After having spent nearly a whole week living in an amusement park at California Adventures and Disneyland, my family and I found ourselves heading to yet another amusement park. This time around, we were headed to the place that was dubbed “The Entertainment Capital of LA” – Universal Studios. We left our house after having dropped off our things from our trip to Disneyland and embarked on the I-210 W towards Pasadena. Soon thereafter, we followed signs for I-134 W towards Forest Lawn Drive. From there we took an exit and continued on Barham Blvd to Universal Studios where we were bombarded by signs that continuously told us about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We paid for parking and took an elevator and found ourselves walking in Universal City Walk. Universal City Walk is an entertainment, dining, shopping promenade. It has over 30 places to eat, a 19 screen movie theater featuring IMAX, 3 nightclubs and more than 30 places to shop. City Walk was designed by Jon Jerde who was an American architect who specialized in design architecture and urban planning. Among this Jerde’s own firm The Jerde Partnership developed into an international company with many projects overseas such as the Netherlands, Japan, and Europe. Moreover, some of Jerde’s noteworthy success was designing and planning for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California; the Mall of America located in Bloomington, Minnesota, which happens to be the largest mall in the U.S. and several hotels in Las Vegas such as Treasure Island, the Bellagio, and Wynn.
City Walk features a leaping fountain where children are often seen running, screaming and playing in. There’s a big television monitor in City Walk, which often projects, upcoming movie releases and music videos. Often times, there will be events held on City Walk, and I found myself recalling the time when my cousins and I came to City Walk for a night on the town and there was an event hosted by Dizzy Feet Foundation for National Dance Day, which is an annual celebration that takes place each year on the last Saturday of July. On that evening many from young to old were dancing their hearts out, as they danced to Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” song. Every time I hear that song, I’m reminded of the night on the town with my cousins, as we attempted to dance, but all tragically failed. Furthermore, as one continues to walk through City Walk one will see street performers from musicians to dancers which are a common sight. My sisters and I were walking by and we heard a familiar tune, as we took in a musician’s rendition of “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran.
As we continued to walk through City Walk our noses were constantly hit by pleasant aromas. From the smell of pretzel from Wetzel’s Pretzels to the smell of Italian cuisine from Buca Di Beppo. And then that’s when the unexpected happened, as we made our way to the entrance of Universal Studios. My sisters and I noticed that there was a wad of cash lying on the ground, that it had fallen from the older gentlemen walking ahead of us. He didn’t seem to notice that money had fallen from his pocket, but as we tried to get his attention by screaming “Sir,” he finally turned around and we gave him his wad load of cash back. The older man kindly thanked us and told us shortly thereafter that he would lose his money constantly.
My sisters and I found ourselves walking on the red carpet as a sign overhead screamed “Universal Studios” and we knew that we finally made it. We arrived early to the park because we got early entry tickets to go to the famous “Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” As we entered the park, we were given our ticket and I took a brochure to see what rides awaited us in the park.
It’s interesting to note, that Universal Studios is split into two different levels. On one level is the Upper Lot and on the other level is the Lower Lot. Universal Studios Hollywood has 9 rides, 7 shows, and a huge outdoor play area where youngsters can play. My sisters and I didn’t have to decide where to go because it was obvious we were going to head into Hogwarts. Stepping foot into Hogwarts, made me forget my worries. I forgot that in 3 days, I was going to go back to school and take some summer classes. That’s the power of amusement parks, they have the power of making you forget your problems, and for just a while offer a temporary escape into a new world. My sisters and I first walked into Olivander’s Wand Shop which is located in Diagon Alley. This is a well-known store in Hogwarts as the best wandmakers are there, and the wand is known for picking the wizard. It was entertaining to see how the workers at Universal Studios were able to execute the performance at the Wand Shop.
Now for those of you who don’t know what Harry Potter is. Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels written by British author J.K. Rowling. The books focus on the life of Harry Potter and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley as they tackle life in Hogwarts which is a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Throughout the story, there’s the ongoing battle between Harry and dark wizard Voldemort, who wishes to become immortal, by overthrowing Harry and the Ministry of Magic.
Immediately thereafter, we went on our first ride which was a roller coaster. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of roller coasters, but I made a promise to myself that I was going to go on many rides at Universal Studios as my stomach could handle. We found ourselves, diving through a pumpkin patch in Hagrid’s hut. Hagrid is half giant and half human. I found that I really enjoyed that ride and went on it 2 more times. After my older sister got tired of going on “Flight of the Hippogriff’ we went on “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.” This is a motion-based ride, it’s not necessarily a roller coaster but an interactive dark ride, which allows those riding to be involved in the story. We found ourselves encountering weeping Willows and coming into contact with a Quidditch match.
Right after getting off the ride, my older sister wasn’t feeling too great and felt nauseous. We had to take a break from the 3-D rides for a while, as she was trying to recuperate, from the rides lasting effect. Our older sister said, that we could continue going on the rides without her, as they often made her get dizzy and nauseous. Since we were leaving the Harry Potter world, we made sure to try their famous butter beer something that we had constantly seen pictures of on Instagram. The butter beer was cold, and tasted very sweet, which was something that my taste buds did not agree with. Butterbeer is carbonated soda topped with whipped cream, thus giving it a sweet effect.
From there, we decided to walk around the park and see what caught our eye. We walked by a construction site as they were making a new ride about a post-apocalyptic world of “The Walking Dead” – they were actually replacing the House of Horrors maze. Which was a walk through maze where one would encounter characters from horror films such as Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho, and the mummy, amongst many others.
Next, we wandered around and came across the minions in Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. We navigated through an obstacle course and got to see Gru’s daughters throw him a party. Suddenly our stomachs started growling and we knew that it was time for lunch. My sisters and I walked the streets of France and decided to eat at the French Street Bistro where we grabbed some baked pastries and sandwiches.
After eating our lunch, we went on the famous studio tour. The studio tour gives one the opportunity to experience the movie magic making of Hollywood. On the studio tour, we came across an eerie plane crash from “War of the Worlds” which is a science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg. The plane crash scene reminded me so much of ABC’s TV show “Lost” which is about passengers from a plane crash that survived and are now living on an island. We came face to face with Norman Bates from “Bates Motel” as he chased us with a knife. Our tram was attacked by King Kong and almost washed up by a coming flood. As we exited the studio tour, my sisters and I noticed an elderly couple that was dressed in eloquent clothes. The elderly lady donned a red business suit and the elderly man wore a sweater vest with dress pants. The elderly couple stood out like a fly on a wedding cake, as those swarming among them wore jeans, baseball hats or sneakers.
Soon we got hungry again and decided to eat at Cletus’ Chicken Shack located in Springfield, USA home to “The Simpsons” family. Based on the show “The Simpsons” which is a satirical show that makes fun of American culture and society. We walked by people devouring a chicken and waffle sandwich and those eating Cletus’s fried chicken.
From there, we decided to walk down to Lower Lot, where we went on yet another interactive 3D dark ride Transformers where we fought alongside Optimus Prime in order to save society. The wait for the ride claimed that it was 45 minutes, but the worker told us, it was really only 25. After the ride, our day was coming to an end and we decided to eat some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Plastic spoon’s in hand, we ate our ice cream in silence as we made our walk back to City Walk. As I walked on City Walk during night time I realized that the ambiance was much different from day time to night time. In the daytime, you see more tourists and families. Whereas, in the night time people are ready to go out for a night on the town. People were out shopping, waiting in line to get into the hottest nightclub or dancing the night away. It was then that I realized that the party life isn’t at all appealing to me. It is for those that want to paint the town red, but I realized I was just another spectator walking by.