Harry Potter theme park opens in Florida

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.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

by Monica Hesse

Lots of kids are already bugging their parents about taking a trip to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, which opened in Orlando, Florida, earlier this month. But if you're not sure when you'll get there, KidsPost got an inside look from reporter Monica Hesse, who toured the park on opening day.

(Warning: This might make you bug your parents even more!)

Visitors to the new theme park are already gushing about the Forbidden Journey ride -- and it's pretty great (more on that later). Harry Potter fans will be just as thrilled by all the familiar places and characters.

All of the wizarding landmarks are there, from Ollivanders to Zonko's joke shop. At Honeydukes, you can get chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, plus other candies that only serious fans will remember from the books, such as the Toothflossing Stringmints that Hermione buys her dentist parents.

Some of the most impressive things about the Wizarding World are the smallest details. For example, if you stop by the Owl Post to mail a letter, the postmark will read Hogsmeade!

The buildings are made of stone, and walking down the street feels like walking through a medieval village. During your stroll, you might spot some of your favorite characters. Park employees are dressed as members of the wizarding community, such as Beauxbatons students and the conductor of the Hogwarts Express.

The park is already getting enormous crowds, so it's not so bad if you aren't planning to go anytime soon. Visitors this summer will battle huge lines -- up to two hours for the most popular attractions. Then again, if you're in line for the Forbidden Journey, you probably won't mind the wait. The ride is less of a roller coaster and more of an adventure ride. Harry and Ron take groups of four on a high-speed tour of Hogwarts's grounds. Riders get chased by a loose dragon, meet Aragog in the Forbidden Forest and run into some Dementors on the Quidditch pitch. Luckily, Harry conjures a Patronus before they get too close.

The ride is actually pretty scary, but even visitors who skip it should still wait in the line. It's set up like a tour through the castle and should not be missed.

You'll see the Mirror of Erised, the Sorting Hat and even the Gryffindor common room. In one room, talking portraits of the four Hogwarts founders debate whether Muggles should be allowed in the school. In another, holograms of Harry, Ron and Hermione warn visitors to leave before Professor Binns shows up and gives a really boring lecture!

All in all, it's pretty magical.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company