The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in June 2010. Located in Universal Orlando Florida, you'll find the theme park next to The Lost Continent section of Islands of Adventure.
Films, books and characters come to life at the 20-acre (eight-hectare) theme park. The partnership of Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Consumer Products immerses you in scenes from J.K. Rowling books and Harry Potter movies.
Muggles (non-magical humans) and characters, like Dumbledore, Hagrid, Harry, Hermione and Ron Weasley, interact with you in replica Harry Potter film locations, including Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Hogsmeade village.
Whistles and puffing steam announce the arrival of the Hogwarts Express train at Hogsmeade Station. After you reach the archway entrance to Hogsmeade, you can't see other attractions in Universal Orlando Resort. Just like in the Harry Potter movies, Hogsmeade village has cobblestone streets and buildings with crooked chimneys on snow-covered roofs.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter visitors enter the Forbidden Forest and pass through Hogwarts Castle gates, dominated by statues of winged boars. During the line-up for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, you tour the hallways and rooms of Hogwarts Castle, including Gryffindor House common room and the Room of Requirement, near the unicorn tapestry.
In the line-up to get into Dumbledore's office, you walk by a Griffin statue, through Hogwarts Castle dungeon and into the Herbology Greenhouse, which has potted mandrakes. A hall leads to a painting gallery where Hogwart characters converse and move from picture to picture.
You enter the office of Dumbledore, filled with stacks of books, portraits and silver implements. A realistic film image of the headmaster welcomes muggles.
In the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, holographic images of Harry, Ron and Hermione invite you to skip a lecture and join them on the Forbidden Journey ride.
The best ride
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride uses 360-degree filming techniques. In scenes filmed specifically for it, you feel like you are flying with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Riding cars with four seats, designed so you don't see each other, you twist, turn and dip as floo powder transports you past real and projected film characters, including Aragog, a spider that spits poison and a Dementor in the Chamber of Secrets. You feel like you'll be scorched by dragon fire, hit by a limb of the Whomping Willow and pulled into an aerial game of Quidditch.
How long is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride? With the line-up experiences, it lasts one hour, but expect it to take much longer, if waiting times are long. You can avoid long line-ups by joining the single riders line.
Back in Hogsmeade, you can ride a double high-speed roller coaster from the triwizard tournament, called Dragon Challenge. Choose either the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail roller coaster. Either way, the roller coaster floor drops away from your feet and you will spiral upside-down.
If you don't like scary roller coasters, you can still enjoy the pre-show during the Dragon Challenge line-up. It includes details from Harry Potter movies, like the Great Hall, with candles floating on the ceiling and the triwizard trophy from the Goblet of Fire.
Flight of the Hippogriff is a small family roller coaster that begins at Hagrid's hut. As you ride the Hippogriff training flight, you have spectacular views of Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade village.
Harry Potter memorabilia
J.K. Rowling approved all window displays in Hogsmeade shops. Near the Forbidden Journey ride exit is Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods It sells Ministry of Magic items, like omnioculars and remote-control golden snitches. You can also buy large frisbees with fangs and "I survived Azkaban" t-shirts.
Zonko's joke shop displays sneakoscopes, screaming yo-yos, boxing telescopes and extendable ears. Harry Potter theme park visitors can also buy chocolate frogs, exploding sweets, sugar skulls, fudge flies and Bertie Bott's every flavor beans from Honeydukes candy shop. The hottest candies are the pepper imps, which burn your mouth like jalapenos.
At Ollivanders Wand Shop, magic wands choose their wizards, from store patrons. Dervish and Banges magic store, next door, sells quidditch equipment, Hogwarts school robes, triwizard clothing, spectrespecs and remembralls.
Beware of the Monster Book of Monsters in the center of the store. And don't say we didn't warn you!
Some Harry Potter theme park stores are just false fronts, but their window displays recall movie and book scenes. You can view parchment and quill pens through Scrivenshaft windows and the Yule Ball clothing worn by Harry Potter and Hermione in the windows of Gladrag's Wizarding Apparel.
Hogsmeade restaurant menus
Three Broomsticks Inn looks just like it does in The Half-Blood Prince, with soaring ceilings, deer antlers, chandeliers and steps leading to Three Broomsticks lodgings. You can eat at the same table where Harry Potter sat with Hermione and Ron Weasley.
Hog's Head Pub and Three Broomsticks Inn serve Butterbeer and pumpkin juice, with British food, like fish and chips and Cornish pasties. Pumpkin juice tastes like sweet pumpkin-flavored apple cider.
Butterbeer is a non-alcoholic drink, which tastes like caramel and shortbread cookies, but has less than 300 calories per glass. There are two types of Butterbeer, a froth-topped cold drink, sold in a souvenir cup and frozen Butterbeer. Vendors, who dress wizards and speak with British accents, sell Butterbeer from a cart on Hogsmeade's main street.
Hog's Head Pub also sells real beer. Shrunken heads and a warthog head decorate the bar. Don't miss the washrooms, which resound with the voice and giggles of Moaning Myrtle.
Harry Potter stamps
In the Owlery across from Three Broomsticks, life-like owls roost, while waiting for their next delivery. Watch where you step! There are realistic droppings of fake owl feces beneath them.
If you mail a letter at the Owl Post, it is stamped with a Hogsmeade postmark. You can also buy Wizarding World of Harry Potter stamps, parchment and Hogwart seals.
In 2014, you will be able to ride the Hogswart Express from the London area of the theme park to Dragon Alley.
These new parks include new places to eat and shop, as well as a ride themed around Gringotts bank.
JK Rowling books
The bestselling books by J.K. Rowling have been translated into nearly 70 dialects and languages, including Latin. More than 400 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold in 200 countries around the world.
Produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, each of the five Harry Potter movies has made the list of all-time top-20 money-making films around the world. Combined, they are the highest money-making Hollywood movie series in history.
J.K. Rowling likes what visitors see in the Harry Potter theme park: "It's incredibly exciting. I don't think fans of the books or films will be disappointed."
There are some differences between the Harry Potter books and theme park. For example, Rowling approved moving Ollivander's wand shop, located in Dragon Alley in Harry Potter books, to Hogsmeade.
Stuart Craig, the Academy Award-winning production and set designer, brought Harry Potter films to life. Craig led the creative design team and ensured that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter retained the authentic look and feel of the books and movies. The team included set designer, Alan Gilmore, who worked on three Harry Potter movies.
After you buy Universal Orlando tickets, there is no additional cost or admission fee to visit the Harry Potter theme park.