Want to know and see everything that is happening at Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter expansion, rumored to be opening this June? It’s now officially known as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, and you just found the world’s most complete resource covering this development last updated March 7, 2014. (We’ve been tracking Diagon Alley for over two years, and we’re the only resource to offer vacation planning advice in addition to the latest news and details!)
If this is your first time visiting this article, we strongly encourage you to read from the very beginning so you can get a complete overview of what’s happening with this project.
If you’ve visited this article before, you can use this table of contents to skip ahead:
- An introduction to Diagon Alley
- Full tour of Diagon Alley
- Role of King’s Cross Station
- Why wasn’t having Harry Potter in one theme park enough?
- Just tell me when Diagon Alley will open!
- A brief history of the Harry Potter expansion (page 2)
- Diagon Alley artwork & teaser videos (page 2)
- Planning your visit to Diagon Alley (page 2)
Let the magic begin…
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
Building on the global phenomenon that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment have announced an expansion of historic proportion with the entirely new themed environment, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.
You can view/download the full-resolution version of the concept art above via our Flickr account.
Scheduled to open in summer 2014, the world’s first centrally themed, multi-park experience expands the Wizarding World of Harry Potter across both Universal Orlando theme parks and allows Universal’s creative team to bring an unparalleled vision to this unique project. The new area will bring to life some of the experiences and places found in and around London in the Harry Potter books and films, offering brand-new adventures for fans and theme park guests from around the world.
Diagon Alley and “London” will be located within the Universal Studios Florida theme park, which is adjacent to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, where guests now experience Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. The new area within Universal Studios will be just as expansive, immersive, and authentic as the existing themed environment.
And – just like in the books and films – guests will be able to travel between “London” and Hogsmeade aboard the Hogwarts Express.
Now join us as we take you on an in-depth tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley…
Full tour of Diagon Alley
First stop: London waterfront
We start our tour in the Muggle version of London, which completely masks Diagon Alley, Gringotts Bank, and the rest of the Universal’s new Wizarding World behind.
Starting on the left, the first building of the already-famous facade is King’s Cross Station, which guests who have ridden the Hogwarts Express over (more on that later) will exit out of. Next door is Charing Cross Road‘s bookstore, and right after that is Leicester Square, which houses the entrance to Diagon Alley itself. Next we have Wyndham’s Theatre, and the waterfront buildings end with 12 Grimmauld Place, the ancestral (and fictional) home of the Black family from the Harry Potter stories. Universal Creative measured each of the real-world buildings in London to be as exact as possible – though that didn’t stop them from making some “theme park” embellishments.
In front of the facade will be Eros Fountain from Piccadilly Circus and, parked right next to it, a fully detailed Knight Bus prop. Although visitors won’t be able to climb aboard the vehicle, it will feature an interactive Shrunken Head (as originally seen in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), which will function very much like the Mystic Fountain in Islands of Adventure’s Lost Continent.
The transition to Diagon Alley is still being highly guarded, but the presence of jagged, crooked walls to help sell the simulation of movement seems to be a part of it.
The main stretch: Diagon Alley
The main section of Diagon Alley feels similar to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure: a long stretch of road, flanked by stores both real and simulated, leading to the land’s icon, Gringotts Bank.
Upon first entering the alleyway, the Leaky Cauldron, which will serve traditional English fare (such as fish & chips and bangers & mash), is on the left, while Quality Quidditch Supplies, offering sweaters, brooms, and all the Quidditch props from the films, is on the immediate right. Next to Quality Quidditch is Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, an impressive three-story shop that is said to look exactly identical to the set from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Moving down the street, the entrance to Knockturn Alley (more on that in a bit) is right next-door to Leaky Cauldron, which is, in turn, followed by Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, a store dedicated to wizard wear, from Hogwarts school uniforms to robes and character costumes. Across the way, on the right-hand side of Diagon, is Ollivander’s Wand Shop, a massive building that features a better-planned queue than its Islands of Adventure counterpart and some improved spell effects.
Finally, as we head to the intersection where Diagon Alley ends and Gringotts Bank sits, there’s Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor on the left, the second eatery available inside the new Wizarding World. Universal has confirmed only one of the many “unique” flavors that will be available – strawberry and peanut butter – but a sign on the shop’s concept art hints at a few more: black beer and raisin, chocolate with peanut butter, and bat juice and earwig. It sounds like Universal Creative is going for an ice cream/frozen yogurt version of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor jelly beans from Hogsmeade.
