Because of its popularity, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can be quite crowded at Universal Studios Hollywood, but you don't need to be an actual witch or wizard to find a way to do it all! There are several promotions for park guests that allow Harry Potter fans to avoid long lines, and lots of must-see experiences for all Hogwarts students and alumni to enjoy. On an average peak day, the wait for The Forbidden Journey in Hogwarts Castle can climb to 2-hours by mid-morning and will hold steady around 100-150 minutes throughout the duration of the day! Yes, the line is part of the ride itself in that you get to see the detailed greenhouse, corridors, Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor Common Room and the sorting hat, but there are still ways to see (mostly) everything without waiting for 2 hours ride.
7 Tips for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:
1) Get in Early!
One way to move through the castle more quickly is to stay at a Preferred Hotel close to the park. Park guests who do this are granted early access into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour before the rest of the park opens. You’ll still get to walk the full castle route (except for the line-extension through the greenhouse) but you’ll only wait for 10-25 minutes to ride. And if you love the ride, swing back around and ride again while you still have the chance!
The line for Flight of the Hippogriff can also fill quickly, especially since only one Hippogriff is filled at a time, but the ride is very short and provides excellent views of the castle and grounds.
2) Front of the Line Passes
If you don't want to get up too early, or if you want to ride all/most of the major attractions in the park, I highly suggest you get the Front of the Line pass. The name of the pass speaks for itself, and it quite literally takes you through a separate ride entrance to the very front of the line. For the Forbidden Journey ride, you will enter into a separate “moving staircase” area of the castle where portraits speak to each other, and then you'll walk parallel to the general line, moving through Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and the Gryffindor Common Room. For Flight of the Hippogriff, you walk parallel to the general line and move straight to the loading dock. For reference, when there was a 50 minute wait for this coaster, I only waiting 3-4 minutes before boarding.
The only downside to this is that you are only allowed to go on each ride 1 time. However, I have another work-around:
3) Single-Rider Line
If you’re like me, you want to walk through the full castle and see all the rooms in Hogwarts, but if the line is too long and you don’t have a Front of the Line Pass, the Single Rider line is the way to go! After you store your bag (if you have one), you’ll go up a separate staircase to the left that’s marked “Single Rider” and you’ll only see the Gryffindor Common Room before being placed in the line to board the ride. This process could take 5 minutes or it could take 30 (or more) based on how many other single riders there are (and spots for you). Another tip would be to use your Front of the Line Pass or early morning access to do the full walk-through, and then choose Single Rider for the rest of the day if you decide to ride again.
4) Eat at off-peak hours
The Three Broomsticks has one of the best menus in the park, and don’t be put off if there’s a small line outside. The restaurant is counter-service and runs very smoothly with the pick-up counter coordinating to your register number. If you’re there in the morning, breakfast at The Three Broomsticks is a great option. The breakfast meals are filling and are a few dollars cheaper than lunch/dinner, and they also come with a drink. If you’re a vegetarian like myself, you shouldn’t have an issue switching out a side item for an extra serving of something else on the plate. I'm also happy to report that they've added a vegetarian option to their lunch/dinner menu that consists of asparagus, mashed potatoes, peas, and tomatoes.
You will get help from staff when it comes to finding a table during busy times, but don’t forget that there’s also seating outside behind the restaurant. Butterbeer is also a must, and even though Universal Hollywood doesn’t have the full Florean Fortescue ice cream parlor like the Wizarding World in Orlando, you CAN buy pre-packed ice cream from several of the food and drink carts.
5) Interactive Wands
Especially if you’re going with children (or if you’re a child at heart) you’ll want to get an interactive wand that allows you to cast spells at over a dozen stations in storefronts around Hogsmeade. The wands can be purchased on-site in Hogsmeade or in other Universal gift shops around the park, and yes they’re a bit pricey at $47, but unlike real wands, they are not unique to the wizard or witch. So in theory, you can share a wand with your friends or siblings to help save on the expense.
6) Immerse Yourself in School/House Spirit
Embrace your inner Harry Potter-loving self! Still following the early-morning or late-evening timeline, take some time to enjoy all of the details in the shops. If you want to see a wand fitting, you can even attend a ceremony in Ollivander’s wand shop. Make sure to send a postcard or letter from the Owl Post so that it gets an official Hogsmeade stamp, and for the women, you can hear Moaning Myrtle in the girl’s bathroom! Finally, don’t forget to see the Frog Choir and Triwizard Rally on the outdoor stage!
7) Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts
This new light show is only scheduled to happen during peak seasons, but if you have the chance to watch the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts show, you’ll want to get in a place where you can see as much of the castle as possible. The projection show (video below) is absolutely stunning, and fortunately for guests, it runs every 15-20 minutes over the course of an hour. In the summer, the show would play 4 times a night, and we’re assuming the show will follow a similar schedule this holiday season.
Watch the full Wizarding World of Harry Potter light show below: