This has been a pretty big year in terms of theme park news. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando broke all kinds of attendance records, and added to the significant lift that Orlando as a whole saw in terms of family travel visits. Its west coast counterpart apparently took notice: Word is out that Universal Studios Hollywood is going to build its own Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. This, on top of the new King Kong 360 3-D ride and soon-to-open Transformers: The Ride, will make Universal Studios Hollywood even more of a contender for California theme park travel. And to think — Universal Studios Hollywood was a pretty big travel attraction before all these big movies-turned-theme-park-rides. Harry Potter is only going to make it a more popular tourist destination.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood hasn’t even broken ground, and won’t be open to Los Angeles area visitors until 2014. But if it’s anything like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, it will be an absolutely huge, incredibly popular attraction. When Harry Potter opened in Universal Studios Orlando, the lines were intense to the point that the attraction made the US nationally televised news. Theme park tourists were so eager to experience the Wizarding World those first few months that park staff had to keep track of how many guests were exploring the area, and only let new guest in when others left. In other words: hold onto your sorting hats, Los Angeles denizens, the tourists are coming.
Now, I am not the biggest fan of the Harry Potter franchise, though I did read the first four books (at that point, my kids’ interest petered out so I went back to my adult fare…like The Hunger Games). But even I couldn’t help but get completely caught up in the magic and fantasy of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. Everything, from the Hogwarts Express train to Hogsmeade Village, to the entertaining queue line for the Forbidden Journey simulator ride in Hogwarts Castle, is done perfectly, with imagination and attention to detail. I can’t wait for the attraction to open here in Los Angeles; it will be fun to taste butterbeer again!
There’s not a lot of information out there yet about the plans for Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, but I’d assume it won’t be an exact replica of the Orlando version. The Hollywood property isn’t nearly as sprawling as is Orlando’s, so another attraction may have to be replaced or reworked. Plenty of unexplored aspects of the books and movies could be represented; there’s a lot to work with in the universe author J.K. Rowling created, after all. Surely there will be the castle-based school, though, and Hogsmeade Village. Just speculating here, but perhaps Diagon Alley will be part of Universal Studios Hollywood’s version of the Harry Potterverse. Presuming that the architects in charge of designing the Southern California version of the attraction will focus on detailing other shops and stores, this could be the perfect opportunity for us Muggles to take a seat at the Leaky Cauldron.
J.K. Rowling has said, “I am delighted that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been so popular with fans since the opening of Orlando last year and I am sure that the teams at Universal and Warner Brothers will bring their expertise and attention to detail to Hollywood to make this new experience equally as exciting.” Good to know that Universal Studios Hollywood has her stamp of approval…although the theme park surely wouldn’t be able to create the new attraction without her explicit say-so in the first place. Nice, though. The poor gal probably needs the money.