The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuts in one month as I write. Harry Potter fans wait with bated breath.
Featuring one new ride, two repositioned rides, and one “interactive experience,” this section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure will boost Universal’s revenues and, collaterally, every other park in Orlando. The section recreates the major architecture from the Harry Potter series, including Hogwarts and the wizarding town of Hogsmeade.
Personal aside: I predict true Harry Potter fans will be disappointed, but not because Universal skimped on Harry Potters’ world. For Hogwarts’ devoted followers, the bar is simply too high. Potter fans feel one with the story, more so than Little Mermaid fans, Cinderella fans, or even X-Men fans. In Universal’s Wizarding World, wands won’t really conjure spells, broomsticks won’t actually fly, and butterbeer won’t adequately tickle taste buds. Harry Potter’s world simply can’t exist here on lowly muggle terrain.
Of course, it could still be amazing and certainly more magical than Hometown, USA.
Wizarding World highlights:
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
The is the ride – the big payoff – the calling card for the entire Wizarding World and a new attraction in Orlando. Book fans will glimpse major locations and plot points from all books along the way, including a Quidditch match, the headmaster’s office, dementors, and more, with many part of ride queue. Beyond the book, the engineers promise cutting-edge technology to bring the story to life.
Universal re-themed an existing roller coaster once called Dueling Dragons. The Wizarding World theme replicates the competition between two breeds of dragon, the Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail, which was one of the challenges in the Triwizard Tournament. As coasters, they take off simultaneously and run different courses but, as part of the planned thrill, come perilously close to colliding three times. As with most coasters, the wizarding theme lasts until visitors board the “dragon.” After that, it’s a 55-mile-per-hour breathtaker that, as far as riders can tell at that speed, could be themed to Snow White.
Flight of the Hippogriff
Universal also re-themed a slow-moving coaster built for kids. Flight of the Hippogriff, formerly The Flying Unicorn, can be enjoyed by almost anyone, though true coaster fans will find it too tame to warrant a wait in line. Since Hagrid tended the hippogriff, his hut is also here.
In Harry Potter’s world, the wand picks the wizard, and Ollivander’s is the Macy’s of wand shopping. Guests seeking magic – true magic – will feel they’ve found it if Universal actors can replicate that feeling. Drawers mysteriously open as a store employee waits for a wand picks its owner, the same way it works on Diagon Alley. Universal hopes to get around childhood disappointment by having a host pre-screens guests to get a feel for the kind of wand they expect. Wand prices start at about $25.