The first thing you should know about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is that the Butterbeer tastes magical. It’s frothy, butterscotchy, and incredibly yummy, and it’s one of many details that make the theme park — part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando (admission: $79 per day for adults, $69 for kids) — a transportive delight for Potter fanatics. The park’s grand opening is June 18, but EW was invited for a special early look on May 17. After passing the Hogwarts Express, guests should prepare to drop more than a few Galleons on Potterphernalia in the commercial area of Hogsmeade — from $15 for the Sneakoscopes at Zonko’s joke shop, to $300 for the Firebolt broomstick at Dervish and Banges magic shop. Thanks to close supervision by the Potter films’ design team, everything looks and feels precisely right, down to the absurdly high shelves and cramped, English-style layouts. In other words, expect some tight crowds.
The above photo, meanwhile, was taken yesterday morning. Yep, that’s Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) — no, really, that is the kid who plays Neville Longbottom, no fooling — Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), and Oliver and James Phelps (George and Fred Weasley), getting their first look at Hogsmeade. So how can snow blanket the roofs of the buildings in hot and humid Orlando, Fla.? Do you think my answer to that will be anything other than “magic”?
For more inside scoop on the park — including the bewitching surprises that abound while standing in line for its signature ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey — pick up the new issue of EW (with Jane Lynch as Glee‘s Sue Sylvester on the cover) on stands this Friday.
So, fellow Potter-heads, are you excited to check out Harry Potter’s Wizarding World?