Happy Sunday! I missed yesterday’s recap post because I thought it was Friday, so there’s that.
The past few months, while I’ve had a work schedule that plays with your internal clock in every way, I’ve had issues keeping track of what day of the week it is and frequently turn to Nick at some point in the day to verify which day it is. And on that note, this week was very similar to last week where I spent most of it alternating hiding from the world/sleeping or at work, with one very large exception — HOGWARTS. (I apologize for this being absurdly wrong but there’s just so much)
On Wednesday I had the amazing chance to go to a Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood preview event for Warner Bros employees with Cassie and a couple other new friends. Leading up to the day there were a lot of little things that had to align/not get in the way of the event (my crazy work schedule, Cassie’s crazy work schedule, etc..) in order for it to happen so I had kind of figured in the back of my head that it wasn’t going to come together. So on Tuesday when everything came together and we got the go-ahead for Wednesday, the excitement was unreal. And thus, my sleep deprived-excitement/adrenaline-fueled trip to Hogwarts began.
I had worked an overnight shift on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, so by the time I met up with Cassie and her co-worker’s wife, Michelle, I was running on pure caffeine and excitement. We met at the WB lot around noon and climbed into the car to get over the Universal by 12:45. Once we were joined by the fourth and final member of our group at Universal, we were ready to take over Hogwarts. The preview event itself was from 1pm-4pm and had the park closed off to only the people that R.S.V.Pd and guests.
The first thing you see when entering the park is the majestic Hogwarts Express greeting you as you make your way into Hogsmeade. While we were tempted to stop and look around all the shops you pass by as soon as you enter, we were determined to get to the castle as soon as possible. However, as soon as we started walking we ran right into Dave and his hat. Several pictures later, we continued on our way to the castle.
After months of staring at Hogwarts from the bottom of the hill, it was very surreal to finally see it up close. I would also like to verify that people’s reports of the castle being disappointing are a lie. It is majestic and beautiful and they’re all wrong. The thing is flat out huge, and how they even had enough room for it in that tiny park astounds me. And all that aside, it looks just like a real castle that has been sitting there for hundreds of years, and, despite seeing it go from scaffolding in 2014 to a CASTLE now, I had to keep reminding myself that Universal has not been around since 990 A.D.
We threw our bags into one of the lockers in the base of the castle and hopped into the queue is quickly as we possibly could and started taking and endless stream of dark, blurry pictures on our way through the castle. The queue area for the ride is a winding pathway through the castle, which promises to entertain guests the whole way through. You wind your way through underground passageways, through the Herbology classroom, and finally into the castle itself where statues, the house cup hourglasses, and the griffin guarding the headmaster’s office welcomes you. Then after several more chambers and passageways of moving paintings, the headmaster’s office, the Fat Lady, and Griffindor’s common room you enter the great hall a.k.a the ride itself.
If you’ve been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, the ride in Hollywood is nearly identical. The combination of virtual reality and real “sets” seamlessly flow together into one of my favorite rides ever. Harry Potter themes aside, the ride is truly amazing and how they’ve designed an attraction that flows so seamlessly from section to section blows my mind. The first time we rode the ride this time, we did get stuck in front of a Dementor waiting to get us, which was terrifying and I honestly can’t decide if I feel more bad for us or the group that would have gotten stuck in front of Aragog.
After the ride we decided to calm our throats with some delicious frozen butterbeer and poke around the shops. While in the back of my mind I fully realize making the majority of the park a giant merchandising opportunity is pure corporate genius on Universal’s end, it didn’t make poking through all the Hogsmeade shops any less fun. Of all of them, the interior of Wizeacre’s Wizarding Equipment was probably my favorite due to the sun and moon decor – a.k.a 6th grade Olivia’s aesthetic. However, the giant sneakoscope in Dervish and Banges was a close second.
After shopping and butterbeer drinking we decided it was time for Flight of the Hippogriff which is the most adorable little roller coaster of all time. The line for this one hosts photo opportunities of Hagrid’s Hut as well as one of my favorite touches of book-things-not-in-the-movies with the little Fire Crabs crate stack. When you walk past Hagrid’s door you’ll occasionally hear Fang barking ballistically which is a nice touch as well. Because of the limited amount of people let into the park, we pretty much walked onto the ride, which was amazing. This ride is a 100% blink and it’s over coaster, and the first time we did this one we realized the top of the “drop” was a prime Hogwarts photo opportunity. Consequently the majority of it was spent taking the perfect Hogwarts photo and we essentially missed the whole thing. We went on for a second time immediately afterwards and actually paid attention, and it was delightful. Again, this is as far from a great thrill coaster as you could get, but it is just so fun. I do have to say though I would probably have been a little disappointed with it if I had to wait more than five minutes to get on – so if the line is an hour long in the future – I would probably recommend skipping it if you want to save time.
From there on out the day mostly consisted of continuing to ogle at the general magic of Hogsmeade, repeating the castle ride three more times (the limited people meant walking through the castle took 5x longer than getting onto the ride itself) and going on the Flight of the Hippogriff a couple more times before 4pm when the park was opened to the rest of the Universal guests for the day.
We ended the Hogwarts adventure with a drink at the Hog’s Head where they have three special wizardy brews on tap. Both Michelle and I tried the Wizard’s Ale which was their lager and it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Once the park officially opens I’ll be getting my season’s pass for the year, and I would be lying to you if the opportunity to go for drinks at the Hog’s Head after work wasn’t a part of cementing that decision. I’m excited to try the other two brews (a red ale and a coffee stout that I can’t remember the names of) in April when I get to bring my mom and aunt.
And with the hordes of the rest of the park released into our afternoon haven, we decided to depart Hogsmeade to check out some of the other now empty universal attractions. At this point Evan left the group to go back to work (Wednesday afternoon problems) and Cassie, Michelle, and I headed down to the lower level of the park to go on Jurassic Park. They were having some problems with the ride the first time around so not all the pieces were working quite right. We made it to the bottom of the drop nice and dry, but when presented a front-of-the line pass to go on again after our five/ten minute wait to get off the ride, we couldn’t say no. And with that, we hopped back onto the ride, hoping, in vain, that we only got a little wet.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Part of me is convinced that the worker’s of the ride targeted us this time around, because at one point in the ride, we stopped for just a moment longer than felt right, and then the water started. And then every second when it felt like it should be over, the water just kept pouring. By the time the ride started moving forward again, the three of us were absolutely drenched. Meanwhile, the rest of our car didn’t seem nearly as bad off as we were.
And with that we took our leave and headed back to the WB Lot and our cars to go home. After not sleeping for a full day, I passed out around 8pm and then slept all of Thursday. Literally all of it. But it was so worth it.