Last week Universal Orlando revealed the exciting details of what we can expect to find this summer at the new The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion. The press event was followed by a 3 day Celebration of Harry Potter, with a Harry Potter expo, Q&A’s with the cast, wand demonstrations, a party in Hogsmeade and more. Let’s take a look at the wizarding festivities as well as what’s happening at the Universal Orlando Resort.

A Celebration of Harry Potter

From January 23rd to the 26th, the Universal Orlando Resort hosted a Celebration of Harry Potter in the parks. Universal posted signs as you entered the park with their costuming guidelines, and then in the park they had schedules of events that spanned both parks.



Harry Potter Celebration Expo

In Sound Stage 33, the special events building where the old Ghost Busters show used to be, is where the expo was located.  Guests who did not purchase the special Potter vacation package were asked to queue outside. Standby lines stretched through the New York area full of Harry Potter fans wanting to get a glimpse at some props from the Harry Potter films and a set piece from the new Gringotts ride.





Inside the Expo, guests were treated to the Gringotts set that was used for the Webcast, where guests could pose in front of the vaults for a great photo op.




Guests could also wait in line for the Sorting Hat to sort them into a house. This was an extremely popular feature.



Around the expo there were some wand demonstrations, artwork, artists and a wall where you could share what Harry Potter means to you.  With the size of the crowds, the venue was a bit small.  Hopefully Universal takes the positive response from Harry Potter fans, and expands the offerings over the next few years to make this a much larger event (Something along the lines of what Star Wars weekends has become over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios).






Q&A With Harry Potter Cast Members

Throughout the weekend, guests were treated to special Question and Answer sessions with cast members from the Harry Potter films. Featured guests included Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), James Phelps (Fred Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood),  Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley).




The panelists took the time to answer questions from fans in the audience on various topics (life on the set, favorite memories of filming, challenges, etc).

Hogsmeade After Hours

Guests who purchased the vacation package were treated to an after hours event where they were presented with a short stage show. The Potter cast grouped together for a nice photo op. The Wizarding World was beautifully lit.







All in all, the Celebration of Harry Potter was a great event that we hope Universal Orlando will expand in the future once Diagon Alley opens.

Diagon Alley Update

This week Universal Orlando installed two preview windows into the walls at Diagon Alley, so guests can catch a glimpse of what is coming to this new land very soon. The finishing touches are being being added to the exterior facades now. It’s amazing to think back to January of last year when this was an empty lot and see it now with a nearly complete London facade.












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Hogsmeade Hogwarts Express Station

Over at Islands of Adventure, the Hogwarts Express station is entering the final stretch as the exterior is finished off and the ticket upgrade booths are built near the entrance to the station.


Starbucks Inside Islands of Adventure

The Starbucks is also getting ready to open in the Port of Entry area of Islands of Adventure.  We will hopefully have the timing of the opening soon.


CityWalk Updates

Over at CityWalk the the current construction projects are moving forward with amazing speed as Antojitos gets ready to open. Here’s what’s happening in the many construction areas:


The finishing touches have been added, the hundred year old cast iron bell has been installed, and the exterior areas are nearing completion.  It looks like Antojitos will be opening soon. We’ll be sure to let you know what we hear about an opening date.




CityWalk Studio Store

The old Studio Store sign is gone, the interior has been completely ripped out, and we are now waiting for construction to begin as they rebuild this store.



Vivo and CowFish

The location formerly known as Pastamore has been gutted as they prepare to build this area out a bit for CowFish to be added on the second story and Vivo on the first floor.



Starbucks and Coldstone

The exterior walls for Starbucks and Coldstone have been framed as construction really gets underway on the inside.



La Voz Kids

Universal Orlando recently welcomed “La Voz Kids,” a permanent production for Telemundo that is the Spanish language version of “The Voice,” but for kids. It is exciting to see permanent productions at Universal Orlando, and Sound Stage 24 has been given a nice paint job to represent what’s going on inside.


That warps up this week’s update.  So what did you think of the Celebration of Harry Potter, and what are you looking forward to most when Diagon Alley opens this summer?

Polar Plunge

This Saturday to raise money for the Special Olympics Aquatica (yes not Universal) will be holding a Polar Plunge.  Eric Davis from MiceChat will be representing, and has promised that if he raises over $500 he will take the Polar Plunge in a Prom Dress.  So Donate to the Polar Plunge NOW, and we will post pictures in next weeks article!

Now sit back, relax, and listen to the latest Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast with your hosts Lee, Tracey, Darren and Hunter as they take you inside Diagon Alley and discuss all the changes coming to Universal Orlando this year.

Direct Download | iTunes | Stitcher Radio

  • Kudos to Universal on not just doing a press event but offering something to the fans in the form of the Harry Potter celebration. I do think that there’s HUGE potential for them to offer this as a multi-weekend event in the future as Disney does with Star Wars. There are a lot of Potter fans would would make the pilgrimage!

  • Norman Gidney

    I am hoping that Universal Hollywood will hold similar events once the Wizarding World is finished out here. That would be a truly awesome experience to have the sorting hat put you into a house. GO SLYTHERIN!

  • Malin

    I also agree that the Harry Potter Celebration should be extended. A lot of potential regarding an event like this and it will be interesting to see where Universal take it in the future. Can’t wait for CowFish to open up it’s new location.

  • Country Bear

    Nice update Eric and thanks for all the pictures.

