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"Universal Orlando 2011" reveals The Wizarding World of Harry Potter's best-kept secrets

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"Universal Orlando 2011" reveals The Wizarding World of Harry Potter's best-kept secrets

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Hey, did I ever tell you my favorite grace-under-pressure story? It happened just recently. And not to me, thank God. But - rather - to poor Rupert Grint, the talented young  actor who's played Ron Weasley in all of the "Harry Potter" movies to date.

Photo by Jim Hill

Now let me take a moment to properly set the scene here: It's a brutally hot June afternoon in Central Florida. I'm down at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure theme park attending The Wizarding World of Harry Potter's grand opening press event.  To be specific, I'm standing in line just outside the entrance of Ollivander's Wand Shop with a perfect view of what's about to occur.

Anyway ... Poor Rupert Grint. Since 8 o'clock in the morning, he's been doing interview after interview as part of the official launch of IOA's newest "land." Gamely answering the same stupid questions over & over & over again (i.e. "What do you think of The Wizarding World? Is it just like being inside of a Harry Potter movie? What's your favorite ride?", etc). All the while trying to beat the heat by guzzling bottle after bottle of spring water.

Photo by Jim Hill

And after enduring 4 straight hours of this ... To be blunt, the poor guy's got to go. So Rupert quickly ducks into Hogsmeade Village's public convenience. Which is located right next door to the Three Broomsticks & the Hog's Head Pub. More importantly, right across the street from Ollivander's Wand Shop.

But what poor Mr. Grint doesn't realize is that - while he's in the loo - Universal Orlando has decided to allow a certain number of resort guests to enter The Wizarding World. So - in two minute's time - hundreds of people have come pouring into Hogsmeade Village. What's more, word quickly spreads that one of the stars of the "Harry Potter" movies has just gone into the men's room. So a lot of these tourists are now crowded around the entrance to the restroom, waiting to see who's going to emerge.

Photo by Jim Hill

So imagine Rupert's surprise when he steps back out into the sunlight and finds that there are now 200+ people waiting for him in the streets. Grint looks out into this veritable sea of digital cameras (which are now recording his every move) and then - right off the top of his head - Rupert says: "Well, I'm really glad that I washed my hands."

Now how many of us - faced with this same sort of situation - could have come up with a line like that? Something that instantly charmed & disarmed that crowd? I know that I certainly couldn't have done it.

Photo by Jim Hill

Anyway ... That story came to mind because I've just been paging through "Universal Orlando 2011" (The Intrepid Traveler, September 2010). Which bills itself as being "The Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Theme Park Adventure."

I'll say this much: If you're a Universal newbie and are just now considering taking your very first trip to this 840-acre Central Florida resort because of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ... Well, then you really owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this 302-page paperback.  For Seth Kubersky - working with Kelly Monaghan - has done a brilliant job of updating the 10th edition of this unofficial guide to the Universal Orlando Resort.

Copyright 2010 The Intrepid Traveler
All rights reserved

In fact, if you read those 17 pages of new Wizarding World-centric content that Seth & Kelly have created for "Universal Orlando 2011," then  you're virtually guaranteed to see all of those great Harry Potter-related touches that the crew at Universal Creative have hidden away in Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village. Everything from those hovering brooms which are tethered to the second-story balcony in Dervish & Banges to those holographic "Howlers" that regularly scream at passersby from the windows at the Owl Post.

Thanks to this unofficial guidebook, you'll now know to keep an eye out for that flurry of sheet music which occurs whenever that enchanted cello in Dominic Maestro's second-story music shop suddenly hits a bad note. Or - better yet - search for that runaway snitch which flits around inside of the window at Spintwitches sporting goods.

Photo by Jim Hill

Kubersky & Monaghan clue you in to the subtle but special ways you can make the most of your day in Harry Potter Land. Like suggesting that you slip the bartender at the Hog's Head Pub a tip (so that he or she will then be compelled to hit the hidden switch.  Which will then bring this establishment's grizzly namesake - which is mounted behind the bar next to a brace of shrunken heads -- snorting to life) as well as where to look for those dishes that wash themselves at the Three Broomsticks and/or that tailor-tape cat which playfully paws at the hem of Heromine's Yule Ball gown in the window at Gladrags Wizardwear.

Which is why that I have to say that "Universal Orlando 2011" is damn near indispensable if you're planning on visiting the Wizarding World in the coming year. Oh, sure. Some things may have already changed since this paperback was published just last month (EX: Universal has reportedly adjusted the safety restraints which are used on "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" 's flying benches. Which means that more of UOR's heftier customers can now experience that cutting-edge attraction which many industry insiders are calling the most amazing theme park ride currently operating in the US). But that said, there still isn't another book on the market right now that does a better job of walking you through the Wizarding World ... or the rest of the Universal Orlando Resort, for that matter.

Photo by Jim Hill

So be sure to pick up a copy of "Universal Orlando 2011" if you plan on visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter anytime soon. More to the point, if you find yourself ducking into that public convenience right next door to the Three Broomsticks & the Hog's Head Pub (if only so you can then hear that recording of Moaning Myrtle. Who supposedly haunts both the men's and the ladies rooms) ... Well, you might want to consider washing your hands before you head back into the Park.

You know. Just in case.

Photo by Jim Hill

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  • Is it really that hard to come up with a one liner after being interviewed for 4 hours straight? Either your lazy or bored if you don't.

  • Having been at press event, I'm surprised that the interviewers and interviewees remember their names after four hours of interviews, much less come up with a witty one-liner! :)

  • Fairly lame line. Personally I would have said "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr George Michael will be right out to answer your questions, take pictures and sign autographs."

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