One year ago, on June 18, 2010, Universal Orlando officially unveiled its most popular and highly-anticipated new attraction to date, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The mere mention of Harry Potter in relation to a theme park was enough to stir excitement among millions of fans of the book and film series and when it finally saw its grand opening one year ago, the results were like no one had seen before.
Today, Universal Orlando commemorated the anniversary at 9:23 a.m. – the exact time The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened one year ago.
After taking part in a countdown led by the Hogwarts Express conductor, guests and team members celebrated in the streets of Hogsmeade while “snow” confetti and gold streamers fell from the sky. Guests also enjoyed complimentary Butterbeer, cauldron cakes and Chocolate Frogs.
Video: Universal Orlando celebrates one year of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:
With the occasion celebrated, let’s take a look back at a year filled with wizardry and enthusiasm like no one had seen before.
Opening day of the Wizarding World drew a crowd so massive that the line wrapped not only through the Islands of Adventure theme park, which is home to the Potter area and attractions, but also outside of the park, snaking through Universal CityWalk. At its longest, reports were that guests could wait more than 9 hours to even enter Hogsmeade Village – and then wait even longer to enjoy the shops, rides, food, and Butterbeer.
Somehow amidst it all, fans found the Potter magic to be worth the wait. Despite many, many hours of standing in the hot Florida summer sun, finally turning the corner and seeing Hogwarts Castle in person for the first time is a moment that made many dreams come true. Even I, as a non-Potter fan, was awestruck rounding that corner with my eyes transfixed on what appeared to be a giant castle that had been there for centuries.
But it was weeks before the frenzy of opening day that I, along with hundreds of other theme park guests, first stepped foot into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter during a soft opening. On May 28, 2010, we offered the world its first look inside, touring Hogsmeade Village, its many shops, and taking in performances by the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang as well as the Hogwarts frog choir. While the streets of Hogsmeade are beautifully themed, it’s the interiors that had Potter fans most interested: