Diagon Alley: Spoiler-free guide and grand opening details

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade & Diagon Alley.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade & Diagon Alley.

 

IT’S OFFICIAL: DIAGON ALLEY IS OPEN AS OF JULY 8

 

Greeting, and welcome to a very special article on our site.

For over two years, we’ve tracked the development of Diagon Alley from rumor to completion on these pages. But now that Diagon Alley is open, we need to move from the introductory information and speculation included here to the in-depth guides and vacation planning info featured throughout the OI Universal Center.

So we are in a state of transition.

You are welcome to read through this article, as much of the details are still very pertinent to Diagon Alley, but please be aware that this section will not include our most up-to-date vacation planning information. For that, we strongly recommend that you follow along on our Daily Updates page, where we are chronicling the creation and refinement of everything you need to know to plan your Diagon Alley visit.

I know it isn’t easy to have to jump around to find the latest information. Trust me, we’re doing everything we can to get tons of new information sorted and organized for you. I greatly appreciate your patience.

I have questions about Diagon Alley. Where can I get the best advice right now?

In the OI Forums, where our entire community is committed to helping each other plan amazing trips to Universal Orlando.

I love your site and your forums, but I just don’t have the time to plan every detail myself. Can you help?

Yes, we can. We’re honored to work with Jennifer Green of Destinations in Florida. She is the only travel professional endorsed by Orlando Informer, and she can help you plan your vacation to Universal, Disney, and more. Best of all, her services are completely free to you. Seriously. To get in touch, simply complete this form, or you can learn more in the OI Forums.

“Jennifer is the answer to a prayer – she has our vacation all organized and taken care of. She thought of things I hadn’t and took care of everything quickly and cheerfully. Now all we have to do is try to be patient waiting for the time to arrive. Have a Magical Day? Jennifer put the magic in my day!”

- Lisa, traveling to Orlando July 2014

 

Now that you’ve read our introduction, let’s get back to the contents of this article…

Table of contents:

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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.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.

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.

Set to open fully to the public on July 8, 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.

Muggle London revealed - June 9, 2014.

Muggle London revealed – June 9, 2014.

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.

Kreacher, seen looking out of a window at 12 Grimmauld Place.

Kreacher, seen looking out of a window at 12 Grimmauld Place.

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.

Muggle London revealed - June 9, 2014.

Muggle London revealed – June 9, 2014.

Muggle London revealed - June 9, 2014.

Muggle London revealed – June 9, 2014.

 

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.

Inside Diagon Alley.

Inside Diagon Alley.

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.

The Leaky Cauldron.

The Leaky Cauldron.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.

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.

Ollivander's Wand Shop.

Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

(For those curious, the Ollivander’s Wand Shop at Hogsmeade will remain, so yes, there will be an Ollivander’s at each park.)

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 featuring butterbeer ice cream, chocolate chili ice creams, and more.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor.

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, 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, Harry Potter and the Escape from 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 features a “multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey.”

Gringotts Bank ride building - December 31, 2012.

Gringotts Bank ride building – December 31, 2012. Note: This is just the building for the ride – the Gringotts queue has been built adjacent to this structure.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts - Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.

Escape from Gringotts is the 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 offers 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 dragon perched on top 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.”

Borgin and Burkes.

Borgin and Burkes.

 

Expanding the Wizarding World: The all-new creations

Perhaps the biggest surprise to those of us tracking this development since the beginning is the 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.

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 itself is a large, covered shopping space featuring live entertainment, including stage productions of two fables from The Tales of Beedle the Bard (“The Fountain of Fair Fourtune” and “The Tale of the Three Brothers”), and a live song-and-dance show featuring Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees.

 

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.

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.

King's Cross Station - Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.

King’s Cross Station – Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.

Hogsmeade Station - Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando.

Hogsmeade Station – Hogsmeade Village at Universal Orlando.

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.

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.

 

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

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