Thousands of people from across the globe traveled to Orlando for the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Being an Orlando resident myself I’ve seen first hand the vast amount of promotion leading up to the opening of the Wizarding World. Billboards sprung up all over the Central Florida region promoting the big day and at a visit to the park earlier prior to the opening the ticket counter employees repeated themselves over and over encouraging everyone to come back for the big day.
During the week leading up to the opening Universal had at least some of the park open as part of their soft opening run throughs in order to work out any kinks before the official grand opening. I learned about these soft opening run throughs from a friend working in the Hogwarts Castle so I along with some friends went to the park a few days before the opening to see the new addition to the park before the chaos and crazy crowds. Luckily we did because I was able to get a much better look and feel of the entire area than I was opening day due to the large amount of people caked into the tiny section of the park. Like I said this isn’t an entire new theme park itself just an addition to Islands of Adventure, so the area isn’t very big in size.
Upon walking into the Wizarding World you find the train which transports Harry to the town of Hogsmeade and in front of the train you will be greeted by it’s conductor. All of the Hogsmeade employees are required to be in character and speak with a British accent although the train conductor also had a name tag stating he was from New Jersey. Following the train you are in the town of Hogsmeade which is full on dark towering buildings with snow covered roofs amidst the 90 degree Florida heat. Along the streets are familiar shops as seen in the movies and books such as the wand shop where you have your choice of wands from each character for the price of $28.95 each. The shops are extremely detailed and feel authentic to the world created by JK Rowling. Most of the stores are gift shops selling t-shirts, cups, capes, and just about anything you can think of merchandise wise. Overall the merchandise is pricey, but that’s the case with just about anything in theme parks.
Everywhere you turned someone would be holding a cup of butter beer which is a delicious non-alcoholic beverage with a butter scotch flavor. The drink was available as a liquid or frozen and was $10.50 a cup which included a collectable stein or $3.50 for a basic cup. The Wizarding World features two roller coasters both of which were in the park before as dueling dragons and the flying unicorn, but they were revamped and added to the Wizarding World. Dueling dragons features two sides to the roller coaster a red side and blue side which battle off in a game of Quiddich. As you weave through the extremely long dark line to the front you pass numerous items recognizable from the films such as the Weasly’s flying car which is on display. The ride itself is a floor-less roller coaster that any roller coaster enthusiast would love. The other roller coaster is geared more toward young children and features no loops or crazy drops but is a fun addition for children who aren’t tall enough to ride the other coaster. Walking down the streets of Hogsmeade on opening day was quite the struggle with so many people being in that area at once. The amount of chaos and foot traffic seemed to raise stress levels and lower the enjoyment overall and arguments could be heard between random strangers due to all the pushing and shoving trying to get through.
Universal normally does not allow any sort of costume to be worn by park attendees, but because of the occasion they were evaluating everyone dressed up at the entrance and were very lenient on bending their rules. The only costumes that seemed to not be allowed were those wearing masks as they didn’t want your face to be covered. I found this understandable as part of security precautions and it seemed everyone else did as well.
Overall, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is fairly small in size, but extremely detailed and any fan of the blockbuster franchise wouldn’t be disappointed however several of my friends in attendance who weren’t familiar with the series were not impressed due to the lack of no new rides. Any Harry Potter fan would love it and I encourage you to quiz any employee you find working in Hogsmeade. They were all required to pass an intense test to ensure that they were knowledgable about the Harry Potter series. In my opinion Universal’s hard work in revamping an old section of their park into a new an enticing area was a success and today proved the Harry Potter fanatics enjoy the addition.