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THEME PARK ADVENTURE – LATEST NEWS AND FEATURES
At about 2:45 PM on February 12, 2016, history was made here in Los Angeles as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter soft-opened for the first time to park guests at Universal Studios Hollywood. The moment marked the end of a long journey that began on December 6, 2011, when Universal made the official announcement that Harry and the gang from Hogwarts would indeed, be coming to Southern California. Since then, Universal Studios Hollywood has embarked on an unprecedented growth spurt – a transformation unlike the property has ever seen.
You may find yourself asking what a “soft open” actually is, and that’s a valid question. The term “soft open” is often used in themed entertainment (and other industries) when it comes to new rides and attractions that are in their preview stage. Once a new attraction is ready for its first guests and a series of technical/dress rehearsals, it will often be put into operation during park operating hours, allowing guests the opportunity to experience it unannounced. Not only is this a thrilling revelation for guests – it’s an important period for the park in question to start understanding guest flow patterns, focus on tweaks and adjustments, and to really polish the show before the grand opening date arrives. Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is now in its soft open stage. It’s very important to point out however, that a soft open period also comes with risk and uncertainty to guests arriving with the expectation that the attraction in question will actually be operational. In the weeks to come, Universal will be adjusting various aspects of the new land and its attractions. Guests may or may not be allowed into the area, and should understand that if you go to Universal Studios Hollywood prior to April 7, there absolutely is a chance that Potter may not be available, or that one of the land’s two attractions may not be operational. If you happen to own an annual pass, a soft open period can be a “safe bet” because you really have nothing to lose – except a few hours if you choose to wait around for the area to open. However, if you are planning on visiting and buying a ticket to get in to Universal and are expecting to experience the Wizarding World in all of its glory, you really should wait until after April 7, to ensure the land is opening and everything is ready to roll.
It’s hard to believe we’re already two month into 2016, but we are! With the temperature a chilly 86 degrees outside, it’s definitely wintertime here in Southern California, as El Nino plows into us with wave after wave of devastating storms. At this rate, we may never see summer. It’s a good thing we have each other to raise our spirits and keep each other warm and safe inside the Hidden Village at Don the Beachcomber as our mixers continue in this new year!
On the evening of Sunday, January 17th, more than 100 theme park fans and haunt enthusiasts gathered at the famous tiki restaurant in Huntington Beach to kick off our Winter Nights at Don’s 2016 gatherings! It was tremendous to see everyone come together after the holidays, and ring in the new year together with potent tropical cocktails and exotic (okay, not so exotic) eats and treats!
Halloween 2015 is well in our rear view mirror now, and some of you are experiencing major haunt withdrawals. Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks is here to help – and in turn, you have an opportunity to make a difference for kids in need through Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties.
Reign of Terror is one of the largest and most visually-stunning haunted attractions on the West Coast, and has long been a charitable contributor to multiple causes here in the Southland, where so many haunters and fans live, work, and play. Having this attraction open during the year on special occasions is a fantastic opportunity for enthusiasts and fellow haunters that may not have the chance to check it out during the Halloween season to come out and join in the fun for a few ghoulish hours.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! will pay tribute to the ancient art of sword swallowing by holding free sword swallowing performances as part of World Sword Swallower’s Day on Saturday, February 27. Two things to remember – that’s solid steel and yes, it’s all real.
Ripley’s will showcase the greatest group of sword swallowers ever assembled and offer free performances for the public at 18 of its Odditoriums around the world – New York City, London, Hollywood, San Francisco, Orlando, Baltimore, Copenhagen, Grand Prairie, Atlantic City, Branson, Gatlinburg, Key West, Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach, St. Augustine, Wisconsin Dells, Williamsburg and Surfers Paradise.
I walked alone onto Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood feeling rather emotional. It was dark, almost 2:00 AM, and I was still processing the beauty of what I just experienced. I felt confused as to why I felt so emotional about something that was supposed to be scary for most – it was really an odd feeling. What I experienced was Parturition – a “highly individualized 25-30 minute experience through the beginning stages of life.”
