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We're off to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Fans of the "Harry Potter" books and films can now experience the magic firsthand at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park.

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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 27, 2010

The castle rises above the foliage line, turrets and towers disappearing into the morning fog. The roof is frosted with snow. The Gothic spires jut from the stone walls at nearly impossible angles, as if affixed by magic.

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My sister Paige turns to me and says -- and I swear there are tears in her eyes, though they might be from sheer exhaustion -- "It is glorious."

We are in line for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando. We have been in line for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter since 5 a.m., along with thousands of other slavish fans who arrived before dawn for the grand opening that is sure to be recorded as a major moment in nerd history.

Now, at 8:45, we are huddled on a wooden bridge next to a couple of nursing students from nearby Valencia Community College, who cut class in the hopes of seeing "Potter" stars Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, both in town for the opening. The gates to the village of Hogsmeade -- the World's official entrance -- are finally in sight.

"If I die in this stampede," one of the students, Emily Grice, says dryly, "I want my ashes sprinkled over Hogwarts."

Grice and her friend are wearing hand-painted "Dumbledore's Army" T-shirts and round Harry Potter glasses.

As fanware goes, these costumes are tame. Elsewhere in line I spot Quidditch jerseys and tattoos proclaiming devotion to Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin, the four houses of the Hogwarts school. One woman has a stuffed owl on her shoulder. In the sloppy, 90-degree Florida heat, there are dozens of people wearing heavy black robes emblazoned with the Hogwarts insignia over suffocating English sweaters.

Paige and I, who came to the Wizarding World to celebrate Paige's recent college graduation, may be nerds, but at least we are not robe people.

"I forgot my costume," Paige says.

"What?"

"My costume."

Paige proceeds to tell me about her awesome Ravenclaw uniform, complete with blue and silver knee socks, which she has worn to every midnight screening and book launch.


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