My First Time: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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I put off writing this for so long that I wasn’t going to bother posting it anymore. But what better way to celebrate JKR and Harry’s birthday than sharing some magic? This experience meant so much to me which is why I haven’t been able to just sit and write it out. But, here’s me trying to share my first time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The Wizarding World in Hollywood opened over a year ago today, and how I planned to be one of the first people to step into Hogsmeade but life had other plans and instead I went the day Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them released in theaters with a bunch of Potterheads known as the Los Angeles Dumbledore’s Army. This fan made group created an event which called for going to the WWoHP dressed up in 1920’s garb following an IMAX screening of Fantastic Beasts in CityWalk. Honestly, there was no better way to experience this place for the first time than with people who are just as passionate about HP. If you’re a Potterhead living in or near LA I definitely recommend you join the group as they always have fun HP related events going on!

So, here we go! Yes, I cried. Not upon the first steps walking in. Surprisingly, I kept my cool up until I reached the castle. This was the place that had filled my imagination and dreams as a kid. The place I always longed to escape to when times got hard. And now I could physically step into it. It was like the moment in The Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry gets his wand and there was that dramatic gush of wind, music, and spotlight. I was home.

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After the initial shock wore off, my sister and I set to scope out every corner of Hogsmeade and to be honest, it didn’t take long. The Wizarding World in Hollywood is small. I’ve never been to the one in Florida but I know theirs is much bigger. All the same, Universal Studios Hollywood provides the same careful craft of making you feel completely immersed in the world JKR created.

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There are two rides: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff. Both are a great time and I’m a bigger fan of Forbidden Journey now that it is no longer 3D (made one a little sick before). It’s a great thrill ride and I get to see beautiful and pure Harry playing Quidditch as if I were flying right beside him. This ride is located inside the castle which is the piece de resistance. As you wait in line, you get to see the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office and so much more. Although I have not done so myself, I believe you can just do a walk through of the castle instead of waiting in the queue for the ride. I won’t give more away in case you’re waiting to see and ride it for yourself. Flight of the Hippogriff’s only flaw is that it’s TOO short. But if the wait isn’t bad, I still recommend you go on it. You get to meet Buckbeak just don’t forget your manners and bow.

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After riding both rides, my sister and I ate at the Three Broomsticks for lunch. I had the ribs platter with corn on the cob and potatoes. So good! The atmosphere in here is straight out of the movie with its rustic aesthetic. There is plenty of seating both inside and outside the restaurant and both views are enchanting as you have the wonderful view of Hogwarts outside. On the rare occasions I visit the park by myself, I take my journal, order a butterbeer and just write on one of the tables outside. These moments truly make me feel like a Hogwarts student. Oh, and since I brought it up, let me just say, butterbeer is amazing!

Bellies full, we decided to walk through all the shops. Bad idea for my weak resistance of pretty things. Obviously, I wanted to buy everything! For whatever reason, I didn’t do as much damage as I could have that day. But, I did indulge myself in buying Harry’s wand, a chocolate frog, and a few pins. I was upset they didn’t offer my Pottermore chosen wand so I’m holding out, hoping they come out with more types of wands in the future.

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After catching the Triwizard Spirit Rally & the Hogwarts Frog Choir (both great shows my personal favorite is the Frog Choir – ♫ Move your body like a hairy troll, learning to rock and roll spin around like a crazy elf dancing by himself ♫ ), it was time to watch Fantastic Beast and if the whole day wasn’t magical enough the film was just as dazzling. I can’t wait for the next one! The Wizarding World in Hollywood a wonderful escape from the Muggle world. I can’t help but awe each time I visit like it was the first time. It’s overwhelming for sure if you have grown up with Harry Potter. And now thinking about how it’s been 20 years since the Philosopher’s Stone released I can’t help but feel even more nostalgic. Happy birthday Joanne Rowling and the Harry Potter!

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

 

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My First Time: San Diego Comic-Con

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*** Post was first posted August 8, 2014 on my old blog

About two weeks ago, I was finally able to go to San Diego Comic-Con. I have been trying to go to SDCC for the last three years but I was never able to get a badge during sale. Each year, it gets more and more difficult because of its badge limitability and growing popularity. However, this year not only was I lucky enough to go one day but to three with my sister.

When the schedule for panels came out my excitement increased tenfold. Of all the panels released the one I had to go to was for The Battle of Five Armies. This was the last of the Hobbit films which meant that this would be the last time Peter Jackson would bring the world of Middle Earth to Comic-Con. You guys have to know that the end of these movies has me really emotional. It’s like the end of the Harry Potter movies all over again. And although the Harry Potter series are my favorite books, the Tolkien films Peter Jackson has adapted are my favorite movies of all time. So of course, I had to get my butt into this panel. Little did I know then, that getting into this panel would be difficult because it was in the infamous Hall H.

