Let's celebrate 13 years of Universal's Wizarding World

June 18, 2023, 4:32 PM · Thirteen years ago today, the theme park industry changed, perhaps forever. That was the date that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure, changing the balance of power and the immediate direction of the theme park industry.

Harry Potter's opening sparked dramatic growth in attendance for Universal Orlando, somewhat at the expense of rival SeaWorld Orlando. Higher revenue from Potter allowed Universal to buy out its partner Blackstone Group to take full ownership of the Orlando resort. Since then, Universal has taken on an aggressive expansion plan for its theme parks, resulting last year in Islands of Adventure beating three of the four Walt Disney World parks in attendance, while Universal Studios Florida beat two of the WDW parks.

None of this happens if Disney had won the rights to develop a Harry Potter attraction, instead of Universal. You can read an extensive history of the Wizarding World's opening day in my blog post from ots 10th anniversary, Harry Potter and the Day That Changed Theme Parks Forever, which includes interviews with multiple people who were there, including comments from the stars of the Harry Potter film series.

Since then, Universal Orlando opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley over at Universal Studios Florida in July 2014, with a copy of the original Wizarding World opening at Universal Studios Japan one week later.

In April 2016, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Hollywood, and another Wizarding World opened with Universal Studios Beijing in September 2021. A Harry Potter-themed land is also under construction for Universal Orlando's Epic Universe theme park, which opens in 2025.

What's your favorite thing about Universal's Wizarding World? And what are you looking forward to seeing next? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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Replies (5)

June 19, 2023 at 1:58 AM

Still a marvel in the rides but I admit a little annoyed it spelled the end of Lost Continent area.

June 19, 2023 at 6:20 AM

My posted thoughts at the time of opening: "Seriously, there is no denying that the team at Universal Creative has consistently outpaced WDI since the opening of Islands of Adventure. Universal Creative is the GOLD STANDARD for innovation in theme park design. 'The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman', 'Men in Black: Alien Attack', 'Revenge of the Mummy,, "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,. There is not a single WDW attraction that is anywhere near as innovative.
Even Twister demonstrates how Universal Creative is more committed to take an extraordinary risk at creating the (apparently) impossible theme park experience."

June 19, 2023 at 10:04 AM

I just love everything about it. Butterbeer the theming, and the rides were all fun. They could however get rid of Flight of the Hippogriff in my opinion and expand the village or build another better small ride.

June 19, 2023 at 12:31 PM

TH, I agree. Universal is definitely the gold standard for theme park innovation design. However, the only Disney rides that I would consider to be on the same scale are Rise of The Resistance, Flight of Passage, and Soarin’. All 3 are incredible rides, and is close to Universal. But I agree…Universal is still ahead in theme park design.

June 21, 2023 at 3:04 PM

Rise and Flight opened years later, and whilst Soarin' is fun it isn't vastly different to the 360 cinema dome that I remember from Trago Mills in the 90s as a kid.
Disney has stepped up over the last few years, but they've had to because of Universal raising the bar.

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