Universal Orlando has released full details of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, due to open at Islands of Adventure in Spring 2010.
An online webcast revealed details of the land, based on J.K. Rowling's hugely popular books and the movies inspired by them, as well as a number of photos and two videos (embedded below). No specific opening date was announced, although Universal is likely to be targeting the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May.
Few details were given of the signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, other than that it will be located inside Hogwart's Castle and is not a rollercoaster. However, the ride is widely expected to consist of a track system that carries guests mounted on a Kuka robot arm. The queue area for the ride will pass through the Great Hall and Gryffindor common room - both closely resembling their movie counterparts.
The Dueling Dragons twin rollercoasters will be re-themed as Dragon Challenge, incorporating elements of the Triwizard Tournament as seen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Although no closure date was announced, given the extensive re-theming required it is likely that the rollercoaster will close at some point in the next two months until the Wizarding World opens next year.
Also re-themed is the Flying Unicorn, which has been shut since construction began on the Potter land. It will become Flight of the Hippogriff, simulating a training flight on the winged beasts of the Potter universe.
Shops will include Zonko's (a joke and trick shop selling items such as Extendable Ears and Sneakoscopes), Ollivanders wand shop (an interactive experience where "the wand chooses the wizard"), Honeydukes (a sweet shop selling Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans), Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods (selling magical creatures merchandise) and Dervish and Banges (a magical instrument and clothing shop). Also featured will be the Owl Post, which will send letters with a certified Hogsmeade postmark and sell official Potter stamps.
Traditional British food will be available from both the Hog's Head Pub and The Three Broomsticks. Potter-themed menu items will include the famous Butterbeer drink.
In addition to the new attractions, shops and restaurants, Universal is investing a huge amount of money in the general theming of the land. As well as Hogwart's Castle and the gates of Hogsmeade, guests will also see the arrival of Hogwarts Express into Hogsmeade station.
"All of the action and adventures of Harry Potter's world will come to life here at Universal Orlando Resort," said Tom Williams, chairman and CEO, Universal Parks and Resorts. "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be unlike any other experience on earth and we can't wait to see the looks on our guests' faces as they enter this rich environment."
The Universal announcements come at a time of intense competition between Florida's theme parks. Last week, Walt Disney World announced a massive expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, in addition to a 3D update for the Star Tours attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
You can keep an eye on the opening dates for new attractions over at Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch".