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.
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.
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?
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.