Before moving on with our tour, there’s one last note to make: a number of storefront-only venues fill up the spaces in-between the real stops. On the left-hand side of Diagon, heading from the entrance up to the end of the street, are Potage’s Cauldron Shop, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Slug and Jiggers, and Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary. On the right-hand side, in the same order, are Flourish and Blotts, the offices of The Daily Prophet, Wands by Gregorovitch, and Broomstix.
We now invite you to take a virtual tour of Diagon Alley, featuring an introduction by Hagrid, with a brief stop at Knockturn Alley (which we’ll cover soon):
When you’re done with this article, you can continue Universal’s virtual tour by clicking here.
The center of the (wizarding) world: Gringotts
At nearly half the size of the entire area, Gringotts Bank dominates the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, and it’s easy to tell why: the ride that is housed inside the mammoth show building will feature a “multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey.” And while Universal hasn’t discussed the attraction in any sort of detail, it does now have an official name: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Even though Universal hasn’t discussed specifics, it’s believed that Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts will be the absolute pinnacle in theme park technology, combining a thrill-ride coaster experience (like Revenge of the Mummy) and dark ride elements (like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) with the addition of 3D technology (like Transformers: The Ride). However, Gringotts is expected to offer a slightly softer presentation, allowing the attraction to be friendlier toward youngsters who are unable to ride Forbidden Journey, either because of its 48″ height requirement or its face-to-face spider encounters in the Forbidden Forest.
Outside Gringotts, the large, fire-breathing dragon spotted in the original concept art will make the final cut (despite some rumors to the contrary) – and it will, indeed, spew real fire “on a regular basis.”
Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, the gift shop for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts that will sell telescopes, binoculars, and star charts, is cleverly disguised to look as if it’s actually across the street, facing the bank.
To the left of Gringotts is Magical Menagerie, selling plush versions of all the magical creatures seen in the films/books, and to the right of Wiseacres is Scribbulus Writing Implements, featuring quills, inkwells, and parchment paper.
Knockturn Alley, eternally in the dark
Dark magic fans will finally be able to explore Borgin and Burkes, which will anchor the Knockturn Alley section of the expansion. On sale will be Death Eater masks, skulls, and other “ghastly devices.” Although not much has been said of either the shop or the side-street, one tidbit has been discovered: Knockturn will be covered so as to continually ensure a dark, sinister atmosphere.
Universal did not release any concept art for Knockturn Alley. However, if you scroll back up to our virtual tour of Diagon Alley, you can see a very compelling look at the darkened area at 2:53.
Expanding the Wizarding World: The all-new creations
Perhaps the biggest surprise to those of us tracking this development since the beginning is the recent reveal of a brand-new street running perpendicular to Diagon Alley, which Gringotts Bank fronts and onto which Knockturn Alley opens up: Horizont Alley. And then there’s Carkitt Market, a third section in the expansion, which starts at Horizont, runs parallel to Diagon, and features a shortcut past Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. With these two original additions, the overall size of the new Wizarding World is effectively doubled from what we originally expected.
For a visual reference, here are three aerial photos taken last October. The first shows the London waterfront toward the bottom of the photo, offering the perspective from which we usually view this area. The second and third images pivot 90 degrees or so, putting the London waterfront in the top-left corner.
Please note, in the photo above, Knockturn Alley is located in the large covered space between Diagon Alley and Horizont Alley. Also, Horizont extends all the way from where it is labelled down to Carkitt Market.
Author J.K. Rowling herself has named and helped design these all-new areas, partially inspired by real-world London locations like Leadenhall Market.
Just what will be in these expanded sections? As noted previously, Magical Menagerie, Wiseacres, and Scribbulus will all be on Horizont Alley. Carkitt Market is described as being a huge, covered shopping space that will feature “live entertainment.” And there are a number of shops, real or possible just window fronts, that could be strewn between the two: Dr. Filibuster’s Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks, Obscurus Books, and House-elf Placement.
Getting there: The Hogwarts Express
Finally, and perhaps most innovatively, an actual Hogwarts Express train and track system will transport guests from King’s Cross Station, part of the new Diagon Alley area inside Universal Studios Florida, over to Hogsmeade Station, set on the outskirts of Hogsmeade inside Islands of Adventure.
