Want to know everything that is happening at the Harry Potter expansion at Universal Orlando? Well, my friend, you just found the world’s largest single-page resource for this massive development. Read on and learn it all!
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
Raise your butterbeer and let’s toast, because on May 8, 2013, Universal Orlando made the official announcement:
Building on the global phenomenon that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced an expansion of historic proportion with the entirely new themed environment, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.
View/download the full resolution version of the concept art by clicking here.
Scheduled to open in 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.
Work on the new area is already underway. When complete, it will feature shops, a restaurant and an innovative, marquee attraction based on Gringotts bank – all directly inspired by the fiction and films.
To bring Diagon Alley and ‘London’ to life, Universal’s creative team is working closely with Warner Bros. and the production design team from the Harry Potter films – just as it did for Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.
“I’m so pleased that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has proved so popular to date, and I’m sure that the attention to detail in creating the new Diagon Alley area will make this an even better experience,” said J.K. Rowling.
“We are continuing the journey and adding an entirely new level of adventure,” said Tom Williams, Chairman of Universal Parks & Resorts. “And we are bringing the same drive, commitment, enthusiasm and innovation to this project as we did to the first.”
The adventure continues
On May 8 Universal also sent out an email “invitation” further confirming Iconic Diagon Alley shops, an immersive themed restaurant, and an innovative new attraction based on Gringotts bank. The invitation also confirms that a Park-to-Park admission ticket will be required to ride the Hogwarts Express between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure…
Diagon Alley: A brief history of the Wizarding World expansion
In December 2011 news broke that JAWS, perhaps the most iconic attraction at Universal Studios Florida, would be closed permanently. Despite the desperate pleas from longtime fans to keep the boat tour in operation, the ride and all of the Amity backlot were closed forever as night fell on January 2, 2012.
Very shortly after the construction walls went up, demolition began.
By the summer of 2012, all the existing buildings and infrastructure had been flattened to make way for an entirely new set of attractions.
From the very beginning rumors started that this work would spread the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from its immensely popular home at Islands of Adventure over to Universal Studios Florida. These rumors were largely fueled by Universal’s own admission in late 2011 that the Wizarding World in Orlando would undergo a “significant expansion” — although it is important to note that no other details were announced at the time.
So while we expected construction to start near the existing Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure (more on that later), on the official record the massive project at Universal Studios Florida remained unexplained. Months went by, and as we made our way through the rest of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the flatten area began to take shape. Here are three images to give you a time lapse effect:
By the end of spring 2013 it was acknowledged by hospitality insiders, theme park addicts, and practically anyone who did a little research that the project had to be a new Harry Potter land. Finally, on May 8, 2013, Universal made the official announcement, which we shared with you at the top of this page.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: Attractions & venues
So now that some details are official, let’s take a look at what we know for sure and what is still a rumor:
- King’s Cross Station and a Hogwarts Express – CONFIRMED
- Gringotts Bank attraction – CONFIRMED
- Diagon Alley – CONFIRMED
- Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes – CONFIRMED
- The Leaky Cauldron – CONFIRMED
- Ollivander’s Wand Shop (a larger version)
- Madam Milkin’s Robes for All Occasions
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment
- Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour
- Knockturn Alley
- Borgin and Burkes store of Dark magic
The area’s “marquee” attraction, as noted above, will be an indoor ride based on Gringotts Bank. Although it is a bit difficult to see, this image gives you a direct look down Diagon Alley (look for the construction workers in yellow jackets) with the Gringotts Bank entrance in the background (look for the yellow vertical poles):
It is believed that Gringotts Bank will combine thrill ride and dark ride elements, like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure, with the addition of 3D technology like that used in Transformers. However, Gringotts is rumored to offer a somewhat softer presentation, allowing the attraction to be more friendly toward youngsters who are unable to ride Forbidden Journey.
