Break Out the Broomstick: We’re Visiting Harry Potter in Orlando
Despite the fact the last Harry Potter movie had already come and gone at the multiplex a few years back, our children were just now devouring J.K. Rowling’s books. I was thrilled to see the kids reading. These were not small books, either. They were doorstoppers on par with classics like War and Peace and Moby Dick. My daughter, Shelly, would put one of the Potter books in her knapsack to take to school and be weighed down like a Himalayan trekker.
For months all my wife and I heard about was Harry Potter. Sometimes we would read with the kids, but for the most part they seemed to want to be alone with Harry and his clan of wizards. Whatever secret language Rowling was using to captivate the imagination of children, she had managed to sell over 400 million copies of her novel. It was such a literary phenomenon that Universal Studios opened a theme park called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Needless to say, as soon as the kids heard my wife and I talking about it one night, they promised to eat their vegetables, do their homework and generally behave like angels if we could go to Florida. How could my wife and I deprive them of the joy of Hogwarts Castle?
A Theme Park Within a Theme Park
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in June 2010. It is a 20-acre theme park within Universal Orlando. Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village are the two main areas of the park. There are rides and shops. The entire park is supposed to be an immersive experience. It is meticulously designed to look as if you have stepped inside the novel. From dark and dingy alleyways to the gorgeous green rolling landscape, not too dissimilar to the scenic Cotswolds in the UK, it sends shivers down adults spines let alone childrens.
Our kids went berserk with joy. We waited in long lines for the Dragon Challenge roller coaster and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is the park’s stunning marquee attraction. The ride uses advanced robotics to recreate iconic scenes from the film. We were literally flying with Harry, Hermione and Ron. The kids could have ridden the Forbidden Journey all day and been happy. In the end, I think we rode it three times.
Shopping and Dining
Authenticity is what The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is all about. There are no shops selling sunglasses and sunscreen. However, we bought a broomstick at Dervish and Banges, a quaint shop in Hogsmeade Village. All of the merchandise is related to the Harry Potter franchise. It is the same with the restaurants. We dined at the Three Broomsticks. Our kids were only on book three in the Potter series. I had a feeling we would be back to the park before they reached the end.