Want to know and see everything that is happening at Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter expansion soft opening soon? It’s 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 April 24, 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 these pages, we strongly encourage you to read from the very beginning so you can get a complete overview of what’s happening with this project.
We’re getting close…
Orlando Informer has officially kicked off our watch for Diagon Alley soft openings – we’ve heard from our sources and our friends, and we’re now ready to establish an expected timeline for these events, which we’re posting right here at the top of our Diagon Alley article because we know its the biggest question of all right now. So let’s clarify a few things and then get to it!
What is a soft opening?
A soft opening, referred to by the parks as a technical rehearsal, is an opportunity for Universal Team Members to become fully trained in running attractions in a live environment. Soft openings happen before an attraction (or group of attractions, in this case) officially open, and their schedule is never announced or published by the parks. In addition, there is no guarantee that attractions will be running to their full potential, or even running at all.
By their very nature, soft openings are sporadic: they can be for 10 minutes, two hours, or the full day. When they first start happening, they usually begin during the last few operating hours of each day, and then slowly expand from there, day by day.
When is Diagon Alley likely to soft open?
Simply due to the scale and ever-changing attributes of the project, this is challenging to predict – but it’s a challenge we’re up for. So below you will find our current prediction at the odds of soft openings occurring in the upcoming weeks.
May 4 – 10 = <5%
May 11 – 17 = 25%
May 18 – 24 = 50%
May 25 – 31 = 80%
June 1 – 7 = 90%
June 8 – 14 = 95%
June 15 – 21 = >95% (if not officially open)
June 22 – 28 = >99% (if not officially open)
And here is the likelihood of Diagon Alley being officially opened to the general public, using the same calendar:
May 4 – 10 = <1%
May 11 – 17 = <1%
May 18 – 24 = <5%
May 25 – 31 = <5%
June 1 – 7 = <5%
June 8 – 14 = 10%
June 15 – 21 = 80%
June 22 – 28 = 90%
June 29 – July 5 = >95%
The reader may deduce from these numbers that, yes, we are back to anticipating a Diagon Alley grand opening sometime during the last two weeks of June.
Reminder: We have not, cannot, and will never make any guarantees with regard to Diagon Alley soft openings or the grand opening date. At this point, you assume all risk making plans to attend them. Unless your travel plans are easily modified or refunded, we strongly recommend that you do not finalize anything until after Universal makes the official announcement for the Diagon Alley grand opening.
How can I be among the first to hear that Diagon Alley has soft opened?
We have dozens of fans visiting Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure each day (we love you, fans!). While we hope to be present the very first time Diagon Alley soft opens for the general public, we’re certain at least a few of our fans will be – they’ll let us know, and then we’ll let you know instantly via Twitter. We’ll also post updates on our site and elsewhere, but the very first news will come via Twitter.
Your journey is about to begin
If you’ve visited this article before, you can skip to our latest updates:
- King’s Cross Station and Hogwarts Express details revealed, updated March 14;
- Two Diagon Alley commercials released by Universal, published March 17;
- Our last construction update, published on March 18;
- NEW – TODAY Show appearance inside the Wizarding World canceled(?), published April 23.
Or you can use this table of contents to jump 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?
- 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)
- Latest news & construction updates (page 3)
- Extended photo gallery (page 3)
- Interactive map (page 3)
Now, let the journey 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.
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.
Continue to the next page to learn about this history of the Harry Potter expansion project and so much more