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As a big fan of the Harry Potter book series, when I visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I had a good idea in my head of what Hogwarts and Hogsmeade should look like. And on a recent visit to the Orlando, Fla., theme park, located within Universal’s Islands of Adventure, I wasn’t disappointed. As we headed toward Hogwarts, through the Dr. Seuss land, Seuss Landing, and The Lost Continent, I felt my pace quicken in anticipation. Then I saw the snowy rooftops of Hogsmeade and the silhouette of Hogwarts Castle ahead of me, and I knew I had arrived.
The park is a perfect representation of Harry’s environs. Young fans further complement this effect by running around in Hogwarts uniforms. As you wander through the streets that look like they were pulled straight from the books (or the movies), guests can stop in at the Three Broomsticks for a meal and sample the butter beer, which tastes authentic, even though the only impression I had of butter beer was in my mind. Everyone wants a wand from Olivander’s wand shop, which was the only place that had a line — a rarity for the park which is usually very crowded.
There is at least one ride for every age group. The Flight of the Hippogriff is perfectly suited to younger guests and is a tame roller coaster that soars through the village. At the Dragon Challenge, guests can see the Triwizarding Cup and the Goblet of Fire during a wild race. Guests can choose their dragon — a Chinese Fireball or a Hungarian Horntail and soar along the two different flight tracks. The two, high-speed roller coasters offer completely different experiences as they twist, turn and loop together, nearly colliding at one point. The Dragon Challenge is definitely not for the faint of heart. The ride left one member of our group slightly green.Hogwarts castle is truly The Wizarding World’s piece de resistance. As you walk through the towering castle gates, guests feel as though they are strolling through the halls of the real Hogwarts, with moving pictures hanging from the walls and magic snow falling from the ceiling — just as it does in the stories. The ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a revolutionary 3D experience. It would be a spoiler if I told you how the ride works but, if you’ve ever wanted to know what it was like to fly on Harry’s broomstick, this is the ride for you!
My one disappointment with the park was that the snowy, cozy impression that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter exudes is tempered by the fact that it’s 95 degrees and humid in Orlando. So, although you feel as though the air should be crisp and cool, it’s more like you have just used the floo network and spent too much time exiting the fireplace — if you know what I mean.