The entrance gate archway is a good framing device. Could use more aging and distressing. The Hogsmeade sign of black iron is ...eh...hard to read when the words are high up and in the shadow of the arch.
Overall, the whole street and buildings look great. I mean, it never snows in Southern California, so instead of the wintery Hogsmeade, the main thoroughfare could've been Diagon Alley. Because there's a side street, that could've been Knockturn Alley, which could've included Borgin and Burkes, which apparently they did in Florida. But it's Hogsmeade. The construction and painting look really good -- sparkling elements on the snow, icicles, aged wood with white-colored water damage, moss, mold, great stonework on the ground, etc. There's a neat water pump that has frozen water, which I thought was probably one of the most amazing surprises. I thought it was water, and I put my Butterbeer cup on it to test it and it was hard, probably some acrylic or resin. I hope they can keep it clean, because people might throw their trash in there, breaking the illusion
A neat interactive thing is the metal markers on the ground at places where people can perform spells if they buy a special interactive wand, and you can make things move in the windows of the stores. None of which I did, but had fun watching others. But I think there were way too many team members acting as wizards trying to push the feature. Let people figure it out by themselves! Kids are not dumb! It should be a secret easter egg thing. People will find out on their own. People use the internet. Universal Studios hand holds too much.
Part of the fun of theme parks are seeing your favorite characters walking casually around or in casual photo-ops "on the street". Mickey, Goofy, Woody walk around Dland. Minions and Simpsons characters were around UStudios. But all they had here were Hogwarts-robed humans, which were boring, overstaffed, and also could be confusing considering many attendants (especially kids) had robes on, too. There was one train operator by the train, but that's it. Why not Dobby (a little person in a suit)? Or Hagrid (a guy in a big suit on stilts)? A troll with his big club (extended suit)? A thestral (War Horse-type puppet)? I mean, they had a raptor puppet suit in the Jurassic Park area.
They've managed to take a cute, brief scene of the frog choir from Prisoner of Azkaban and pretty much kill it and make it as annoying as possible. This was all scat style singing. I could not even hear any frog noises. One guy totally was not into it. The rest did their best to force smiles and look like they're having fun. But really, you didn't need to liven it up -- the movie frog choir felt more subdued, a dark dry humor. Maybe they could've made it a backdrop for something else, like Dland's New Orleans Square has live music in the dining area, so maybe the choir could be restaurant entertainment or something to entertain you waiting in line, and not call attention to itself as a show. If they need to make a show, hey, why not a magic show? Or what about like Hagrid teaching a class about creatures (puppets)? The stage is right next to his hut in the Hippogriff ride.
The Three Broomsticks
The "Have You Seen This Wizard?" wanted poster in front of the building was awesome. The bench that Ron and Hermione sits on could have been another detail, but I didn't see it here. The architecture and detailing of the building was excellent. When comparing to the movies, I am quite happy that they made enhancements, they plussed it. I.e. the entryway is larger, the three broomsticks "sign" arranged in a triangle are larger. I liked seeing the menu, still in the same architectural style, in front letting us know breakfast is still being served (we ate a late breakfast and later dinner). Didn't see any shrunken heads, though.
However, they did NOT need a greeter team member in the entrance. We all know what a friggin restaurant is. The direction of traffic flow should be self-evident in the design of the place, or else it's not well designed. Moving along, the line was not long at all, and we could take time to see the ingenius display case of the examples of the meal choices and make a decision beforehand. They do NOT need yet ANOTHER greeter to tell us which cash register to go to. Come. On. Really?! You did not need yet ANOTHER person to seat you. I don't want to sit facing a corner with no view. I want to sit wherever the f--- I want. At least they didn't bother me when I wandered around taking pics. There's an inaccessable upstairs, stairs blocked by luggage. They totally could've actually built an upstairs for balcony seating. They had all this outdoor seating that nobody sat at. The wall of antlers was a great enhancement inspired by its appearance in Half-Blood. I walked around, taking in all the great props, barrels, boxes. Nice distressing and aging on the woodwork tables and chairs. Not sure how I feel about them combining The Three Broomsticks with Hog's Head, but I guess it made sense if they wanted to save space and not have to build a whole other building for it. I was completely disappointed that the big head of the hog behind the bar didn't move or anything. Lame.
Now, the food was excellent. Frankly, it's the best part of the whole park. Would love to just go to the restaurant and not pay the ticket to UStudios. I had a traditional English breakfast and for dinner the stew with a desert.
The ambient music was totally wrong. I mean, yes it was the various scores from the movies, but I heard sad songs, for when characters died, love songs that made me uncomfortable, Umbridge's theme, why?? -- just inappropiate songs. It should just be music of what you would hear in The Three Broomsticks, perhaps guitar music, English, Scottish, Irish, perhaps live music with only a few instruments, not a full on orchestra.
TO BE CONTINUED.....PART 3 SHOPPING