The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood Sneak Peek!
Hogwarts is coming to California! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is set to open this coming April 7, 2016, and we have your first sneak peak of all that awaits. Trust this born-and-raised SoCal writer when she says snow has never looked this good in Los Angeles.
Universal will be showcasing Hogsmeade village with the adjoining Hogwarts castle when it opens its doors this spring. The expansion is one of many new features Universal Hollywood has put in over the past few years as part of park-wide renovations boasting Hogwarts as its new crowning jewel. And what a jewel it is!
California natives will absolutely eat up the park; not a single detail has been spared! But fans who have already frequented the similar expansion in Orlando shouldn’t consider skipping out on this one. There are plenty of differences between the two that will make for an exciting new experience for any fan.
The differences immediately start off with the overall feel of Hogsmeade. The street seemed wider to me, which will hopefully allow attendees to maneuver about with more ease. The entrance is also one of the first spots you come to when entering Universal, so while we will surely miss having the Hogwarts Express to ferry us across the park, it will certainly be nice to skip the wait times at King’s Cross and walk straight into the goodness!
Speaking of the Hogwarts Express, perhaps my favorite change from Orlando is how Universal’s team has handled the void of the scarlet engine. Because Hollywood is not including the Dragon Challenge roller coasters, there was no longer a need for the huge locker space you’d normally find waiting for you when you exit the Hogwarts Express. Instead, a lovely ticket booth awaits with a full replica of one of the train carriages for guests to snap pics in. Included are multiple green screen backgrounds to choose from to make your photos look that much more authentic. If you have yet to ride the train in Orlando or visit the similar replicas at the London Studio Tour, you will definitely not want to miss this feature!
From there, Hogsmeade is yours to explore. The layout is generally the same as that of Orlando, but certain shops have been either shrunken or enlarged to fit the unique space of the Hollywood hills, and brand new shops await full of hidden surprises! Enjoy a frozen butterbeer (which I can confirm tastes just as delicious as it does elsewhere) in the more spacious Three Broomsticks tavern or head next door to the Hog’s Head for a sampling of some authentic Scottish beers. You can also purchase specific clothing items, like the House Quidditch sweaters, that have been made and manufactured in Scotland by the same team that outfitted wool on some of the costumes for the films.
And of course, don’t forget the glorious Hogwarts Castle! It’s sitting a little higher up than the one in Orlando and offers some great views of the surrounding Hollywood hills that will make you feel all the more as though you truly are in Scotland. The ever-fantastic Forbidden Journey (now in 3D) and Flight of the Hippogriff (Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster ever) are also included in the park and well worth a visit.
Overall, the new expansion is amazing, and the level of detail that has gone into it, impeccable. Art Supervisor Alan Gilmore will tell you that if there is one takeaway from this expansion, it’s authenticity – starting with the numerous props taken directly from Leavesden in London to ensure the genuine design of the village. Spot some of the earmuffs worn in Chamber of Secrets from pulling those pesky mandrakes as you wait in line for Forbidden Journey! Be sure to spot Katie Leung’s Yule Ball gown that she wore as Cho in Goblet of Fire in one of the new clothing stores, TK. Gilmore also stressed that the park overall is more true to the real vision he and the film teams had for Potter, with a greater saturation of color and more focus on the leaning, slanted nature of wizarding buildings that he has exaggerated in the Hollywood park more than ever before.
Between all of these little details, the snowcapped rooftops that sparkle and shine in the bright California sun, and the lovely setting of those hills, I think it’s safe to say that the wizarding world is going to be a smashing success for Universal Hollywood. Remember, the expansion doesn’t open to the public until April, so there is still a bit of a wait until it’s ready, but trust me when I say it’s absolutely worth the wait!