The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: California Edition!

I SURVIVED MY FIRST FLIGHT IN OVER A DECADE!

I’m not even joking. I’m 27, and the last time I flew, I was 11 and going to Disney in Florida. So, even better, this was not only my first flight in over a decade, it was my first flight alone, and my first time leaving the East Coast. BUT I DID IT! Per the title of this post, I’ll be talking mostly about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter @ Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California, but I’ll also be covering a little of the before and after, as well, so let’s get started!


Saturday

I had a flight to LAX scheduled to leave at 6:30PM from Boston Logan and arrive in LAX around 9:45PM. My best friend, Jen, whom I was visiting, was also scheduled to be landing around 10PM from Israel. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA, but was away for a Birthright trip. Her birthday was on Monday, so our plan was to meet in LAX and then spend a few days together. There was a last minute change, and she got home on Wednesday instead, which ended up being a blessing in diguise.

It was sunny and a bit breezy when I arrived at Logan, and though the weather was predicting rain, everything seemed like it was going to be okay. HA. How naive I am.

My flight was delayed by three hours due to severe lightning and thunder. Logan was completely shutdown–no incoming or outgoing flights. My airplane was stuck in NY, now grounded because it was running low on fuel after circling the airspace for awhile, and many people were rescheduling their flights to CA. To say I was a bit stressed is putting it mildly. There was no way in hell that I was rescheduling, which meant I was looking at a long night ahead. Thank goodness Jen came home a few days earlier! I can’t imagine what that would have been like, jetlagged and exhausted from an all-day flight home from Israel to then have to sit at LAX and wait for my late flight. Thankfully, around 9:30PM, we were finally able to board, but didn’t quite make liftoff until abou 10PM. All said and done, I arrived in LAX at the very early 1AM, which would have been way late for me anyway, not to mention I was running on 4AM time.

Suffice to say, I don’t know how I didn’t fall asleep on the way home.

We decided to stop at her boyfriend’s parents’ house rather than drive the two hours to Santa Barbara, and I was out like a light immediately. Well, after meeting and falling in love with three cats.

Sunday

After still somehow managing to wake up early (I don’t know how to sleep in, and it’s the worst), Jen’s boyfriend took us out to breakfast where I got a chili breakfast bowl that was out of this world. I also got to see the last few minutes of the women’s soccer game, and holy moly I am so proud of my team! We made our way down to Santa Barbara, which was lovely now that I was kind of awake and it was daytime. After showering, changing, and relaxing a little bit, we set out on an adventure in downtown Santa Barbara. We walked along the beach during an arts & crafts festival, made a pit stop for a bridesmaid dress appointment, and then went to C’est Cheese because duh, cheese.

(okay, honestly, c’est cheese? you really couldn’t have named it c’est fromage? c’est cheese is the dumbest name I’ve ever heard of. c’est fromage is also the dumbest name ever, soooo.)

And then it was back to Jen’s apartment to get ready for her birthday dinner!

Wow, we’re so cute. I absolutely adored Jen’s roommates, and we had a blast at Jane’s in Goleta for dinner. We didn’t stay out too late since we had to be up early for Harry Potter the following day, so after dinner and dessert, we settled in for an early night, alarms set to 5:30AM, and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.

Monday

Did I cry upon first sight of Hogwarts? Yes, and several times afterward.

We got a bit of a late start, and so didn’t arrive at Universal at 8:30AM as planned, but it all turned out okay! We made a beeline for the Wizarding World so we could get to the Forbidden Journey ride, which was so difficult for me because I just could not stop staring at everything! I WAS IN HOGSMEADE! My heart rate was so fast the entire day, and I honestly just kept crying here and there. Dreams do come true. I spent my twelfth birthday crying because I never received a letter, and it was just the worst year of my life, but it was finally happening!

The Forbidden Journey ride was, obviously, just beyond anything I can describe. Being able to walk through the castle was the most incredible experience ever. We wandered through Dumbledore’s office, paused to watch the Golden Trio talk in the Gryffindor common room, and then waited in a very small line since we were in the Express lane. And from the moment Harry first appeared in front of me on a broomstick, I just wanted to bawl my eyes out.

Being able to fly through Hogwarts, around the Whomping Willow, into the Forbidden Forest, across the Quidditch Pitch, and land in the Great Hall was just–I have no words. I was so overwhelmed when I got off the ride. I’m going to be thinking about it for a while.

It was pretty early since we managed to unexpectedly snag Express passes, so we spent our time wandering around Filch’s Emporium, deciding on what we wanted to come back and buy later. In the end, I acquired a super cool new outfit:

I also got a new stainless steel mug decked out in Gryffindor colors, of course. (Yes, I am a sorted Gryffindor.) We stared around wide-eyed and full of awe in Ollivander’s, and though I wanted to purchase a wand, it was the choice between a wand, robes, or the clothes I got, and I already have four wands, so decided to go with the more practical. (I will buy those robes next time, though.) I forced myself to turn away from the Quidditch gear in Dervish & Banges, though those Gryffindor robes were calling my name, spent an inordinate amount of time in both Honeydukes and Zonko’s making a list of what to come back for later, and took a break in the Owl Post to just breathe for a second because oh my god we’re about to have lunch in The Three Broomsticks.

The menu was so British, and it just made me so happy. We both ended up with the roast chicken, potatoes, and corn on the cob, as well as our first (yes, we had two) Butterbeer of the day. Jen got the frozen one, which was kind of like a slushie and pretty good. I got the hot one, which was OH MY GOD GOOD. Seriously, it was like a chai melted butterscotch. I almost died.

