See Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter before it opens — PHOTOS

Southern California will soon be overcome by magical creatures and enchanting spells as the highly anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuts at Universal Studios Hollywood on Thursday.

Although the West Coast version of the world isn’t open to the public yet, we hopped on board the Hogwarts Express for a private, behind-the-scenes tour to get a glimpse inside the magic.

Expecto Patronum

With its picturesque snowcapped roofs and cobblestone streets, entering the enchanting Hogsmeade Village allows you to leave behind the hustle and bustle of the main theme park and immerse yourself in the magical world of Harry Potter.

Bringing the wonder of witchcraft and wizardry to life from the moment a guest steps through the entryway, the steam and sounds of a realHogwarts Express train and a conductor eagerly welcome each guest into the land.

The magic of the park doesn’t stop there, though.

To help guests unleash their inner wizard, designers paid extreme attention to detail in developing the themed shops, eateries and attractions throughout the village.

If you head to the Owl Post, which also serves as a fully functioning post office, make sure to look above and below you. You will notice owl “droppings” scattered on the ground from the owls perched in the rafters above. Have important invitations to send? Bring them to the Owl Post, and they will be stamped with a Wizarding World of Harry Potter stamp, postmarked from Hogsmeade Village.

With the highly specific details, designers also created 11 interactive storefront window displays to give guests a “true” wizarding experience.

Once you have been picked by an interactive wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop, stroll through the village and practice casting spells. With the wave of a wrist and the correct spell incantation, the magical window display should spring to life before your eyes.

Tastes of Hogsmeade

For wizards and muggles alike, a trip to the wondrous Hogsmeade Village wouldn’t be complete without grabbing a bite at the Three Broomsticks, indulging in a frozen Butterbeer at the Hog’s Head Pub or trying scrumptious sweets at Honeydukes.

Keep in mind, you’ve traveled to Britain, so don’t be surprised by the Three Broomsticks’ menu of British delicacies such as bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, Guinness stew and fish and chips.

At the Hog’s Head Pub, guests can gulp down the infamous Butterbeer, indulge in pumpkin juice or fizz, slurp down Gilly Water or taste original draft beers and spirits created exclusively for the land — Hog’s Head Brew, Dragon’s Scale, Wizard’s Brew and Fire Whisky.

If sweets are more your style, feast your eyes — and mouth — on the delicious confections at Honeydukes. From Cauldron Cakes and chocolate-covered frogs to Fizzing Whizzbees and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans, Honeydukes’ scrumptious treats are as easy on the eyes as they are on the stomach — that is, if you avoid the booger-flavored bean.

Your Marauder’s Map

If you plan to make the four-hour drive to Los Angeles and visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, leave your invisibility cloaks and spell books at home.

Unlike almost every other theme park you’ve probably ever experienced, the two rides inside the Wizarding World do not have storage spaces underneath the chairs. To hop on board the 3-D Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride or the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, guests are required to place their belongings inside a locker once they reach the front of the queue. Avoid the hassle by not bringing anything that doesn’t fit inside your pants pockets.

When you’re strolling through the whimsical land, keep an eye out for authentic movie props casually placed throughout. See if you can spot the pink dress that Hermione wore to the Yule Ball hidden among the magic (hint: It’s in a shop window display).

Voldemort’s warning

You probably won’t be the only one looking to book your trip to Hogwarts. With the scheduled opening in less than a week, expect early visitors and long lines. You may even experience wait times to get into gift shops and restaurants.

Buying your tickets online is a definite way to avoid the front-gate ticket booths and help whisk you away on your adventure earlier than others.

Front of Line Passes are also available online at a discount. These passes often sell out at the ticket booths, so don’t wait until you get there. For a small up-charge, you can avoid hours of standing in line for the premium attractions inside Universal Studios.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens at Universal Studios Hollywood on Thursday. Ticket prices vary by day ($95-$105).

Contact Caitlin Lilly at Find her on Twitter: @caitielilly_

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