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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In 2007, Universal Orlando rocked the attraction industry by announcing a partnership with Warner Brothers and author J.K. Rowling to bring her mega-selling series about a United Kingdom conjuring academy into three-dimensional reality. Insiders speculated that securing the notoriously reticent Rowling’s cooperation (in a deal that granted her unprecedented levels of artistic control over the project) could be the kind of coup that might finally allow Universal to beat Disney at its own game.

After three years of eagerly observed construction, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter premiered to the public on June 18, 2010, in a star-studded opening ceremony that was broadcast globally. Millions of Potter-maniacs, whose money helped make the books and films into a $15 billion dollar franchise, held their breaths in anticipation. Could this new section of Islands of Adventure possibly live up to the wonders they experienced on page and screen? Well, the verdict is in, and it is a resounding “Yeeesss!”

From the moment you step under the stone archway into Hogsmeade Village (beneath a sign reading “Please Respect the Spell Limits”), you will be completely enveloped in this enchanted universe. The word “immersive” is ubiquitous in the themed-entertainment business, but nowhere else on earth is its application more apt. When you walk into the Wizarding World, you don’t feel like you’ve just entered another area in an amusement park; you’ve seemingly been transported into the charmingly archaic Scottish hamlet where Harry and his friends relax on winter holidays, down to the worn cobblestone streets and sparkling snow-capped eaves.

Everywhere you look, from the Hogwarts Express train belching steam to the exquisitely detailed storefront windows, you’ll find an overabundance of exacting detail that makes this area – which was carved from the former “Merlinwood” section of Lost Continent, as well as some previously unused nearby acreage – seem far richer than its 20-acre size might suggest. Simply put, this is the most visually dense attraction in any park, Mouse-made or otherwise, with the possible exception of Tokyo DisneySea in Japan.

Universal may have somewhat oversold the scope of the expansion by initially referring to it as a “park within a park.” The area is similar in size to the other “islands,” and no separate admission is required. And return visitors to IOA will remember the area’s re-purposed roller coasters, which may explain why they always have less of a wait than the other Potter attractions. Still, the area is enormously popular, with dedicated Potter devotees waiting hours in the hot sun just to enter their hero’s home.

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Universal Orlando 2011

 

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