By Greg Aragon
I’ve never been a big “light show” guy. But this changed last year when I experienced the all-new “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios Hollywood. This is the most amazing and realistic, virtual reality-type light display I’ve ever seen.
To celebrate the holiday season, the theme park has transformed “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction, including the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” thrill ride, Hogwarts Castle and the surrounding Hogsmeade Village into a Christmas wonderland with snow, characters, decorations and a mesmerizing array of projection lights and images.
The adventure begins each night through Jan. 6, 2019 in Hogsmeade Village, where Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is illuminated with colorful imagery and impressive dimensional animations that dance across Hogwarts castle in tandem to a musical arrangement from the Harry Potter movies. The images are huge and incredibly real, with so much definition and vividness that I thought I was watching a giant television screen.
To make the light parade even more rewarding, I suggest going on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride to start your day at Universal Studios. Opened last year, the attraction is inspired by J.K. Rowling’s world-famous stories and characters that were brought to life in eight Warner Bros. films.
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” has been masterfully recreated with impeccable detail as a real-world interpretation. The land, which took five years to create, is faithful to the visual landscape found in the movies and books, including Hogwarts castle which serves as the main focal point.
The highlight of the fairytale land is the ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.” A pioneering achievement in theme park technology, the virtual reality coaster is designed in hyper-realistic 3D-HD to fully immerse guests inside the young, bespectacled wizard’s world. The multidimensional thrill ride features groundbreaking robotics, fused with elaborate filmed action sequences and immersive visceral effects.
To get to the ride itself, guests wait in a line that meanders through Hogwarts Castle. While waiting their turn, visitors can admire talking portraits and newspapers, medieval architecture and all things Harry Potter.
While in Hogsmeade Village, guests can sample hot Butterbeer from carts and eat delicious and fun British fare such as bangers & mash; shepherd’s pie; beef Sunday roast (prime rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy), beef, lamb & Guinness stew; and fish & chips at one of the village restaurants. Also within “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” is the fun, family coaster, “Flight of the Hippogriff.”
Besides the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” getting into the Christmas spirit, the “Grinchmas” attraction is also putting on a “Who-lebration” of fun fit for The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and a roster of Whoville Whos. This annual event comes to life with a towering 60 foot-tall whimsical “Grinchmas” tree covered in light, with lots of fun and live holiday music. Grinchmas returns Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9 and 14 – 30.
Another must-experience thing to do at the park is the world-renowned Studio Tour, which takes guests behind-the-scenes of the world’s biggest and busiest movie and television studio where they can also discover immersive thrill rides such as “Fast & Furious—Supercharged;” and the intense “King Kong 360 3-D.” The tour also drives past the infamous “Bates Motel” from the movie “Psycho,” the harbor where “Jaws” lurks, and numerous other famous movie sets.
Other rides and attractions at Universal Studios include the 3D-HD adventure “Transformers: The Ride-3D;” “Revenge of the Mummy—The Ride;” “Waterworld;” and “The Simpsons Ride.”
“Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” runs each night through Jan. 6, 2018. Universal Studios is located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608. The Studio Tour is included with all theme park admission. For more information on current pricing, specials and hours, visit: universalstudioshollywood.com.