Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hidden Gems in the Hollywood Park
Welcome to Hogsmeade!
It may not be Sept. 1, but it's officially time to pack your bags for the Hogwarts Express: The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood opens Thursday, and the immersive magical land puts guests right in the world of Harry and his friends. EW went on a tour of the attraction with Alan Gilmore, the supervising art director for the Harry Potter films as well as the park, and uncovered some of the Wizarding World’s finer Hogwartsian details. We’ve got 15 of those hidden gems right here (and you can check out our exclusive first look photos of the whole park here).
The Mirror of Erised
Guests enter the castle through the downstairs "dungeon corridor," and the line for the Forbidden Journey ride takes them all the way through Hogwarts. “This is based from the Slytherin common room in the early films,” Gilmore explains of the dim dungeon hallway. The Mirror of Erised, the statue of the One-Eyed Witch, the entry to Professor Snape’s office, and other iconic landmarks stand along the sides of the corridor (but please remember your manners and don’t ask your friends what they see in the mirror — it is, after all, a very personal question).
From the dungeon corridor, the line moves into the greenhouse where the students of Hogwarts learn about Herbology from Professor Sprout. “You’re transitioning in different ways from spaces very quickly,” Gilmore says of the connected areas, “but that’s kind of the beauty of this world — it’s kind of magical.” The airy greenhouse overlooks Hogsmeade, and offers a view of the mountains (which can help you imagine that you’re in the Scottish Highlands). “It’s like an old British cast-iron greenhouse building,” Gilmore says, and behind the cast-iron bars are a few Mandrakes. “But they’re asleep,” Gilmore assures us, so no need to cover your ears against their fatal shrieks — though there are a few pairs of fuzzy earmuffs lying around, just in case.
The Architect of Hogwarts
From the greenhouse, guests enter the castle’s “Oxford Corridor” upstairs. “This is exactly where Harry and the kids would have walked around,” Gilmore says. The first statue positioned along the sides of this long hallway is the architect of Hogwarts. “At his feet, you see the four houses represented” by the houses’ animal mascots. “He has a model of Hogwarts and he has the blueprints and a drafting tool from way back then,” Gilmore points out. This statue, like all the in the hallway, was created by the films’ production designer, Stuart Craig.
For the decoration of the castle’s many statues, the Wizarding World team “[recreated] historic paint finishes: lead paint, gold leaf — those older ways of detailing and design,” Gilmore says. “If a statue is meant to be 1,000 years old, it should look exactly like it’s 1,000 years old. We visited museums in England and Europe, and we recreated all those finishes exactly.” The last iconic Harry Potter statue you’ll find walking down the Oxford Corridor is the griffin that guards the Headmaster’s office. “Remember the staircase that reveals itself? That would have been here,” Gilmore says. And you don’t even need to give a candy-themed password!
Inside Dumbledore’s office (which Gilmore identified from outside the castle as “the little tower at the very top,” made of three towers linked together), you can find Dumbledore himself (in hologram form), who tells you about the Forbidden Journey ride ahead, as well as all of his wizarding gear and magical equipment — including the critically important Pensieve. The basin is currently empty because all of Dumbledore’s memories have been removed, naturally, while Wizarding World guests wander through the room — how awkward, if all these strangers were all to just stick their heads in and see!
Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom
The Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, like Dumbledore’s office, is filled with wizarding equipment, magical tools, and reference texts — and a lot of these Hogwartsian details throughout the whole park are even more genuine than you might think. "Many of the props are actually authentic to the films, brought over from London’s Leavesden Studios," Gilmore says. There are no labels or markers to bring attention to these pieces, however, and Gilmore and his team worked hard on the recreations to ensure that they have the same level of detail. The desks and chalkboard in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom are original props from the film sets, while most of the equipment (and the enormous dragon skeleton hanging from the ceiling) was recreated.
The Fat Lady Portrait
What would a tour of Hogwarts be without the Fat Lady? Her animated portrait hangs in the hallway that leads to Gryffindor Tower. Luckily, she doesn’t require a password at the park’s Hogwarts, though she is her usual talkative self. “We filmed Dawn French [for the Wizarding World portrait] in London,” Gilmore recalls. “I was actually sitting down here, out of the picture; I was putting these leaves at her feet. She’s very, very funny.”
Gryffindor Common Room
After checking in with the Fat Lady, the Gryffindor common room is one of the last spaces guests walk through on the way to the Forbidden Journey. All of the décor is recreated exactly from the film sets — "we have the tapestries, the portraits, the paintings," Gilmore says. A noticeboard in the common room has an animated copy of The Daily Prophet pinned to it, with original film footage of Harry playing Quidditch on the front page. There’s a desk where you might imagine Harry, Ron, or Hermione (okay, maybe just Hermione) doing homework; the fireplace where Sirius used to pop in using the Floo Network; and a staircase off to the side, at the top of which you would find the boys’ dormitories.
The Marauder's Map
After walking through the castle and going on the Forbidden Journey ride, guests exit the castle through Filch’s Emporium, which is a shop selling Hogwarts gear as well as a space housing all of the illegal items that Filch has confiscated over the years. The most notable of these is, of course, the Marauder's Map, which is fully functional and on display in a glass case (so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands). “The characters appear if they’re nearby,” Gilmore says, and you can see various inhabitants of Hogwarts creep across the paper if you watch closely.
Lollipops at Honeydukes
“You will not see another brand here — you will only see Honeydukes,” Gilmore says of the merchandise at the famed Hogsmeade sweet shop. Huge displays of Chocolate Frogs, piles of Peppermint Toads, and an entire wall of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans fill up the candy-colored shop. “It’s all Harry Potter,” Gilmore says. "It’s all very — I wouldn’t say healthy" (it is still candy, after all) "but really well done, low sugar, really just the best it can be."
At Dervish and Banges, which Gilmore says is "like a general store of Hogsmeade," you can buy The Monster Book of Monsters (don’t forget to stroke the spine), Hogwarts House jerseys and pins, and Quidditch supplies including Snitches, Quaffles, and, of course, brooms. These three models on display hang above you, giving you a good Quidditch-spectator view, but you can pick up an iconic Nimbus 2001 and hold it in your hands while you imagine how it feels to soar over a Quidditch pitch, chasing after the Snitch.
Cho Chang’s Yule Ball Dress
Guests can pick up some magical threads at Gladrags Wizardwear, where Hogwarts House gear and authentic Mrs. Weasley sweaters (cozy wool-silk pullovers with "H" or "R" stitched on the front, made in Scotland by the same manufacturer that made them in the films) are for sale. There are also some pieces on display, including this original Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire costume. “We have Cho Chang’s dress from the Yule Ball,” Gilmore pointed out. “That’s a really nice piece.” Unfortunately, the dress isn’t for purchase — you’ll have to find something else to wear for your next hot date.
Various magical tools adorn the walls at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, including this orrery hanging from the ceiling. “It’s an astrological piece of equipment that they use a lot at Hogwarts, and students use to learn from,” Gilmore explains. “You’ll see these in several places” — so keep an eye out around the village for more.
Beer at The Hog's Head Pub
Students often congregate at the Three Broomsticks for Butterbeer, but if you’re looking for something a bit stronger, try the Hog’s Head Pub. In addition to a variety of beers and British ciders, The Hog’s Head boasts three "in-house Harry Potter drinks," Gilmore says, identifying them as Hog’s Head Ale, Dragon Scale, and Wizard’s Brew. Bottoms up!