Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the most popular sightseeing destinations in California. Now with the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening before the summer, it will draw even more families and Harry Potter fans to Los Angeles.

First there was a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Next, the attraction opened in Osaka, Japan, and now Hollywood, California officially opened a Scottish Hogsmeade Village on April 7, 2016.

Inspired by the best selling author J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters and Warner Brothers films, it’s an ideal multi-generation activity that everyone will enjoy.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Alan Gilmore, the supervising art director for the Harry Potter movie series worked on the new theme park to bring the magical film set to life in Hollywood. The buildings look more than 1,000 years old settling into their foundation. There is moss and soot on the castle walls, snow-capped rooftops with icicles and crooked chimneys throughout. The movie’s music soundtrack streams out from hidden speakers to enhance the experience.

Enter the attraction and step into the train station for a interactive photo riding a replica of the Hogwarts Express train. Scarves hang on hooks for guests to drape around their neck, before sitting in the “movie magic” train. The seat fabric colors and the luggage racks above the train compartment are the same ones used in the movie. Pretend you are leaving from King’s Cross Station in London to the magical wizarding school.

One of the biggest draws is riding the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” located within Hogwarts Castle. Guests enjoy the experience of riding a broomstick, while wearing Quidditch-inspired goggles. Soar high alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione above Hogwarts, while participating in a Quidditch match and escaping a dragon attack. This hyper-realistic 3D and HD journey is not only thrilling, but a white knuckle whirl at times.

Just as much fun, but not as scary, is the enchanting family coaster, “Flight of the Hippogriff.” It’s Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor coaster ride. Guests see an animatronic Hippogriff sitting on a nest, vocally greeting guests while turning its head. Swoop down and swirl around a pumpkin patch setting.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Be sure to buy your Harry Potter fans an interactive wand for $47.95. Stand on a gold medallion in front of 11 different interactive windows along Diagon Alley to perform “magic” with a flick of the wrist, while casting out, “Wingardium Leviosa.” Lanterns light up, water squirts from a frog’s mouth and music plays from a treasure box.

When hunger hits, enjoy one of the best dining experiences in the amusement park. Chefs prepare authentic Scottish food that includes Beef Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding; bangers and mash; fish and chips; beef, lamb and Guinness stew inside the Three Broomsticks dining hall. Adults over 21 years can enjoy a beverage or libation at Hog’s Head pub next to Three Broomsticks. They serve White Rat Whiskey, Ocky Rot and kegs of Butterbeer. Non-alcoholic beverages include pumpkin juice.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Bring home a sweet souvenir from Honeydukes shelves stacked with colorful sweets, including Pink Coconut Ice creamy coconut confection, Jelly Slugs, Candy in a Can, Cocoballs, Clippy’s Clip Joint Clippings, Exploding BonBons, Peppermint Toads, and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. The Chocolate Frogs contain a wizard trading card in each box.

Before leaving, walk into the Owl Post and get a special Hogsmeade Owl Post postmark stamped on an envelope or postcard. Be sure to look up and notice the the animatronic owls. They hoot while turning their heads and giving visitors  life-like glances.

For those seeking overnight accommodations, The nearby Garland hotel is a hip, retro-cool 1970s-style boutique resort within blocks of Universal Studios. Take a ride on their complimentary trolley to the amusement park. Named after the legendary Hollywood actress, Beverly Garland, the property was acquired by her son, James, who took over the property and expanded The Garland into a sophisticated hotel with a new restaurant, The Front Yard.