9 years ago today the most immersive land experience opened at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened to record breaking crowds, snaking through the park and adjacent CityWalk area, filled with Potter fans all eager to experience what the land had to offer.
The Wizarding world was first announced on May 2007 with the promise of shops, restaurants and attractions. Two and a half years later the land did not disappoint. It quickly became the standard of what an immersive land should be. Casual fans and pure Potterheads could not get enough. The centerpiece, Hogwarts Castle and the attraction that it housed, Forbidden Journey, were groundbreaking. Amazing use of the latest in technology tied in with the perfect story.
The adjacent Flight of the Hippogriff provided a family friendly roller coaster for the little ones and Dragon Challenge, with it’s loops and twist and turns, completed the perfect trifecta in the land.
But the area was more than just rides, the entire feel was as if you were in Hogsmead; The fictional place described in JK Rowlings books and Warner Brothers movies came to life right in front of our very eyes. The white capped buildings, the shops selling all manners of Wizard wares, Honeydukes and it’s sweet aromas, the Three Broomsticks with the perfect lunch and dinner menu to compliment your entire Potter experience. You could not leave the place without trying the famous Butterbeer, maybe taking a crack at an incantation with your very own wand and probably buying a shirt or a scarf from your favorite Hogwarts House.
What Universal Orlando did was redefine what a “land” should be. Not just a couple of rides and a gift shop, but an EXPERIENCE. A place to live your Harry Potter story. Because of this is, we see more immersive lands coming to other parks.
So thank you Universal Orlando, for being a visionary, building the perfect land and allowing us to live in it. We raise our Frozen Butterbeer mug. Cheers!