Daniel Radcliffe and other stars from the Harry Potter movies greeted visitors Friday at the official grand opening of Universal Orlando’s new minipark, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Thousands of people streamed into Universal for the park’s opening day. The 20-acre park brings the Harry Potter books and movies to life with detailed reproductions of the fictitious village of Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the steam-belching Hogwarts Express train.
Universal was admitting fans to the minipark in waves, so the Wizarding World area did not appear overcrowded from the inside. But the line of people waiting to get in backed up through Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park all the way to City Walk, at the entrance to the resort, according to Robert Niles editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, who was relaying observations from the celebration through his ThemePark Twitter account. Local TV stations ran aerial shots of the queue.
“It’s absolutely jampacked,” said Niles in a phone interview. “The entire Islands of Adventure theme park and City Walk are just one long queue to get into Harry Potter. The number of people here for this is clearly in the tens of thousands. These are passionate fans.”
Radcliffe, who plays the boy wizard in the movie series, was joined at the opening by Warwick Davis (who plays Filius Flitwick), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), James and Oliver Phelps Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore). James and Oliver Phelps, who play Fred and George Weasley, were on hand to light fireworks at the kickoff celebration.
Radcliffe told the crowd that he and his co-stars were “all very, very, very excited to be here today. It really is incredible. What Universal Orlando has done with Harry Potter is really, really fantastic. We’re all kind of very grateful that the next part of the Harry Potter legacy has been so well-done and so well-made. You’re going to have an amazing time, I’m sure.”
The park’s marquee ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is filled with special effects as it takes guests on a flight through Harry’s life, including encounters with Dementors and a dragon, and projections of characters from the film like Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts.
The park also has two roller coasters, Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge, as well as themed shops like Honeydukes sweets and Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
“We have brought to life a cultural phenomenon that has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world,” Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando Resort, told the crowd.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Universal received a vague bomb threat Thursday night, but that “appropriate precautions” were taken and it was being investigated.
If You Go...
WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER: At Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park; http://www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter/.
COST: Admission to Wizarding World is included with ticket for Islands of Adventure. Online: Adults, $79, ages 3-9, $69. Gate price is $10 higher. See website for packages including lodging.
HOURS: Islands of Adventure is open daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m. through Aug. 14. Check calendar for closing times later in the summer.