Finally, and perhaps most innovatively, an actual Hogwarts Express train is being built that will transport guests from the new “London” area inside Universal Studios Florida over to Hogsmeade Village at the original Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure. It is believed that, when riding the train between stations, guests will not see outside. Rather, guests will look out “windows” projecting new Harry Potter stories, giving the illusion of traveling from one destination to the other and having a few magical encounters.
The Hogwarts Express tracks have been spotted many times. Here is a photo taken by us from the Twister queue inside Universal Studios and another photo shared on Screamscape:
To view where we suspect the tracks are, click here to open our map, be sure to switch it to Satellite View, and zoom in on the blue line.
In addition to the expansion work at Universal Studios Florida, construction is also happening at Islands of Adventure. The IOA project is set in the space between Lost Continent and the current Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This area will eventually become the Hogsmeade Village station for the Hogwarts Express. In our best effort to keep our coverage organized, we have published a separate page chronicling the work over there.
Why would Universal do this?
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 Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As is often the case, there is a good chance you are reading this page — an developing an interest in Universal Orlando for the first time — because it is home to Harry Potter. Even though having “the boy who lived” at both Universal Orlando parks may seem like a bit too much for some guests, the move will inevitably result in more attendance and more profit for the resort. Setting the financial motives aside, there are 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.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: The layout
Now that you have an idea of the basics, let’s kick this up to expert level and talk about exactly where venues are going to be located in the Harry Potter expansion.
Here is a helpful description and aerial photo originally published on ThemeParkInsider:
The London waterfront path is to the lower left. The steel frame at the very bottom is Grimmauld Place, while the entrance to the new Harry Potter land will be through the gap between the white buildings just up and to the left of the Grimmauld Place framing.
The darker ground leading into the new land is the “main drag” of Diagon Alley, which ends at the entrance to Gringotts, which is that wood-topped facade under construction in the middle of the photo. There’s some empty space between that facade and the main Gringotts show building, which dominates the right side of the photo.
So if that’s where Diagon Alley is, then where will Knockturn Alley be? For this answer, we borrow an image from OrlandoUnited that was borrowed from ThemeParkInsider. Note that this is essentially the same aerial image as the one above, but the orientation is shifted to the USF lagoon is in the top-left of the photo.
Knockturn Alley should find its home in the green highlighted area. Since the space will be completely covered, it will be mighty popular during Orlando’s frequent summer showers — good for recruitment I suppose!
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: Opening date
As far as an opening date for the new Harry Potter land, don’t plan on experiencing these attractions until the second half of 2014. If you can’t wait until 2014, at least we will have Transformers: The Ride opening on June 20 this year!
News update – December 11, 2012
Big news came this week when the Daily Mail UK and The Sun UK reported that Warner Brothers was currently “secretly” filming scenes for Universal’s Potter Phase 2.0. The only name that has even been semi-officially attached to the project is Helena Bonham Carter, who played Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter universe, and that’s only because she was spotted.
Because the expansion of WWoHP will likely include at least two attractions involving film — the Gringotts Bank coaster and the Hogwarts Express — there’s reason to expect that we will see Carter and several of the other Potter characters throughout the new land.
News update – April 3, 2013
LeakyCon, a premier fan conference celebrating all aspects of the Harry Potter world, has announced that they will bring their much beloved event back to Orlando in 2014.
Besides the excitement of the conference returning to Orlando, this announcement is also noteworthy in that it seems to support the current rumored July 2014 opening date for the Harry Potter expansion, as LeakyCon took place during the week of July 13th in 2011.
The organizers haven’t released any details about the 2014 event, so we cannot even be sure it is scheduled for July. Nevertheless, it is another fascinating piece to the puzzle. Oh, and vacation planners, you are going to want to watch this one closely. If you are a fan of the conference, their 2014 event dates will be an incredible time to visit Universal Orlando. If you are not particularly interested in the conference, we’d recommend you choose other travel dates for visiting Universal and the Wizarding World expansion — because the place is going to be packed with Potter fans!
