Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Preview, Part 3: The Review

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Destinations, Features, Orlando Parkhopper, Orlando Parks, Top Content, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios

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Published on June 20, 2014 at 4:00 am with 145 Comments

On July 8th, muggles will get to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Pottter – Diagon Alley at the Universal Orlando Resort. Those who make the trip are in for an astounding treat!  For the past few days we emersed ourselves in all the amazing attractions, restaurants and experiences that can be had at the Universal Orlando Resort.

Now that we have been to Diagon Alley, everything else pales in comparison. The new wizarding land is the absolute best thing at Universal Orlando Resort, or any other Florida park for that matter. This might just be the best theme park experience in the world.  So grab your broomstick, and your wand, and join me in the full review of Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort.


For the past two years, London has been rising along Universal’s lagoon with Diagon Alley brewing just behind this massive façade.  Now that construction has been completed, and the media party done, we can finally have a clear view of London with all of the beautiful buildings which make up this area.  With some great elements like Kreacher, and the Knight Bus, you’ll be tempted to linger here.









Knight Bus

Before guests even enter the Wizarding World, they can engage with some magical characters.  Out in front of London is the Knight Bus with an actor and a talking shrunken head.  This experience will intrigue and delight kids similarly to the Mystic Fountain at the Lost Continent, but for fans of the movies and books, you can now converse with one of the most colorful characters in the series.






Kingscross Station

One iconic part of the Harry Potter series is the journey from London to Hogsmeade by train on the Hogwarts Express.  Every attention to detail was made to make this location evoke the feeling of the one across the pond.






To enter the attraction you need your park hopper ticket.


A long, low-ceiling tunnel leads gives a subterranean feel.


Mock billboards throw out subtle jokes.


A larger area opens up to a switchback.


treats are available to buy, much like the vendors you would run into at the actual Kings Cross.


While Muggles might start off in the regular Kingscross Station, they eventually have to run through a wall in order to get to platform 9 3/4.  Universal has employed some great classic illusions to accomplish this effect in a fun and creative way that will have kids running through walls.  Check out the video of James running through the wall to get to the station.




Here we are!


Once on the station platform, you are assigned an area to wait for your cabin.  The train pulls in with steam and all. There is a real air of excitement as you and your party get ready to journey to Hogsmeade.

Hogwarts Express Journey to Hogsmeade

Once on board the Hogwarts Express, we were stunned by the attention to detail found at every possible location on the train.  Worn wood, and tired colors, convince that these trains have been in operation for decades. This IS the Hogwarts Express, it’s totally convincing.






Once boarded, guests sit in their cabin with a full sized window and translucent door and panels.  As the train takes off, the motion and experience feel authentic.  The story unfolding outside the window is amazing and you can see and hear wizards from the series walking by and talking in the hallways.  On the way to Hogsmeade you might encounter a Death Eater or two, but have no fear because Harry, Ron and Hermoine are in the corridor and can handle this.




There are truly amazing visuals on both sides of you and in cabin effects that add to the authenticity of the experience. You will get off at the Hogsmeade Station feeling like you actually took a steam engine trip to a remote village in Scottland.

Hogsmeade Station

Back where it all started at Hogsmeade. The train arrives at a much simpler station inside Islands of Adventure where guests disembark and can then go visit all the amazing offerings from the original Wizarding World: Hogwarts Castle, Dragon Challenge, the Flying Unicorn, and the shops at Hogsmeade.  When you are ready to head back to London, you scan your ticket and prepare to board the train again.






Hogwarts Express Journey to London
The return trip to London is a completely different experience.  While you are still riding in the comfortable cabins, you now have a new set of characters and things happening as you ride back.  There are some moments when you might truly believe Harry, Ron and Herminie are standing right outside your cabin door.










Entering Diagon Alley

In the book and movie, Diagon Alley is hidden from the Muggle World, so in order to get to Diagon Alley a brick wall had to open up.  Universal Creative has simulated this by having a brick wall that looks like it is in the midst of twisting, turning and moving, along with sound effects that help you to feel like it opened up just for you.





Yes folks, that’s real fire the dragon is breathing!



Once past this obstacle, you will need to be prepared to have your breath taken away.  The size and scale of Diagon Alley is probably one of the most shocking things you will feel once inside.  At the end of the street in front of you is Gringotts Bank, at the top of which is a giant fire breathing dragon whose roar will strike a primal fear into your heart.

