Sunday, June 5, 2016

Muggles No More

Universal Studios Hollywood
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ever since I heard that a Wizarding World of Harry Potter existed, I've wanted to go.  But that was in Orlando, and when I go to Orlando, I want to spend my theme park time at WDW.  Luckily for me, Universal Studios built a Wizarding World in Hollywood, which opened in April this year.  I didn't want to be there on opening day because although I'm a big fan of the Potter books and movies, I'm not as hard core as those who would have been there.  So I waited a while, and decided to go before Memorial Day, to try to make it there before the summertime crowds arrived.  I bought an annual pass through AAA since it didn't cost much more than a one day ticket. 

I met up with Dodie at the metro station and we walked on the new bridge which crosses Lankershim and leads to the shuttle stop.  The shuttle dropped us off near the front gate.  It has been about 3 decades or so since I've been to the Universal theme park.  I've been to CityWalk occasionally since then, but the theme park became foreign to me.  As we walked to the entrance, we saw Howie Mandel finishing up an interview.  He then saw a big family taking a group picture, and one of the production folks told them to take one more.  Unbeknownst to them, Howie decided to join them and stood in the middle of their picture.  I wonder if they knew who that was.  I also wonder when they realized who he was, because they weren't acting like they knew what was going on.  Funny.

 We used our pre-printed tickets to get in, and I needed to use the fingerprint scanner to activate my season pass.  I was a bit confused at first, but the employee told me I could enter the gate, and she handed me a card.  It was the annual pass.  It didn't have my picture, and it's not even plastic, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to lose that thing someday soon.  It has the list of my blackout days.  I figured that I would probably want to be at Disneyland anyway on my USH blackout days, so I'm fine with that.  Besides, only need to go one more time for my pass to pay off itself.

We took a gander at all of the people taking pictures of the statues at the entrance.  Then one of the statues moved.  Cooll!  I'm not used to being in a theme park and not knowing the location of the restrooms.  I'm also not used to being in a theme park and not knowing where anything else is located.  We consulted the map and found our way to the entrance to Hogsmeade.  I am now consulting my map to write this trip report and have realized that the reason I know nothing about this part of the park is because I've only been to what's now known as the Lower Lot.  We were in the Upper Lot for most of the day, except for the tram tour.  Wow, I'm old and this whole thing was built while I was hanging out at Disneyland, I guess.
Entrance to Wizarding World of Harry Potter
One of us is retired and happy.
 The other is happy, but tired.

Both Dodie and I had taken the online virtual tour before the new land opened, but it really was like stepping onto the set of the movies.  We saw the Hogwarts Express, and walked on the cobblestone streets to see some of the stores from the outside.  

Stack of Cauldrons
 There was a butterbeer cart that had just opened, but we wanted to go on a ride before having that, because we had both heard that the ride could make people nauseated.  


Angel pigs fly here

The line did not seem to be very long for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (HPFJ), and the employee (are they called Cast Members?  OK, I'll call them CMs) said hello to us at the gate and we entered Hogwarts.  We saw lockers on our right, and figured that people had too much stuff to carry, so they were putting their stuff away.  We just had our backpacks.  So we went to the queue.  This queue is amazing!  It's like you're in the halls of Hogwarts, with the people moving inside the paintings, as well as the other decor.

Mirror of Erised

We walked through Dumbledore's office, which had Dumbledore talking about stuff that I can't remember right now.   I liked being in the room that was a classroom.  I can't remember if it was the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, but we were able to stand and watch the projection of Ron, Hermione and Harry tell us that they wanted us to join their Quidditch game. Then we got to the painting of the singer to whom the Gryffindor students say their password, and we were in the room that had the safety spiel, but tailored to the Potterverse.  Very well done!  As we left that room, one of the CMs told us that we couldn't bring our backpacks on the ride.  Ummm...shouldn't you have told us that before we got into this line?  Sigh.  So we exited there, and went to the lockers.  The lockers are free for 2 hours, and your fingerprint is used to reserve and open it.  It can only be used once, and I messed up mine because I forgot to put something in there, so we both stuffed our backpacks into Dodie's locker.  Then we got back in the line, and this time I had no camera or phone and I felt naked.  So I didn't get a picture of the sorting hat.  Most of my pictures didn't come out very well anyway due to the darkness, but I tried.  We were annoyed by the group in line behind us because they didn't realize that they kept running into us, and they were loud and I just didn't want to deal.  So when the CM asked us how many there were in my party, I said, "2.  I don't want to sit with those people."  I'm not sure if she heard me or not, but we ended up not sitting with them.

