Have you ever wished you could escape your world of homework and tests and delve into one of your favorite books or movies? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter now offers that opportunity.
Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., opened the new theme park in June. It is very loud and bright when you are in the Islands of Adventure (one of the two theme parks at Universal), but suddenly you catch your breath as you see Hogwarts loom over the park.
You can walk past the Hogwarts Express and into Hogsmeade, going through all the shops Harry, Ron and Hermione have been to throughout the series. You can have an authentic English lunch at Three Broomsticks (I highly suggest the fish and chips), and even try the famous Butterbeer, which is good but very sugary. You can feel your chest constrict from all the sugar after only a few sips of the drink, which tastes like a mixture of a butterscotch and cream soda. You can get Butterbeer in a souvenir mug for $11.99. Pumpkin Juice (another drink from the series) is also available.
Zonko's, the wizarding joke shop, offers items such as Fanged Frisbees, Screaming Yo-yos and Sneakoscopes. Visit Dervish and Bangs, which sells T-shirts, cloaks, scarves and almost any other Harry Potter merchandise under the sun. Or head to Ollivander's Wand Shop, where you can get one of the characters' wands, or let the wand "choose" you. Different effects will occur to show if the wand is the perfect match. You can also get Pepper Imps, Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans at Honeydukes.
There are three rides at the theme park. Flight of the Hippogriff is a family friendly ride that zooms past Hagrid's Hut and the smashed Ford Anglia from "Chamber of Secrets." There is also the Dragon Challenge -- a very extreme ride. You walk past signs from the Triwizard Tournament and then ride either the Hungarian Horntail or the Chinese Fireball. The ride is very quick, however, as the two "dragons" twist and turn around each other in a very dangerous and exhilarating way.
The third and final ride is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You walk past winged boars that guard the gates to Hogwarts. Once you get through the excruciatingly long wait in the green houses, you go inside the school, viewing iconic sets from both the books and the movies, such as the Mirror of Erised, the Sorting Hat and the Fat Lady. Holograms of a very realistic-looking Harry, Ron, Hermione and Dumbledore talk to you, as well as the portraits that line the walls. When you get onto the ride, it is like being on a giant metal arm that swings you onto your back and in every other possible direction. At times it is like you are flying forward toward a huge movie screen depicting different scenes, while at other times you are on actual sets. You travel throughout all the places Harry has been at Hogwarts, including the Forbidden Forest with its acromatula (giant spiders) and the Chamber of Secrets. Be warned though -- there are dementors (black-hooded creatures that suck your soul) and even a dragon that comes out and attacks you while you are on the ride. Although the ride has amazing effects, the story line to the ride was very choppy and hard to follow. I also suggest not wearing flip-flops, as there is a chance you could lose one while being tossed about.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is amazing and a must-do for any diehard fan. My suggestions are to bring a lot of money, do not wear your Harry Potter cloak (it gets hot in Florida), and go in a couple of years when the crowds might lighten up. When I went with my family, we weren't able to do everything the park offered because of how many people were there. There were lines for everything, even to get into the shops, which aren't an appropriate size for the amount of people that visit the park.
Even with the heat and the lines, you can still have a very enjoyable time at the theme park. Go, have fun and experience the series in a way that you could never imagine. Just make sure you read the books first.
Alissa Roy is a sophomore at Springville Griffith Institute.