Did you know that I am obsessed with Harry Potter? Did you also know that I love amusement parks? Now you do. I did a lot of research prior to our first trip to Universal Hollywood, trying to determine if there would be any vegan food for us to eat. Most of the articles are outdated, but it seemed like they would at least have a few options. There are also a ton of little hidden gems and secrets throughout the park, so I wanted to put all of those together for you here in this post. Hope this helps you plan your next visit!
TICKETS AND PARKING
Let’s make this quick because it’s boring. Look for tickets and special offers on Universal’s website. If you live or are staying near a metro, it literally has a stop in Universal. That’s how we got there the first time, and it was super easy and seamless (and cheap as hell). The second time, however, we drove, because I don’t LOVE riding the metro after dark. Parking is $25, disgusting. But this allows you to pack lunches, changes of clothes, all of that stuff. We will probably be getting season passes to avoid the parking cost for the future.
WHAT TO EAT & DRINK (VEGAN)
Theme park food doesn’t exactly get me excited, but Universal has some nice options. We found a quinoa super-food style salad at the French Bistro’s cooler, super easy grab and go style. There are various locations around the park that carry a vegan patty, and we had one at Krusty Burger with fries. Beware, either the burger or the fries upset our stomachs, and I think it was probably the oil from the fries. The buns at Universal weren’t vegan until recently, but we asked multiple staff members and they all advised that yes, the buns are now vegan. If you would prefer, you can ask for lettuce to wrap the burger in.
The Three Broomsticks has a rotating menu, so you can’t always count on them having exactly what you plan for, but we gave it a shot. This is going to sound biased because of my love of all things HP, but honestly this was such a lovely meal. The asparagus plate is “accidentally” vegan, but be sure to mention that you would like it veganized with no butter. The corn on the cob can be ordered without butter as well, and the potatoes are A-Ok. There are lots of fresh fruit options around Wizarding World which was really nice, and there are plenty of candy options at Honeyduke’s, just read the label!
Universal’s City Walk is just outside of the park and where you can probably find the most vegan-friendly sit down options. We haven’t yet eaten here, but I know there are a few places that at least have the Impossible Burger on their menu. City Walk also has a Ben & Jerry’s if you’re feeling like some ice cream and a VooDoo Donut shop with vegan options as well.
As for drinking, we enjoyed Moe’s Tavern and Hog’s Head! Butterbeer is sadly not vegan friendly so steer clear, opt for a Pumpkin Fizz instead.
WHAT TO RIDE
It’s probably important to note that Danny and I both LOVE roller-coasters. There isn’t a ride we won’t try at least once, and we love the thrill of going upside down/dropping one million feet straight down/ you get the idea. Universal is NOT THAT TYPE OF AMUSEMENT PARK. Do not expect thrilling roller-coasters, that is not what they are trying to do here. This park is about movie magic and the rides are true to that as well. It’s more about visuals and effects than speed and loops. With that being said, we still really enjoyed the rides for what they were. We will just have to get our thrills elsewhere. I have always been a fan of set and costume design, and that is something that I geeked out over for sure. Just waiting in line, there are so many things to look at that are done so exquisitely well. There are no mistakes at this park, every design decision was made purposefully, so take notice!
My favorite, for obvious reasons that we will get to in the next section, was the Forbidden Journey ride. Get in line early for this one, fam. Danny said he felt really sick afterwards, and never wants to ride it again (lol), so if you get motion sickness of any kind, take heed before boarding. Danny’s favorite ride was the Simpson’s ride. It has an added layer of comedy that makes the ride so much fun! I 100% recommend the studio tour, there are ‘rides’ along the way and if you are a movie buff, you will love it even more! We both really loved The Mummy, it is the most “thrilling” and got a genuine scream from me.
WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
Upon entering the Wizarding World, you will see the Hogwarts Express and a conductor. You can’t board the train as it is stationary, but you can take photos with the conductor and visit the 9 3/4 shop next door. As you pass the train, you will find yourself in Hogsmeade. From Honeyduke’s to Ollivander’s to the Owl Post, you will not be disappointed. Things were not put here on accident; every window display, every storefront, all of it were chosen and executed with a true fan in mind. The little show at Ollivander’s is cute, and worth a wait of 25 minutes or less. Any more than that and I wouldn’t really bother. There are both interactive and non-interactive wands. You can choose a character wand or your own wand. This is quite an authentic experience and felt very magical!
Walking through the various shops was truly a treat, there is so much to see! We went at Christmas which is another recommendation of mine. The lights, the garland, all of the Christmas merchandise for sale, the snow at night, not to mention the Christmas light show that is projected onto Hogwarts after dark! This was so special and such a wonderful time of year to visit. Albeit a bit busier, it wasn’t unbearable in early December.
Be sure to use the bathroom while in Hogsmeade and do so quietly, you might just get a visit from Moaning Myrtle.
I really loved the details of the Owl Post. You can buy postcards, stamps and pens and the employees will take care to stamp each postcard with the Hogsmeade postal stamp. They literally wiped the stamp after each one so that it wouldn’t smear. You can then fill out your postcards and drop them just outside of the Owl Post to be sent to friends, family or yourself! After you drop the cards into the box, be sure to look up. I didn’t realize until the second visit that there are owls all up inside the rafters, and there is even owl poop.
Hogwarts will take your breath away. Or maybe it won’t, but if you are a fan of Harry Potter, expect a few tears, squeals of delight, and breathlessness. As I stated earlier, this ride isn’t for everyone, but please know that you can request a castle tour! Just because you aren’t a fan of rides doesn’t mean you can’t experience the magic of Hogwarts. Don’t feel pressured to move with the line, enjoy each detail. There are props from the movie inside, and it is a lot to take in! We spent 5-10 minutes watching the portraits move and talk.
At the exit of the ride there is a shop called Filch’s Emporium, which I found to be my favorite. They have a good selection of merchandise, and the shop itself has many decorations and pieces that are fun to see. If you ask the employees nicely, there may or may not be a Sorting Hat that you can put on your head to be sorted.
The Flight of the Hippogriff ride is very quick and kinda meh, but it’s worth walking through the line and the view of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade from the top of the ride is stunning. You will find Hadrid’s hut, motorbike and even see Buckbeak in and around the line for the ride! It really is the details of the set and props that makes it so special. We really enjoyed peaking at Hagrid’s hut and wondering if we could perhaps knock to see if he might be home.