With such a vague description, most wouldn’t quite understand what type of attraction this is. I was fortunate enough to experience Screenshot Productions’ first show last October called Fear is What We Learned Here. It was unique, surreal, dream-like and completely mysterious. From what everyone thought would be another 18+, “sign this waiver” and “walk through alone” type of haunt, it wasn’t really that at all. I was really impressed by how professional and different the approach was, and was already immediately looking forward to their next production. It wasn’t a haunt. “Boo” scares didn’t exist there. Fear Is What We Learned Here’s intent was to play with your mind (and scare it) – not just physically. I had a sense of what to expect once I received information on Parturition, but this time it wasn’t about fear… it was about my birth.
Universal Studios Hollywood is currently undergoing its biggest physical transformation ever, in preparation for the April 7, 2016 opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Everywhere you look, there is major construction underway, from the brand-new E.T. Parking structure, to finishing touches being put on Hogsmeade as we speak. With an April hard open date announced, fans are expecting that we could have soft open (industry term for “preview”) dates as soon as mid-February. In short, it’s about to get real here in Los Angeles, and all eyes are on Universal.
We made our way up the hill to Universal Studios this past weekend and braved the rain and blustery weather conditions to see what we could see and bring TPAers a brief update – quite honestly, possibly the final update regarding Potter before we actually get to experience it, if the soft open rumors are true.
With the exception of wooden roller coasters, most of today’s state of the art thrill rides are designed by European firms. But in the 1960s, Northern California-based Arrow Development Company was the company that parks around the world came to for the latest in steel coaster innovation.
In the summer of 2015, various coaster enthusiasts and a group of members from American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Worldwide, Inc. criss-crossed the country to tell the story of an American manufacturing legend that entertained millions. The team visited parks with prominent Arrow rides, including: Six Flags Over Texas, Cedar Point, Kennywood, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Lagoon Park and Silverwood Theme Park among many others.
The future of Baridi, a giraffe calf, looks promising this week, after animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park labored day and night nursing him back to health. The newest member of the herd was born last month, to the joy of zoo employees and guests—but that joy turned to concern after Baridi was discovered to be extremely ill, with a severe infection that made it impossible for him to stand. Baridi was quickly admitted to the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center at the Safari Park, where he received IV fluids and around-the-clock specialized care until he was able to move around on his own. Animal care staff said the challenge of nursing Baridi was a fulfilling experience.
“Taking care of Baridi has been a very rewarding experience for all of us keepers,” said Lissa McCaffree, lead keeper in the Animal Care Center nursery at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “He’s been a pleasure to work with. He has a great personality, and we looked forward to feeding him every day.”
Nursery staff members said Baridi will soon be strong enough to join the herd’s other four young giraffes—Congo, Siri, Yamikani and Kafele—in the East Africa exhibit, where they are often seen together in a crèche, or nursery group. It is typical for young giraffes to stay together in a herd while their moms forage. The Safari Park’s giraffe breeding program has produced more than 164 giraffe calves since the Park opened in 1972.
Universal Studios Hollywood marks Lunar New Year and the Year of the Monkey with a traditional celebratory event featuring Shenzhen performances, Asian-inspired food, thematic décor and a special Mandarin-speaking MEGATRON character from the park’s popular thrill ride, Transformers: The Ride-3D. The special Lunar New Year celebration begins on Saturday, January 30 and continues through Sunday, February 14, 2016.
Lunar New Year comes to life within Universal Plaza, a grand courtyard situated at the heart of the theme park, where guests will be ushered in to celebrate the Year of the Monkey under a curtain of customary red Chinese lanterns and a stunning plum blossom arch. The polygon-shaped piazza will also display a dozen lampposts each featuring banners of the twelve zodiac animal signs along with three symbolic attributes.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has quickly become the highest grossing film in American history, and soon guests at Disney Parks will be able to interact with one of the film’s most intriguing and chilling new characters, Kylo Ren.
Every day at Disney Parks, guests step into Star Wars experiences such as Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple and Star Wars Launch Bay, where they come face to face with some of the greatest heroes and villains of the saga. Starting in February, a visit to Star Wars Launch Bay at either Disneyland Park in California or Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will transport guests to the Star Wars galaxy for an encounter with Kylo Ren on the bridge of his First Order Star Destroyer.