“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” officially opens to the public TODAY (April 7th) at Universal Studios Hollywood. The new fully themed land is a breathtaking journey into a world of magic and make believe. Expertly designed and nestled atop a Hollywood hill, this new iteration of the Wizarding World seems more at home than any other version with the surrounding San Gabriel Valley and Hollywood Hills as the backdrop.

As if stepping into the pages of J.K. Rolling’s Harry Potter series, visitors can fully immerse themselves in the fictional town of Hogsmeade. They can shop at Honeyduke’s, eat at Three Broomsticks, find a wand at Olivander’s, go to school at Hogwarts and fly with a Hippogriff.

Universal-Potter-Camp-Out
Hundreds camped out all night for a chance to be first in the new land.

The lines began to form outside the Universal main gate at about 5pm on Wednesday evening.  Muggles and wizards alike waited as the clock ticked away toward the 6:30am opening.  Actors James and Oliver Phelps (the Weasley Twins),  popped out to wish the fans well and hand out complimentary wands to offer support.

Soon enough the diligent fans were led into the park to find their place in front of the gates of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”. A small podium stood just to the left of the entrance.

IMG_2842

Out of the darkness the conductor at the Hogsmeade station appeared, carrying a lantern.  He greeted the crowd and then invited Park President, Larry Kurzweil, to the stage.

IMG_2151

After a few words, Larry summoned the stars of the hit franchise to the stage, Warwick Davis, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Tom Felton, and Evanna Lynch.

IMG_2154

After a few more words Kurzweil led a countdown and, with a flick of the wand, Hogsmeade suddenly came to life!

IMG_2161

IMG_2168

The first 250 fans were invited to step into “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and confetti cannons filled the sky with dancing specks of color.

IMG_2851

The rest of the guests awaiting entrance to the land were let in. Within minutes of opening the signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden journey had already accumulated a 185 minute wait.  Olivander’s Wand Shop had a 75 minute wait, and the outdoor family coaster Flight of the Hippogriff had racked up a healthy 60 minute standby.

IMG_2857
The line for Forbidden Journey stretched to the entrance of the land.
IMG_2858
Harry Potter and the three and a half hour wait.
Star Warwick Davis Stopped to talk to guests in the land.  (Go Slytherin!)
Star Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick) stopped to talk to guests in the land. (Go Slytherin!)

 

The grand opening celebration has been days in the making.

frontpagepic_ITP_USH
Grand Opening Ceremony (on MiceChat 4/6/16)

On Wednesday, we posted our photos and video of the grand opening gala and star-studded red carpet event. You can find that coverage HERE.  Below is our review of what you can expect from the long awaited arrival of the Wizarding World to Hollywood.

HOGSMEADE

Crossing under a deceptively ancient-looking stone archway, guests come face to face with the steaming Hogwarts Express train.  They have “arrived” and their journey is about to begin.  Surrounded by the serpentine steeples and snow-capped rooftops of Hogsmeade even the most jaded park visitor can, for a moment, suspend their disbelief and fall into Rowling’s endlessly imaginative creation. As if the surroundings weren’t enough, Hogsmeade is complimented with a lush score by master composer John Williams, bringing to life the magic of Harry Potter.
IMG_0301

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood

Of note is the cool photo op that is inside the station, just behind the stationary Hogwarts Express. Guests can partake in memorable scenes from the Harry Potter films as part of a collectible keepsake. Unique to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in the U.S., this photo opportunity will invite guests to step into the Hogwarts Express station and climb inside a cabin where they can choose from three scenic backdrops.

  • Braving the darkness to face the Dementor’s kiss
  • Witnessing the flight of the Weasley’s Ford Anglia
  • Glimpsing a spectacular view of the iconic Hogwarts castle

IMG_0266
IMG_0272

IMG_0274

IMG_0276

IMG_0277

IMG_0330

IMG_0333

IMG_0337

Unique to Universal Studios Hollywood‘s Hogsmeade is a variety of eclectic storefront facades, authentically recreated from the Harry Potter films that accurately capture the craftsmanship and look so carefully developed in the film series. There are differences here from the Orlando version of the land.

Window shopping at a glance includes:

Here are some of the wonderful fake shops (facades, signs and windows) that you can’t actually visit.

IMG_0304

  • Dogweed and Deathcap™ – a shop that sells exotic plants and flowers.

IMG_0420

IMG_0419

Madam Puddifoot’s– a cozy tearoom of delectable sweet treats.

IMG_0429

IMG_0430

IMG_0432

  • Spintwitches  – a small merchant where Quidditch supplies and other fine sporting equipment is sold.
  • Tomes and Scrolls – a specialty bookstore.
  • Ceridwen’s Cauldron Shop – selling cauldrons of every shape and size and in every possible material from copper and brass to pewter and silver and even self-stirring ones.

