Harry Potter fans swarm new theme park

Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:43pm EDT
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By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe led groups of excited kids dressed in Hogwarts uniforms as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park officially opened on Friday to long lines and snarled traffic.

Radcliffe, Rupert Grint who plays the boy wizard's best friend Ron Weasley, and other actors from the blockbuster movie and book series, were on hand at Universal Orlando as fans lined up more than eight hours to be among the first visitors.

Before dawn, the backup of Potter fans began to block the main highway through Orlando near the entrances to Universal, prompting the theme park to open its parking garage at 5 a.m. -- 30 minutes earlier than planned, according to local media.

Visitors told Reuters that by 8:30 a.m. the line to get inside wrapped around the exterior of Universal's Islands of Adventure park, of which the Wizarding World is one of six unique sections. And the wait for the signature ride, the Forbidden Journey, reached at least 90 minutes, at one point.

"It was worth it, just because I'm a Harry Potter fanatic," said Kelsey Rigg, 18, a British transplant to Florida who at 3 a.m. joined a crowd of several hundred people.

Universal executives did not immediately have information about crowd size.

The 20-acre Harry Potter park reportedly cost $250 million to build and recreates the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and other places dreamed up by author J.K. Rowling in her fantasy novels about the boy wizard and his friends.


<p>A guest, in her Hogwarts school regalia, uses a mobile phone during the grand opening for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studio Resort in Orlando, June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette</p>