You gotta get the picture, right? For Facebook and Instagram. Do it for the ‘gram!
You go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for a lot of things. The fun, immersion and the experience. And of course, the food and rides.
But you also need photos of the fire-breathing dragon, Hogwarts Express and a Butterbeer.
And if you want the real experience, you’ll need your own Harry Potter wand, presented officially by a wandmaker during the wand ceremony at one of the Wizarding World’s two Florida locations.
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What is the wand ceremony at Universal?
It’s an attraction in the form of a little show. It’s at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Florida as well as the Universal Studios Hollywood in California.
It features a recreation of the famous moment when a wand chooses a wizard from Harry Potter lore, except you’ve got a chance to play the role of the wizard.
The guests queue up at the shop – which declares itself makers of fine wands since 382 BC – and are ushered in about 10 folks at a time.
A wandmaker comes out and selects one person (usually a child) from the group to come to the front and be chosen by the wand like Harry is in the first book and movie of the series.
You learn a little wand lore from some of the best actors in the parks. Seriously, a lot of the character work in the Universal Studios Florida theme parks is rough, but the folks they have playing the wandmakers are top-notch.
You’re given a wand and asked to perform a magic spell, which goes disastrously wrong. Then, you get a second wand with a similar outcome.
Finally, the right wand is found. When it touches the wizard’s hand there are lighting effects and music. It’s all very well done and surprisingly moving if you’re a Potter fan.
How much is the wand ceremony at Universal?
The ceremony itself is free. Even if you are chosen, you’re under no obligation to purchase the wand.
Is the Ollivanders wand shop in Diagon Alley the only place to experience the ceremony?
No. There’s also a shop in Hogsmeade on the Islands of Adventure side.
But true, less practical, Potterheads like my daughter want to be picked in the Diagon Alley shop because that’s more like the books.
How do you get a free wand at Universal?
Ultimately, you have to spend money.
Universal has – in the past – run promotions where you get a free non-interactive wand, roughly a $55 value with the purchase of a shopping card of a certain value.
How much do you have to spend? A couple of years ago it was $250. More recently it was $300. But it can change.
Do you have to be chosen to purchase a wand?
Nope. If you don’t want to rely on the wandmaker to choose, you can go to the shops or wand carts in the shadow of Hogwarts and just buy one.
You aren’t required to watch the show to enter the shop.
How do you get picked for a wand ceremony?
In our experience, be young or be young-ish and try to look desperate. You can also try to arrive early.
The staff doesn’t seem to respond to requests, which makes sense. So, if you want to be chosen, it takes persistence.
Editor’s Note: One of our staff members got engaged in Ollivanders, and while the staff was helpful, they did not accommodate requests to be chosen in the show for the engagement.
Our oldest was 16 and really wanted to be picked. At rope drop, we went straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Ollivanders in Diagon Alley.
We were joined by a family with a cute little girl, who was chosen.
On another try, our youngest was chosen. Then, we kept trying for our older one, without our little ones, hoping this would improve her chances. It did not.
Ultimately, my oldest was chosen mercifully without me standing behind her waving $20 bills. She exuded a certain level of desperation that wasn’t becoming, but it worked.
But then, our middle child – who hadn’t been excited about getting a wand – now wanted to be chosen since his siblings had done it. So, we sat through the show a few more times until he was chosen.
For the record, I’ve heard you can better your chances by wearing official park Wizarding World gear.
Are there different kinds of Harry Potter wands?
Yes. There are the non-interactive, interactive – which work with magic displays in the park – and character wand replicas.
The character wand replicas are based on the character wands from the series. So for example, you could buy a wand like the one that belonged to Ron Weasley, Dumbledore, Sirius, Hermione Granger or even Voldemort or Bellatrix Lestrange.
An interactive Harry Potter wand allows you to cast spells like a proper witch or wizard at a couple of dozen designated spots throughout the Wizarding World. Each spot has a marker that shows you the wand flick pattern to get it to work.
The non-interactive wands run about $55 and the interactive wands are $63, but pricing is subject to change. Also, you can pay more to have them engraved.
How do they choose your wand at Ollivanders Universal?
It is under the discretion of the wandmaker. I suspect a wand that isn’t selling well in the shop may get a little extra nudge from the wandmakers.
Wands range in length from 12 to 14 inches. They are made of a hard resin that mimics the various styles of wood used in the Potter universe. Oak, ivy, reed, hawthorn alder wood, hazel and ash are among some of the options available.
In addition, each wand has – at its core – a magical item that gives it its power. For instance, my daughter Ainsley’s is a vine wand with a dragonheart strong core while my son JP got a wand of oak with a phoenix tailfeather.
If you want to have a mystical connection without taking the chance of being chosen, consult the Celtic Tree Calendar. Like a birthstone, it will tell you what to get based on your birthday.
For instance, someone with a late January or early February birthday would get a rowan wood wand, indicating they are imaginative, resourceful and therapeutic.
They nailed JP’s early July birthday with oak – steadfast, optimistic, intuitive – but both Sofia and Ainsley got vine wands.
A holly wand would represent part of July and August – influential, unbiased and wise. An April birthday would be willow – resilient, confident and strong.
After we get our interactive wands, where can we use them?
The interactive wands come with a map that will show places you can use them like at Dervish and Banges, Slug & Jiggers Apothecary, Tallow and Hemp Toxic Tapers, Noggin & Bonce or Zonko’s Joke Shop among others.
The key to magically activating the electronics is the reflector tip. You must move it in the correct sequence in front of the sensor to make the magic happen.
My daughter Ainsley used her wand to flick and swish at various magical displays throughout Universal Orlando Resort Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
But if you’re having trouble, there is usually a cast member nearby to assist.
What kinds of things can of magic can we perform?
It depends. You can light the lanterns at Flimflam’s Lanterns by swishing and flicking and saying “Incendio.”
You can also make it rain from the umbrella above the restrooms nearby with the spell “Metelojinx.” There are a bunch of them. There are even a few secret spots, which are pictured above.
What do you think about the wand ceremony at the Wizarding World? Let us know in the comments!