The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is such an amazing area, with so many unique attractions and experiences, that it just wasn’t enough to give you the basic information on rides, shops, and the restaurant. We have taken it to a whole new level with our insider’s guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
This page includes a history of WWoHP, common misconceptions, and a description of the area’s layout. When you are done here, use the navigation links at bottom of the page to continue your training.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – a history
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was announced by Universal Studios in May of 2007 after J.K. Rowling signed a deal to bring her popular book and film franchise to Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. Ground would break on the project during the summer of 2007 and the new area was scheduled to open by late 2009 (Powers, 2007). The news could not have come at a better time for the Universal Orlando; between 2004 and 2007, attendance had been dropping at the resort, which was criticized for not adding “new excitement” after completing its Islands of Adventure expansion (Powers, 2007).
In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, the president of Universal Orlando Resort, Bill Davis, stated that “[w]e think it is going to have a huge impact on all our constituencies: our guests, our team members, our management team, everybody. This is absolutely huge. We’re just thrilled and excited we were selected for the `Wizarding World of Harry Potter’” (Powers, 2007). “The plans I’ve seen look incredibly exciting,” said J.K. Rowling in a prepared statement. “I don’t think fans of the books or films will be disappointed” (Harry Potter Theme Park to Open in US, 2007). The Wizarding World development and construction would be led by Stuart Craig, the production designer of the Harry Potter films, and Alan Gilmore, the art director of the films (Associated Press, 2009).
By 2008, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was already a popular attraction at Islands of Adventure, despite the fact that it was still being built. In the words of Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel, “[t]he latest attraction at Islands of Adventure has no line, no height restriction and no T-shirt shop” (Bevil, Wizarding World of Harry Potter construction casts its own spell at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, 2008). During their visit to the theme park, guests would gather on the bridge connecting the Lost Continent and Jurassic Park islands to watch construction on the soon-to-come Wizarding World.
From the beginning, Universal seemed dedicated to making the Wizarding World as authentic and as true to the films as was possible, and no expense would be spared. “We’ve pushed every technology available to us to give guests a theme park experience unlike any they’ve had before,” announced Paul Daurio, the producer of the new attraction (Associated Press, 2009).
All of these details would come at a high price. The cost of the new attraction would ring in at $265 million, and Florida contracting firms lined up to help build “theme park within a theme park” (Kassab, 2007). As news about the new attraction spread, Universal remained tight-lipped on the plans, announcing very few details from the start. According to Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel, “Secrecy is standard practice in the early stages of major entertainment blueprints, a strategy that serves to protect the plans from competition and to build suspense about the details of a project” (Kassab, 2007). This level of secrecy continued through 2009. In an article for the Orlando Sentinel, Jason Garcia noted that “Universal has kept the project — based on the wildly lucrative, seven-book series by British author J.K. Rowling and the movies it inspired — largely shrouded in secrecy. Contractors working on the project have been required to sign confidentiality agreements, and the resort has offered few clues beyond a handful of artist renderings” (Garcia, A Wizarding World takes shape CAN UNIVERSAL CAPTURE MAGIC?, 2009). Though many details were kept quiet until the attraction’s opening, Universal began to share information about the attractions and food offerings after Tom Felton announced on behalf of Universal Orlando Resort that the Wizarding World would open in spring of 2010.
Universal staff poured enormous amounts of time, money and effort into the project to ensure that guests would truly be transported to Harry’s world. This was a challenging task. When making the films, sets were designed with the viewpoint of the camera in mind. In the theme park setting, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts needed to seem authentic from every perspective. “[T]he detail, the absolute rigorous pushing of detail is beyond compare… There is hardly a corner that you can’t look in that does not have some amazing quality of detail, finish and paint,” commented Alan Gilmore (Universal Studios Florida, 2010). The entire attraction, from Hogwarts castle itself down to the concrete snow, was designed to replicate the Harry Potter films. Even the rockwork was carefully researched and detailed; the rocky crag that is home to Hogwarts castle was inspired by highland mountains in Scotland (Moss, 2010).
The finishing touch on the location’s authenticity could be found in the staff hired for the attraction’s opening. A large number of British team members were hired to work at the attraction, and were placed in roles that were integral to the Harry Potter experience such as wand shopkeepers and station masters (Moss, 2010). Finally, all staff members of the area were required to take exams to showcase their knowledge of the books and films in order to create a truly magical experience for park guests (Moss, 2010).
The night before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened to the public, a Harry Potter gala was held on the new “island,” with a number of celebrities in attendance including Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and J.K. Rowling. During the event, John Williams conducted a performance of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, which performed a piece written by the legendary composer for the event (Palm, 2010).
