Vote of the Week: Which direction will you ride first on Universal's Hogwarts Express?
Written by Robert Niles
[Editor's note: Thank you to the anonymous commentator who last week inspired this idea.]Tweet
As work continues on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, fans are looking forward to the new land's debut in June. But Harry Potter fans will face a choice when they first visit the Universal Orlando Resort after Diagon Alley opens: Which way will you go for your first ride on the Hogwarts Express?
Muggles should have more success getting to the Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando than they do now at London's Kings Cross station.
Do you follow the narrative of the books and movies, and board in London for the trip to Hogsmeade, in Universal's Islands of Adventure? Or do you go with the spirit of the books, by starting with the familiar in the original Wizarding World, and traveling to the new and unfamiliar land?
You might consider some logistical issues, as well. Crowds are likely to pack Diagon Alley when it opens, making for a relatively shorter wait to board the Hogwarts Express via the Hogsmeade station. But there's much we don't yet know about the logistics of Universal's Hogwarts Express ride.
Universal has promised a variety of experiences on the ride, such as a Dementor attack. But will the direction in which you are traveling affect which experiences you get? In the books and movies, all the cool stuff happened on the way from London to Hogsmeade. The ride back to London always happened after the climax, and sometimes skipped in the narrative altogether.
Visitors planning to see Diagon Alley this summer might remember the hours-long waits that visitors faced just to get into the original Wizarding World when it opened in June 2010. They might consider starting in Hogsmeade and riding the Hogwarts Express to London as a "back door" way to skip the queue in Universal Studios Florida to enter Diagon Alley.
But that plan assumes that the Hogwarts Express will exit into Diagon Alley. Looking at the plans for the new land, that's not clear. The plans show a Great Ticketing Hall for the Hogwarts Express that fronts to the London Thames River promenade, next to the entrance to Diagon Alley. Remember that in the Harry books and movies, the Hogwarts Express left from Kings Cross Station in London — not from Diagon Alley. It would make sense, thematically, for Universal to place its Kings Cross station next to, but not in, the rest of Diagon Alley.
So it's possible that if you ride over to Universal Studios Florida from Islands of Adventure on the Hogwarts Express, you'd still need to queue to enter Diagon Alley once you arrive. That "back door" might not be open, after all.
(The reason we're waffling here is that the plans we've seen aren't entirely clear on the flow of guests through the Hogwarts Express station. That leads us to believe that Universal might be building itself some options here — it could force guests to exit outside Diagon Alley when the land is full, or switch the exit to allow direct access to Diagon Alley in the future, when the land isn't so crowded.)
Of course, when you get on the Hogwarts Express, you're leaving one Wizarding World land to go to the other. So perhaps you will base your choice on which land you'll want to visit first, then travel from that to the other for your first Hogwarts Express trip.
We suspect that many Harry Potter fans will end up traveling in both directions, going back and forth between the two lands as wait times allow. But for this question, we want to know which direction you're planning to travel first.
Update: Yesterday, Universal Orlando released its first teaser video promoting Diagon Alley. This morning, it dropped a second, with several clips from the movies of stuff you'll find in Universal's Diagon Alley.
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