Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hollywood vs. Orlando, A First Hand Account

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Samuel Gerstein, Arts & Entertainment Editor

What a great year to live in Los Angeles!

With the NFL giving the long awaited announcement that the Rams are returning to their original home of the Coliseum, football fans couldn’t contain their excitement. Yet there is a different sport that this reporter is more hyped about: Quidditch. Quidditch is the fictional sport showcased throughout the Harry Potter novels, and which involves flying on broomsticks trying to catch a tiny golden ball with wings (called a snitch). It would be mesmerizing if only it were real. Well muggles rejoice, because your fantasies are slowly becoming reality with the introduction of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios of Hollywood.

Opening on April 7th, Universal welcomed a flood of Potterheads from around the globe ready to experience the fantasy they have been dreaming about for years. With the anticipation swelling, fans were more than ready to see the cobbled-stone streets of Hogsmeade leading up to where the magic happens at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Universal Studios has been interested in bringing Harry Potter to L.A. for several years now, ever since they announced the closing of the Gibson Amphitheater in 2013 to make way for this illustrious castle. Now that Hogwarts has finally come to L.A., it already has competition and faces numerous comparisons from it’s big brother Universal Studios, Orlando–the first theme park to feature the magic of Harry Potter. The problem then is which park is better?

Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Hollywood features a bunch of wonderful amenities for all to enjoy but in this reporter’s opinion, it just doesn’t add up to the greatness of the park in Orlando. The Hollywood park features just Hogsmeade village (and of course Hogwarts Castle) which contains may interesting shops and restaurants that are featured in the novels and movies. You can grab a glass of the famous Butterbeer served hot, cold or frozen at the Three Broomsticks or find a wand to fend of Dementors at Ollivander’s Wand Shop. The awesome thing about the wands you can buy in Ollivander’s are that you can perform spells and interact with things around the park. You also have the option to purchase your very own House robes so you can feel like you attend Hogwarts yourself.

There are just two rides at Harry Potter, Hollywood and that’s what disappoints me a little. One of the rides is a virtual ride with Harry on broom sticks through the treacherous dangers of Hogwarts, and the other is an outdoor roller coaster called the Flight of the Hippogriff, but it only lasts about 30 seconds. Orlando, on the other hand, features huge roller coasters with big drops for thrill-seekers while also having Diagon Alley–with loads of different shops and venues for various family members. Also there is an actual train ride to get from Diagon Alley to Hogwarts Castle which showcases the terror Harry experienced riding the train with dementors. Overall, Harry Potter World at Universal Studios is a wonderful time for everyone in the family even if you don’t know about the Harry Potter universe. My only wish is for Hollywood to expand it’s park just like Orlando already has to include Diagon Alley and more attractions–like some huge rollercoasters. Once you leave the park, you will be wanting to experience the Harry Potter franchise all over again.