The ride:  WOW.  We were in groups of 4, and our legs were dangling from the seats, with an overhead harness coming down to our waists.  The CM gave us goggles to wear.  So not only did we do some roller-coaster-like twisting and turning, but we also saw everything in 3D.  No wonder people get kind of sick sometimes.  I usually don't get motion sickness, but I felt a little queasy at the end.  I kept reminding myself to sit back so that something in my inner ear could feel stable.  It was really, really cool, though!  It was like we were riding on broomsticks, going through a Quidditch game, being attacked by spiders, and being chased by dragons and Dementors.  There were times that I'm sure we were upside down.  The hardest part for Dodie was the spiders, because she's a bit arachnophobic.  I yelled to her to close her eyes, but I was too late because she saw them at the same time that I did.  They also spit at us and that was gross, so I tried not to scream because I didn't want spider spit in my mouth but I was frightened and couldn't help screaming.  I think we got dragon spit or drool or snot or whatever on us, too.  Just eww.  The ride exit is, of course, at a gift shop, so we browsed around before going to our lockers so as not to be tempted with our wallets.  We found a couple of things, but I had one thing I wanted to buy for sure that day, and it could not be found in that store.

We decided that it was time for Butterbeer.  I don't know why that line is so long, but it may have to do with the fact that there were no prices to be found, so probably half of the reason is that the CMs were telling folks the prices of everything when they got to the front of the line.  I ordered Butterbeer in a mug.  It was yummy, tasted like butterscotch.  They also had pumpkin juice and gilly water available, and I made a note to try the pumpkin juice later.  As we enjoyed our butterbeer, we listened to the Frog Choir, which was a student from each Hogwarts house, singing for the frogs that they held like puppets.  The music they sang was mostly from the movies, and it was fun to hear.  
Frog Choir

We went into the nearest store and somehow ended up in the wand shop, but we wanted to go to the Wand Choosing before getting wands, so we left there quickly.  Dodie hadn't eaten breakfast, and I had heard about the D'ohnuts in Springfield, so we went in search of them.  We thought they would be at the Kwik-E mart, but they only had huge D'ohnuts the size of a dinner plate.  After looking around some more, we found Lard Lad D'ohnuts.  There you go!  I wanted maple bacon flavor, but they weren't available that day, so I ordered Froot Loops instead.  Yup.  Froot Loops ON the D'ohnut.  With Icing.  Dodie ordered Cocoa Puffs. Even though it wasn't the HUGE size, it was still a good size, and we ate our D'ohnuts with a knife and fork.  
Cereal D'ohnuts

Great sign!

I couldn't decide which one I was, so I picked both.

We returned to Hogsmeade and shopped in Zonko's Joke Shop and Honeyduke's, and decided on what candy we would buy later to take home.  We then used the Girls restroom to clean out our Butterbeer mugs and listened to Moaning Myrtle talking.  Then we got in line for Ollivanders.  The two people in line in front of us had also just come from Honeyduke's and they were eating fudge or something.  Then they opened another package of candy and had some of that.  Then they opened a package of bon bons or truffles or something and ate that, too.  I guess they didn't want to take any home? Or they were sampling for their big purchase later?  I don't know.  It was just way too much sugar for me to think about after I had the huge D'ohnut and Butterbeer.

We stepped into Ollivander's and were told that when we go into the Wand Choosing room, we were to be very quiet, and to turn off our cell phones, and not use any flash photography so that the wands could concentrate.  The wizard chose a  boy, but he looked terrified, and the girl next to him told the wizard that he didn't understand English.  So she chose a girl about 10 years old, and also chose her sister.  They said some kind of oath. The wands that she gave them did not react properly (one wilted the flowers instead of growing them, and the other made drawers move instead of moving the ladder).  She switched the wands, and the room lit up because they were holding the correct ones.  The presentation was wonderful.  The wizard told them why the wands chose them, according to their personality.  Their mother was in amazement and said, "That's TRUE!"  Tears were in my eyes as the wizard told one of the girls that she must be very protective of her sister.  It was lovely.  They stayed behind to talk to her more while the rest of us went into the very busy wand shop.  You can either choose a wand that was the replica of one of the characters, or a wand of a specific type of wood according to your personality type.  Unfortunately, none of the wands had a description of the kind of core, such as dragon heart string or unicorn mane hair.  Some of the character wands had two versions: one that would interact with displays around Hogsmeade, and one that did not.  Dodie chose Hermione's wand due to the pretty vine and leaves sculpted on it, and I chose Sirius' wand because of the engravings.  The CM showed me how to hold the wand as Sirius had it made special so that it would only respond to someone whom knew how to hold it.  Mine was interactive, but I didn't have the heart to take it out of the beautiful box that day.  Next time I go, I'll have my wand in tow.  Wand goal attained!  Sher is happy.

It was time for another ride, so we got in line for Flight of the Hippogriff.  The front of the coaster has the shape of the hippogriff's head, and the cars are covered in a basket-weave design. The loading area has a lot of baskets hanging over head, and there is a hippogriff in a nest that you can see before the coaster escalates.  It's a short ride, and it's fun.  
Hagrid's Hut

Hippogriff in Nest

We saw the wand cart again (we passed it after HPFJ), and decided to look at those wands, too.  Well, lo and behold, there was one with the design of a dragon wing that Dodie would have bought had she seen it inside the store.  APPARENTLY, the wand is available there, but it is not on display.  She now knows what she's getting next time!  

We ate lunch at Three Broomsticks Restaurant, and both ordered the Fish and Chips.  I also ordered some pumpkin juice and it was yummy!  The potatoes were a little soggy, but the fish was good.  
Entrance to Three Broomsticks

Then we decided that it was time to take the Studio Tour.  This is not the same tram ride that I took those many years ago, that's for sure!  We used 3D glasses at a couple of places, there's a video monitor, and Jimmy Fallon takes part in some of those videos.  Now I understand why people were laughing during "Jurassic World" when Jimmy Fallon showed up on screen inside the hamster balls. I think that my favorite part of it was the King Kong 3D stuff.  Wow!  Except for the part where I got dino saliva on me.   I still love JAWS, though.  
Uh Oh.

One of the vehicles is being used for production.
The glass on the hamster balls was all CGI.

Is there a DeLorean behind this sign?

Pre Shark

Post Shark

Wisteria Lane

We returned to our "home" - Wizarding World.  There is a LOT of detail in the shops, and every time I took a picture of something, others in the shop would look toward where I was aiming, and would notice it, too.  People sometimes don't see the details, so I'm happy to help them out, because I'm sure the designers worked very hard to include them.  When I saw the monster book in the cage, I took this picture, and then it tried to get out and chomp on me.  A guy nearby said, "How did you do that?  I've been here for 20 minutes trying to get it to move, and you finally did it!"  I think it may have been the flash from my camera...or it can sense that I am tasty.  I don't know.

We had seen a keychain that looked like Hermione's time travel necklace back in the store at Hogwarts, and I was looking for the necklace to purchase.  I finally saw a necklace in Gladrags WizardWear, but it was in a display case and I didn't see a price tag.  Dodie asked the CM if they had them for sale.  She was told that yes, they are considered a collector's item, and it even comes with the display case!  The price was reasonable, so I was happy to purchase one.  My collector's heart was happy for the day, and I decided that anything else I wanted would need to wait for another trip.  I left my purchase at the store for them to deliver to Package Express.

Inside Gru's House
Dodie upgraded her single day ticket to an annual pass, and then we went to Minon Mayhem.  MINIONS!  The attraction is another 3D experience, but not as harrowing as HPFJ.  Let me just say that I'm really glad that we got to smell bananas that day.  That was fun, and then the store at the end of the ride had a bunch of fluffy unicorns.  I'm glad that I told myself not to buy anymore things that day, because I might have lost my mind in there with all of the stuff I wanted.  As we were leaving the store, we saw that the girls from Despicable Me were on their way to their photo spot.  We got all excited, and followed them as they stopped to help a little girl try to win a unicorn at the little hammer / bell game.  They excitedly hugged everyone that took pictures with them, as well as the photographers.  So cute.  We also rang all of the doorbells in their neighborhood, so we could hear the silly Minion sounds.
Hanging with Gru's Girls

I think I might have to come back in the morning one day so that I can get breakfast from the cart at the Kingdom of Far Far Away.  I also want to meet Donkey.  But we were getting tired, so we went to Honeyduke's to get the candy that we had spied earlier in the day.  OMG, they had Butterbeer fudge!  So I got a piece of that and some Fudge Flies and a Chocolate Frog for people at work.  I also got gummy candy in the shape of fried eggs.  I just felt like I needed them.

When we arrived at the store for my Package Pickup, they didn't have my item yet.  They kept looking for it, and during that time, one of the employees asked me if I had been helped.  THREE times.  The same person.  We had been standing there the entire time, hadn't walked away or anything.  Stop playing with that yo-yo, look at my face, remember it for the next 15 minutes and recognize me already!  That was hella annoying. We were eventually told that the item was on its way, so we shopped some more and found more stuff that we wanted to get on future visits.  

We were done.  We waited for the shuttle to go back down the hill.  We saw a bunch of teenagers arrive for their Grad Night festivities.  We then said goodbye at the Metro station and went our separate ways.  My ride took a while because the Gold Line train took a really long time to arrive due to technical issues, but I made it home OK, albeit in the dark.

Thank you for the great time, Dodie!  Let's do it again soon!

1 comment:

  1. Thank YOU for a wonderful day and for helping me relive the fun while reading your review. Yes, let's do it again very soon.