What to expect in Universal Orlando's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
Written by Robert Niles
On New Year's Eve 2011, ThemeParkInsider.com first showed you the plans for Universal Orlando's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. Now, two and a half years later, the construction walls are down and Diagon Alley's almost ready to open. So let's take another overall look at this new Wizarding World. (Updated: Here's a video preview, with all the info from this article.)Tweet
Universal's first Wizarding World recreated the village of Hogsmeade in Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park. The new Diagon Alley stands behind a London-themed facade next door in Universal Studios Florida, recreating the iconic setting from the Harry Potter books and films with two new rides, a new restaurant, and several elaborately themed stores.
The London facade this morning. Photo by @elvenage.
The highlight of the new land is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, a 3D, indoor roller coaster ride through the vaults of Gringotts Bank, where you will be caught in the middle as Harry, Ron and Hermione battle trolls, dragons and dark wizards, including Bellatrix Lestrange and even Voldemort himself. As with the original Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride in Islands of Adventure, the queue will be as much an attraction as the ride itself. You'll start your experience by walking through the Great Hall of Gringotts Bank, watching the animatronic Goblin tellers at work, before meeting with Bill Weasley and getting the opportunity to open your own Gringotts account. Then it's down the elevators to the underground vaults, where you will board your ride vehicle for the rest of the thrill-ride adventure.
Speaking of Gringotts, Universal's issuing special "Wizarding Bank Notes" for sale that you can use as money inside the Wizarding World, as well as elsewhere in the Universal Orlando Resort. And you'll have plenty of opportunities to spend in Diagon Alley, of course. In addition to a new, larger Ollivander's wand shop, Diagon Alley will feature a full-scale Weasley's Wizard Wheezes joke shop, and for the Slytherins in your family, there will be a Borgin and Burkes, selling all kinds of dark magic supplies. One of the merchandise highlights will be new, next-generation interactive wands that you can use to trigger special effects in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Diagon Alley's big restaurant will be The Leaky Cauldron, serving traditional British pub food, including Bangers and Mash, Toad in the Hole, Fisherman's Pie and a Plougman's Lunch. There will be Butterbeer to drink, as well as some new beverages, including Fishy Green Ale and Gillywater. If you're a fan of Univeral's Butterbeer, you'll also want to visit Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, which will serve Butterbeer ice cream, as well as many other unique flavors, including Earl Grey and Lavender, Clotted Cream, and Chocolate Chili.
Want more? Go to Diagon Alley's Carkitt Market to watch performances by the wizarding band Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, as well as live stage performances of "The Tale of the Three Brothers" and "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" from Tales of Beetle the Bard.
Diagon Alley and the Hogsmeade Village of the original Wizarding World over in Islands of Adventure will be connected by a new ride, The Hogwarts Express. Created to look identical to the train from the Harry Potter movies, both outside and inside, the Hogwarts Express will shuttle visitors between Kings Cross Station, located next to Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, and the a new Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure. You will need a park-to-park ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express. (That's Universal's version of a Disney park-hopper.) A one park per day ticket won't allow you to get on the Hogwarts Express ride.
While on board the Hogwarts Express, video-screen "windows" will show your journey through the English countryside and Scottish highlands. Watch out for runaway Chocolate Frogs and even Demontors. You'll find those on the Hogwarts Express, too, which will offer a different storyline in each direction between the two parks.
So how you do get in? Theme Park Insider will be there for the special media preview of Diagon Alley on June 18 and 19. We're expecting the land to be open to the public after that, though there's a chance that the land might be available on a limited, soft-open basis before the 18th. If you're a Universal Orlando annual passholder, or already planning a visit to the park before the 18th, give it a go and see if you can get in. If you do, be sure to post your photos and trip report to the Universal Studios Florida page on ThemeParkInsider.com.
When the original Wizarding World opened in 2010, fans lined up for nearly a mile, creating an eight-hour wait to get into the new land. To keep that from happening again, Universal's set up a new timed-entry system for Diagon Alley. Like Disney's old Fastpass system, you'll need to get return tickets with an assigned visit time from machines Universal has set up near the Men in Black ride, inside Universal Studios Florida. That's going to be the only way to get into Diagon Alley. Remember, even if you're riding the Hogwarts Express over from Islands of Adventure, that drops you off outside Diagon Alley, You'll still need a return time ticket to get into the new land. We're expecting these return times to be claimed quickly, so if you want to visit Diagon Alley, be sure to get your return ticket first thing in the morning after the park opens.
Universal Orlando hotel guests also can get early access to the Wizarding World as part of their stay in one of the resort's on-site hotels, which might make the extra cost worth the investment this summer.
If you want to see more from Diagon Alley, join us online at ThemeParkInsider.com on June 18 and 19, when we'll have complete coverage of the new land, the rides, and all the celebrity appearances from the Harry Potter movie stars who'll be attending the opening ceremonies. In the meantime, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates as we get ready for the opening of Diagon Alley.
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