Let’s face it, theme-park tickets don’t come cheap in these parts. Even the most frugal outing can cost several hundred dollars for a family of three or four, so you want to make those visits count. The winter holidays offer the best return on that investment, and the debut of “Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” makes that especially true at Universal Studios Hollywood this year.
It’s a complete package tied up in a magical bow.
First, you have the delightful architecture of Hogsmeade village – with buildings snow capped and chimneys smoking year-round – evoking that quaint Dickensian holiday vibe many of us aspire to but never quite achieve. Decked out in its Christmas finery, the place sparkles enough to make even old Snape smile.
Ready for a new holiday carol to get stuck in your head? “Christmas at Hogwarts,” sung by the a cappella Frog Choir, is the perfect ear worm. It’s a pleasant tune in the Victorian tradition, and the frogs’ basso profundo adds just the right note.
It wouldn’t be the holidays without a bit of shopping, and the Hogsmeade merchants have plenty on offer. You can pick up Potter-themed ornaments, toppers and Hogwarts house pennant garland for the tree. There are Hogwarts castle snow globes, house robes, wands and all manner of merch for the Potter fans in your tribe. New at Gladrags Wizardwear this season is Severus Snape’s full-length wizard’s robe, while Olivanders is touting new interactive namesake wands including Cho Chang, Cedric Diggory and Yaxley.
The “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride continues to enchant, and should not be missed on any visit to the park. It’ll toy with your sense of gravity, so I definitely recommend riding before your next holiday indulgence, which is …
… a holiday feast! The Three Broomsticks continues to turn out some of the best theme-park food in SoCal, and is rolling out a new holiday dinner. It features roast turkey and gravy, pigs in blankets, vegetables, braised red cabbage, roasted potatoes, cranberry sauce and Christmas pudding. Everything is truly tasty and will give you an excuse to enjoy one extra seasonal feast. Also, hot Butterbeer, the pumpkin spice latte of the wizarding world, is back. It’s a sweet and yummy indulgence on a chilly (OK, maybe in the 60s) evening.
Having had your fill of holiday carols, shopping, wizardry and toasty food, you’ll be ready for a nightcap. How about a holiday light show? “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” takes that one step farther with impressive light projections that transform the castle façade into a sparkly spectacle that makes it easy to ooh and ah. You’ll grin and gasp all the way through.
This layer of holiday cheer only envelops the village and castle Nov. 24-Jan. 7, giving you an excuse to add a theme-park visit to your holiday calendar and a nice batch of holiday memories (and cool selfies) for the coming year.