When I was 28 years old, my sister-in-law handed me Harry Potter & Sorcerer’s Stone and told me I HAD to read it. I looked at her like she was joking – a kids’ book? No thanks. Luckily, curiosity got the best of me and I ended up loving each and everyone of the books. J.K. Rowling did a masterful job of making Harry Potter’s world come to life for me thought her books. And Universal Orlando recreated that world masterfully.
I felt transformed when I stepped into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Island of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort just a few weeks ago. When I crossed through the gates into Hogsmeade and passed the engine of Hogwarts Express, I just stood there gaping. The details are amazing – shop windows are filled with treats from the books, stands sell pumpkin juice and butter beer and the employees are dressed perfectly.
The first ride we rode was Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey, where you are whisked around Hogwarts on a “broomstick”. I had never ridden a ride of such magnitude – it was outstanding. The ride hits you with every sense – you feel the heat from the dragon’s breath, the motion as you soar above the castle – this is a ride not to be missed.
My son had the opportunity to be picked for a wand at Ollivander’s Wand Shop. We were all amazed at how the various “wrong” wands messed up the shop – it was too fun.
And then I tried the butter beer – oh my – have you ever wanted to try something for YEARS and then have the experience be even better than what you imagined? This frothy drink tastes like a butterscotch candy. I sipped it as I walked around all the shop windows, admiring the Owlpost, Honeydukes, and Dervish & Banges – where you can pick up any gift for the Harry Potter fan.
Our experience at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was amazing – we honestly could have spent all day there. That said, with the highly anticipated opening of Diagon Alley this summer, I wanted to share with you all what is to be expected. Will it be just as good as Hogsmeade? Given Universal’s standards, I expect it will. Here are all the details I have received from Universal Orlando:
- Diagon Alley will be located within Universal Orlando’s second theme park, Universal Studios, and will create new experiences based on the signature areas of London, Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley.
- Discover the darker side of magic in Knockturn Alley, the darkest of dark places that features Borgin and Burkes – a shop specializing in the Dark Arts that will offer a wide variety of Dark objects, such as Death Eater masks, skulls, and other sinister items
- Explore some of Diagon Alley’s famous shops, including:
- Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a vibrant shop featuring novelty items, magical jokes, and toys inspired by the books and films that will amaze the mischievous child in everyone.
- Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, where guests will find a variety of wizardwear from Hogwarts school uniform ties, scarves and jumpers, to authentic wizard’s robes and character costume.
- Magical Menagerie, which features a collection of plush animals, such as owls and Hippogriffs.
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, where guests can grab wizarding essentials such as telescopes, binoculars, armillary spheres, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses.
- Quality Quidditch Supplies, offering a wide assortment of apparel and equipment including Quidditch sweaters, brooms, Golden Snitches, Bludgers, Bludger bats, Quaffles and more.
- Scribbulus, featuring authentic writing implements and products such as feather quills, ink and inkwells, bookmarks, journals, parchment paper, seals, stationery sets and postcards
- Experience groundbreaking new, multi-dimensional thrill rides, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts & Hogwarts Express
- Board the Hogwarts Express and journey between London’s King’s Cross Station (located in Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade Station (located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The journey will be filled with views of London and the British countryside – as well as a few surprises. Park-to-park admission is required.
- Transport from the Muggle world to the wizarding world as you pass through the brick wall at King’s Cross Station to arrive at Platform 9 ¾
- Sit in one of the train’s cabins with your family and friends and actually riding the Hogwarts Express – just as your favorite characters did in the Harry Potter films
- See Hagrid come alongside the train on his flying motorbike, Buckbeak the Hippogriff swoop gracefully over the black lake, the Weasley twins on brooms and up to their usual antics, the Knight Bus swerving through London traffic – and other special moments and surprises.
- Ride focuses on that iconic moment from the Harry Potter film series where Harry, Ron and Hermione break into one of the most guarded places in the wizarding world – Gringotts bank – to retrieve a magical object that will help defeat Lord Voldemort.
- Marvel at the 60-foot, fire-breathing Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank
- Tour Gringotts bank and pass through the marble hall where you’ll see goblins hard at work
- Race through a labyrinth of underground Gringotts vaults
- Encounter the villainous Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, as she attempts to send you to your doom
- Come face to face with He Who Must Not Be Named
What I love is hearing that Universal’s Creative team works closely with the Warner Bros. production team from the Harry Potter films to create Diagon Alley and the rides that will be there. The Creative team has gone to great lengths to ensure the experience is true to the books and films. Everything about the train to the shops is detailed and taken from the books and film….down to the Hogwarts Express whistle.
As much as I loved Hogsmeade, I know that I will feel the same about Diagon Alley. I love that there are masterful people that can take a book or a movie and bring you into the story and allow you to experience something you enjoyed so much, as I did the Harry Potter series. And of course, I am extremely grateful to my sister-in-law for introducing me to that “children’s book” years ago.
Disclosure: My family and I were provided admission to the Universal Orlando Resort. I was not paid for this article. My opinion is my own.