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Hogwarts Castle image

Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter has proven hugely popular since opening on June 18, with excited Potter fans queuing for hours just to get in to the new land at Islands of Adventure. Dozens of reviews have appeared online since the opening day, covering all aspects of the Wizarding World. We've read through all the reviews we could find – 34 in total – and in this series of articles, we'll take a look at the online verdict on the real-life recreation of Potter’s universe. In this first part, we'll cover overall opinions, with follow-up articles focusing on reviewer's takes on the Wizarding World's rides, shops and restaurants.

When you've read through the online opinions, we'd love to hear your views on the Wizarding World, whether you've already visited it or are dreaming of a future trip. If you complete our Wizarding World of Harry Potter survey by July 20, 2010, you'll be entered into a draw to win a full box set of Harry Potter books along with other great prizes.

Overall opinion

The vast majority of reviews of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter have been overwhelmingly positive, with all the signs being that Universal is on to a winner with the new land. Of 34 online reviews, all but one sang the praises of the Wizarding World. The exception? Slate's Dan Kois, who complains that "Hogsmeade didn't feel like a place where wizards and witches live...it felt like an amusement park."

Wizarding World overall opinion chart

Kois' opinion that the Wizarding World doesn't immerse visitors sufficiently in Potter's reality isn't one shared by any other Wizarding World reviewers. The effusive WizardingWorldPark.com proclaims that "everywhere you look, there's some moving animatronics character, live character shows and performances, a ride, scenes from the books". Potter fan Zoey Bull sums up the consensus opinion by saying simply "everything felt so real".

What reviewers like about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts Castle image

Image © 2009 Universal Orlando Resort

Universal's replicas of iconic locations from the movies and books are particularly well received, with the towering Hogwarts Castle coming in for special praise. Screamscape's Lance Hart says of the structure: "There is just something about the first time you lay eyes on Hogwarts that will make you stop dead in your tracks and likely utter a few choice words."

The level of detail present in the Wizarding World has impressed many visitors. About.com's Arthur Levine praises Universal's work on Hogsmeade Village, focusing on the "aged" look of the mock 1000-year-old structures: "There isn't a straight line to be found. The glass in the shops' windows have imperfections and sag in their weather-beaten frames. That is an astonishing commitment to the story."

Even hardcore Potter fans have been satisfied by Universal's take on the Potterverse. David Hernandez, writing for Behind the Thrills, describes his emotional trip to the Wizarding World: "Thinking back, it was probably the only time I ever shed some tears walking though the reality of what I had seen in the movies and imagined in my mind for over a decade while reading the books."

What reviewers dislike about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Wizarding World criticisms chart

Despite the level of praise being directed at the Wizarding World, most reviewers concede that is not perfect. The most common complaints (aside from the hot weather, which we have discounted on the grounds that Universal cannot control it) are around the small size of the area, with the various shops in Hogsmeade Village being highlighted as bottlenecks for guests. Although overcrowding is perhaps inevitable in the weeks after opening, many reviewers expect long lines at the shops to be a permanent fixture due to their limited scale.

The Wizarding World's location (on a section of land that was previously part of the Lost Continent area of Islands of Adventure) has undoubtedly contributed to the "cramped" feel. Cinematical.com’s William Goss picks up on this, saying that Universal "may have been elevating expectations a bit too high for their own good by insisting that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is 'a park-within-a-park' when it's simply the newest and niftiest portion of their Islands of Adventure attraction, in as rough proportion to the property as Jurassic Park or Seuss Landing or any other segment of the park is."

The other major complaint reviewers have is the pricing of merchandise in the Wizarding World's shops (more on this in the next part of this series of articles). A Scottish visitor questions the quality of some of the merchandise: "The wands were made out of a "mystery" resin in China and cost up to 28 times their probable dollar or less value. Crystal balls were plastic. Capes, polyester."

Hogwarts Express image

Surprisingly, the fact that the Wizarding World features only one all-new attraction (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey), alongside two repurposed rollercoasters, does not receive much attention. There is some disappointment, though, that the replica of the Hogwarts Express steam train is stationary, with Behind the Thrill’s Erik saying wistfully "it would have been cool to ride it".

What do you think of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Whether you’ve already visited it or are dreaming of a future trip, we’d love to hear your views. If you complete our Wizarding World of Harry Potter survey by July 20, 2010, you'll be entered into a draw to win a full box set of Harry Potter books along with other great prizes.

In the next part of our Wizarding World of Harry Potter review round-up, we'll look at reactions to the land's shops and restaurants. Continue to part 2...

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