Harry Potter theme park opens to the public

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The new theme park based on J.K. Rowling's cult series of Harry Potter books and their movie adaptations   opened in the US June 18.

The 20 acre Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando in Florida has taken five years to construct and features settings, character and events from the hit movies, along with a new storyline developed specially for one of the "interactive" rides.

As the centerpiece of the park, guests are invited to experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, an attraction that takes guests on a "living" tour through Hogwarts Castle, through a fireplace using Floo powder and into a game of Quidditch.

Universal, which created the park, describes the technology used to create the attraction as pioneering, saying that it will "forever change the theme park attraction experience."

The park also features a real-life Ollivander's Wand Shop, where guests can choose their wand with the help of a Wandkeeper, and may cause "magical mishaps" similar to those experienced by Harry Potter on his first visit to Ollivander's in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Rides include the Dragon Challenge, a high-speed roller coaster and Flight of the Hippogriff, a family roller coaster that simulates a Hippogriff training flight over the grounds of Hogwarts castle.

Universal Orlando has also faithfully replicated many of the shops featured in the books and films, incluidng Zonko's joke shop, Honeydukes sweet shop, the Three Broomsticks and Hog's Head pubs and the Owlery post office, where guests can buy stamps and send letters with an official Hogsmeade post card.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter joins other movie-based attractions at Universal Orlando such as Shrek 4-D and the Revenge of the Mummy Ride.

The resort will be hoping that the pulling power of the Harry Potter park will increase the number of visitors to the park - Universal Orlando is the 13th most popular theme park in the world, some way behind all of the parks in Disney's Florida resort Walt Disney World.