and taken my kids when they were much younger, so they could have enjoyed the magic as children. Maybe I should just visit the wand shop ….
P.S. Wasn’t it clever the way J.K. Rowling purposely taught us all how to pronounce “Hermione” in the second book?