At the end of every summer, Harry Potter fans must face the disappointment of once again failing to receive their Hogwarts letter.
But Universal Studios Hollywood is here to soften the blow this year, with some magical additions to the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
At the very least, its delicious new hard pack Butterbeer ice cream will help you forget the heat of walking around Los Angeles in 100-degree weather while wearing your school robes.
The park is also launching two new spell-casting locations in Hogsmeade, where you use special interactive wands to test your magical aptitude. And for the first time, visitors can purchase high-end replicas of two iconic costumes from the films: Professor Snape’s ever-billowing robes and Hermione’s Yule Ball gown.
To round out this Potter-filled summer, Universal has brought back last year’s Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle. The five-minute light show runs several times a night now through Aug. 19 and Sept. 1 through 3.
But the real golden snitch of these summer additions is the seasonally appropriate ice cream, which tastes and looks like a treat straight out off Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop.
The ice cream is by far the best Butterbeer-flavored addition yet, toning down the overpowering sweetness of all the others, from the potted cream to the frozen soda. Instead, the ice cream is a more subtle and decadently creamy Butterbeer flavor, with a shortbread-like base and butterscotch swirls.
Best of all, the cooling charm it casts on a hot summer day makes the snow-capped rooftops of Hogsmeade feel all the more believable.
The two latest spells added to the interactive wand experience are by far the best out of the bunch, too. A few years back, the park introduced the option to purchase special wands that lets visitors “cast spells” at designated markers throughout Hogsmeade.
Magical objects in storefront windows come alive at the flick of your wand, like the Alohomora that unlocks the chest right outside of Ollivander’s (after all, one must test a new wand to ensure it chose the right wizard).
But the new, hidden locations near King’s Cross Station are the spells that really test your technique.
A powerful Incendio causes a fire to erupt from the chimney in an unsuspecting cottage. And only true masters of Alohomora will unlock the intricate latches of a large door that cages a beast, who voices its displeasure at this disturbance with a fiery breath that leaves puffs of smoke in its wake.
There are now fifteen spell stations total, and only eleven officially marked on the map that comes with the wand. The other four require some Marauder’s Map-level mischief to uncover.
After proving just how much you’ve learned at Hogwarts, be sure to catch the light show at night to root for and represent your house. Each gets its own mesmerizing moment to shine as the mascots are called forward by the Sorting Hat, accompanied by fireworks and the soaring score sure to stir some nostalgia in you.
It’s brief, but still a marvel of projection special effects that’ll make you believe technology isn’t all that different from magic.