Weasley’s Joke Shop

When you first enter Diagon Alley the shop that will catch your attention is the Weasley brother’s joke shop. There is an animated top hat above the window which is lifted on and off Fred’s (or is it George’s) head with a disappearing and reappearing rabbit underneath.  Inside the shop is a visual feast as there are so many moving elements. It is almost overwhelming. If you look to the ceiling you can see fireworks going off!  Universal took what was at Zonkos in Hogsmeade and turned it up to 11 in Diagon Alley.










Leaky Cauldron

Across from Weasley’s is the Leaky Cauldron, where guests can dine on some great English food and enjoy a nice butter beer. You’ll also find some new signature drinks such as Fishy Green Ale with Blueberry Fish Eggs, and the Tongue Tied Lemon Squash. Universal has once again elevated theme park dining with this establishment.






The meat pies are delicious.

The food is authentic English pub style








When Hogsmeade opened, one of the surprise hits was Olivander’s Wand shop, where guests could have a wand choose them.  The problem was this shop/show was so popular that it often led to waits exceeding a few hours. Universal has figured out a work around for this issue by moving the shop to Diagon Alley, where guests will now move much more quickly through the queue so they too can have a wand choose them.















Knockturn Alley

For guests wanting to practice some dark magic, you can take a stroll down Knockturn Alley where it is always night, and where trouble is around every corner.  Here guests can experience Borgin & Burkes, where wizards can acquire items for dark magic. This fun walk-through area (you might even think of it as an attraction of sorts like Disneyland’s castle walk-through) is a fantastic place to explore and adds depth to Diagon Alley.
















The Hopping Pot

Guests who are wishing to try out any of the new custom beers and drinks can head over to The Hopping Pot to grab a drink and enjoy it in the covered area while watching one of the new entertainment offerings.



Magical Menagerie

Probably the cutest, and most endearing new store is the Magical Menagerie, which is filled with animatronics and magical creatures of all types. This is a really fun store where you can get lots of different plush animals.










Hardcore Harry Potter fans will love this store. You can buy some really unique quills, stationary, and other interesting merchandise in this shop.





Escape From Gringotts let’s out in this shop and it’s a place where you can get all the gear you need to be a respectable Wizard.






Fountain of Fair Fortune

You can go inside of a nice pub and get yourself a butter beer or any one of the new signature Diagon Alley Drinks… Get that Fishey Green Ale with Blue Berry Fish Eggs you will love it!





Florean Forfescue’s Ice Cream Parlor

Probably the most speculated about venue, besides Gringotts, has been Florean’s Ice Cream Parlor.  Here they have brought some delicious flavors to life (tip: try the Butter Beer flavored Ice Cream – it’s fantastic).







At Eternelle’s, you can pick up a number of flavored potions that you can add to water.  These potions have Fruit Punch, Water Melon and Berry Flavors.






Large covered areas help cast the right mood for the land and protect guests from Orlando’s extreme weather.


Gringotts Money Exchange and Entertainment

Diagon Alley has a lot more entertainment offerings than Hogsmeade did when it opened.  The first is Gringotts Money Exchange, where guests can have a personal interaction with a Goblin and buy Gringotts Bank Notes, which are now accepted everywhere in the Wizarding World, and at Universal owned venues throughout the resort.







Outside Gringotts Bank

Now it is time to talk about the headlining attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s.  The exterior is the Gringotts Bank location with a fire-breathing Dragon on top.  During the Q&A with the creative talent at Universal, they said that adding the dragon to the top of Gringott’s was one of the most complex issues to figure out.  The architecture is surreal, and beautiful.

Gringotts Lockers

One thing they learned with the Forbidden Journey over at Hogsmeade was that the locker area can not be a bottle neck.  As incredible as that ride is, the bottle neck with the lockers has been a major issue.  With Escape from Gringotts they have made sure that isn’t issue again.






Gringotts Queue

Once you step inside Gringotts there is another jaw dropping moment where you instantly feel like you are in an alternate reality where Harry Potter is real!  I was overcome with emotion when I first stepped into the bank, it was stunning and overpowering.



All the single riders…


All the single riders.


In the queue, there are goblins working on bank statements and accounting. At the head of the queue is the goblin who is going to send you to get your Gringotts photo ID so you can open an account.  We are about to take a mind blowing journey.



