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    Witches, Wizards & Wanderlust: Harry Potter Tourism

    The Harry Potter franchise has been capturing the imaginations of the young and old for over a decade, and the allure of actually stepping into this magical realm has become one of the biggest draws to the United Kingdom in recent years. Devoted fans want to read actual issues of the Daily Prophet, and immerse themselves in even the most nominal of details from the Potter universe. So it's no wonder that many of the locations the boy wizard has fictionally touched have grown into some of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Britain. Despite the region's stunning scenery and extensive history, more and more people travel to this area every year to experience its sorcerous alter ego, a captivating dimension that exists just beneath the surface of our seemingly routine world.

    Pop culture has always had strong influence on the way tourists craft their itineraries, remember the Da Vinci Code craze a few years back? After Dan Brown's bestselling novel rose to fame in 2004, British tour operators began cashing in on the book's popularity by offering themed sight-seeing opportunities in both London and Paris, taking visitors on tailored excursions that were a mixture of filming locations from the motion picture, and landmarks referenced in the novel. But for some, Harry Potter's spell is much more far reaching than its non-magical counterparts, and many millennials feel an emotional connection to the series that will never be fully understood by individuals who grew up in a world that didn't include Harry Potter. Thanks to some lively imaginations and extreme creativity, entering this fantastical realm of three-headed dogs, house-elves, goblins and dragons is no longer a completely intangible idea.

    Wizarding World of Harry Potter | Orlando, Florida

    Universal Orlando announced earlier this year that the highly anticipated expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in 2014 at Universal Studios. The ambitious new London-themed area is currently under construction over the old Jaws ride, and while Universal has revealed few details regarding the project, it is speculated that Diagon Alley will be just as expansive and authentic as the existing themed environment, and will include numerous shops and eateries based on the cleaver creations found inside the pages of the beloved J.K. Rowling series. Sources have confirmed that there will be an 'innovative new attraction' set inside Gringotts Wizarding Bank, which is predicted to be an indoor rollercoaster. Perhaps the most innovate piece to Diagon Alley is the inclusion of a Hogwarts Express connector train that will link the new location to the Hogsmeade Village at original Wizarding World. Not only will the new tram make for easy access to both areas, it will also add to the overall magical feel of the attractions, as it has been speculated that while riding the train, guests will not be able to see outside, but will instead see projections of new Harry Potter stories.

    King's Cross Station | London, England

    Any true Harry Potter fan knows that the Hogwarts Express departs from "Platform 9 3/4" at King's Cross Station in London promptly at eleven o'clock on September 1st. But if you make your way to the entrance to Platforms 9, 10 and 11 on the west side of the station, any other day of the year, you'll actually find a luggage cart disappearing into the magical realm underneath a sign marked "Platform 9 3/4". Some older fans may think this set up is somewhat juvenile, but younger audiences will undoubtedly enjoy seeing where the journey began for the teen wizard and his friends. The lines of visitors outfitted in Gryffindor scarves waiting to have their picture taken pushing the luggage cart proves that although somewhat gimmicky, King's Cross is still a favored Potter hot spot.

    Oxford University's Bodleian Library | Oxford, England

    Oxford University's prestigious Bodleian Library not only helped shape some of the most influential minds of all time, it also appeared in three of the Harry Potter films. The medieval Duke Humfrey's Library served as the Hogwarts Library, and the elaborately ornamented Divinity School doubled as the Hogwarts infirmary. And in addition to its magical ties, no self-respecting literary buff could possibly pass up the opportunity to walk through the same halls where Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien once studied.

    Warner Bros. Studio Tour | London, England

    Harry Potter PropsTo the delight of fans all over the world, the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour is now open for business in London. The studio showcases real sets, props, makeup and special effects equipment used during production of the eight movies, that helped turn the franchise into one of the most successful film series of all time. During the winter months, visitors will be able to see the Hogwarts castle model decorated for the holidays, and can witness the intricate miniature's festive makeover up close. Patrons will also be privy to insider knowledge regarding set design for the films, like the fact that dendritic salt was used as artificial snow during filming because of the fact that it clumps like real snow and even crunches when walked on! During production, a member of the crew would've climbed onto a cherry picker and sprinkled the salt on the model by hand, much like a baker dusting sugar onto a cake. Individuals taking part in the studio tour during the first two weeks of February will be able to pose for pictures with a selection of animal actors, trained by the studio's Head Animal Trainer, on actual sets that were used in the movies. These special co-stars will team up with their trainers in order to demonstrate the acting tricks and techniques they mastered while being featured in the series.

    Durham Cathedral | Durham, England

    Die-hard Potter fans may be indefinitely waiting on their invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but visiting one of the fictional school's filming locations might serve as the next best thing. Although the school was shot at a number of different venues throughout the UK, one of the most visually stunning is Durham Cathedral. Touted as being one of England's finest Norman buildings, the cathedral's elegant cloisters became the school's snow-covered quadrangle, where Harry sets the owl flying in the first film, and the Cathedral Chapter House also served as the backdrop depicting Professor McGonagall's classroom.

    Landscapes Around Hogwarts | Glencoe, Scotland

    If you happen to be traveling in Scotland with a true Harry Potter devotee, they will certainly appreciate a visit to Glencoe. This region is approximately a two hour drive from Glasgow, and was the primary filming location for the dramatic landscapes surrounding Hogwarts. Production crews working on the first two films thought the rugged beauty and sheer drama of the Scottish Highlands would make the perfect setting for Quidditch matches, and a handful of scenes were shot against the backdrop of Glen Nevis (which was also used in the filming of Braveheart).Regardless of the itinerary you choose, you are sure to find a spell-binding experience wherever your Potter-themed adventure in the United Kingdom takes you. Contact Auto Europe toll-free at 1-888-223-5555 to reserve your broomstick, err, car rental today!

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