The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of seven themed areas within Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park located in Orlando, Florida. Well-received by Harry Potter fans and theme park visitors alike, the recently opened Harry Potter’s world is a finely crafted experience that is heavy on the authentic details.
I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never read a Harry Potter book nor watched a HP movie. Almost equally embarrassing is the fact that I was inspired by a theme park to start reading! If you are a huge HP fan, please don’t stop reading here. I will share my opinion of the Wizarding World from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about HP. However, I also enlisted a friend who is an extreme fan to share his input and tips as someone who grew up with Harry Potter reading all the books and seeing all the movies.
As I approached The Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Jurassic Park on a hot and sunny day, the snow covered roofs of Hogsmeade (complete with crooked chimey’s) seemed so authentic that I suddenly felt cooler. Add to this scene a vendor selling pumpkin juice and Butterbeer (basically super sweet cream soda) from a charming street cart, and you have one magical scene. This is especially noteworthy as a bonus pleasantry of Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the fact that they have a liquor license and, so, adult fans can walk around the park imbibing adult beverages such as Hogs Head Ale.
Other street carts sell unique items such as wands and other wizarding items. Even the merchandising here is not of the tacky variety typical of most theme parks. Everything from the wands to food items are presented in genuine form. Sweet treats are presented with Hogsmeade-type names and tastes and are sold in Honeydukes, the legendary sweetshop from the books. Hearty meals and cold beverages can be experienced in the pub-like atmosphere of Three Broomsticks.
The rides also seem to jump out of the books and movies. Feel the flight of a Hippogriff on the short, but fun rollercoaster of the same name. Duelling dragons seem to intertwine on a more adventurous roller coaster a bit further on. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is more of an experience than a ride and uses unbelievable technology to pull off the fantasy.
Family friend and the big HP fan I mentioned earlier, Jeff Markle, visited the park the same day I did and noted that “the attention to detail and the similarities between the books and the movie are amazing. All of the shops are great. Also, if you don’t mind waiting in a long line, people have the chance to see a wand demonstration in Ollivander’s Wand shop similar to that in the book and movie. And one lucky person will have a chance to have the wand ‘choose them’ like in the stories.”
Jeff also said that “the MUST SEE attraction is the ride called The Forbidden Journey. It is one of the coolest amusement park attractions I have ever been on. It is a combination thrill ride and simulator that takes you on a journey through Hogwarts with the HP characters and you encounter some rough patches including a dragon and some dementors. It is awesome (we rode it 4 times on Monday!). The other rides are good (Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff) but are only minimally related to HP. The line[s] gets very long though so be willing to wait.”
Jeff as a fan and I as a future fan both agree that no trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is complete until you’ve sampled the Butterbeer and the Hogs Head Ale in the two taverns (Three Broomsticks and the Hogs Head) from the book; a perfect ending to a magical adventure.
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