It was an exciting day for muggles when the latest Hogwarts school threw open its door to them (and if you don’t know what a muggle is, stop reading now – this story is not for you or the rock under which you’ve been living).
It was 6am in the morning on April 7, with a slight chance of rain, when Universal Studios in Hollywood opened the gates for the several hundred visitors who had, in some cases, been queuing overnight to be among the first to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The studio’s latest expansion cost a cool US$500 million ( AUD$690 million) – and it shows in both the main ride and the attention to detail in the spectacular recreation of Hogsmeade, the quaint, snow-covered village of J. K. Rowling’s imagination.
From the cobblestoned streets to the red butterbeer wagons and the animatronic owls nesting in the guano-spattered eaves of one building, the attention to detail is second to none.
You can eat in the Three Broomsticks restaurant, drink more butterbeer (or real beer) in the Hog’s Head pub and have a wand chosen for you at Olivander’s wand shop. The Owl Post is, naturally, awash with yet more owls, parcels and a book which tries to bite you.
Meanwhile, across the street in Honeydukes sweetshop, there’s more candy than you can shake a wand at – though it’s more muggle-worthy fare than Rowling’s fabulously magical lollies.
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The main attraction, though, is the Forbidden Journey ride – proved by waits of up to three hours in the first few days. Universal seems to have anticipated this by making queuing part of the attraction. While waiting your turn you can marvel at Dumbledore’s office or be urged to move along by the portraits on the walls.
The ride itself is a freewheeling blend of 3D, animatronics and real sets in which you are chased by a fire-breathing dragon, take part in a quidditch match – you really will think you can catch that golden snitch and you will lift your feet up as you speed across those imaginary rooftops – and menaced by giant spiders, dementers and a massive whomping willow.
Might scare the really littl’uns but they’ll be begging for a second go around – if you can face the queues.