As a Houston native who no longer has a home theme park, I am always on the lookout for anything entertaining or exciting coming to the area. As the fourth largest city in the U.S., there are a lot of people here who crave an amusement park and sadly, we're left with three to four hour drives to San Antonio or Dallas if we want thrills.
I can tell you right now that there is a market for rides and amusements here. Every year that the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo comes in to town with their Carnival, that place gets PACKED. The Rodeo as a whole drew a record attendance last year of over 2.2 million people. While not all of this is because of the carnival, the Rodeo hosts things like live shows and concerts that an amusement park would have. Houstonians flock to the carnival to get their fix of rides and games. I have waited in long lines and maneuvered through crowds the past couple of years and can tell you that although we no longer have a theme park, we still have a desire for one.
Now located 45 minutes from Houston is Galveston, a nice island on the Gulf that serves as a retreat for locals and a home for others. I know a lot of friends that own vacation homes and beach houses for weekend trips to the island. The market in Galveston, just like Houston, craves fun attractions. The island is already host to a Schlitterbahn Water Park and the Moody Gardens, an educational and recreational park with signature glass pyramids. And coming this May is the all-new Pleasure Pier. With the addition of the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, Galveston is starting to become a real destination. We're talking a weekend stay to a weeklong stay upgrade. These pre-existing attractions paired with the beach and the new pier will make for a very fun vacation.
The man behind the Pleasure Pier is none other than Landry’s CEO Tilman Fertitta, a man who I look up to greatly. In the past, Fertitta has created great attractions such as Houston’s Downtown Aquarium, the Kemah Boardwalk, and various themed restaurants. If I had to pick anyone to revitalize the pier, which had been home to the Flagship Hotel until after hurricane Ike, I would firstly choose Fertitta. He knows what he’s doing and knows how to make a successful, fun, and entertaining attraction.
The pier’s lineup includes various flat rides, a 100 ft. Euro Fighter coaster, a log flume, a 230ft. Star Flyer, and a LED lit Ferris wheel. Sounds good to me. If you’re given a long, generally small portion of land (in this case, a pier) and are going to turn it into an amusement park, you are going to have to use the space to it’s absolute full potential. Do I believe Fertitta has done that? Definitely yes. If you take a look at the rendering it is actually pretty hard to see detail but you can tell that it is packed with numerous amusements. While the majority of the rides are your standard carnival flats, I respect Fertitta’s decision to use these rides’ small footprint in order to pack as many thrills onto the pier as possible. But he realized that you cannot simply have these. He knew there needed to be highlight attractions such as the Euro Fighter, log flume, star flyer, and Ferris wheel mentioned above. I believe the pier has a balanced variety of all sorts of thrills, which is perfect.
The pier has kept its Facebook page updated and from what I can tell, everyone is all onboard. Looks like everybody is just as excited as I am to welcome this new attraction to Galveston. I will be covering the pier’s opening in the near future so stay tuned for pictures and more reports later.
by Zachary Fakterowitz
Theres no doubt that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has had an enormous impact on the Amusement Industry as a whole. For the past two years I have heard constantly about how the Wizarding World has “Set new standards”; “is a breakthrough in attraction technology”;“has redefined the amusement industry”. I personally didn't want to make a judgement until I had experienced the land on my own. Last weekend I was given just that opportunity. Would the Wizarding World of Harry Potter live up to its hype?
It is very rare that I walk out of a land in a theme park completely blown away. Don't get me wrong, I love almost every park I go to, but these days it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to theme parks. I am glad to say that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter completely amazed me.
I have never read a Harry Potter book or seen a Harry Potter movie. So I can tell you that as I walked towards the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I wasn't really expecting to like it that much. I really couldn't foresee how someone like myself who never even cared about Harry Potter in the first place would be able to enjoy an attraction, let alone whole land based off a book and movie franchise I had never really cared about. Universal surely proved me wrong on this one!
On the day of my visit I arrived about 30 minutes before opening. As soon at the gates opened I immediately headed straight towards the Wizarding World (Due to the popularity of this area, lines get extremely long during the day!). I hadn't been to Universal Orlando in over two years. (In fact the last time I was at Universal Orlando, I recall walking through a maze of construction walls to get to Dueling Dragons.) So as I passed through the other areas of the park on the way to the Wizarding World, I really didn't know what to expect.
The entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a looked unassuming enough. It was a simple stone archway found at the end of the Lost Continent area of the park. Without knowing what to expect I stepped through the arch and entered a different world.
No longer was I in Florida. I had entered a magical snow blanketed village . I was stunned, to say the least. If it wasn't for the blazing heat and humidity I would've sworn that I was right in the village. There were tons of amazing small details, and I even made a point to come back to this area later in the day so that I could take a closer look at everything.
Now I will say there is one downfall to the Wizarding World. While the Harry Potter franchise is currently an extremely popular and well know Franchise, there are people such as myself who may not have been exposed to it. So while I loved the intricacy in the design of all of the shops, buildings and attractions; I didn't really understand why they were there.
This same concern applies to the main attraction in the Wizarding World ; Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I thought the Forbidden Journey was a fantastic ride. An absolutely amazing attraction, one of the greatest rides I've ever been on. However, if you were to ask me about what the attraction was about, I wouldn't know what to say. I didn't understand the story. On the other hand, fans of the Harry Potter story get the storyline of the attraction because its aimed at them. I feel that if the story line for the Forbidden Journey attraction was more accessible for guests like me, I would love this attraction even more.
With the announcement that the Wizarding World will be receiving an expansion, I really hope that the new area will layering to be more understandable to all guests. (For example- the Terminator 2 3-D attraction at Universal, uses a this storytelling technique. The pre-show at Terminator 2 3-D sets up a story for two distinct audiences. Those audiences being people who have seen Terminator and people who haven't seen Terminator. Everyone watches the same pre-show that explains enough of what is going on for those that haven't seen the movies, but provides enough new content, jokes and references for those who have seen the movie. Making the storyline of the actual attraction understandable and enjoyable to the entire audience.)
However when it comes down to finding the Magic in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, all you have to do is look at the gift shops. I'll even admit that the “spell” worked on me. I bought an awesome scarf and I live in Florida. Asides from scarfs there are magic wands, cloaks, candies (I'm assuming all from the books/movies) all for sale. A really awesome selection (If you can't visit the Wizarding World, Universal Orlando does offer some items from the Wizarding World for sale on their website). Be prepared to spend money! I didn't see anyone walk out of the shops empty handed.
The Wizarding World should not be missed. If you are going to see one attraction in Orlando, it should be the Wizarding World. No questions asked. I'm excited for the expansion of the Wizarding World. I might even read the books!
Also keep an eye on the galleries, I'll be adding some great photos from Universal over the next few days! As always stay tuned to Coaster-net.com, over the next few days as I'll be sharing more of my thoughts and some photos from Universal Orlando in the coming days!