Harry Potter theme park to open in U.S. in June

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Harry Potter theme park to open in U.S. in June

The ride just got wilder for Harry Potter fans waiting for the next big spin on the best-selling books and blockbuster movies.

Universal Orlando announced last Thursday the opening date of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - June 18 - and provided new details on the park’s major rides.

The 20-acre (8-hectare) Harry Potter park-within-a-park is based on the fantasy novels by British author J.K. Rowling.

Though the park has been in development for over five years, details, including the opening date, have been tightly held since the project was announced in 2007.

The company has begun selling Wizarding World of Harry Potter vacation packages. Four-night packages, which include an on-site hotel room, park tickets and various amenities, start at $645 per adult or $1,548 for a family of four.

Mark Woodbury, head of Universal Creative, said in September the Wizarding World scenery, attractions and souvenirs would be faithful to the seven-book series. The books have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide and spawned a movie franchise that has earned billions of dollars.

Visitors will be able to sample butter beer and pumpkin juice at the Three Broomsticks Restaurant, relax in the Owlery and be fitted for their own magical wand in Ollivander’s Wand Shop, all familiar landmarks in the Harry Potter world.

Universal’s Web site gave new details of major rides on Thursday.

The signature ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” starts in Hogwart’s Castle and will run through Professor Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room and the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. The ride then soars over the castle grounds and bring fans face-to-face with creatures such as the Hungarian Horntail, a giant Acromantula, Dementors and the gigantic Whomping Willow.

A second ride, Dragon Challenge, an intense dual roller coaster, will provide guests with a view of the Goblet of Fire and the Triwizard Cup.

Universal Orlando is owned by the Blackstone Group and NBC Universal, which is part of General Electric .

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