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With 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter,' Orlando hopes for a boost

Friday's grand opening of 'The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,' the theme park based on the popular books, could bring sell-out crowds to an industry crimped by the global economic downturn.

Hogwarts Castle at Universal's new "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" theme park, as it appeared at a gala opening Wednesday night in Orlando.

Scott Audette/Reuters

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It’s more than just a theme park. It’s a fantasy world that Harry Potter fans have been imagining for more than a decade, now brought to life.

A world of flying broomsticks, moving paintings, invisibility cloaks, and talking snakes will be revealed to Muggles (people without any magical abilities) at Friday’s grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort.

Potter fans have been waiting for this day since 2007 when Warner Bros. and Universal Orlando Resort first announced their decision to create a world based on the bestselling books by J.K. Rowling and the blockbuster films that followed.

The 20-acre park is a detailed recreation of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the village of Hogsmeade, two of the main settings for the adventures of Potter and his friends.

The new park could rejuvenate ticket sales for Universal Studios, which, like many other theme parks, has seen a decline in attendance in the past two years. Estimates calculated by the Theme Entertainment Association, a non-profit organization based in California, show that park attendance for Universal Studios declined 13 percent in 2009.

Three-day vacation packages for the park start at $285 per adult, and one-day passes cost $79.

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