4,336 Miles Home

4,336 Miles Home

I hate to be ‘that person’ but it’s our thing! It’s British through and through. So why have I got to travel 4,336 to enjoy a theme park that should be in Britain! It’s not fair. It’s too far. It’s a lot of money. For once, I agree with Boris Johnson who said it was “utterly mad” to leave it to the Americans “to make money from a great British invention.” But by golly the eight hour flight over 4,336 miles was worth it! The park was announced eight years ago if you can believe it, 31st May 2007. Two and a half years later, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at the back of Islands of Adventure, just past Jurassic Park. Designed to replicate Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, there’s a simulator, a ‘family’ rollercoaster and the best thing ever: THE DRAGON CHALLENGE.

Two rollercoasters: one fast, one frantic. Although it wasn’t always The Dragon Challenge, it was originally opened as Duelling Dragons back in 1999 when the park first opened. Since then it’s been given quite the makeover. Through the Triwizard Champions’ tent, you climb through the castle to the start of the ride, picking either the Hungarian Horntail or Chinese Fireball. The Fireball is quicker but I think I preferred the Horntail. And guess what, the Flight of the Hippogriff was previously known as Flying Unicorn! I feel like I’ve been lied to. At least in England, in the studios, it’sthe  actual stuff. Not a fresh lick of paint and a fancy new setting!

It is a very fancy setting though. The attention to detail was phenomenal. It was almost as pleasurable to queue for the ride as the ride itself. Before The Forbidden Jounery, you walk through the greenhouses, the entrance hall, Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom before finally making it to the Room of Requirement. Before one can escape from Gringotts, one must get into Gringotts. Through the emerald hall, down to the vaults in a lift before meeting Bill Weasley who wants to take you on a harmless trip to nose around. Oh no! That’s also the exact same time the golden trio are stealing Hufflepuff’s cup! Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldermort are right on their tails!

That’s right, everyone’s back to play their part for a theme park ride: Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, and the trio: Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. Although, that is not Emma Watson’s voice on the Hogwarts Express! At least it took me a couple of sentences to realise that it wasn’t Radcliffe either, but the Hermione replacement wasn’t even close! While we’re on the Hogwarts Express, yes, you do have to ride it twice as it’s different each way. They project the British country side streaking past on the window. However, if you built the theme park in Britain like you should of, you could have had the real country side outside the window!

There were more shops than rides! Each was designed differently and stocked different things. You could walk down Knockturn Alley and find Borgin and Burkes which sell anything and everything they could print the dark mark on. Honeydukes Sweetshop had nearly every sweet mentioned in the series. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes had U-No-Poo! I had a firewhiskey in the Hog’s Head! At the Studio Tour, you see the real shit from afar, and imagine. Visiting Orlando is the closest any of us will get to living it.

Also, I think they keep making certain films over and over again to make the theme parks relevant… Spider-Man, Men in Black, Jurassic Park… think about it.