The first Wizarding World of Harry Potter land — now known as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade — completely changed the theme park game when it opened at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure in 2010.
From its groundbreaking E-Ticket, to its intense and authentic theming, the land was arguably the most authentically detailed IP land in theme park history at that time. One of the most revolutionary elements of the land was its in-universe merchandise. Fans gobbled up everything from food and Butterbeer to candy and robes. However, no Wizarding World souvenir became more iconic than wands offered in the land.
To understand how and why wands are so important to the Wizarding World theme park lands, one must first understand their important role in the Harry Potter series. From the earliest chapters of the first Harry Potter book, a wand is established as a wizard’s most important possession. In fact, the wands — each of which has a magical core such as a unicorn hair or phoenix feather — allegedly “choose the wizard” at Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
Throughout the series, the specifics of many of the main and supporting characters wands are established and embellished upon, as is the history and lore of wands within the Harry Potter universe, culminating in the story of the mythical Elder Wand becoming a huge story element in the final climax in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.
In other words, any planned Harry Potter theme park land was always going to have wands as a core part of its narrative, however Universal took things to a level many couldn’t imagine.
There are two main types of wands sold at Universal’s Wizarding World Lands (Hogsmeade installations at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Beijing, and Universal Studios Japan and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida). The first, and arguably most revolutionary are the interactive wands. This category (which sees most wands retail for $63.00, with some special editions coming in at $75 in 2023 pricing) provides a fully immersive experience that envelopes guests in the magical Potter world.
For most guests, their wand journey begins at one of the Ollivander’s locations located within the lands (each Hogsmeade features an outpost of the shop created exclusively for the theme parks, while Universal Studio’s Diagon Alley features its own version modeled directly after the location seen in the books and films). For those who wish to partake, the stores offer a full experience similar to those seen in the series, when one “lucky guest” is selected to be “chosen” by a wand and in-turn display their magical skills. However, while only one guest is selected to take part in the show, every guest has the opportunity to purchase a specially chosen wand.
There are two variants of interactive wands available: First are non-character-specific interactive wands, with 13 types tied to the Celtic tree calendar so that a guest can choose a specific wand based on their specific birthday which are in-turn assigned specific traits if they so choose. This chart breaks down as such:
- Birch: Dec. 24-Jan. 20. Vivacious, Energetic, Perspicacious.
- Rowan: Jan. 21-Feb. 17. Imaginative, Resourceful, Therapeutic.
- Ash: Feb. 18-March 17. Kind, Generous, Romantic.
- Alder: March 18-April 14. Adventurous, Confident, Industrious.
- Willow: April 15-May 12. Resilient, Confident, Strong.
- Hawthorn: May 13-June 9. Flexible, Strong, Family-Oriented.
- Oak: June 10-July 7. Steadfast, Optimistic, Intuitive.
- Holly: July 8-Aug. 4. Influential, Unbiased, Wise.
- Hazel: Aug 5-Sept. 1. Precocious, Creative, Practical.
- Vine: Sept. 2-Sept. 29. Persistent, Restless, Energetic.
- Ivy: Sept 30-Oct. 27. Tenacious, Patient, Goal-Oriented.
- Reed: Oct. 28-Nov. 24. Articulate, Steadfast, Adaptable.
- Elder: Nov. 25-Dec. 23. Perceptive, Sensitive, Resilient.
For guests who would rather emulate one of their favorite Harry Potter characters as opposed to their own “original” denizen of the Wizarding World, Universal also offers interactive wants modeled on those used by some of the saga’s characters. As of 2023, these include Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, Lord Voldemort, Draco Malfoy, Sirius Black, Cedric Diggory, Ginny Weasley, Bellatrix LeStrange, Luna Lovegood, Remus Lupin, Mad-Eye Moody, Narcissa Malfoy, Fleur Delacour, Nymphadora Tonks, Yaxley, and Cho Chang.
In addition to the two Ollivander’s locations, interactive wands are also available at several other locations around the Wizarding World for those who wish to skip the show. These other locations are the Wand Cart located near Hogwarts in Hogsmeade, and the slightly Dark Arts-themed Wands by Gregorovitch in Diagon Alley.
Whether guests go with a custom or character interactive wand, the “magic” begins after their purchase. Each interactive wand comes with a map that leads guests to spell locations scattered across the Wizarding World lands. At each of these spots, guests can use their wands in conjunction with a specific motion — detailed on the map — to activate various special effects mimicking magic spells similar to those seen in the series, allowing them to feel fully entrenched in the heavily themed Wizarding World. This is achieved through the use of sensors around the land that interact with the reflector tip embedded in the interactive wands.
For those guests simply looking for a souvenir display piece, Ollivander’s also offers replica wands for the price of $55. These props feature no interactive elements, but are screen accurate prop replicas of the wands used by characters in the Harry Potter film series. The shop offers near every character a die hard fan could want, from the titular “Boy Who Lived” and his best friends Ron and Hermione to some of the series most obscure supporting characters, including some whose wands were never seen in detail on screen in the films.
The popularity of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s wands — in particular the custom interactive variety — have had a massive influence on the evolution of theme park merchandise, perhaps most noticeably the selection of Lightsabers available at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Have you picked up a wand at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Did you select a custom wand, or one based on the series’ iconic characters? Let us know in the comments below.