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Harry Potter and the Florida theme park

It will open in April, or maybe in May.

It will have real snow and magic wands, or not.

Real or plastic owls might take your mail.

There's so much speculation about the spring opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando that you need a magic spell to figure out what's real.

So what is real? Here's a rundown.

Rumor: It's an entirely new park.

Fact: Not true. The area devoted to J.K. Rowling's wizardly boy is a new 20-acre section of Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure Park. The attraction reportedly is costing $265 million to create.

Rumor: It's opening in May.

Fact: Other than saying it'll open this spring, Universal is holding the exact date secret. But May is the consensus of park watchers.

"It's just a rumor, but the best guess is they have to be open by Memorial Day. There have been a lot of rumors about mid-April for a soft opening, with a grand opening by Memorial Day," says Erik Yates of behindthethrills.com, which monitors theme park development news in Florida and elsewhere. He has followed the Potter project from rumor to reality.

Rumor: You'll have to pay extra to get into the Harry Potter section.

Fact: Not true. If you have a ticket to the Islands of Adventure Park, it's included (Universal also has a separate Universal Studios park). "U-Select," a new ticket pricing scheme, was just released. It offers one-day, one-park tickets for $79 for adults and $69 for children ages 3-9. A two-day, two-park ticket is $134.99 for adults and $121.99 for children. A new 3-day ticket is $139.99 for adults and $124.99 for children. That deal is to entice guests to stay more days at Universal.

Rumor: Every attraction will be brand new.

Fact: It will seem that way. The new gray Hogwarts Castle towers over the park, charming and ominous and already visible from the Orlando I-4 freeway. Inside, guests will encounter Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, an attraction still veiled in mystery but which is purported to be a ride controlled by robot arms.

Nearby, a shopping area called Hogsmeade Village, created to look exactly like the village described in the book, will contain shops and restaurants.

Guests likely won't realize that two older roller coasters will also be part of the Harry Potter magic. The old Flying Unicorn family coaster becomes Flight of the Hippogriff. The twin Dueling Dragons coaster is being repainted and re-themed into Dragon Challenge.

"Rumor is that the spot where the sacred book sat in Dueling Dragons, they are going to have movie props and the real Goblet of Fire from the movies," Yates says.

Rumor: There is going to be snow.

Fact: The chatter could be all wet, but park watchers say they heard that a company was contracted to create "real snow in piles that don't melt" in the village, says Yates. A Universal spokeswoman declined to comment on the snow rumor but didn't discount it.

Rumor: There's going to be a real post office, and owls (maybe real, maybe animatronic) will take your mail.

Fact: Universal confirms there will be a post office with an owl theme and a Hogsmeade postmark. Its front window will feature a loud-talking Howler, which in the book is a bad-tempered red envelope that explodes if you don't open it. Sadly, trained owls won't be swooping down and taking the mail for real.

Rumor: Once Harry Potter opens, it will be hard to get a ticket because Universal will be so crowded.

Fact: Universal won't comment on expected crowd levels, but park watchers expect a crush the first few months.

"There will be Disney fans who want to see what the excitement is about, but the vast majority are millions of Harry Potter fans, who are going to make a pilgrimage for this, to see how they brought the books to life," Yates says. "You are going to have to expect really long lines all over the park."

Rumor: You'll be able to eat and drink items Harry had in the books and buy Harry products.

Fact: It's true. You'll be able to drink pumpkin juice and butterbeer, buy Quidditch equipment and Remembralls.

Rumor: Guests will use magic wands in the park.

Fact: The rumor has some truth to it. "One thing that Universal is really good at is atmosphere. You are going to see wizards walking by; one thing I heard is that the wizards will duel with special effects," Yates says. "And you'll be able to buy magic wands and the rumor is you can wave your wand around and make certain things happen."

Universal acknowledges its wand shop, Ollivanders, will feature an interactive element in which "the wand chooses the wizard."

Zap! If only there was a spell to shorten the lines.

Rumor: Universal will offer special Harry Potter packages that include lodging and tickets.

Fact: True, but Universal has not released any information on that yet. Keep an eye on www.universalorlando.com.

Rumor: Disney World is jealous.

Fact: Disney World has its own plans. It has just announced a major renovation to Fantasyland inside the Magic Kingdom for 2011-13, which will include a new Little Mermaid ride and other princess and fairy attractions. And last fall, it bought the rights to Marvel Entertainment, adding to its superpowers.

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