Writing and photography by Gabriel Montoya
Edited by Garett Simcox
Okay, I’ll admit it. I was one of those people who immediately complained about the pricing for the new Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Passports. I didn’t think it was fair for all of those fans who have been loyal over the years, but I do understand that its just business. Even through all of it, I purchased my Annual Pass because of one thing….
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
Like many other people, I have been waiting for the west coast to get their version of The Wizarding World. Driving on the 101 and 134 freeway, you can see the spires of Hogwarts stretch up into the sky. As the construction moved forward, us Californians looked on with awe as the crew worked at blistering pace. Soon the gates will be officially open, but for the lucky few, Universal has been running “technical rehearsals.” This blog post will be more of a description of my first time entering The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, rather than a blow by blow of everything inside.
As you enter the Hogsmeade, you are immediately transported to Harry Potter’s world. From the cobble stones you step on, to the snowy roofs of the stores, the amount of detail is stunning. As you look up past the crooked chimney stacks of Hogshead, you see the spires of Hogwarts looming in the distance.
Immediately to your right is the Hogwarts Express with its conductor outside greeting all the muggle visiting.
As you continue, you will find many of your favorite things from the films and books. There are plenty of Butterbeer carts, which are serving up mugs of this delicious beverage (Yes, it’s non-alcoholic). Many have raved about the drink in Florida. I can tell you first hand that it’s something not to be missed. The lines for Butterbeer where consistently long all day! It is a fan favorite!
Outside of Butterbeer, you can also get regular beer and muggle drinks over at the Hogshead Pub. This also shares the same building as The Three Broomsticks which is a restaurant serving up many delectable treats and food for those wanting to eat like Wizards and Witches
As you continue past many of the store fronts you end up at the front of the major attraction of Hogshead, its Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
This is probably the most stunning part of the land. Using forced perspective wonderfully, Hogwarts sits atop a hill towering over everything in the park. Its a feeling of grandeur that I’ve never once experience at a Universal park. I do not have pictures here of the line and ride because of two reasons. One, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. The line is just as much a part of the experience as the ride is. Two, pictures do it no justice. The amount of detail and work that went into this line rivals that of Disney quality. Maybe ever surpasses it. That being said, the ride itself is one of a kind. Its utilizes the Kuka arm ride system.
Image from Parkpedia
Each vehicle hold four passengers with over head restraints. As your ride vehicle traverses the track of the ride, your seats are moved around on the arm to give you the sensation of flying. It is truly an incredible experience. Nothing but smiles from those getting off of the ride, which exits into a gift shop.
Another ride that is right across the way from Forbidden Journey is Flight of the Hippogriff. This is a family style roller coaster. The cars are designed to look like wicker baskets, which is a very nice thematic touch. Other than that, the ride is very simple and very short. It reminds me of Gadget’s Go Coaster over in Toon Town at Disneyland.
As you make your way back into Hogsmeade, you can enter into a shop called Olivanders. This is the famous store in the book where Harry Potter gets his first wand. Lucky for you, they are allowing many people to come inside and buy their first wands. The experience is breathe taking and rather intense. Once again, I do not want to spoil the experience for people but, if you have seen the movies then you know exactly what happens. With that being said, this is another NOT TO BE MISSED attraction in The Wizarding World.
As much as there are things to rave about with amazing addition to Universal Studios, there are things that are problematic. Unlike the one in Florida, sight lines are a big issue here. As you enter the land, you are immersed into a different world. But that all ends as soon as you see the glowing lights coming from The Simpsons Ride, which sits right next to the new land. Also, the visibility of show buildings for Forbidden Journey or office building back stage completely take you out of the experience. Although small issues, they do take you out of the experience. It could have been as easy as adding more trees or walls. If that is the most I have to complain about with regards to the land, then I’d say its a hit.
Also, there is an issue with people of different sizes on Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey. Outside of the ride, there are testing seats for those who are unsure if they will fit into the ride system. If the light is red, you cant ride. If its green, you are good to go. This ride system is extremely constricting, not only to those who are over weight, but to those who are tall and those who have broad shoulders. When a ride system is unable to accommodate the many different body types that exist in the world, that is a big issue. Is having a one of a kind experience worth turning away hundreds of people a day? I doubt it.
Even with the issues, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an incredible experience and an astounding feet of engineering and imagination. Its a wonderful addition to Universal Studios Hollywood and will be nothing short of a smash hit when it opens in April.
Thank you for checking out our blog everyone! Make sure you listen to episode 203 of the podcast. Rick West from Theme Park Adventure stopped by to talk all about his book on Pirates Of The Caribbean. Click the image to listen now!