For years, Warner Bros., with help from author J.K. Rowling, has taken the details of the Harry Potter books and made them come alive on the big screen. Now, you can experience Harry's magical world in real life, too.
Earlier this year, Universal opened the gates to the ultimate Harry Potter experience with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in Orlando, Florida. "As theme-park designers, we said, "Hey, if we can bring that to life that would be unreal," says Mark Woodbury, the president of Universal Creative for Universal Parks & Resorts. Woodbury's team wanted to get everything right, so they worked closely with the Harry Potter filmmakers and with Rowling. "We wanted to make sure [BRACKET "the world they created"] in the films and in the book could come together in the park in an authentic way," Woodbury says.
Mission accomplished! Entering the park, visitors will immediately be greeted by the towering walls of Hogwarts Castle ahead. The charming shops and cobblestone streets of Hogsmeade are like scenes right out of the movies. Last summer, TFK took a behind-the-scenes tour of the spellbinding theme park at Universal Orlando Resorts. Here are a few highlights.
It's not a theme park without the rides! Fans will love all of the exciting attractions the Wizarding World has to offer.
• Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Described by Woodbury as "ground-breaking and technologically advanced," this unique ride takes park-goers on a journey through the Harry Potter timeline. Along the way, you'll visit memorable locations like Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor common room and more. And who would be more qualified to host the ride than the three main characters themselves, Harry, Ron, and Hermione?
• Dragon Challenge Do you have what it takes to take on the Dragon Challenge? This high-speed rollercoaster is actually two different rides. Choose one of two dragons to ride: the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail. Then, grab hold of your seat as the two dragons dip, weave, and nearly collide with one another on the twisting tracks. "It was so much fun I had to ride it twice!" said park visitor Valerie Leath.
• Flight of the Hippogriff You may remember that Hagrid, Hogwarts' half-giant caretaker, has a special connection with magical creatures. For this ride, follow Hagrid's instructions on how to approach a Hippogriff. Then, hop aboard for a test flight!
You've read about some of these magical munchies in the books, and you've seen them in the movies. Now, get ready to taste them!
• The Three Broomsticks and Hog's Head Pub One thing that makes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter stand out is its one-of-a-kind menu! If you're a Harry Potter fan, then you've probably heard of Butterbeer. The bubbly, sweet beverage is a favorite of Harry, Ron and Hermione. It also happens to be the theme park's most popular drink. You can have your Butterbeer served up frozen or non-frozen.
If Butterbeer isn't for you, then you can wash down your hearty feast with pumpkin juice instead. The name is pretty self-explanatory—it tastes like pumpkins! As for the main course, most visitors order the (very tasty) fish and chips. In fact, the dish is the No. 1 most-ordered entree in the park. For desert, try the strawberry peanut butter ice cream.
• Honeydukes No town is complete without a candy shop! While in Hogsmeade, be sure to stop by Honeydukes for all sorts of familiar treats from the books and films, including Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Caldron Cakes and more.
Whether you're strolling through Hogsmeade or roaming Diagon Alley, there's never a lack of exciting shops to explore. Check out these cool boutiques to complete your transformation from Muggle to wizard.
• Dervish and Banges Even Hogwarts students need to buy their uniforms and supplies from somewhere. At this magical shop, visitors will find everything they need to change into wizards-in-training. From Hogwarts robes and spell books to Sneakoscopes and Quidditch gear, Dervish and Banges stocks it all.
• Ollivanders Imagine being able to pick out your very own magic wand, just as Harry did in the Sorcerer's Stone. Or rather, imagine having your wand pick you! It's all possible at Olivanders. Visitors to the mystical wand shop will be treated to a unique interactive experience and leave with the perfect match.
• Zonko's Have you still not found the ideal souvenir? It's not too late! A visit to Zonko's Joke Shop can solve this problem right away. The novelty items found at this whimsical store include Extendable Ears and Nosebleed Nougats. No one will leave without the perfect keepsake.
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