I did not expect to be getting up at 7am on my summer holiday. However, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was opening in less than an hour, and I was determined to beat the crowds.
Harry Potter is a complete and utter phenomenon, loved by people of all ages from all over the world. I did worry, at first, that Florida would put their own spin on the franchise, but Universal Islands of Adventure did it justice.
As soon as you wander through the theme park gates, the view of Hogwarts looms in the distance. For someone who spent their 11th birthday disappointed to not receive a letter of acceptance, this was my childhood dream come true.
I’m not the only Potter fan. Even at 7:30 in the morning, the queues were unlike anything I’d seen before. It turns out America is just as Potter-crazed as we are. If I wanted to visit the Wizarding World, I’d have to get my elbows out.
Opening time was madness. Literally running towards Hogwarts, I took in the sights. You can actually browse around Hogsmeade, a row of snow-covered shops that look like they came straight from the films. I was ecstatic to discover Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Butterbeer and Chocolate Frogs in the sweet shop. Next door to this was Zonko’s joke store, and The Three Broomsticks pub!
The real star of the show, however, is the ride ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’. It’s actually nestled within Hogwarts itself, and takes you on a simulated journey through Harry’s world. Seated on an enchanted bench, you ‘fly’ across the grounds of Hogwarts, coming face to face with dragons, dementors and giant tarantulas. The simulation is so realistic, you can actually believe that you’re part of the magic!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a must-visit for any fan. Yes, it’s expensive. Florida’s a long plane journey away, and the jet lag will knock you out for a week. But I can honestly say that as theme parks go, the Wizarding World beats Alton Towers any day.
One word of warning, however: if you don’t get there early, you won’t get in at all… it really is worth the 7am start!