It can probably fairly claim to be the most magical attraction in the world, because this is Wizarding World — America’s Harry Potter themepark.
The new Hogwarts styled attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure complex in Orlando, Florida, was almost six years in the making and cost around $200 million. And it’s pretty spellbinding.
Visitors are welcomed through a stone arch into Hogsmeade village by the Hogswarts Express steam train. So far, so authentic.
They walk into scene straight from the movies with Zonko’s joke shop selling Sneakoscopes and extendable ears next to Honeydukes sweet emporium for Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
Marvellously, there is no Coke or Pepsi — only pumpkin juice and Butterbeer, Cornish Pasties and Scotch eggs.
But the real attraction for us Muggles is the CGI mega-ride Forbidden Journey, hidden in the spires of a very authentic-looking Hogwarts Castle and accessed (of course) via the Room of Requirements.
And it is amazing. A combination of thrilling 3-D imagery and real life props take you on a four minute ride past the Whomping Willow, over the Forbidden Forest, through a game of Quidditch with Harry and Ron, and face-to-face with innumerable demons before returning to the Great Hall.
It’s not the world’s first 3-D ride, but it may well be the world’s best.
But one aspect, as unmentionable as Voldemort himself, is the wait time. This can be upwards of two hours — indeed one visitor claimed five hour wait in the Florida heat.
It’s good, but it’s not that good.
There are just two other main rides in the park — the family friendly Flight of the Hippogriff mini rollercoaster and Dragon Challenge, a high-speed double rollercoaster based on a Triwizard Tournament.
The rest is basically buying stuff. Admittedly, if you are a fan, it’s cool stuff.
There are $25 US wands which just like Harry’s ‘pick their owner,’ wizard robes, golden snitches, and you can send postcards home via Owl Post. All in all, no fan will be disappointed.
Day tickets to the Islands of Adventures theme park, including the WWHP area, cost $79 US per day for adults, $69 for children.