In case you didn’t know, heaven has fire-breathing dragons and butterbeer ice cream. Diagon Alley brings the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to a whole new level.
My First Experience at Diagon at Universal Studios
Some of you may remember that I posted a full on nerd love fest post a few weeks ago about the opening of Diagon Alley (4 Reasons Why I Cannot Handle the Awesomeness That Is Harry Potter Diagon Alley).
It took me almost two months after the grand opening, but this past weekend I finally made my way to Universal Studios and to London/Diagon Alley/Heaven. (Side note: I went with my best friend Kelli on her birthday, so the whole day was extra special).
My Take on Diagon Alley
I’m going to share my first-time experience at the new Universal Studios attraction with you, along with some general tips and a butt-load of pictures I took before my phone died (probably from overuse…).
The attention to detail is incredible.
For those of you who may not know, the Universal theme park is made up of two parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogwarts + Hogsmeade) is located in Islands of Adventure, and the new Diagon Alley area is located in Universal Stuidos.
Hogsmeade is an “island” in IOA that you can see from a distance and that is fairly clogged with people from the very outset.
The genius of separating the Harry Potter worlds is that it allows for a division of crowds and for a more immersive experience.
As my bestie and I approached “London” in Universal, we saw the tall buildings and Underground signs that make up the London cityscape, as well as the Knight Bus.
We sort of looked around for a bit, wondering where the entrance to the world was. We noticed a few people heading to the left, inside a London shop so we followed them.
That’s where you see the brick wall opening and are hit with a straight shot of Gringotts, the dragon and all of the shops.
Maybe because it had a secret entrance or because the area is larger, but Diagon Alley has Hogsmeade beat with its level of detail and Harry Potter-ness.
There are so many shops and secret areas to explore, and I was so taken in by it all. It really feels magical despite all the crazy, camera-laden muggles.
Despite there being only one ride in the park, there’s a lot to see and do.
Diagon Alley only offers the Escape from Gringotts ride vs. Hogsmeads’s Forbidden Journey in the castle, the dragon roller coaster and the Flight of the Hippogriff wooden coaster.
Knowing that going in, I was thinking after taking a 10-minute walk around Diagon Alley and hopping off the Gringotts ride, that’s all there was to see and do.
So, so wrong. Diagon Alley has a ton of shops that even if you don’t want to buy anything are worth checking out. According to the Universal Orlando website, the shops are: Quality Quidditch Supplies, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Borgin and Bukes (Knockturn Alley), Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Ollivanders.
There’s also a whole little hidey-hole section for Knockturn Alley, which is much larger than I imagined. Not to mention there’s an ice cream shop (Florean Fortesque’s of course), a large, live entertainment area (the Weird Sisters, I think) and random little surprise details to discover.
And, I cannot forget to mention that Diagon Alley also has King’s Cross Station with Platform 9 and 3/4 to take muggles to Hogsmeade in IOA (a two-park ticket is required to board, however).
Here are a few pictures:
I have so many more photos, but I’ll stop here or this post is going to be 5 pages long. And no one wants to read that except me 😉
The Leaky Cauldron food was DELISH.
Theme parks are not exactly known for their excellent cuisine. So, I wasn’t expecting anything crazy when I had lunch at the Leaky Cauldon.
I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich (it came with potato wedges) and a Gillywater (aka regular bottled water, but flavor syrups can be added). It was so yummy! It tasted fresh and the flavors were amazing.
I wasn’t feeling adventurous that day, but The Leaky Cauldron also offers more traditional British fare like fish and chips, bangers and mash, toad in the hole and fisherman’s pie. Next time, next time…
Plus, no experience in any Harry Potter world is complete without frozen butterbeer…
…I repeat FROZEN butterbeer. The regular kind cannot match the sweet butterscotch slush version.
Get in line for the Gringotts ride immediately.
I only had two complaints during my time in Diagon Alley. The first was the Gringotts ride.
I did not in fact get to experience it because after waiting in line for an hour, an announcement was made that the ride wasn’t working but that it would be fixed in an hour. After that hour had passed and many people had left the line, Gringotts still wasn’t running.
Deciding to cut our losses, Kelli and I left the line for a lunch break. We decided not to get back in line because we had other things we wanted to do (like King’s Cross Station & the Forbidden Journey ride), but I’m lucky because I bought a year pass and will make sure to visit again.
However, I have a bunch of friends who have visited the park over the last month and a half, and almost all of them have said the ride has been down at some point during their trip.
To avoid this issue, I’d say making a beeline for the Gringotts ride straight away might be the best solution. You’ll be among the first on the ride, hopefully before it begins to have issues.
This is going to be a huge problem because EVERYONE is going to want to go on this ride. HELLO, goblins and dragons will draw crowds. I was pretty disappointed the ride was closed, but I feel worse for people visiting from out of town – or worse, out of the country – who only had one shot at Gringotts.
Don’t underestimate the Hogwarts Express.
I was VERY excited to finally
receive my letter and journey to Hogwarts via the Hogwarts Expresss.
I’d heard that the functional train was a ride of sorts, as the window is a digital screen that shows some of Harry’s adventures.
And, it exceeded my expectations. The technology behind what they created in the train is INSANE, and I was so very impressed.
However, my second complaint of the day involved my beloved scarlet steam engine. Inside the train, each compartment is designed to hold 8 people (4 on each side). In me and Kelli’s compartment, there were 10 people….two little boys with six adults.
I think this was an oversight on the train attendants part, as they probably figured the boys would be seated on their parents lap but that was not the case, and Kelli and I were crammed in a corner which was definitely a little damp.
I realize this is not a big deal at all, but it’s one of those things that I remember and tell people about my experience at the park. I mean, I LOVED the train, but because the compartments are close quarters, it’s important that people don’t feel like they’re being squished against strangers.
It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you feel awkward and uncomfortable.
If you’re a Florida resident, this is the year to buy a Universal Park Pass.
If you live in Florida or Orlando and have any interest in visiting Diagon Alley, I’d say it’s worth your time and money to buy a year pass.
There’s so much to do at both parks and especially Diagon Alley, and it will be great to visit during the cooler and less crowded “winter” months (November – February).
I can’t say enough good things about this new Universal world. Diagon Alley was incredible, and I CANNOT WAIT to go back!