Review: Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Simply Magical

Review: Wizarding World of Harry Potter

You can now go to the hidden magical areas of England by visiting Central Florida. With Universal Studios new section of Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter now open, we traveled to "England" to see how the popular franchise was brought to life. For "Harry Potter" fans, there is simply no more magical an experience in the muggle world.

The general atmosphere is set up like the town of Hogsmeade. From the moment you step into the area, you are transported. There are familiar shops, some you can enter and some that are currently only Hollywood-style fronts. On the way in, stopping at one of the two Butterbeer carts is a must; the drink, a staple of the books and movies, is best in its frozen form, and tastes like a mixture of the best flavors from Cream Soda, Root Beer, and butterscotch candies. Stop at Olivander's to experience the wand-choosing ceremony (though you still have to purchase it if you want to bring it home), and take a ride on the two roller-coasters (The Dragon Challenge- a speedy loop-filled two-in-one, and Flight of the Hippogriff, an easy ride with a great view) for varying levels of thrill.

But the main attraction is the amazing adventure within Hogwarts Castle itself, "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey." The experience begins before the ride itself. While in line, you begin just outside the castle, amongst the exotic magical plants of Professor Sprout's Herbology class. After that outside portion, you enter the castle and the journey begins.

Inside Hogwarts, the spirit of the movies and books is captured magnificently. Paintings move and talk to you; while in reality they're video screens of some sort, they truly look like they are simply magic moving paintings. The effect is helped by the relatively low light in the castle, but it is still a wonder to behold. The talking paintings aren't the only things fans will recognize, with magical artifacts from the series all over the halls of Hogwarts.

You traverse briefly through Professor Dumbledore's chamber, passing his memory-viewing pensieve while he addresses the group of muggle visitors. As you enter a classroom, you are greeted by Ron, Hermione, and Harry in the eves above you. They tell you the History of Magic class is boring, and you should come outside to watch a match of Quidditch instead. However, they'll "have to sneak you out" using magic, and guide you along.

From here you are locked into a roller-coaster style seat with your feet dangling loosely beneath you, and the actual ride begins. It's a cross between an actual ride, moving your car along a track with physical things jumping out at you, and a simulation, with large-scale screens used to help you fly great distances and experience things like a dragon battle, a quidditch match, and more without leaving the castle.

The simulation sequences are amazing, with a combination of actual physical movement, plus that on screen, and little touches like air blown at your feet to help you "feel" the motion more. I won't spoil the ride's contents, but the care the designers took with it shows in every second. There isn't a dull moment, and the inclusion of exclusive footage filmed with the movies' stars makes it feel that much more authentic.

In short, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the most fun I've ever had on a theme park attraction. The mini-park of Wizarding World of Harry Potter only fails in being a mini-park; I wanted even more to explore. Just being there, standing in the middle of a street and sipping Butterbeer felt so real and happy; going into Zonko's or the Three Broomsticks was almost overwhelming in its immersion into the magical world that J.K. Rowling has created. For Harry Potter fans, plan your vacation, because this is a must-visit. For those unconvinced so far, if you make the trip to Hogwarts, you'll probably fall under its spell, too.

Feel the Magic!

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