    Universal has a serious hit on its hands with Harry Potter and it looks like they are not wasting the opportunity to use it in every way that they can. The Diagon Alley construction continues to amaze me with all the detailed work. It’ll be interesting to see how they finish the backs of the buildings which are only facades at this point. I assume they will cover the backside or put covers in the windows to maintain the illusion of a full building.

    CityWalk is also moving along at a screaming pace. I suspect most of these renovations will be open by summer to accommodate the huge crowds that will be coming their way. Speaking of accommodate, is there any news on where Cabana Bay is at?

    Thanks for the great read.

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    Okay, I am a huge Disney fan but I think that what Universal is doing with Harry Potter is world-changing for theme parks. I love it. This is the best thing that could have happened to Disney, because the success of Harry Potter should get the Disney shareholders to start firing a lot of Disney executives. Once the market analysts start reporting to Wall Street that the key to Universal’s sure-to-be surge in profits is because of spending money to build elaborately detailed and expensive-looking additions with Diagon Alley, all the guys at Disney who have value engineered products for the last 10 years should be fired.

    Even better, Disney will be forced to build something similar to Diagon Alley with one of Disney’s fantasy properties. Maybe Oz, Wonderland, or Narnia. Or all three. Maybe it will finally get them to wake up and build the Star Wars Land that people have been wanting since the 1980s.

    The thing is, with Disney having something ridiculous like 30 million visitors a year at WDW (all four parks combined) there was no incentive for them to build anything epic. Universal chose to no longer be a distant third and to really up its quality. I love it. I have never been a Universal fan but I love Harry Potter and I hope and hope and hope that the success of Diagon Alley will make Universal take the rest of Lost Continent for a Potter Phase 3 around Hogsmeade, making that area even more elaborately themed and fixing all the sight line issues there.

    What a wonderful time to be a theme park fan. If you love Disney like me you need to be rooting for Universal to get ahead of Animal Kingdom and DHS in attendance. Even if it’s by 1,000 more people. If IOA and Universal’s original park beat two of Disney’s parks, then it’s came on. Disney’s shareholders will call for the heads of the current idiot executives and Disney will be forced to spend big to regain those top four spots in Orlando.

    I hope every day that Universal beats Disney in attendance at two of the parks. And I am a Disney fan saying this, but a fan who is so sick of the way the company has been resting on its old laurels for too long.

    • You are absolutely right. Harry Potter is very good for Disney in many ways:
      – many guests will come to Orlando this summer for Potter, spend just one or two days at Uni and the rest of their time at Disney.
      – overall, Potter is expected to grow the total number of theme park visitors, not just displace them from Disney.
      – Disney will need to meet the call. Eventually they will need to meet and beat the Universal high standard. You can’t be the number one creative entertainment company with a product that isn’t the very best. Overall, Disney is still tops in total entertainment offered, but on individual attractions. Universal has three of the best in the world with a 4th on the way. Disney is going to eventually meet that call. The Mine Train and perhaps even Avatar will not be enough.

      This is all very good news for fans. And not bad news for Disney either. It’s just another challenge they will need to step up to. 🙂

      • BradyNBradleysMom

        @Dusty —

        Can you (or anyone reading this) give us some insight on what you think the tipping point will be for Disney? Do you think it will be when IOA or Universal Studios has higher attendance than DAK and/or DHS and is getting close to EPCOT numbers? Or will the tipping point come before then?

        Based on what I read from you and other Disney experts, it really feels like in board meetings the Disney execs are cheering on Universal’s building boom because they see that what you said is true: people will come to see Potter and spend a day or two at Universal, but then hit the Disney parks too. So Universal spending all that money is really bringing people down to Orlando who wouldn’t have come otherwise…and Disney is getting more attendance numbers out of that then Universal is. Disney seems to be allowing its competitor to spend a ton of money that is directly leading to Disney getting an increase in attendance without having to spend a cent by Disney itself.

        I ran track in high school and have this vision in my mind. Disney is running in place at the finish line because Universal has been so far behind for so many years. Recently, Universal has spent a fortune playing catch-up…but it’s still several lengths of the track behind (and Disney thinks it will never catch up and be a real threat). The more Universal is allowed to make up ground and get closer to Disney, though, the more excitement from the spectators in the crowd…and the more money Disney makes off that excitement. So there Disney stands, jogging in place, while Universal makes up for the “good enough” attitude it had for all these years and finally adds world-class attractions to its two parks. Disney is cheering Universal, because Universal’s improvements make Orlando more desirable to visit in general, and that helps Disney.

        My question is, though…when will Disney get back in gear and stop running in place and cross the finish line itself? Will Universal ever get close enough to Disney in any metrics (attendance, merchandise, hotel rooms, other financials) to compel Disney to crack open Scrooge McDuck’s money bin and build something gobsmacking and amazing?

        And how long will Universal’s “spend $500 million per year on the parks” strategy last if IOA and Universal Studios don’t ever surpass DAK or DHS in attendance? Will Universal shareholders pull the plugs on the parks spending at some point?

  • EC82

    This looks MUCH more expansive and well-thought-out than “Star Wars Weekends,” which hasn’t really been updated or reconsidered in many years. I could imagine Universal making this into a bigger and bigger event. The strange thing is, I didn’t even KNOW about it until I read it here, after the fact. Seems to me they could do a much better job of reaching “fan” consumers the way ComicCon does.