The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the latest magic conjured up by Universal Orlando Resort in Florida and it’s a major hat trick your clients are not going to want to miss. And, judging from the crowds that packed the park and the Orlando hotels during the launch of the attraction, you’ve got a pretty much guaranteed sale if you jump on it now.
Located in the rear of Universal’s Islands of Adventure park, the new Harry Potter attraction comes as close to the book and the popular films spawned by the books, as you can get in a theme park venue. It’s all here in Universal Orlando Resort’s Hogsmeade Village—Hogwarts Castle, of course; Honeyduke’s for sweets; Ollivanders, where Potter fans can pick out their very own wands; Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, many of which are on sale; the Three Broomsticks, where park-goers can grab a magical meal and the Hogs Head Tavern.
Two of the most popular village shops were Ollivanders and the Hogs Head Tavern. At Ollivanders, park-goers are lined up all around the village, it seems, and once inside, the proprietor and wand master has a show for each group, selecting a lucky child out of the line where they duplicate Harry’s own experience as he selected his wand. Bottles break and things seem to fly around until eventually, the right wand for the new wizard-to-be is found. It’s a fun show and kids and adults alike genuinely enjoy it before heading into the adjoining retail store where wands are sold. And judging from the amount of kids trudging back to their hotels at the end of the day wand-in-hand, it’s a hot sell and a hefty one at that, with about a $30 price tag.
The Hogs Head Tavern is still another popular venue where you can belly up to the bar for a mug of butterbeer, pumpkin juice or a real beer for mom or dad. The Hogs Head is right there over the bar and even before you have your first beer, it comes to life snorting and growling every now and then—just often enough to convince yourself you’re not seeing things. There’s also a large variety of quality beer available—10 in all including Bass, Guinness and Strongbow Cider.
At the Three Broomsticks, you can choose from such entrees as the “Great Feast Platter,” fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasty, turkey legs and fresh vegetables. Children’s menu items include chicken, macaroni and cheese, fish and chips, and chicken fingers, each served with grapes and applesauce. Dessert choices include apple pie, strawberry and peanut butter ice cream, and chocolate trifle.
The shops in Hogsmeade offer a huge variety of Harry Potter memorabilia. At Dervish and Banges there’s Quidditch equipment, Hogwarts uniforms, and dragon-related merchandise and magical supplies; at Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, you can browse items confiscated by Mr. Filch and purchase Hogwarts and Quidditch clothing, movie prop replicas, magical creature toys and other assorted souviners; Zonko’s Joke Shop, owned by the terrible twins, has novelty items, jokes, toys and sweets; and Honeydukes, Hogsmeade’s legendary sweet shop, has a huge selection of chocolates, sweets and more.
The real adventure in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, though, are the rides. Just looking at the Dragon Challenge—two ferocious roller-coaster dragons that twist, turn and loop at frighteningly high speed and seem to just miss one another at the last minute—is enough to set off a major apoplexy attack in your average vertigo sufferer. The Flight of the Hippogriff is a little tamer, spiraling around the pumpkin patch and soars past Hagrid’s Hut.
But it’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey that’s going to be the attraction your clients are going to be most impressed by—a high-tech marvel that’s as impressive as it is downright thrilling. Guests enter through the gates of Hogwarts, which are guarded by two winged boars, before heading into Hogwarts Castle’s elaborate passageways and corridors, where the enchanted wizard portraits hanging on the walls—including those of the four Hogwarts founders—chat away and in Dumbledore’s office, the Headmaster welcomes guests and invites them to hear a lecture about the history of the school.
Then, it’s on to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione entice the visitors to join them instead. Just past the Gryffindor common room, guests encounter the Sorting Hat, then enter the Room of Requirement to take their seats on enchanted benches and begin the Forbidden Journey.