Editors note: Staff writer Lianna Salva visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla. On Oct. 24. It is park policy not to reprint the names of park employees. All names in this article are only first names.
It took eight years, but I finally got my Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry acceptance letter.
â€œThe Wizarding World of Harry Potterâ€ is the newest addition to Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla. and opened this past spring.
This is what every â€œmuggleâ€ dreams of: walking into the magical village of Hogsmeade to see the Hogwarts Express billowing smoke, butterbeer stations and children excited with the purchase of their very own wand.
After reading the â€œHarry Potterâ€ books countless times and even visiting some of the filming locations of the movies, I can assure you that the authenticity is incredible.
Shopping includes Olivanderâ€™s Wand Shop â€“â€“ where lucky visitors will practice with a variety of wands until they find their own â€“â€“ the candy shop Honeydukes, the joke shop Zonkoâ€™s, Dervish and Bangs Wizarding Equipment and Filchâ€™s Emporium of Confiscated Goods.
The biggest â€œHarry Potterâ€ fans will have to economize when buying souvenirs. Clothes, books and props such as copies of the Marauderâ€™s Map from the third novel are available for purchase.
Even the staff members are authentic.
Merchandising Manager Jean Paul, an actor who plays a prominent death eater in the sixth and seventh films works in one of the shops. For the workerâ€™s privacy, his name was not revealed.
â€œI had to take a Muggle Studies class before I started working here,â€ said Chelsea, who sold merchandise. â€œI feel pretty prepared, but I think muggle contraptions like cell phones are weird.â€
The Three Broomsticks is the restaurant of Hogsmeade village. The menu includes healthy, delicious, and authentic British dishes at a reasonable price. Butterbeer and pumpkin juice are also for sale at a number of locations in the area.
The Hogâ€™s Head is located in the back of the Three Broomsticks and sells a red, Scottish ale â€“â€“ actual liquor â€“â€“ that can only be found at this park.
There are three rides in this area. The Dragon Challenge is a double roller coaster with the area made to look like the Tri-wizard Tournament in the fourth novel.
Flight of the Hippogriff is a more family oriented ride, but is still very fast. Here, you get the best view of the castle and even get to see a mechanical Buckbeak the hippogriff.
Out of every family I spoke with, they all agreed that the best attraction was The Forbidden Journey, which is the ride inside of the castle.
This ride â€œis all about the technologyâ€ said the Roach family of Staffordshire, England. â€œYou really feel like youâ€™re on the broomstick.â€
Even the line for this ride is a part of the attraction. You are led throughout the castle to see green houses, statues and even the talking portraits.
In line, you are met by Professor Dumbledore who invites you to a History of Magic lecture, but are then met by Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger who invite you to ditch the lecture and come to a Quidditch match instead.
After a few wise words from the Sorting Hat, you board the ride and experience the time of your life.
The ride is a combination of virtual screen technology and track. You are faced with fire breathing dragons, venom spitting spiders and soul sucking dementors.
After experiencing this ride four times, the others twice each, and walking through Hogsmeade for two days, it never got old.
The theme park could not have opened at a better time. The first part of the final movie was released today with the second part set to release in July of 2011
The final films mark the end of an era, but the theme park will be around for years to come.
Staff writer Lianna Salva can be reached at email@example.com.
A Muggleâ€™s Guide to Harry Potter terminology
Muggle â€“ a non-magical person
Hogwarts â€“ the fictional school for young witches and wizards
Butterbeer – popular non-alcoholic drink in the wizarding world
Quidditch â€“ a magical sport, like soccer, played on broomsticks
Hogsmeade â€“ the all-magic village outside of Hogwarts
Filch â€“ the strict caretaker of Hogwarts
Marauderâ€™s Map â€“ a magical map of Hogwarts
Death Eater â€“ a follower of the evil Voldemort
Tri-Wizard Tournament â€“ an event of the fourth novel; the student Olympics in the magical world
Hogâ€™s Head â€“ the local bar
The Three Broomsticks â€“ a restaurant
Sorting Hat â€“ the talking hat that sorts a student into one of four houses
Dementor â€“ the guards of the wizard prison who have the ability to suck out your soul
Hippogriff â€“ A magical beast with the head of an eagle and the body of a horse