In other words, once the expansion opens, guests will be able to follow in Harry’s very own footsteps as he prepared for his first year at Hogwarts by purchasing supplies in Diagon Alley and then hopping aboard the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4 and traveling across the land – in this case, between two theme parks – on his way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
When riding the train between stations, guests will not see outside. Rather, they will look out “windows” that project new Harry Potter stories, giving the illusion of traveling from one destination to the other while having a few magical encounters. It’s also believed that the Hogwarts Express experience will feature several different stories, not unlike the multitude of adventures that are brought together on Disney’s updated Star Tours attraction.
The Hogwarts Express tracks can be viewed from many spots inside Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Perhaps the best vantage points are provided by Universal’s own rides, USF’s Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and IOA’s Dragon Challenge:
To see exactly where the tracks are, click here to open our map, switch it to Satellite View, and zoom in on the blue line. Please note that, in the top image above, what you’re seeing in the foreground are the Hogwarts Express ride vehicles waiting to be installed on the tracks, which happened October 24, 2013:
The role of King’s Cross Station at Diagon Alley
Guests visiting the new Diagon Alley area of Universal Studios Florida will need to walk into King’s Cross to get to the Hogwarts Express, which will provide transportation over to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure (assuming you have a Park-to-Park ticket, as we’ll discuss later in this article). Guests will enter and leave King’s Cross Station via the pathway near the USF lagoon, and if they wish to then enter Diagon Alley, they will need to proceed along the lagoon pathway a few steps and reenter the Diagon Alley complex through its main entrance.
Because King’s Cross won’t be directly connected to Diagon Alley in terms of guest access, Universal will be able to keep the two crowds somewhat better controlled. Just as important, this will also allow King’s Cross and the Hogwarts Express to operate even if the rest of Diagon Alley is not open, and vice versa. We’ll have to wait and see how Universal utilizes this capability.
Why wasn’t having Harry Potter at one theme park enough?
Simply put, nothing has done more to establish Universal Orlando as a primary destination in Central Florida, boost their attendance to record levels, and make them an incredible amount of cash than opening the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010. As is often the case, there is a good chance you are reading this page – and have developed an intense interest in Universal Orlando – because it’s home to Harry Potter. Even though having “the boy who lived” at both Universal Orlando theme parks may seem like a bit too much for some guests, the move will inevitably result in more attendance and more notoriety for the resort. Remember: Harry Potter is the most successful book series in history and the highest grossing film series of all time!
Setting the financial motives aside, there are millions upon millions of Harry Potter fans – from passionate to casual – that are extremely excited about this project, and Universal has the best track record in the business right now for delivering immaculately themed experiences. In all, the Harry Potter expansion promises to be a breathtaking, monstrous, and unparalleled theme park experience, the likes of which we’ve never seen at any theme park resort in the world – and this level of achievement could only be done by having a piece of Potter at both parks.
Just tell me when Diagon Alley will open!
As far as an opening date for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, the current evidence points to mid-June 2014. Please note that this is speculation and it’s subject to change based on new developments. At this point, Universal has only officially announced that Diagon Alley will open sometime this summer (which means it could open as late as August and still be “on time”).
We want to make a special note that, for most of the winter of 2013 and spring of 2014, we had strong reason to anticipate that this expansion project would open in phases, with the Hogwarts Express transportation system bringing on its first guests in April or May, and the rest of Diagon Alley opening in second and third phases after that. Unfortunately, as will happen with a project of this magnitude, construction setbacks and delays are now making it look much more likely that the entire project will, indeed, open at once (or within a very short time frame). The earliest date we now expect technical rehearsals to open to the public for any part of the Harry Potter expansion is the first week of June, followed by a grand opening in mid-June. One more reminder: any talk of a specific opening date is speculation and subject to change.
As always, we’ll update this article as new information becomes available. If you like to stay informed of the very latest updates, we encourage you to join us on Twitter.
Even though Diagon Alley isn’t ready to open quite yet, we still have so much more to share with you in this article! Keep reading to see our brief history of the project, followed by need-to-know vacation planning information, and more.
Continue to the next page to learn about this history of the Harry Potter expansion project and so much more