Construction update – May 1, 2013
Despite the incredible amount of buzz happening right now for Transformers, I’ve found a few minutes to publish another construction update for Harry Potter!
Here are three shots to give you an overview of the area, panning from left to right:
Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen. And don’t forget to check out our massive photo gallery below, which includes the 30 new images I shot this morning.
Now we’re finally starting to understand exactly how this whole area will be situated. On the left side should be the entrance to King’s Cross Station, which is fairly evident because of the archway. Behind King’s Cross Station will be the loading platform for the Hogwarts Express. Here are two shots:
The buildings to the right are rumored to be the facades of Leicester Square, the Leaky Cauldron, then Wyndham’s Theater. The final facade on the far end of the expansion area is said to be Grimmauld Place, home of the Black family in the Harry Potter stories.
Here are two photos: the top image shows the framework for Leicester Square and the Leaky Cauldron (tallest structure); the second image shows Wyndham’s Theatre and Grimmauld Place:
Thanks to Sean over at OrlandoUnited, we are able to present a rough mock up of what the waterfront area may look like when completed. Note that the angle of this image is set so the right end of the facades, Grimmauld Place, is closer to the camera:
These buildings will mask the rest of the Harry Potter expansion venues — including Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, and Gringotts Bank — so muggles throughout the rest of Universal Studios will not be able to see in. Likewise, once you are inside, you will be fully immersed, having no visual queues that are you anywhere other than the story of Harry Potter. This is very similar to the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter: when you are standing in Hogsmeade Village, you cannot see the rest of Island of Adventure.
Moving on, here’s the best new photo of I have what will one day be Diagon Alley. Draw a line from the closer bulldozer to the further bulldozer and that should take you straight down Diagon Alley and on to Gringotts Bank:
For Gringotts Bank, the image that follows shows the entrance very well. You can’t see the signature circular top unfortunately, but the rest of the entrance is quite distinct — look for the yellow vertical poles behind the front facades:
Last but not least, my new video. This doesn’t show anything that hasn’t already been described above. However, I like to include videos in my Harry Potter construction updates because they do a much better job of relaying proportions than still images can do.
Enjoy — and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you’d like!
News update – May 14, 2013
Today Universal sent out a survey to select guests asking many questions about the Diagon Alley project. In the survey it is stated that the area will open in the summer, fueling current rumors that we might be looking at a June opening. That seems early to me, as I’m more inclined to say the second half of 2013 — of course we’ll know more as time goes on. The survey also seems to confirm that Gringotts Bank will be a 3D experience, like the new Transformers in terms of visual technology.
If you’d like to see the survey and learn more about what was asked, click here to visit our blog post.
FYI: Rumors about this project and the other construction work at Universal Orlando come and go so quickly that it’s a challenge to track everything on this page. Lucky for all of us we publish a weekly rumor round-up column on our blog! If you’d like to catch up on the current speculation and theme park gossip, you can skip over to the latest rumor posts.
But for now, check out the complete photo gallery at the bottom of the page. It includes over 100 images documenting this construction project all the way back to the last day JAWS was open. And don’t forget about our page covering the Harry Potter expansion at Islands of Adventure.
Wizarding World expansion at USF – photo gallery
Click any image to view it full-screen. When the full-screen image is open, click to the right or use the right arrow on your keyboard to advance through the gallery.
May 1, 2013
March 27, 2013
March 9, 2013
February 8, 2013
December 31, 2012
December 14, 2012
November 13, 2012
September 27, 2012
August 31, 2012
July 23, 2012
March 18, 2012
January 3, 2012
January 2, 2012
Harry Potter expansion at USF – map
Click any marker to display the attraction or venue name. To scroll or zoom, use the controls on the top-left of the map. You may also switch to different map views by using the buttons on the top-right of the map.
View OI’s map to Universal Studios Florida in a larger map