IMG_0425

  • Dominic Maestro’s Music Shop – a music shop in Hogsmeade that offers music lessons, instrument sales and a location for local bands to audition and practice.

Honeydukes

The real candy shop in town becomes part of the show as you can pick up earthworm flavored jelly beans, Chocolate frogs, or even Puking pastilles.  And most of it is really delicious.

IMG_0291

IMG_0292

IMG_0293

IMG_0294

Zonko’s Magic Shop

Zonko’s Magic Shop is attached to Honeyduke’s Sweet shop. Here you can pick up your favorite gags and tricks.

IMG_0296

IMG_0297

Olivander’s Wand Shop

Olivander’s is one part show, one part shop, and 100% magic.  The beguiling experience begins as you enter Olivander’s and are introduced to a wizard attendant in a darkened room.  One lucky person is picked from the crowd and is asked to try his hand at wand magic.  Once a wand picks its owner guests are funneled out into the store where they can choose their own wand. And that’s not an easy task as there are dozens of different wands to choose from!
IMG_0338

IMG_0339

IMG_0397

IMG_0409
IMG_0337

As you exit Olivanders, you’ll pass through a tiny shop which contains knickknacks and has a sumptuous  celestial decor.

IMG_0392

IMG_0396

 

Dervish and Banges

You can get just about anything you need for your semester at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from this amazing store. On display – carefully secured within a protected cage — is The Monster Book of Monsters, used in Care of Magical Creatures.  The particularly vicious book snarls and growls at anyone who attempts to get too close. Floating above, are the three broomsticks featured in the films:  Nimbus Two Thousand, Nimbus Two Thousand and One, and Firebolt.

IMG_0312

IMG_0316

IMG_0317

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods –On display are such infamous items as the Marauder’s Map, which reveals where favorite characters are traveling throughout the castle’s corridors at any moment (it really does, ask for a demonstration). Items for purchase include the Golden Snitch, Hogwarts house apparel and scarves, leather journals and Omnioculars, among many other things.

IMG_0325

IMG_0326

Gladrags Wizardwear –a place for fashionable apparel, hats, accessories and jewelry, as well as house Robes, ties and jumpers. Prop replicas from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire are on display within this spirited shop, including Hermione’s enchanting Yule Ball gown.

IMG_0321

IMG_0322

IMG_0323

IMG_0324

The Owl Post, located adjacent to the Owlery, is a fully functioning post office where visitors can mail postcards and letters with a “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” stamp, postmarked from Hogsmeade. Perched above are awaiting owls, while the window displays a Howler – a magical letter that can be heard shrieking its message before shredding itself into pieces.

IMG_0306

IMG_0309

IMG_0311

IMG_0318

IMG_0320

IMG_0329

Three Broomsticks

In the middle of town, you’ll find an aged rustic tavern, where you can enjoy authentic meals while seated at custom-made wooden tables, chairs and benches. It’s a warm and inviting atmosphere taken straight from the wizarding world.

IMG_0282

IMG_0284

IMG_0285

IMG_0286

IMG_0287

IMG_0288

IMG_0289

IMG_0290

IMG_0279

IMG_0281

Located throughout the lively village are stand-alone carts featuring a selection of tasty fare, including the Magic Neep, a cart offering fresh fruits, cold drinks and snacks and the large barrel shaped Butterbeer carts, where guests can sample the drink which has become a cultural phenomenon.

Of course, while in Hogsmeade, one simply must catch a performance of the hauntingly beautiful Hogwarts Frog Choir.

IMG_0046

IMG_0052

IMG_0055

 

After leaving Hogsmead, guests turn a corner and are suddenly face to face with a striking sight, Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Of course, the major draw into the land is the looming Hogwarts Castle and the flagship attraction within, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.” The signature 3D-HD ride, sits at the heart of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” as an iconic edifice to imagination.

IMG_0269

The entrance to the ride is flanked with by two winged boars providing access to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

IMG_0264
The exterior portion of the queue is located just across from the main stage that the Frog Chorus performs on. This was a brilliant design allowing guests in line to enjoy the show!

IMG_0073

IMG_0265

IMG_0077

IMG_0079

The moment guests step into the queue, the attraction begins. housing narrow stone passageways, classrooms, dormitories and a treasure trove of props and décor both original to the film and recreated to adorn its impressive rooms and halls.