Now preparing for this thing was a whole experience onto itself. I researched many blogs with advise on how to tackle SDCC. However, of all the blogs I read, my favorite had to be thenerdygirlie. Megan had lots to share about Comic-Con from what to bring, what to expect, con hospitality, line information, etc. Not only is her blog such a helpful resource but a fun read filled with nerdy goodness.

My first day of SDCC finally came and overwhelming is the word that describes the first sight of the convention. So many people! I has no idea where to get my badge (I guess I didn’t prepare enough but I don’t think you ever do when it comes to SDCC). There were volunteers everywhere and so it wasn’t too long before we were greeted by the sweetest lady who gave us our badges. We got our Warner Bros swag bad and souvenir book and were now left to fend for ourselves in the con.

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We somehow managed to find the line to get into the exhibit hall this was already probably one hour into opening. I apologize now for not taking nearly as much pictures as I should have. I guess when you are experiencing something so exciting and for the first time you forget about all the social media updating commitments and live in the moment. That was my mentality for the weekend – just to take it all in and not have the burden of sharing every single moment on social media.

The first day was obviously full of surprises. And at first the surprises weren’t completely good because me and my sister kept missing out on meet and greet opportunities. Specifically one to meet the cast of The Walking Dead. We kept trying to get into the line that would make you pick a raffle ticket that would then allow you to meet them. But the line kept closing every time we attempted to get in it. This bummed us out especially since we didn’t get into the panels we wanted to see so far that day. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a good time walking around the exhibit floor and seeing all the booths. There is so much to do that even if you don’t get into a panel there’s so many other things you can see instead. Comic-Con is learning to prioritize – choosing one great thing over another. Our luck took a pleasant turn when we were waiting in line to go into the ABC booth, The Walking Dead cast had just finished their signing and were walking towards the exit right by where we were waiting. Despite the their heavy security, the cast was super sweet and made an effort to say hi to the fans crowding around them including us. I got high fives from each cast member I saw which included Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Melissa Mcbride, Emily Kinney and Andrew Lincoln. Norman Reedus was there too but it got crazy; more and more people gathered so he wasn’t able to pass where I was standing. Major butterflies followed after that celebrity encounter. We also got to see the attractive boys from Teen Wolf as they were doing their signing. I don’t watch the show but they were all nice to look at.

Around 4pm, me and my sister decided to go look for the Hall H line and scope out how many people were already camped out for tomorrow’s panels which included The Battle of Fives Armies. I thought 4pm would be ridiculously early so, I was hoping to be one of the first hundred people in line. HA! That wasn’t the case. We found the line and it was long! I’m not the greatest estimator but there were probably already about 500 people if not more. We set up our camp for the evening and chilled eventually talking with the people around us. Meeting people is truly the best experience at and con. Everyone around you is usually on some level of awesomeness because of their passion for film, comics, tv, etc. It didn’t take long for us to find a connection over something we equally geek over. We talked about Lord of the Rings and so much more. Sometime past 12am the volunteers passed out the newly implemented wristbands. When I got mine I was so happy.  I was going to see The Hobbit panel! The camping out was funner than I thought it would be. I got no sleep as expected but I was fine and we had grass to lay on and the pleasant sounds of the ocean waves hitting the harbor. The only uncomfortable part came around 4am when temperature seemed to drop what felt like 20 degrees. It might have been the excitement, the people, the craziness or all of the above but the sixteen hours of queuing did not feel as long as you would think.

At 5:30am they began to condense the line and eventually we got into the hall around 8ish. Hall H is huge and there were so many seats to choose from. Because it was only me and my sister we were able to snag some seats closer to the stage. And so my entire day was spent in this hall sitting on not so comfortable chairs. It was all worth it though. I got to see The Hobbit panel which included seeing many of the amazing cast members (ORLANDO BLOOM), the teaser for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, a brilliant and inspiring panel called “Women Who Kick Ass” with Tatiana Maslany and Natalie Dormer, and I got to see the EPIC Age of Ultron panel which not only included seeing the first trailer but the Avengers themselves assembled on stage! I don’t think there is a word to sum up these events. “Wow,” maybe? No that doesn’t quite do it either.

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Sunday was awesome in it’s own special way too. It was a much slower day and my sister and I just wanted to walk the floor and enjoy it one last time. Evangeline Lily was doing a signing and we were lucky enough to meet her. She was the sweetest person. It was a great way to end the con. She even said I had pretty hair!

So now here I am left in this post con depression which will most likely linger until next year’s con. It was everything and more than what I expected.

Here are the goodies I bought:

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(Thorin’s map from The Battle of Five Armies, notice Evangeline Lily’s signature)
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Suffice it to say, I plan to never miss a SDCC again!