As soon as the news that Wizarding World of Harry Potter was set to open came out, Potter fans waited with bated breath. Stars of the movie flew down to Florida for its opening, which happened on June 18, 2010.
The park is located in Orlando, Florida and Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, James and Oliver Phelps, Michael Gambon, Bonny Wright and many more stars were present for the opening. Two other parks are built ― one in Los Angeles, California and the other in Japan. Take a look at various attractions one can enjoy in the park of Orlando, Florida.
This is a dueling roller coaster ride wherein, two roller coasters ― the Hungarian Horntail and the Chinese Fireball ― inspired by Rowling's fourth book and the movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, set your pulse racing. Both of them reach at a height of 125 feet and have a total of five inversions!
What makes them even more thrilling than probably the tallest roller coasters in the world is the fact that, at one point, they pass within twelve inches of each other! That's the whole thrill of riding a dueling roller coaster.
It's little wonder that Daniel Radcliffe himself rode this ride no less than five times. However, you need to ensure that you do not have any loose articles while on this ride.
Flight of the Hippogriff
This is an exciting attraction, because it is a family-friendly roller coaster. You'll start with Hagrid's booming voice telling you the right way of approaching a Hippogriff, which was the magical creature that was shown in the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
During the course of this ride, you will get to see glimpses of Hagrid's cottage, his pumpkin patch, and even Buckbeak. It will also give you a lovely view of the Hogwarts castle. This is a slower roller coaster and it goes at a speed of 28.5 mph.
The Forbidden Journey
This has also become one of the main attractions at the park, as you get to see the inside of Dumbledore's office and Hogwarts castle. There's the portrait gallery and a replica of Dumbledore's office.
In fact, it is Dumbledore who guides you to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, from where you go off to tour the place and then, the 3D holograms of the three stars in their Harry Potter avatar ask you to just skip the boring tour, and instead guide you to the rides where you take the seat on 'enchanted benches'.
You can see dragons, the Whomping Willow from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and even dementors that will try and suck out your soul as shown in the film.
Places to Visit
Hog's Head and The Three Broomsticks
The Hog's Head, as depicted in the movies is set in the snowy and sleepy town of Hogsmeade. You will see the literal Hog's Head coming to life here, and the dirty walls actually transport you back to the films.
You can enjoy many drinks here, the famed Butterbeer being the most desirable one, which was tasted and tried by J. K. Rowling herself. The Three Broomsticks, which is adjacent to the Hog's Head and Honeydukes, serves authentic English cuisine, including Shepherd's Pie, Fish and Chips, and even Cornish Pasties.
There are many shops at the park from where you can take home the souvenirs. There is Dervish and Banges from where you can purchase things right from the Quibbler to the Remembrall, a Sneakoscope, and the Triwizard Cup too.
There is Filch's Emporium, where the much disliked Filch has stacked up all the confiscated goods that you can buy, like the Marauder's Map mug, Slytherin mug, a stuffed Phoenix, Ministry of Magic mug, and a proclamation magnet, as seen in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
If you want to take something that most likely was an inspiration for the Weasly's shop, then Zonko's joke shop has chattering teeth, screaming yo-yo, a fanged flyer, and a Pygmy Puff. However, one of the major attractions by far is the Owl Post and Ollivander's wand shop.
You can get a Hedwig mug or even of course, one of the highest selling items, a magic wand, which could be Harry's, Dumbledore's, or even Voldemort's. If you wish to eat something light, then you mustn't miss Honeydukes, which has chocolate frogs, pumpkin juice, Bertie Bott's every flavor beans, and also Fudge Flies.
The Frog Choir which is shown in the films has been replicated in the theme park. Here, a group of students wearing Hogwarts robes enact out a choir session in the Park while holding a small frog on a cushion, that croaks on a timely basis. This show is near the ride, Flight of the Hippogriff.
Ollivander's Wand Shop
One of the best shows for which people have been standing for hours at end is the live show that is done in Ollivander's. In this show, a lucky wizard wannabe is summoned and then, is given different wands to try out before a final wand 'chooses' him.
Triwizard Spirit Showcase
It's hard to forget the spirited entrance of the two competing schools at the Triwizard Tournament ― the Beauxbatons and the Durmstrangs. So, if you enjoyed the entry, you must catch the show, where the Durmstrang students do a spirited live action sequence of fights and somersaults. Followed by a graceful performance by a group of Beauxbaton students.
✦ J. K. Rowling, the author of book series is a disciplinarian when it comes to details. Universal studios had to work very hard to get her approval. When the much famed butterbeer was being made, a hotel kitchen was rented out in Scotland and countless flavors, variations were tried out by Ms. Rowling herself, before the tasty creamy brew was finalized.
✦This is one of the first times that the new advanced robotic technology has been used to give the rides as much of a real feel as possible.
✦ Emma Watson who plays Hermione Granger could not make it for the opening as she was busy attending university. However, Emma Watson, along with Robbie Coltrane, Matthew Lewis, and the Phelps twins had got a sneak peek into the park before it opened in June.
✦ There was so much of crowding at Ollivander's, that the organizers simply had to add another section to the shop to accommodate the enthusiastic crowds that were thronging this place.
The reviews have been very positive, although some people may complain that apart from the main three rides, there isn't really much to do, beside visiting places, eating, and shopping. However, one must keep in mind that rather than being an amusement park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a theme park, that helps to bring the movies to life.
So, for a hardcore Harry Potter aficionado, even an entire amusement and theme park seems too less to soak in all the details of the setting that have been perfected to the very last detail to resemble the movie setting as much as possible.
The true Potter fan will keep smiling to himself as he passes the Golden Egg, a beat up Ford Anglia parked in the Whomping Willow, the Triwizard cup, the Goblet of Fire, the Hogwarts Express, and the Sorcerer's Stone, and what not!
It's little wonder then that many people are planning their Florida vacations ensuring that the park features prominently in their schedule, as it is being touted as the best theme park there is. The actors themselves were left mesmerized by the place when they came for the opening. Daniel Radcliffe himself called the theme park "awe inspiring".
He said "You are just kind of immersed in the world of Hogsmeade, the village from the movies. For any kids out there who were like me when I was a kid, you can now just come here and live the movie, pretty much, but without all the danger involved".
This is really one of the best theme parks that is going to give the various Disney theme parks a run for their money. Because this park is just as its made out to be ― magical, or as Ron Weasly would put it ― "Bloody brilliant!"
* Image courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort.
* Image courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort.