You'll first notice the Harry Potter construction site when you reach the Shrek 4-D attraction, which has a new entrance.
With the Curious George play area gone, as well as the Gibson behind it, you can see through to the mountains behind the park, which had been hidden behind those buildings before. If you take a peek over the construction walls, you can see equipment at work.
Walk around the construction site, back toward The Simpsons Ride and the Studio Tour entrance, for a more expansive view of the Harry Potter construction site, which extends from the Shrek theater (on the right) more than 400 feet across the Upper Lot, past the Waterworld theater (in the background, in front of the CityWalk offices), to the edge of the mountain, above the Studio Tour entrance (off to the left).
For some additional perspective, here's the Google Maps aerial view of Universal Studios Hollywood's upper lot. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter construction site is to the right, outlined in red. The Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and Super Sill Fun Land construction site is in red, to the left. And the new Universal Plaza site is the middle, outlined in aqua. The Shrek theater is the structure in the middle of the Wizarding World's "mouth."
That new Universal Plaza really contributes to the sense of open space in the park now. The Plaza Tower serves as the visual "weenie" drawing you into the park from as you enter. And plaza itself functions as the "hub" from which the park's lands emanate: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the east, Springfield to the north and International Street and Super Silly Fun Land to the west.
For now, though, the Plaza offers one more welcomed addition to the park — a Pink's hot dog restaurant, on the northeast corner of the Plaza.
Replacing the simple cart that once stood here, this counter service restaurant serves a wider selection of hot dogs from the Los Angeles landmark, including chili dogs, chili cheese dogs, bacon chili cheese dogs, the "engagement ring" dog (topped with onion rings), the "Mulholland Drive" dog (topped with grilled onions and mushrooms, plus nacho cheese and bacon), and the "bacon burrito" dog (two hot dogs, with bacon, cheese, chili and onions, wrapped in a tortilla). Polish sausages and burgers also are available, with chili and bacon toppings.
In our Grinchmas update earlier this week, posted photos of Minion Mayhem's impressive facade. That attraction is expected to open sometime in "spring 2014," according to Universal. The park has not yet given an expected opening date for Harry Potter. However, both Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands in Florida took two and a half years from initial construction to projected opening date.
Given that full construction on Hollywood's Wizarding World began in September, that would give us an expected opening date around March 2016. However, we also should consider that this project is happening in California, which is known for having, uh, somewhat tougher construction regulation than Florida. Plus, Universal's building this Wizarding World on top of a mountain, instead of on the billiard-table-flat land of central Florida. So no one should be surprised if the Hollywood Wizarding World takes longer to complete, with an opening anywhere from late spring 2016 to summer or beyond.Tweet
USH finally used the backlot properly. Mazes were built on the backlot space. Guests had to walk down a path behind soundstages near Transformers, take a short tram ride down Jimmy Stewart Way and then embark on walking through a scare zone setup in the backlot.
While I'm looking forward very much to these new additions to USH, I hope the park continues to use this backlot space for future HHN.
At the original Pinks, that dog is called "The Lord of the Rings" dog. However, there's a little rights issue with using that name in a theme park. I should have mentioned that!
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The former building at Transformers in USO had the first section torn away while we were there and by the time we visited a year later, it had already been opened and in full swing.
I think seeing all that Transformers construction along with the HP London area and the cranes at IOA for the new station would have irked me a bit.
I guess it is good that they are doing a lot at once, but it shrinks the apparent size of the park by a huge factor, especially at USH.