After lunch, we decided to head out into the park proper. Jurassic World was closed, which I was really sad about because after Harry Potter, it’s my next favorite park at Universal. They did bring out a raptor, though, which was fun to watch, and Transformers was open, which is one of my biggest guilty pleasures, so at least there was that.

The Transformers ride was wild, to say the least. It was an immersive experience like the Forbidden Journey ride, so when a missile was launched at us, it felt like we were actually hit with it.

After that, we wandered through a couple shops before heading back up to the upper level to watch a show on special effects, and then we went over to the studio tour. That was actually really neat, and it filled up my little dinosaur heart a little. The coolest part of the studio tour was definitely the 3D King Kong experience, during which Kong fights a T-Rex and other dinosaurs. I also loved seeing Norman Bates carry a dead body out of his motel, a full-scale plane crash, and how they did rain, storms, and flash floods in California. The Jaws part was cheesy, but still managed to spook me. It was super weird to see Whoville in the bleak, toned-down setting, especially because it was directly behind the Bates Motel. The Fast & Furious part was cool, too, despite having seen none of the films. Overall, the studio tour was definitely one of my favorite parts of the day.

We ended our day with the Despicable Me ride, skipped the Mummy because I’ve never seen it, the Simpsons because I actively don’t like it, and Kung Fu Panda because we were exhausted. We made our way back to Honeydukes to finalize our shopping. I got the absurd outfit and bottle pictured above, as well as a candy apple and some chocolate mint fudge. I’ve eaten a vast majority of what was in Honeydukes before and so didn’t really want to spend money on it again, plus I had to fly home in two days, so didn’t want to have a ton of stuff to pack.

Around 6PM, we decided to call it a day. We’d originally planned on staying for the light show at Hogwarts, but we really couldn’t imagine what more we would do for 3 1/2 hours to wait for it. We’d set aside so much time waiting in line for the Forbidden Journey ride, but because of the unexpected Express passes, we were in and out so quick that we had an abundance of time leftover. I wasn’t the least bit bummed about leaving beforehand as we’d been on our feet for 12 hours and were so freaking tired. We Uber’d back to Jen’s car, and then we were on our way home.

After stopping halfway for Mexican, we crashed into our beds, excited about getting to sleep in the next morning.

Tuesday

I slept until 7:30AM, damn it! I tried so hard to push it farther, but I truly cannot sleep in late. This is mostly because I like going to bed early and because I wake up at 6AM every single day, so my body is just accustomed to that schedule.

It was the first morning since arriving in California that I could really take my time, though, which was nice because I made some hot lemon water, sat with my tea, and just lounged for a bit. Jen wasn’t feeling well, so we decided to stay in for a few hours, which meant we ended up watching How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. I know, I know. I can’t believe it took me this long either. But I saw the first two HTTYD movies with Jen, and I really didn’t want to watch the third one without her. That, and no one would go with me when it came out, so I just kind of forgot about it.

It was so good, obviously.

After a couple hours, Jen was starting to feel a little better, so we packed up our bags and made our way to East Beach.

Tuesday was a pretty chill day. We went to the beach for a few hours before making our way back to her apartment for a gourmet grilled cheese night. We watched Mamma Mia, another movie I’ve somehow never seen, and then turned in around 9:30PM since, are you ready for this, I had to be awake at 2:45AM to catch a 3:30AM bus that would take me to LAX. Ugh.

Wednesday

I don’t use my phone alarm anymore since I have a clock alarm, and I forgot what song I’d had it set to.

FEAST YOUR EARS UPON MY DOOM

Holy shit, I have never jumped out of sleep quite so fast before. I literally hit the floor and scrambled through pitch black to fumble for my phone, which I couldn’t see both because it was so dark and because I am blind af without my glasses on. Like, jfc, chill out, past!Mary.

Well, it got me up, and though I was definitely confused and delirious driving to the bus stop, I was awake and that was all that mattered.

The rest was normal. I napped (kind of) for the two hours to LAX, didn’t eat before my 8:10AM flight because LAX is chaotic and I didn’t want to leave my gate, and then flew home. Also didn’t eat on the way home because they were only offering sugary snacks or soda, and that’s just not my jam, so by the time I landed in Boston around 4:30PM, I was ravenous. Also, had to pee so bad, had a headache, and just wanted to go to sleep.

A strange thing had started happening while I was in Cali, though, and more prominently on the plane home. Every time I tried to read, whether it was on my phone or in a book, everything went cross-eyed and I couldn’t focus on anything. This is super concerning considering my not-so-fun history with eyeballs, so I switched to a new pair of contacts once I got home. That didn’t help at all, so I decided to just go to bed early and worry about it in the morning.

Um.

So.

The thing is, sometimes exhaustion can make you go cross-eyed when you try to read. This didn’t even occur to me. And I’m 100% sure that’s what it was because I’ve had no trouble reading today after nine hours of dead to the world sleep. Duh, Mary.


And that’s that! I had so much fun, and I think this was a really good starting point before I fly internationally next March. Here are some other pictures from my trip!

Have you ever gone to California? The weather was so much different than I expected–sunny, but breezy and wonderful. Have you gone to the Wizarding World before? Which one? I definitely want to go to Orlando’s now. Let me know in the comments below!

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Mary RYT 200 Tibetan Buddhism Gryffindor Part-time witch, full-time novelist. Lover of words, planets, dragons, and mountains.

8 thoughts on “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: California Edition!

  1. So much fun reading about your journey to west coast. I agree the traveling part is rough especially the jet lag, but it’s so worth it! I hope you’ll continue to explore the world whether it be via plane, train, boat, or sneakers!

    Liked by 1 person

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