After depositing loose articles into FREE lockers provides by the school, we begin a tour of the venerated wizard school.  The meticulously themed queue allows you to truly believe you are in the world that J.K Rowling created. Portraits talk, lights flicker, and spells are cast.  Following in the footsteps of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, we encounter…

  • The Dungeon Corridor

IMG_0088

IMG_0089

  • The Mirror of Erised

IMG_0093

IMG_0095

IMG_0097

  • Professor Sprout’s Herbology class and a selection of baby Mandrakes

IMG_0100

IMG_0103

IMG_0105

IMG_0106

IMG_0109

  • Dumbledore’s office

IMG_0132

IMG_0148

  • The Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom
    This is where the story for the attraction is set up.  Essentially, we are muggles touring Hogwarts, when our heroes feel that we would have a much better time at a Quiddich match.  They tell us to meet them in the room of requirement and they will take it from there.

IMG_0151

IMG_0156

IMG_0160
The Pepper’s Ghost effect really makes it look as though Harry, Ron and Hermione are in the queue with you.
IMG_0172
Massive props are everywhere.

IMG_0174

  • Gryffindor Common Room

IMG_0186

Suddenly we are being sorted by the Sorting Hat.  We turn the corner and find ourselves in the room of requirement, glowing with floating candles and benches.  We sit on our own school bench and we are off on a magical journey!

IMG_0196

IMG_0200

 

IMG_0219

Without question, this is one of the best attractions in existence. Most of our staff think it is the single best attraction in the world.  A spectacular dark ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” incorporates impressive storytelling, exquisitely detailed and immersive scenery, and cutting edge technology all in the service of creating a believable world that visitors can lose themselves in.

“Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” packs in all the special effects and tricks in the theme-park book to make you believe.  At the risk of blowing any surprises, the attraction features High definition 3D, animatronics, precisely timed effects, expertly choreographed vehicle movements, and realistic 3D sound. Sporting Quidditch-inspired 3D goggles, guests spiral and pivot 360-degrees along an elevated ride track on a whirlwind adventure of a lifetime that is simply unforgettable.

There are now 3 versions of this attraction in the world, one in Orlando, one in Japan, and now Hollywood, California. This is the best version of the best ride in the world. It has all of the bells and whistles that technology can deliver without making any of them overtly apparent, upstaging the experience.  Worth the wait, worth every penny, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” is an unparalleled attraction.

Flight of the Hippogriff Roller Coaster

Within “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” the enchanting family coaster, Flight of the Hippogriff debuts as Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor coaster. This “little” family coaster is deceptively powerful and really packs a wallop

IMG_0227

On their way to a Hippogriff training flight, guests enter the Care of Magical Creatures grounds, where sounds of creatures can be heard in the distance. The winding path leads visitors through Hagrid’s pumpkin patch and by Hagrid’s Hut where Fang’s booming barks and occasional wails emanate from within the walls.

IMG_0232

IMG_0233

As visitors pass his hut, Hagrid instructs them on how to properly approach a Hippogriff. Once Hagrid’s lesson is complete, guests climb aboard two-seat wicker baskets that string together to form the Hippogriff train and begin their training flight, where in fact, they will spot a Hippogriff in its nest.

However lovely the queue of this attraction is, if the line is long, you may wish to skip this one as the ride experience is very short and certainly not worth a 40 minute wait.

IMG_0234

IMG_0237

IMG_0238

IMG_0239

IMG_0240

IMG_0242

IMG_0244

IMG_0248

IMG_0250

IMG_0252

IMG_0253

IMG_0254

IMG_0261

You have never seen anything like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  This is all about believing in flight, believing in magic, believing that you have walked into the real Wizarding World that J.K. Rowling created. The creative team has worked for years to make something special and they have succeeded admirably.

In a previous article, we shared some information about minor issues we have with the new land, including some visual intrusion that this little park can’t avoid. But those are truly quibbles, as your heart will surely be won over by an abundance of magic and wonder.

Universal Studios Hollywood has just completed a 5 year transformation which included a new entry area, new Simpsons area, Despicable Me ride and mini land, the fantastic Transformers ride, new shops and restaurants, enhancements to the Studio Tour including an expanded queue with restrooms, the Fast and Furious tram tour grand finale as well as the new Wizarding world. More changes are on the way (which have yet to be announced), all of which help the park compete against other major theme parks for the first time. What was once mostly a Hollywood studio tour with a few added attractions is now a major theme park which just happens to have the most comprehensive studio tour. Congratulations to Universal and to all involved in creating real magic throughout Universal Studios Hollywood.

When do we get the superior version of Diagon Alley and Escape from Gringott’s? It is only a matter of time folks. With all those wands and magic at Universa’s disposal, perhaps they could even get it open before Star Wars Land is completed down the road.

Lumos Maxima!

 

One final word of advise. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets to visit the Universal Hollywood, do that online before you go. Opening day is already sold out. Assure your entry in advance by buying your tickets online (HERE).  Plus, you’ll save a minimum of $10 per ticket and as much as $25 per ticket just for buying them in advance!

Are you excited about Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood?