It's finally here!!! It's Potter Week!!
As you all know the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens at Universal Studios Hollywood this Thursday (April 7) and the star studded premiere is tomorrow night (April 5). We will of course be there on the red carpet so be sure you are following us for all of that fun.
So while we're celebrating all things Wizarding World this week we thought it would be a good time to stop and take a look backwards a bit, to take a look at where the park was just a few short years ago and at the "Epic Transformation" they've made. Because it truly is EPIC.
From a park that just a few years ago was giving a full year away for the price of one day to where today is commanding multiple visits for tourists and has definitely swayed the attendance habits of local fans who now have a choice between incredible theme parks to attend each weekend.
It truly is an AMAZING time time to be a theme park fan in Southern California.
(keep in mind, we don't have all the older pictures we would have liked, but at the time we weren't thinking of taking them for posterity ... oh hindsight)
We'll start off at the front of the park since that's the first thing everybody sees when they enter. Remember when this was the new thing in the park?
Of course, the iconic entry to the park hasn't changed much over the years.
The rest of the entrance area has sure changed over the years though.
Sure looks different today
All new Starbucks!!
And they aren't even done yet, coming this Summer!!
The Wild West Theater
Universal Plaza decked out for Lunar New Year earlier this year.
Let's take a left turn from Universal Plaza where we now have the amazing Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Funland.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Funland
Did You Know: Despicable Me Minion Mayhem was one of the first projects we started covering as a website?
Continuing on through the upper lot of the park, who remembers when Marvel had a presence at the park? It really wasn't that long ago.
Once Marvel left it was just "Comic Heroes"
Or when this was actually a thing?
Even the Studio Tour entrance has undergone some pretty significant changes over the years:
The tour itself has had some changes, some forced and two totally different Fast and Furious attractions.
Have a tramtastic day ...
But all of the changes weren't exclusive to the upper lot, the lower lot has received it's share of love recently.
Then ... Special Effects Stages (now on the upper lot)
Transformers The Ride 3D
Even small changes to make the guest experience better.
But of course, none of that compares to the changes made to the upper lot in just the last few years. The thing that has finally made Universal Studios into a full fledged "Theme Park" and not just a "Studios" park.
Did you know: The Universal Amphitheater closed in September 2013? Not even 3 years ago.
Anybody know what is in this spot now? Certainly looks much different today.
No Epic Transformation could be done without a LOT of Epic Construction.
Now ... we'll start off with the amazing Springfield addition that was made last year.
And of course, none of that compares to what is opening in just a few days.
So now it's finally here ... just a few short days away. Wizarding World opens for the world to see.
And we all have heard the rumors, we know they aren't done yet. When the new additions will be announced is anybody's guess. Will they take the advantage of the world looking at the park this week to make another big announcement? We'll find out tomorrow night.
We hope you enjoyed this look back at the park over the past few years. We of course had a lot more pictures that we could have shared, but we figured this was more than enough. It's still amazing how much work has been done in just a few years and we can't wait to see what the future holds.
Pictures and Words by Gregg Condon
This past weekend after a lot of "media" stuff over the last few weeks I took a well deserved break to have just a "family" day at Universal Studios Hollywood. The rest of the family had yet to see Springfield and hadn't seen Harry Potter construction in person since Halloween Horror Nights, so we were LONG overdue.
That said, I did take the Point and Shoot and got some pics, but they won't be "fancy" like the rest of our updates. =)
The biggest addition since our last update is the new Wizarding World store at the front of the park. While this isn't EVERYTHING that will be offered in Wizarding World, it features a LOT more than we thought it would.
They've done a great job converting this store from Minions to Harry Potter.
Hedwig ... =(
Platform 9 3/4
What, the poster on the shirt doesn't move? =)
Hedwig, Fang, Fawkes, Buckbeak, Frog, Rat (Scabbers?)
House Robes, scarves and more. We're waiting to get these when WWHP opens. =)
Lots of cool notebooks and journals for each house
Overall the store is great. They also have the wands, but again, we're waiting until we can go into the wand store and have our wands choose us. =)
I was sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore (yes, I'm that much of a Harry Potter dork) but I loved all of the house hats so I may end up getting them all at some point.
Ok, let's go check out what's going on with Wizarding World construction.
At this point most of the stuff going on towards the park side is cosmetic.
Most of the major construction is going on at Forbidden Journey and the other side of Hogsmeade.
Lots of cranes over here
An overview, looking great.
A look into where Flying Hippogriff is going.
A look at the amazing detail
Just a few things going on around the rest of the park.
It's time for Universal to ban selfie sticks on their rides. While in this particular section it's not a big deal, you start using them going down drops or on Mummy or Transformers, you've got a problem.
Hopefully we won't get the metal detectors though. =)
Great thing about having a waterproof camera ... Jurassic Park splash!!! LOL
The Springfield version of The Kitchen Sink.
Framework going up for the even bigger Potter store (we've heard).
New signs for Hand Stamp requirements
Out in CityWalk they are of course promoting Jurassic World, which arrives in just a few weeks.
I'd like one please. =)
Alright, that's enough for this update.
Just as an FYI, they are currently doing some night tours on the weekends prior to their official opening around July 4th. Not all elements may be working during this soft open period however.
We'll try and get out there on a weekend night soon to get some pics and video.
Last week was the Universal Studios Hollywood Day of Giving (Click link for more info) so we were at the park for the tail-end of the event. It's always great to see parks going out of their way to help the community.
So while at the Day of Giving we decided to head into the park to get a quick update.
We'll start off with Christmas decorations out at CityWalk, which isn't a part of "Grinchmas" but just regular Christmas stuff. You've gotta go into the park to get Grinch'y with it.
Even Andy Dick thinks it's too soon for Christmas decorations
Some new decorations under the Universal arch. Wonder how these have been holding up with the high winds we've been having here in Southern California
The Universal Plaza is closed as they prepare to set up trees and other things for Grinchmas
More decorations and icicles have been added to the various buildings on the upper lot
Not sure if we'll see any additional decorations around Despicable Me
The Whoville sets on the tram are getting decorations as well as a MUCH needed paint job.
Not too much different on Springfield and Wizarding World since our last update, but enough for a few pictures.
Coming soon to a theme park near you ... Panels!!
Sorry, Panels AND Windows
Ben & Jerry's and Louie's are still standing
They've started expanding Wizarding World to the empty area
And lastly, since there was no other place to put it, the water play area for Super Silly Fun Land is closed for refurbishment.
We hope you enjoyed this update. Be sure you are following us this week on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for IAAPA updates.