Universal Orlando allowed members of a travel industry group to tour the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Sunday, suggesting that a soft opening for the $200 million addition to Islands of Adventure is imminent.
Members of the U.S. Travel Association attending the annual International Pow Wow trade show were treated to the tour of Universal's re-creation of Hogsmeade, the fictional village from the Potter books. Although the area's headline attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, was not operational, Universal's willingness to allow the group into the Wizarding World strongly suggests that a soft opening will take place soon.
The Orlando Attractions Magazine reports that Universal employees will be able to visit the Wizarding World each night this week, and it is likely that public previews will take place during the coming weeks. Although the Potter-themed area's grand opening won't take place until June 18, it is standard practice to open new attractions for limited periods ahead of their official opening date in order to ensure that they are operating smoothly.
International Pow Wow attendees were able to see inside the area's shops and restaurants, and to wander through the extensive queueing area for the Forbidden Journey. Several of the shops were operational, allowing guests to purchase "wands" from Ollivanders and to try out the (previously fictional) Butterbeer drink seen in the Potter books and movies.
The Orlando Sentinel has an extensive report from the event, which praises the level of detail present both on the street scenes and inside the buildings. Although it commends the affordable pricing of Potter merchandise (much of which is exclusive to the park), it does point to potential capacity problems in some areas - particularly Ollivanders Wand Shop.
Universal has completed retheming of existing attractions that form part of the Wizarding World, including Dueling Dragons and Flight of the Unicorn. Now known as Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff, both were up and running during the preview event. Dragon Challenge features a revamped queue area themed around the Triwizard Tournament, including a model of the Triwizard Cup seen in the movies. The ride is one of Islands of Adventure's headline attractions, and the completion of its final conversion again strongly points to a potential soft opening within days.
Full details of the attractions, restaurants and shops that will form part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can be found in TPT's recent news story.
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