By Arleeny Escarcega
Potter fans will be lining up for the anticipated opening of the theme park and Santa Ana College students, faculty, and staff can buy discounted tickets.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is opening next month with two new features exclusive to the Universal Studios’s Hollywood location.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the school, the Hogwarts Express, and Ollivander’s shop. Fans are going to be crazy about the opening. Who wouldn’t want to go where magic happens,” said Cristal Perez, SAC student.
Specially priced tickets are available online for Santa Ana College students, faculty, and staff. In order to purchase them, a valid Santa Ana College email address is required. Students can go to the official Santa Ana College website, go to “Current Students”, and under “Admission & Records” click on the “Student Email and Microsoft Office 365 Cloud” and follow the instructions from there to create it. Buyers can save $15 to $20 on general admission (SAC exclusive link http://ushtix.com/santaanacollege).
Universal Studios Hollywood is introducing the “EZ-Rez” system for online tickets purchases on the same opening date of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”. This system offers date specific tickets and rates. Guests can save up to $15 when purchasing tickets through this system, compared to buying at the front gate, and can also enter one hour before regular park hours. Tickets prices range from $80 to $299.
Upon “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” the famous Hogwarts Express train station is one of the first things seen. But unlike the ride in Florida. The train is a prop, with billowing steam, as the conductor greets people. A little further ahead, workers recreated the train station, which contains real movie props. People can pose with scarves representing the Houses and wands. Pictures can be purchased for $25, with every other digital copy for $5. Unlike the parks in Florida and Japan, this one is exclusive to Hollywood.
Alan Gilmore, the supervising art director, used many props for the recreation of landmarks from the film, wanting to make sure it was something true to the movies and the books.
Inside, guests can visit “Zonko’s Joke Shop,” where all kinds of prank items and candies can be bought. Next door is “Honeydukes,” the candy shop in the books and movies. It made its first appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Harry escaped from Hogwarts to visit Hogsmeade. These two shops may look like separate ones on the outside but they are joined together on the inside.
In “Three Broomsticks,” people can stop for a bite in between visiting the attractions. It is based on the “Three Broomsticks Inn” in the books and movies, which was run by Madam Rosmerta, a key figure in the series. Some common English foods are served, like fish and chips and shepard’s pie. Other Potter themed snacks include the “Great Feast Platter,” Pumpkin Juice and Butterbeer. Behind one of the registers is a hog’s head, as it has been connected to the “Hog’s Head Pub”.
After eating, people can visit the “Owl Post”. Here an employee stands outside with a stuffed owl perched on the arm, greeting visitors and allowing them to pet the owl. Inside are owl-themed toys, stationery, and best of all, visitors can send letters with a genuine Hogsmeade postage stamp. Outside of it is an “Owlery” with benches where people can take a seat and relax. Fake owl droppings decorate the grounds to give it a more authentic look.
Adjacent to the “Owl Post” is “Gladrags Wizardwear.” Guests can buy wizard robes, trinkets and Christmas sweaters similar to the ones Mrs. Weasley knitted every Christmas. While Hermione’s Yule Ball dress is displayed in the Orlando park, Ginny’s and Cho Chang’s Yule Ball dresses are displayed in the Hollywood park.
“Fans are going to be excited for the opening is because we’re finally going to be in the world of Harry Potter and obviously, we’re never going to go to those places,” said Kimberly Rodriguez, Santa Ana College student.
“Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” is the main attraction of Universal Studios Hollywood, created as a 3D experience that differentiates it from the one in Orlando. Visitors can expect to wait awhile but they will be entertained and kept in the shade as they walk through the halls with sights from the books and movies and appearances of characters.
Once guests have reached the Sorting Hat, they will be ready to board the ride. Hermione greets them and asks if they are prepared before casting a spell that commences the ride. The beginning can be a bit dizzying if guests are prone to motion sickness as they are placed in front of a screen where swirling green and white colors transport them. They fight off dementors and the Whomping Willow, play a Quidditch match with the Gryffindor team, and travel through the Forbidden Forest. Close to the end, as the riders feel the dementors closing in on them, Harry Potter appears out of the dark and expels them with his Patronous. The ride ends in the Great Hall, with Dumbledore and the rest of the Hogwarts students and faculty thank the riders for their help in achieving victory.
The “Flight of the Hippogriff” is Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster. This ride is small and a bit slow. There is a moment of build-up as the first peak is reached but afterwards, everything goes downhill. The ride duration is about two minutes. Visitors might reconsider waiting for this ride if the wait time is anything more than ten minutes, but it would be good for small children.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Hogsmeade without buying a Butterbeer from the Butterbeer cart. It’s a sweet, toffee-flavored drink available in two cold versions: iced or frozen. There’s also Pumpkin Juice for those who chose to indulge in it.
“I think fans are going to be excited, stoked about the opening,” said Rafael Lopez, Santa Ana College student. “They’re going to look forward to everything!”