These anamatronics really look alive.















Once you pass the goblins you go down to get a photo, you then proceed to the first preshow that uses an advance version of the glassless 3-D technology that is used in the Forbidden Journey queue, and in Disaster.

After that you are sent onto an elevator to go 9 miles below ground.  This isn’t your dad’s Hydrolator. These elevators have amazing glass roofs that allow you to see the miles of earth you passing by, along with some great comic and tense moments.

Escape from Gringotts the Ride

Sadly this is where we are going to be leaving you with some mystery.  During our event, while we were riding this brand new attraction (that non-team members had only been able to ride for less than 48 hours) shut down.  So we were only able to see 2 scenes. Without giving you any spoilers, the first two scenes we experienced were already the most mind blowing scenes on a theme park attraction I have ever ridden.

Now don’t take this shut down as a bad sign.  It is perfectly normal for new rides that are in “soft openings” or “technical rehearsals” to experience some challenges (even long after that for complex attractions such as Radiator Springs Racers or the Forbidden Journey), and a ride as amazing and complex as this one is going to have its fair share of bugs to work out.

My mind has been consumed with wanting to find out how it all ends!  But I am resisting spoilers, as I patiently wait to experience the ride from beginning to end.

Diagon Alley Facades

One thing you will notice when you are in Diagon Alley is how everywhere you look there is something to take in.  Every nook and cranny of this new land is hyper themed with a story to tell.  After the 16+ hours I spent just in this land alone, I still feel like I am missing large chunks of it.  Every shop and restaurant in this land is an attraction.  You can’t just think of these as places where you buy things, each of these places have amazing animatronics, gags, interactive elements and backstory, this is what sets Diagon Alley apart from anything else I’ve ever seen in a theme park.  It truly is escapism,





















Interactive Wands

One thing that we have to share is how much we loved the interactive wands.  When Hogsmeade opened in 2010 and people were waiting in line for Olivanders, I personally thought the wands were cute, but not really a must. But now the wands at the Wizarding World can function, and make magic in the lands, these wands are going to be flying off the shelves!

My inner 10 year old self was awakened, as I dashed about the land casting spells, making it rain, making trolls dance, stars shine, feathers float, and unlocking doors. Again… this was pure magic.

After following this project every week from the day JAWS closed to now watching this new world open, I had incredibly high expectations.  After hearing from some friends internally how they were blown away, I kept on ramping up my expectations.  I was worried that the bar I set would never be possible to hit.  I can honestly say that I was truly astounded when I first walked in.  I have never been so dumbfounded in all my life, and upon my second visit, that surreal other worldly feeling persisted.  This land is unmatched by any other themed space I’ve experienced. After having spent two long days in Diagon Alley, all I want to do is go back.

Does the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley live up to expectations? YES. Are you already checking your calendar and adjusting your travel plans?

I’ll of course have more for you from the Wizarding World soon. But Universal isn’t resting here. There are MANY huge new projects still to come from Universal Orlando. This is just the start folks. A really amazing start. We’ll be exploring more of Universal shortly.

If you’ve enjoyed this coverage, I’d really appreciate your sharing of this page and adding your comments below.

About Eric Davis

By day, Eric is in Marketing and Social Media. But on the weekends, he's a theme park addict. Eric is a frequent contributor to MiceChat's Orlando Parkhopper columns and tends to focus his efforts on what's new and what's news at Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

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  • danielz6

    Is the Dragon on gringotts an AA?

    • jcruise86

      You mean, unlike the WDW’s Yeti? ;)

      Every Universal employee working in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter should take a group, one-hour (minimum), fun, British accent course–to at least learn the dozen phrases they’ll use most often. New CMs “auditioning” to work there should see a short British accent video, then be asked to say a few phrases during their interview.

      CM’s in London should have one accent, and CM’s in Hogsmead should strive for northern accents. Even cooks and sweepers should take part in this.

      • jcruise86

        Dusty, is there a Micechatter-of-the-Month award Eric Davis can win?

      • He’s certainly earned such an award. I’ve heard that he’s already enrolled as a student at Hogwarts and has been having all sorts of amazing adventures.

      • Eric Davis

        Thank you for the kind words! It is truly my pleasure! It has been such an incredible journey watching this thing spring from the ground.

