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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sasaki Time's First Look at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood


I am standing at the gateway to one of the most highly anticipated theme park expansion openings in recent history! Come with me  and get your first look at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood!

The official opening is set for April 7th, 2016, but Universal Studios Hollywood is deep in what they call "technical rehearsals". This gives the theme park a great opportunity to work out the kinks of the entire land operation from shops to restaurants to attractions. A "technical rehearsal" is not guaranteed but it has been happening just about every day now.


The Hogwarts Express is the first thing that greets you! Steam coming out of the stack lets you know that the train has just pulled into the station.


The details pull you right into Hogsmeade and you will run into many of the townspeople who are as friendly as can be!


Dining and Snacks


The butterbeer cart will be one of your must stops! There are two butterbeer carts in Hogsmeade plus you can get butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks and at the Hog's Head.


You will not find any muggle drinks such as soda here! Remember to get your Gilly Water here!


Or your pumpkin juice! The bottle alone is worth the purchase!


But you must get a butterbeer! You can get them in regular or frozen varieties. I prefer the frozen! If you have never had butterbeer think of it as a butterscotch cream soda! The warm version should be available when the area officially opens on April 7th.


Honeydukes has all of your favorite sweets such as this butterbeer fudge!


Feeling hungry? Well, look no further than the Three Broomsticks! You will find a wide assortment of your favorite English pub foods!


I went for the prime rib! This thick cut prime rib was amazing! This is definitely not your typical theme park meal!


Located inside of the Three Broomsticks is Hog's Head Pub where you can get butterbeer as well as alcoholic drinks! You will find several beers on tap including three beers made especially for Hogsmeade!


If you ask they can mix the beers together! You can also get them in this great souvenir mug!


After an amazing meal don't forget about dessert! And you must try this butterbeer creme pot! Think of it was a butterscotch custard! So good!

Shopping


After you are done eating it is probably best to walk off some of that amazing food and drink with a little shopping! There are several stores in the area and you will find some amazing items to remember your visit to Hogsmeade and to Hogwarts! In the Owl Post, you can find stationary and great plush owls like the one I am holding that is also a puppet!


Your first time at Hogsmeade needs to include a visit to Ollivanders Wand Shop. They have a wand pairing room which is a show that the wand master will select someone in the room and see which wand calls out to that person. Then you are led into the main wand shop. There are regular and interactive wands to choose from. Trust me it is well worth the extra cost for the interactive one. You can take your interactive wand and the supplied map around Hogsmeade to find the various interactive areas. They are indicated by metal points in the cobblestone. It shows you not only the wand movement you must do but also the magical words you must say. You will then be able to make a flower bloom or turn on lights and so much more! Plus, the interactive wands will work at Universal Studios in Orlando and Osaka at their Wizarding World of Harry Potter locations!


A wand choose me! The packaging is also top notch!


Here is a closer look at the wand that choose me!

Entertainment


As you continue to explore Hogsmede, you may come across two fun live entertainment groups! There is a Tri-Wizard Tournament show featuring students from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and Durmstrang Institute. But my favorite is the Frog Choir! The vocal harmonization between students and frogs is fantastic! Plus, the students from both shows stay around for a terrific photo opportunity!

Attractions


But many of you are here for the attractions! Well as we head towards Hogwarts we find the two attractions in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! The first is the Flight of The Hippogriff, a child friendly coaster similar to Gadget's Go-Coaster in Toontown at Disneyland! A cute coaster but nothing special. But the queue is well themed as it takes you past sights such as Hagrid's motorcycle and sidecar.


Hagrid's hut is well themed.




If Universal Studios called their top attractions E-Tickets like Disney did, then this would be the crowned jewel of attractions! Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey easily ranks with the best of Disney! From the massive and extremely detailed queue to the incredible ride system that skillfully combines fully immersive sets with 3D screens and animatronics! This is a one of a kind ride experience that has no rival and to think that the original version of this attraction is 6 years old!


The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is amazing! Fans of the franchise will want to live here and those that love theme parks will quickly become fans!


Time will tell to see how popular the Wizarding World West Coast will become. If it takes off the way that Universal hopes then the rumors of expansion will sure be officially announced down the road.

In order to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter just be aware that they are in technical rehearsals. There is no guarantee if anything will be open on a day that you come to visit. I recommend that you follow the hashtag #PotterWatch on Twitter and Instagram to see if the area is open and what may be closed.

With that, I am excited to see what lies in store for the future of Universal Studios Hollywood! Now I'm off to Hogsmeade for anotehr glass of frozen butterbeer! Won't you join me? I'll be in the Three Broomsticks!

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