Making Memories and Magic at Universal Studios - 405 Magazine

Making Memories and Magic at Universal Studios

Creating core memories through a trip to Universal Studios with the family.

Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Hollywood

entrance to Hogwarts castle and "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" ride - WWoHP at Universal Studios Hollywood

The idea of “core memories” is popping up everywhere these days. While the term actually gained notoriety in the animated movie Inside Out and is not a real clinical concept, it has become a part of modern vernacular. Essentially, it means defining life events and experiences; the moments that fuel the creation of part of your identity.

This idea’s popularity comes at a time when many families are opting to give experiences instead of physical gifts. We recently witnessed the formation of a core memory in my daughter’s life.

Two years ago I began reading the Harry Potter series with my kids. We had planned from the beginning to take them to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood at the completion of the seven books, and the timing coincided with a 10th birthday trip for my eldest — so out west we went.

Universal has done an absolutely phenomenal job making each themed area literally feel like a different world. As we stepped into Hogsmeade, we were immediately transported to winter in the UK. Every single minor detail is planned and perfectly executed. Our very first stop was Ollivander’s Wand Shop, as we had read you can purchase wands that will do dozens of “spells” and create magic throughout the park. Blindly, we walked into a large room for a pre-shopping “magic show.” As the mysterious and well-acted show began, the wandmaker’s assistant stopped mid sentence and looked at my daughter. He asked if she would like to be chosen by a wand. 

Photo of a girl choosing a wand at Ollivander's in Universal Studios Hollywood
C.C. Partin being “chosen” by a wand at Ollivander’s | Photos provided

Under the circumstances, he might have safely guessed she was a fan, but he could not have known that he’d chosen a girl whose singular passion is Harry Potter. A girl who reads the series and watches the movies repeatedly, creates fan fiction, even draws pictures of herself playing quidditch via broomstick. And he could not have known this was her 10th birthday celebration and the one moment she had been dreaming about for years. After a few practice spells with various wands when things in the room went awry — flowers catching fire, books toppling, etc. — he handed her a new wand. The room lit up, the wind blew and the audience clapped. She said it was the best day of her life. It tops the list of best moments in my life as well. Core memory unlocked. 

The Wizarding World also contains rides such as Flight of the Hippogriff and The Forbidden Journey, themed British dining at the Three Broomsticks and several other shops for sweets including yummy Butterbeer, and a triwizard Beauxbatons and Durmstrang show.

While our family’s priority was to see Hogwarts, the current main attraction for most visitors at Universal Studios is the newly opened Super Nintendo World. A life-sized video game landscape that cost upward of $575 million and took more than five years to plan, design and build, Super Nintendo World creates an immersive universe that uses video projections and augmented reality to put you inside the mustachioed plumber’s world. Fanatics will love entering through the iconic green pipe featured throughout various Nintendo games, beginning their journey at Peach’s Castle before venturing further into the colorful Mushroom Kingdom. Highlights of the themed world include the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride and eating at the Toadstool Cafe.

Universal Studios globe in Hollywood
Universal Studios globe | Photos provided

Other can’t-miss attractions at the park include Jurassic World, Despicable Me Minion-centric rides and character sightings, the Revenge of the Mummy ride and the world-famous studio tour that allows you to go behind the scenes and see where some of your favorite films and television shows were, and currently are, filmed.

In the end, trips like this one are worth it. Worth the cost and the stress and the PTO for the once-in-a-lifetime moments and memories that are created, particularly for those with kids and families open to moments of pure wonder. 

This holiday season, especially if you have not already completed your gift shopping, consider giving an experience that just might become the best day of their life.

Looking for more travel? Check out Autumn Adventures in Oklahoma