Sami in LA: Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts

“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

-JK Rowling

Today was the day that I was the most excited for. Today we went to Universal Studios Hollywood and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! That’s right, I got to go to Hogwarts on Friday!

The day started with me waking up at 5:30am PST which means it was 8:30am for me mentally. I’m trying really hard to not get to settled into the time change since I’ll be heading home on Sunday. Being up at 5:30am meant that I got to watch the sun rise over Koreatown where I’m staying and let me tell you: wow. It was actually stunning. The picture doesn’t do it any justice.

Several hours later, Bree and I were on the metro and heading over to Universal Studios for the day. Of course, the metro ride didn’t go without incident. I managed to snag my pinky on a metal grate of an exit door but luckily we had band aids on us and never had to stop our journey. Although it is a pretty nasty cut. Thanks, LA. We eventually made it to the gates and entered Universal.

We walked through the “streets” of the entertainment capitol of LA and then we saw it.

There it was. Hogwarts and Hogsmead in all of their glory.

The attention to detail that went into creating these recognizable movie and book locations was incredible. You actually felt like you were at Hogwarts and visiting Hogsmead for an afternoon. It really is every Harry Potter fan’s dream come true. We weren’t there to just look at everything though, there was plenty to do as well!

We started off with the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. For this, you enter Hogwarts castle and the line winds through different areas of the castle. You first go through the green houses where there are some cages of mandrakes in cages– luckily not screaming.

You then continue on through into Dumbledore’s Office. Let me tell you, it was so cool! The paintings actually move and look like real moving paintings, not just TV screens in fancy frames. As you wait to move on, you listen to the founders of Hogwarts argue about whatever while you wait to continue on. Eventually, you wind through the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and then you’re at the ride.

You board what looks like little lockers and then you’re off on a ride that mixes movie quality videos that immerse you into the skies above Hogwarts before transitioning smoothly into sections of animatronic dragons and dementors. The 4D experience is truly amazing and worth the wait! Unfortunately, the ride turned off for a moment near the end, killing the suspension of disbelief. Oh well.

From the castle, it was off to Hagrid’s Hut and the Flight of the Hippogriff  ride!

After this high-speed rollercoaster, Bree and I decided it was time for some Butterbeer and lunch.

We decided to grab a bite to eat at The Three Broomsticks, as any Hogwarts student would do. Bree went for the traditional Shepard’s pie (delicious) with a salad and a cup of potted butterbeer pudding. I went for the Sunday roast sandwich with potato wedges and a cup of chocolate trifle. Let me tell you, all the food was so good! Even the drinks were incredible. The Butterbeer was creamy and tasted like a dream. The Pumpkin Fizz tasted like fall in a cup. Like, move over Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Pumpkin Fizz is coming for your brand.

Following lunch, we decided to keep our feet on the ground. We did some pre-shopping in Hogsmead and walked through all of the shops.

From there, we left Hogsmead and headed fro Springfield, U.S.A. Now, my family loves the Simpsons– especially the older seasons. Getting to see Moe’s, The Kwik-E-Mart, Lard Lad and the characters themselves was so cool! You wouldn’t expect a cartoon to look so good as a theme park.

We didn’t say too long in Springfield though as we were bee lining for the Universal Studio Tour! After waiting in line for about a half hour, we were on the tram exploring the lot of Universal Studios. We saw the town hall from Back to the Future. The gray home of Norman Bates’ mother was looming over the Bates Motel. We rode through the crash site of the plane from War of the Worlds. The best parts were the interactive ones though. We went through Skull Island from Peter Jackson’s King Kong movie where we were attacked by dinosaurs and the king himself. Jaws caused explosions on the decks of Amity while splashing us in the tram– after devouring a police diver first, of course. We were part of a shoot out with The Rock and Vin Diesel from Fast and the Furious. We experienced a controlled magnitude 8 earthquake. Universal really knows how to do a tour!

Following the tour, we decided it was time to enter Jurassic Park.

We rode through the world of Jurassic Park on a boat, being attacked by all sorts of different creatures. The most terrifying part though wasn’t the t-rex. No, it was the steep and massive drop at the end of the ride. I guess they warned us that we would get wet!

Following the, uh, refreshing plunge into Jurassic Park, it was time for another snack and then some shopping. Bree got herself an ice cream from the Simpsons’ famous ice cream shoppe while I grabbed myself a Squishee (how could I not!). With icy treats in hand, it was time for some shopping and to wrap up our long day at the theme park.

Once we left, we made one more stop: Hollywood! We walked to Walk of Fame and looked at the footprints outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I was a bit starstruck just from that.

The night concluded with the two of us heading out to a club called Pour Vous for a night out. We got bottle service (thanks to a group Bree is a part of) and danced. Every half hour or so, burlesque dancers would slowly come down from the domed ceiling and amaze the crowd. Only in LA, right?

What a night!

LA has been quite the experience so far!

Look for more tomorrow!

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