Alohamora! With a swish and flick, the gates of Hogsmeade unexpectedly opened on Friday at Universal Studios Hollywood, revealing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the Muggles of the West Coast for the first time ever! The official grand opening doesn’t happen until April 7th, but a group of guests at Universal Studios Hollywood were able to get a preview as soft openings of the area have begun. We were lucky enough to be there, and will take you through everything in the Wizarding World, as well as show off videos, pictures and thoughts of a Muggle who has entered the gates for the first time!
For those who are not familiar with the other installations of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal parks all over the globe, this is the third installation of the Hogsmeade section of the park. The first was done at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando, and it changed the theme park world forever. In Hollywood, it will change how the park does business, as it is completely and totally immersive. The backdrop is the famous Hollywood Hills, which really seems to hold Hogwarts Castle snugly, and makes it a great tool to completely immerse guests in the world.
Friday, Universal Studios Hollywood started technical rehearsals for the area. Guests lined up at park opening to be some of the first through the gates and the first on the West Coast to sip Butterbeer! The park handed out packs of jelly beans, and even brought out extra benches. Then, right around 2 p.m. PST the gates were opened and the first guests entered the area.
Video-Watch as the first guests walk through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
As guests walk into the area, they will see the Hogwarts Express, billowing steam, as a conductor greets them. For those who have been to a Wizarding World before, here’s where the changes start. Located inside the Hogsmeade train station, guests can go inside of it, for an amazing photo op as if they’re riding the Hogwarts Express!. The fabric is the same used in the movies, and the pieces for the luggage rack were actually used in the film!
Video-Walk through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood
The big draw to the Wizarding World is all of the shopping and dining. The Wizarding World features several shops, including shops we’ve seen before as well as new shops that weren’t part of the original installation in Orlando. The new Wizarding World Hollywood features Zonko’s Joke Shop, Honeydukes sweets, Dervish and Bangs featuring Quidditch Equipment and more, Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, Gladrags Wizard Wear and of course Ollivander’s Wands.
ZONKO’S JOKE SHOP
DERVISH AND BANGES
Of course Ollivander’s is amazing no matter where it is. The magic of getting chosen for your wand was always a huge fantasy of anyone who ever watches the film. Once again, that magic is captured perfectly by the Wizards at Universal Hollywood.
Video-Get chosen for your wand at Universal Studios Hollywood
Ollivander’s is larger, featuring two rooms for wand demonstrations, which are made even more magical by the wandkeepers. They bring the story to life as they search and stumble their way through the shelves and rows of wands. The wand shop is amazing, with tons of great visuals which make you feel like you’ve stumbled into this great library full of powerful wands. You can also buy your interactive wands here. There are 13 zodiac based wands, as well as replicas from the film. If you purchase one of the interactive wands you’ll be able to cast spells in the Wizarding World at special stops along the route.
The details in the shop are amazing, but what sells it is the wandkeeper. If you boil it down, it’s a light and mirror show, using simple parlour tricks. If you add in the artful skill of the wandkeepers, you go from a simple show to an experience.
The new additions here are Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, and Gladrags Wizard Wear.
The Three Broomsticks is also here. You have a quaint country inn, full of staircases that zig zag every which way, and every few minutes you get a a glimpse of some magical happenings in the restaurant. You can get Butterbeer, ribs and chicken and tons of English countryside favorites like Sheppard’s Pie, Cornish Pasties and tons more. Right next door is the Hogs Head Pub, which features Butterbeer and the house beers of the Wizarding World as well-Hogshead Brew.
Adjacent to the Three Broomsticks, is the Hogshead Pub, the best place to get your drink on in the land.
Outside the area is huge, and completely covered with tents, which will make for a great escape when the restaurant is full. Around the corner, we even see Gringott’s with a branch ATM. It’s all the small details that make the Wizarding World truly amazing.
Flight of the Hippogriff off to the right is one of the new rides in the land located just past Hogsmeade. The ride features a lesson from Hagrid, in which you tame and ride a Hippogriff. The animatronic Hippogriff is nothing short of amazing as he bows to everyone aboard the coaster. The queue also features Hagrid’s Hut and of course his booming voice, along with Fang.
Video-Flight of the Hippogriff
Forbidden Journey is pretty much as you’d expect it, amazing. The 3D really brings it life in a new way as guests soar in and out of the adventures. Of course, the best part is the queue. In Hollywood’s version, we actually get props from the film. You can see little tidbits here and there sprinkled throughout the queue. We also see our favorite characters like Harry, Ron and Hermione as well as Dumbledore. The queue is key to the attraction, as it sets up the premise of the ride. It also has tons of great visuals from the Dungeons of Slytherin, to the Greenhouse, and even the House Score counter.
Video-Get sorted into your house as you venture through The Forbidden Journey Queue!
While the castle is pretty much the same, the approach isn’t. In Orlando you walk over bridge to get to the castle, in Japan you walk over a lake. Here, you walk through the Forbidden Forest! The trees are still growing, but you can bet as time goes on you’ll see the forest become a huge part of the attraction. The attraction itself has been plussed quite a bit. Improvements made in lighting and animation and much scarier Dementor scene!
You’ll also find entertainment offerings, including the Frog Choir and photo ops!
Nighttime offers another beauty to the area, as the whole village of Hogsmeade comes to life in a new way. Lights twinkle, and you can see the subtle glow of snow on the roofs. Of course being Southern California, that’s as close to snow as we’re going to get in the Wizarding World.
Video-Walk through the Wizarding World at night!
So, if you are looking to get into the special technical rehearsals, know that there is no guarantee of it being opened. Tech rehearsals can happen at any time, and they can end at anytime. Because the attraction does not officially open until April 7th, the park does not have to keep it open, and various portions of the Wizarding World could be closed for any reason at any time.
Slideshow-Check out even more pictures from The Wizarding World Hollywood!
Stay tuned throughout the weekend as we add more photos and videos of the entire experience!
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