Off to see the wizardry in Harry’s world
THE snow-capped roofs of Hogsmeade stretch down the alley, the towering Hogwarts Castle looms large in the distance, the complete works of Gilderoy Lockhart sits in a nearby shop window and I feel like I've been struck with a Stupefy spell.
I've just been dropped straight into the world of one of my favourite book series - Harry Potter - and it's nothing short of magical.
I'm at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, a theme park based on one of the best selling book series in history and it's a place that dazzles the little ones and brings out the child in even the most sombre of adults.
Guests are first greeted by a sign which states they are now entering Hogsmeade and asks them to "please respect the spell limits".
It's at that point I had to take a few breaths and at least pretend that I was much more mature and composed than the nearby five-year-old children who genuinely believed we were in Harry Potter's universe.
Here are some the highs and lows of the park.
The attention to detail
The attention to detail in the park right down to Moaning Myrtle wailing in the bathrooms to the Quidditch Bludgers trying to burst from their case in a shop window was astounding.
The best part of the park was walking around and seeing all of those little elements that make the world created by author JK Rowling so enticing in the first place.
I won't spoil too many of the surprises but some of my favourite little details were items like the broom care kit and wax in the window of the Quidditch supply store, the butterbeer carts selling the tasty butterscotch drink, the writhing baby mandrake plant in the window of Dogweed and Deathcap's
Exotic Plants and Flowers, the Monster Book of Monsters snapping in its cage and the Hogwarts Express billowing steam at the Hogsmeade Station.
My favourite ride at the park was the signature ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
The ride is one of the first of its kind as a scenic dark ride which takes riders on a flight around the Hogwarts Castle on a broomstick with Harry, Ron and Hermione while dodging dementors, dragons and the like.
The ride drops, twists, turns and spins and an enormous screen ads effect to the journey to make it feel like you are really flying.
Unlike many rides, the line up is half of the fun as the queue weaves its way through the Hogwarts Castle where the moving paintings have conversations with one another and guests can view some of the most well-known parts of the castle including Professor Dumbledore's office.
This one is probably a little more magical for the kids but don't miss a trip to Ollivanders wand store where the wand chooses a wizard in an exciting and intimate show.
Only about 25 people are allowed into the store at one time where Mr Ollivander himself selects someone from the crowd to experience being "chosen" by their wand but not before some hilarious mishaps with wands they aren't suited to. The lines are long for this one but the feeling inside the dimly lit and dusty room where rows upon rows of wands sit waiting for their owners is just like in the movies.
The only let down of the park was that there wasn't enough of it.
Hundreds of people cram into the attraction each day which has been a hit since it opened three years ago meaning things can get fairly crammed on busy days.
This problem is soon to be rectified however with Diagon Alley being built which is rumoured to include a Gringott's Bank thrill ride.
Need to know
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located in Orlando, Florida in the United States.
Flights from Brisbane to Los Angeles start around $1200 with a second domestic flight from Los Angeles to Florida required.
Entry to the park starts at $92 per day for adults and $86 for children.