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened to the public on June 18th, 2010, and featured three attractions: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff. It also featured a Hogwarts Express photo opportunity, an Owl Post (a post office where postcards and letters can be sent with a postmark from the Wizarding World), and a number of magical shops including Dervish and Banges, Zonko’s, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and Ollivander’s, the popular wand shop and experience where some lucky wizards are chosen by their wands. More than 600 pieces of merchandise including robes, trading pins, attire, wands, stuffed animals, scarves and sweets were licensed for the area’s shops (Bevil, 10 ways to remember Wizarding World of Harry Potter, 2010). Demand for the souvenirs became so high that Islands of Adventure faced challenges in keeping the most popular items in stocke, leading the park to open an online store for its Harry Potter merchandise (Garcia, With demand strong for Harry Potter merchandise, Universal launches online store, 2010) and eventually expand the WWoHP merchandise footprint all over the resort.
Guests hoping to enjoy a meal fit for a wizard would not be disappointed. Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head dining locations both serve drinks and foods that are specifically mentioned in the Harry Potter book series. The executive chef of Universal Studios, Steven Jayson, spent three years researching and creating menu items for the dining locations (McPherson, 2010). “To take words off of paper and images from film and create a menu that truly reflects the emotions and passion of the Harry Potter books has been a fabulous adventure,” said Jayson in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel (McPherson, 2010).
J.K. Rowling, whose writing inspired every dish served in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, even had the final say on the recipe for the park’s top-secret butterbeer recipe. When served a sample of the soon-to-be-famous drink, “[s]he took a sip, eased into a big smile and said, ‘Yes, chef, this is it’” (McPherson, 2010). It seems that the spell the Universal Studios culinary staff cast to create the sweet concoction has proved wildly successful; on January 6th, 2011, the park announced that one-million mugs of the “delicious frothy, butterscotchy libation” had been sold (Associated Press, 2011).
The Wizarding World was one of the driving forces that began to pull the Orlando entertainment and accommodation industries out of the slump of the global recession. In May 2012, nearly two years after the attraction opened to the public, it was announced that Islands of Adventure’s attendance had gone up by 29 percent in 2011 thanks to enormous interest in the park’s newest attraction (Garcia, With Harry Potter’s help, Universal’s attendance growth outpaces everybody else, 2012). That increase in attendance “accounted for nearly half of all the attendance growth at North America’s 20 largest theme parks combined” in 2011 (Garcia, With Harry Potter’s help, Universal’s attendance growth outpaces everybody else, 2012). The Wizarding World’s success even spread to other businesses in Orlando. Hotels throughout the city saw increased attendance increased revenues within months of the attraction’s opening date (Clarke, 2010).
The Wizarding World was so successful that in December of 2011 park officials announced that Universal would be constructing Harry Potter attractions at its Southern California park (Garcia, With Harry Potter’s help, Universal’s attendance growth outpaces everybody else, 2012). Then, on that same date, park officials announced that the Harry Potter attraction would be expanded in Orlando.
Finally, on May 8, 2013, Universal officially unveiled its plans to build the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.
Learn more about Diagon Alley, or continue reading to learn more about the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Many people wonder why the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not at Disney World. You may be interested to know that Disney and J.K. Rowling were in talks for a period of time to bring the boy wizard to Disney. However, J.K. Rowling demanded more creative control over the project than Disney was willing to give, and the talks never progressed. Universal Orlando was more than happy to step in and agree to the author’s terms, setting in motion a new era of development and success at Universal Orlando Resort.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – misconceptions
There are two popular misconceptions regarding the Wizarding World. First, many guests believe that it is its own theme park. This misconception was born from the fact that Universal first advertised it as a “theme park within a theme park.” But, since the Wizarding World is definitely not its own park, Universal was wise enough to drop that language. Nevertheless, the misconception persists, when in reality the Wizarding World is just one of six “islands” that make up Universal’s Islands of Adventure (along with Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing). This leads to misconception number two, which is actually more of a disappointment: the area simply is not that large. Don’t get me wrong–it is the largest of the six islands at Islands of Adventure. But with three rides, a handful of shops, and only one restaurant, it is certainly not big enough to be considered its own park.
See this page for more WWoHP misconceptions.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – layout
There are two entrances to the Wizarding World. Most guests enter through the one that connects the Wizarding World to Lost Continent. You could call this the primary entrance. There is also an entrance on the backside of the area, near Hogwarts Castle, that connects to Jurassic Park. If you enter through Lost Continent, you will enter into Hogsmeade Village (not Diagon Alley). This lower portion of the Wizarding World is home to most of the shops, Three Broomsticks & Hogs Head, and Dragon Challenge. On the back end of Hogsmeade Village is a relatively small outdoor gathering area where the Wizarding World live shows are performed. At the far end of the Wizarding World lies the magnificent Hogwarts Castle, home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Flight of the Hippogriff is also found in the back area.
Type http://bit.ly/wwohpmap into your browser for quick access to my custom-made map of the area.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter construction – photo gallery
Click any image to view it full-screen. When the full-screen image is open, click to the right or use the right arrow on your keyboard to advance through the gallery.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – map
Below is a copy of our special WWoHP map that is referenced to throughout the insider’s guide. Please note that it is a different map then the one used in our Islands of Adventure section.
Click any marker to display the attraction or venue name. To scroll or zoom, use the controls on the top-left of the map. You may also switch to different map views by using the buttons on the top-right of the map.
View OI Wizarding World of Harry Potter map in a larger map