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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Opened in June 2010 at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure, the Magical World of Harry Potter is a fantastical theme park dedicated to the beloved Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling. The park was designed with Rowling's input, plus some consultation with the designers and art directors from the films, so the park is an enchanting display of meticulous detail and authenticity that will satisfy the most zealous fans.
Immediately inside the entrance is Hogsmeade, a quaint, bustling wizarding town filled with an array of activities and attractions to discover. Real-life versions of familiar shops from the books line the streets, with snowy roofs and dedicated shopkeepers. Stop into Dervish and Banges for Quidditch supplies, Zonko's for joke gifts, and Honeyduke's for magical candy like Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and Chocolate Frogs.
Further inside the park is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a turreted labyrinth of a castle. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is an incredible ride that takes visitors through the whole castle and its grounds, combining special effects and film with live action and robot technology to recreate the story of Harry Potter and its many magical characters.
Beautifully recreated classrooms and secret passageways await inside, plus immersive details outside like the bright red Hogwarts train, complete with smiling, uniformed conductors. Choruses of students entertain those wandering around the grounds, and park visitors will also be delighted to find that they can send real mail by "Owl Post," and watch performances at Ollivander's Wand Shop of wands choosing their wizard masters.
Besides the Forbidden Journey, there are two other Harry Potter rides at the park: Flight of the Hippogriff, an interactive flying experience aboard the half-horse, half-eagle creatures known as hippogriffs, and Dragon Challenge, a roller coaster where riders choose their own dragon for a unique thrill ride.
There are many places to shop and eat within The Magical World of Harry Potter. The best option for a sit-down meal is the Three Broomsticks, a Hogsmeade pub famous in the books for its warming butterbeer and interesting patrons. Butterbeer itself is served here, and the beverage has been a hit even with non-magical "Muggles." Tasty and reasonably priced British pub fare is also available at the Three Broomsticks.
The Magical World of Harry Potter is open year round, generally from 9am until at least 6pm - although closing times vary throughout the year and the Islands of Adventure sometimes stay open until 9 or 10pm in the summer.
Visitors can access the realm of Harry Potter with a pass to Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park. A single day pass to one of the Universal theme parks (it can used either here or at Universal Studios Florida, but not both) is $85 for an adult and $79 for a child. Multi-day and multi-park packs can also be purchased online, which offer $20 discounts from what the gate price would be.
Crowds - and lines for rides, stores, and dining - tend to be very heavy at this popular park. Try going in the winter off-season, or either very early in the day or after dark for sparser crowds.
Families should also note that children must be at least 36 inches tall to ride Flight of the Hippogriff; 48 inches for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey; and 54 inches for Dragon Challenge.
Getting There and Accommodations
The Universal theme parks parking garage is located at 6000 Universal Boulevard. There are also shuttles and water taxis that will bring guests right to the park.
Although Orlando has a wide variety of hotel offerings, visitors whose main vacation goal is to spend time at Universal should consider staying on site. Three family-friendly and luxurious resorts await, plus a short walk to the park, early access, and passes to skip lines for certain rides.