After the much anticipated opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the summer crowds, I finally had the opportunity to experience the new attraction for myself. I am a Harry Potter fan, and I’m also a stickler for being “true” to the book and its characters. As J.K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter series stated during the opening last June,”I said right at the beginning, either we do it right or we don’t do it at all.” The Wizarding World of Harry Potter did not disappoint.
- No matter which way you enter the Wizarding World, you will be transported into the magical moments of the books and movies millions have grown to love. The Hogwarts Train welcomes you into Hogsmeade where shops, a large barrel of Butterbeer and The Three Broomsticks await. The Hogswart Castle dominates the other two entrances, with a Hippogriff lying in a nest of brambles off to the side.
The Hogwarts castle features the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The line queue winds its way through the Hogswart greenhouse where strange plants are at every turn. Once through the doors of Hogwarts, the rich magical history is prominent in its statues and talking paintings. The queue area is an attraction itself. Rounding the eagle staircase, you wind through Dumbledore’s office with Dumbledore and all his quirky knickknacks. The low lit corridors contain talking paintings, including the founders of Hogswart. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine make an appearance from under the Invisibility Cloak in the Defense against the Dark Arts room decorated with creature parts and skeletons.
The Lady in the Painting hurries you down the passageway past more talking paintings and the Sorting Hat to your seated car in what looks like the Dining Room. Candles float above as the Hogswart “students” help you into your vehicle.
Four people sit side by side, and as you move away from the loading zone, Hermoine casts her spell over you, sends you through the floo network, and you find yourself flying behind Harry and Ron. But there are dangers lurking about. A dragon chases you throught the Hogwart grounds, the Whomping Willow tries its hardest to whomp you, and you fall into the Forbidden Forest where Aragog’s spider children and salivating and spitting at your unexpected presence. Following Hermoine’s voice to get out of the forest, Harry and Ron guide you through the flying excitement of playing Quidditch as Draco tries to ruin your fun. Suddenly dementors swoop down and surround you, sucking all the happiness until Harry uses the Patronus Charm to scare them away and have you safely arrive back at the castle to a round of applause from all your favorite characters.
All the cars move along on a loop, but each car is connected to that loop by its own individual hydraulic arm that moves independently of the other cars. This lessens jerky movements, but it moves up and down a lot. I love the dragon, but I do feel that the spider and dementor sections lasted too long. The ride is fantastic with so much to see, but not for children who have not yet seen Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry first encounters the dementors, or for people who are prone to motion sickness.
On to the roller coasters! The Flight of the Hippogriff is a fun family coaster ride. You walk past Hagrid’s cute cottage, board the wicker basket coaster, and embark on your first Hippogriff flying lesson. It’s a short ride with dips and turns looking out over Hogsmeade and the castle. Hagrid’s popular phrase of “misunderstood creatures” kept popping into my head throughout the ride making me smile.
What was once the Dueling Dragons at Islands of Adventure, has now found a proper home in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Passing by the Goblet of Fire and the TriWizard Cup, you must choose your dragon (coaster), the wild Chinese Fireball or the raging Hungarian Horntail. Both coasters take off with high speed intensity through loops, twists and turns and coming close, but avoiding collisions. It’s one of my favorite coaster rides.
Back on solid ground in Hogsmeade, the shops lining the street offer their own attractions such as Zonko’s joke shop with extendable ears and sneakoscopes, and Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop where Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Bean, chocolate frogs, and many other sweets and goodies fill every visible sweet space.
Olivander’s is another attraction for the Harry Potter fans. The wait can be long, but the storefront windows offer entertainment with antsy snitches, a snarling Monster Book, and animated book covers. Once inside the cluttered wand shop, the Wandkeeper chooses a witch or wizard to find their perfect wand. As they try out different wands, magical mishaps occur, until finally the right wand is found. A variety of wands are for purchase in the shop area following the attraction.
With all the visual stimulants you might get a little hungry and need a break. The Three Broomsticks features typical English grub like shepherd’s pie and fish’n’chips, and pumpkin juice and Butterbeer are available for the little ones while the Hog’s Head pub at the rear of the tavern serves an array of alcoholic beverages to adults. I couldn’t pass up a Butterbeer. It tasted like a mix between an orange soda, gingerale and cola, with vanilla flavored foam on top. Loved the foam!
The focus on detail in the store windows, merchandise and rides is astounding and truly immerses you into a place of magic once only seen on a movie screen. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a “must see and experience” attraction that will delight the young at heart of any age for years to come.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located in Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida. Price for a one day- one park admission is $82.00 for adults and $ 74.00 for children. A two day- two park pass is $134.99 for adults and $121.99 for children. If you live in Florida, Universal does offer a Florida resident discount, and an annual pass stats at $139.99. Universal also offers Meal Deals and Express Plus for addition fees. Check out their website http://www.universalorlando.com/ for more information.