Vote of the Week: Which direction will you ride first on Universal's Hogwarts Express?

December 20, 2013, 9:57 AM · [Editor's note: Thank you to the anonymous commentator who last week inspired this idea.]

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?

Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station in London
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.

Hogwarts Expres train

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.

What details are you hoping that Universal is including in Diagon Alley? Tell us about them, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for being part of and supporting the Theme Park Insider community.

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.

Replies (12)

December 20, 2013 at 11:24 AM · I am boycotting Diagon Alley until the Hippogriff is released and allowed to roam free....I understand Hagrad nursed it back to health and I appreciate the good he does for mythical creatures.

But the constant ups and downs of the ride for children under 48 inches tall is not fair to this majestic beast. I've heard the are looking to breed this creature for other locations and separate those Hippogriffs from their mother.

Free the Hippogriff

December 20, 2013 at 12:15 PM · In terms of storyline, the location doesn't matter. It would seem like they should have done London first, but from how the story unfolded, you don't learn about Diagon Alley until much later. Thus, if you want to be truthful to the story, you go to London, go on the train, enter Hogsmeade and attend to all the attractions there, go back to the train, enter London, enjoy Diagon Alley and all the attractions.

Since I haven't seen Hogsmeade, I probably will go there first. Then I'll go to London.

December 20, 2013 at 12:54 PM · I will probably go in whatever direction the soft openings have it going the first time I ride it.
December 20, 2013 at 2:27 PM · I believe this is a loaded question...
Almost rhetorical...

It does not matter, as long as I am on vacation at Universal...Ahhh All is Good...

December 20, 2013 at 9:30 PM · Wow! I have to say I am floored by the results. 3/4 wish to do London to Hogsmeade, as in the books. That means that Universal will be both attracting record crowds and will also have an effective means to divert them to the "older" attraction, Hogsmeade. They are going to be just minting galleons with this expansion!
December 21, 2013 at 12:08 AM · I am a huge Disney fan and I can't be happier about the Diagon Alley expansion. It's really going to force TDO to up its game...and I hope to see some people at the executive level fired once Diagon Alley is opened and there is a massive amount of money made for Universal there with the epic Harry Potter attractions spanning two parks.

On a lot of sites, there's this Disney vs. Universal bashing stuff that goes on...but I'm a Disney fan who is thrilled that Universal has created something that is superior to anything Disney has put out to date. Right now, I think Disney execs are still in denial mode...and they are getting away with telling shareholders that Harry Potter is nothing special.

But they are kidding themselves. And I hope they lose their jobs as a result. Because the Diagon Alley/Hogwarts Express/Hogsmeade combined attractions are going to be the greatest theme park experience around. It's going to be amazing, and my family are not the biggest HP fans. We liked the movies and read all the books as a family...but we don't own any Potter merchandise or anything. BUT, my boys and even my husband are talking about wanting to spend a whole day just going back and forth between London and Hogsmeade. We'll even probably read all the Potter books again in the leadup to going to Universal for the Diagon Alley expansion.

We like to wait a while though, until crowds die down some, so I doubt we'll experience all this until maybe winter of 2014 or spring of 2015...but we are following the project so closely.

I hope and pray that Disney sees the huge increase in sales that Universal is going to have as a direct result of building this amazing and immersive new land. I hope that makes the cheapskates in the TDO offices give Imagineering a blank check for Star Wars, or something even cooler yet undreamed of. Wouldn't it be amazing to have some kind of environment built at WDW that is even more detailed and even more impressive than HP?

I hope I get to see it. And I am so grateful to Universal for raising the bar like this. All us theme park fans end up the winner when there is this wonderful level of competition between the parks.

December 21, 2013 at 2:53 AM · I don't care, I love the first phase and I'm sure this one will be awesome to. The only thing that bothers me is that Universal could brake the magic forcing you to exit the Hogwart Express and not be able to enter the Potter location straight away. I also don't get why they would do that, people need a hopper pass to do so and I'm sure both sides will have a steady flow of train passengers leaving and entering the side resulting in the same amount of guests per location at any given time.

The fact I will be there at the most lowest of season's I'm sure I won't need to choose and can explore every location at will but if I wasn't this would be my TIP:
Go to the new London part, get a return ticket (I'm sure during the first/busy season they'll do that). Enjoy your day and leave in time to go to IOA to enjoy the bit lesser crowded Hogsmead area. When it's about time (check the wait time for the train) enter the Hogward express to USO and you are guaranteed to enter the new London area without breaking the theme (maybe you are forced to exit but that's ok you can enter at the front of the London façade to enter the Diagon ally area.

December 21, 2013 at 7:17 AM · Wow. With SeaWorld creating Antarctica, Disney making Seven Dwarfs, and Universal making Diagon Alley, it really is heaven in Orlando!
December 21, 2013 at 7:41 AM · Since Harry Potter Part Deux (Electric Boogaloo) will inevitably pull attendance away from Harry Potter 1.0, I would make a beeline for IOA and a vacated Hogsmeade. Once there I would immediately line up for the train ride and cruise over to London bypassing the crowds waiting to get into the expansion area through the traditional means. Provided both parks open at the same time, it seems like IOA will offer the shortest line to get into London early in the AM - as Mr. Niles noted in his post.

Will Diagon Alley, like Potter 1.0, only cover the first four films, or will it incorporate elements from some of the later movies as well? Meaning, will the new land truly "lead into" the events of Potter 1.0 or be subsequent to them? Mr. Niles pointed out that from a narrative perspective folks might want to enter Hogsmeade from London, to which I would agree, but only if the narrative supports that "train" of thought. If the London setting is taken from films 5 - 7b, then from both perspectives (crowds and narrative) IOA would be the best "jumping on" point.

Honestly, though, I just want to ride Spider-Man again! Been too long, old friend!

December 21, 2013 at 11:02 AM · I voted for London to Hogsmeade.

For one, I'm considering the future, after both have been open and London is no longer considered "new". I think arriving in London, with it being a new area, will be more enjoyable than getting off a train to a place I've been many times before.

So with that caveat out of the way, London --> Hogsmeade will be more fun, as my guess is that if there are any dementors or unusual experiences on the ride, it will be as the train is heading to Hogsmeade. Heading back to London, it kept true to the movies, will be fairly uneventful.

And there's nothing wrong with that. I just think it might be more fun to ride to Hogsmeade after the newness of London has worn off a little.

December 21, 2013 at 8:36 PM · Seeing Hogwarts and the amount of detail in that thing was astonishing. Every single inch was beautifully crafted. unlike in other areas of islands of adventure, where some places are left unfinished, such as being able to see the drainage pipes on Jurassic Park, being able to see a road on the Hulk, and going through that black unthemed tunnel on Ripsaw Falls. I hope its the same with Diagon Alley.
December 23, 2013 at 2:24 AM · For people enacting the movies, that's not what Universal is about and what they try to achieve. Like, say, Despicable Me, Transformers and Jurassic Park, they don't try to rehash the movie (like Disney often does) but wants to place you in that world. You will meet instances form the movies and the books but it's not an narrative from the books or movies, you make your own narrative as you stumble on them.
In that respect is doesn't matter what location you visit first.

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