The curtain will soon be pulled back on the long-awaited West Coast version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Let’s tackle a few questions about what’s in store for fans when the Boy Wizard arrives in Southern California.
When will Wizarding World open?
After 2½ years of construction, the grand opening of Wizarding World in California is officially set for April 7. A red carpet premiere scheduled for April 5 will likely include several stars from the Harry Potter film franchise.
Universal has been testing the rides in Wizarding World for months and has shot several television commercials within the new land - raising the possibility of a soft opening prior to the official debut.
Where will the new land be located?
Universal tore down the 40-year-old Gibson Amphitheatre and the adjacent Adventures of Curious George water play area in 2013 to make room for Wizarding World.
The new themed land will be squeezed between the studio backlot tram station, the WaterWorld stunt show and the Shrek 4-D movie theater.
How much will it cost?
The overall project, which will include facility and infrastructure upgrades at the adjacent television and movie studio, has been pegged at $500 million.
The original Wizarding World, which opened in 2010 at Universal Orlando in Florida, reportedly cost $265 million.
How big will the new land be?
Universal officials have said that the California Wizarding World will be similar to the Florida version.
The 6-acre Hollywood site will be about half the size of the 13-acre Orlando location - but two-thirds of that land in Florida is dedicated to the Dragon Challenge dueling coaster.
What attractions will be added?
The new themed land will include the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey motion-based simulator ride inside a replica of the Hogwarts castle. Forbidden Journey is generally considered to be one of the best rides in the amusement industry.
The family-friendly Flight of the Hippogriff by German-based Mack Rides will be slightly taller (50 feet), longer (1.300 feet) and faster (40 mph) than the Florida version of the roller coaster.
The Potter land in Florida featured the re-themed Dragon Challenge dueling twin-track roller coaster which won’t be replicated in California.
What about the shops and restaurants?
Three Broomsticks restaurant will replicate the inn and pub from the movies, serving fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and turkey legs.
The shops in Hogsmeade village will include Ollivanders wand shop, Zonko’s joke shop, Honeydukes candy store, Dervish and Banges clothing store, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods gift shop, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Gladrags Wizardwear and Owl Post stationery shop.
Just how good is the Butterbeer?
The frothy shortbread and butterscotch flavored drink is the most popular food item sold at Wizarding World in Florida. And at $10 a pop with a souvenir mug ($11 frozen), a certified money-making phenomenon for Universal. No trip to the Potterverse is complete without a creamy pint of Butterbeer goodness.
Where are the other Wizarding Worlds?
The first Wizarding World of Harry Potter depicting Hogsmeade Village opened in 2010 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Florida.
In 2014, a second land modeled after Diagon Alley debuted next door at Universal Studios Florida with a Leaky Cauldron restaurant and a Gringotts Wizarding Bank dark ride coaster.
A replica of the original Hogsmeade Village also opened in 2014 at Universal Studios Japan.
The $3.3-billion Universal Studios Beijing theme park set to open in 2019 will include both a Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley.
Should Disney be worried?
The instant success of Wizarding World in Florida forced Disney World to unveil two massive counterattacks: a reinvention of Fantasyland for 2012 and the creation of Pandora: The World of Avatar set to debut in 2017.
Disneyland has taken the same approach, announcing plans for a 14-acre Star Wars Land designed to counteract Wizarding World West.
Expect the Boy Wizard to steal second-day visitors away from Disney California Adventure. Regional parks like SeaWorld San Diego, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm will have to step up the competition.
Is there room to grow in California?
It’s not inconceivable to imagine the powers that be at Universal wondering where they would put a Diagon Alley sequel in Hollywood should Wizarding World prove as popular on the West Coast as it has on the East Coast.
While space is tight at the Hollywood park, a Diagon Alley expansion of Wizarding World is reportedly envisioned for the Waterworld stunt show arena location, according to a source who has seen the blueprints.
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