Can new Harry Potter attraction put Universal on par with Disney as a vacation destination?

Universal Orlando is about to get a second chance to make a first impression.

The arrival of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — which began admitting guests with select hotel packages this weekend, ahead of a grand opening next month — caps more than five years of planning and almost $400 million of investment aimed at re-establishing Universal as a true multi-day destination capable of challenging Walt Disney World for theme-park supremacy.

In Harry Potter, the boy-wizard hero of author J.K. Rowling‘s beloved book series, Universal has a powerful franchise around which to build, one on par with Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Buzz Lightyear or anyone else in Disney’s vaunted stable of children’s characters. And in Wizarding World, Universal has the only theme-park attraction on Earth where fans can wander in Potter’s world.

It adds up to a golden opportunity for breathing fresh life into a resort whose fortunes have sagged in recent years. Read More at Orlando Sentinel.

UPDATED: Harry Potter and the soft opening (Now with even more pictures)

For almost the last two weeks, there have been fans of Harry Potter and theme parks alike hanging out near Harry Potter to wait for a soft opening. We’ve heard rumors of certain dates for soft openings, but none have successfully gained entry without holding a “Grand Opening Package” or booking a hotel room at one of Universal’s onsite hotels.. until today. Universal soft opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for a limited amount of time, limiting the number of guests who entered the area.

Well done, fellow Potter Watchers!

So what does this mean for the rest of the fans, pass holders, and rabid theme park fans who are just dying to get in before June 18th? A soft opening makes a pass holder preview look really good right about now. Of course, nothing official has been released from the park regarding pass holder previews, but now that they’ve opened their gates to the public (even if it was only for a little more than an hour), they’re one step closer to opening it again and letting more experience Harry Potter’s world. Read More at Behind the Thrills

Fans: Wizarding World Holds Limited Soft Opening

More Harry Potter fans and fanatics got a look inside the much-talked-about Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando on Tuesday.Potter fans have been camping out at the theme park for days in hopes of a soft opening. They have been using Twitter to organize their efforts through the hashtags #potterwatch and #wwohp, terms that let users unite under a common term.Over the last weekend, hotel guests who booked a package vacation through Universal Orlando have been admitted to the area of Islands of Adventure in the morning hours. The general public has not been admitted. Read More at WESH.com

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