        Pictures, videos, words cannot describe how amazing this place is.

      • redrhino54

        How would you know if the Yeti works? Oh yeah, you must have read about it. Your pathetic. Oh, maybe you can make a pole about it…..lol

      • jcruise86


      • CaptainAction

        jcruise, I think the accent idea you have would be very fitting and add another layer of theming. Wish the castmembers could pull it off.

      • Marko50

        Yeah, well, the problem with this is there IS no British accent (or more properly, dialect). There are many different accents: London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc. Maybe a course in Movie British Accent would work.

      • jcruise86

        I’d even take some Dick Van Dyke quality London accents. I wouldn’t let Madonna or Keven Costner go near any British accent (see Costner’s Robin Hood), but I’d like to see him return to the Jungle Cruise.

  • michael darling

    This is fantastic theming. Makes you want to explore, and that’s a sign of great immersive design. (Not a fan of the franchise, so I wouldn’t get most of the references. But I don’t think I’d need to). The story seems to be very well told.

  • jcruise86

    Thank you, Eric, for an update worthy of this new land!
    We will go there before 2016.

    The Harry Potter books are so excellent that the entire series will be re-filmed within 30 years. Many details of the books couldn’t fit in the movies, and–especially as the series progressed–the screenwriter (s?) wisely took some liberties. There’s no point in doing it exactly the same, except to reach illiterates and (arguably worse) alliterates.

    Captain Action, I’m a fan, but just for fun, don’t mention Disney in your comments. The WDW apologists will think the world is ending. :)

    Congratulations, Universal! We’ll cross the country to reward your brave, ambitious risk-taking.

    • michael darling

      Contrary. I think the theme park world just got significantly better, and you’d most likely label me a ‘Disney apologist’. Fact of the matter is, this is great theming, and, I’m a grown man who is capable of appreciating anything done with excellence. I, for one, don’t have a compelling urge to make snide comments in every single post. Well done, Universal.

      • jcruise86

        A grown man, yet an aptly, self-described “darling” one. I resolve to be more mature like you, though snideness can be fun.

        Disney World used to inspire us to cross America (almost 20 cross-country trips from 1972 through circa 2001–with trip each year from ’72 through ’83–I started working at Disneyland in ’83), but now we’ll finally return to WDW because Universal Orlando has inspired us to visit Florida. Not that they felt they needed our $ since we’ve had Disneyland APs for 5 of the last 8 years, and since the world’s most crowded theme park, the Magic Kingdom, gets 17 million entrants a year.

        I actually can’t wait to return to WDW–the favorite place of my childhood. Iger should send Universal a 30-million or so gift each year.

    • CaptainAction

      Jcruise86, I’m trying…I’m tryyiing…but I HAVE to mention that this needs to be compared to the most recent offering by “they who should not be named” with the WORST use of forced perspective in New Fantasyland on the $25, 3 foot tall Beast Castle, and the $20 dollhouse of Rapunzel’s house on a 10 foot pole. Look at these recent offerings from different companies within 1 year of each other.

      Universal didn’t move the needle, they took it from “those who shall not be named”, and then moved it.

      “They who shall not be named” got handed their collective rumps.

      Cue the apologies…you know who you are…

      • Cory Gross

        Hey Cap… “Keep your money but stop complaining.”

      • Country Bear

        “They who shall not be named” – Very clever CaptainAction. I think you may have just started something. :)

      • CaptainAction

        Country Bear! Where you been? Traveling the world or something? Hope you’ve been well.
        Glad you’re back. Enjoy your posts.

      • Country Bear

        Hi Captain. Moved into a new house (what a massive undertaking) and my father passed on, so it’s been a pretty hairy couple of months. Should be back to normal now. Thanks for asking.

      • jcruise86

        Sorry about your dad, Country Bear.

      • CaptainAction

        Country Bear, I was afraid something may have been wrong. I hoped you were traveling the world on a cruise ship and were just taking a break from the computer.
        I’m sorry to read about the loss of your father. It’s a very hard thing to experience. I’m sorry for your loss.
        I just lost my dad 3 weeks ago. He always read his Bible first thing in the morning and was a believer. We believe he is in heaven but we miss him and it’s weird not to be able to talk with him by phone or drop by to see him.
        I’m 53 and I think I’ve entered the time of life where I’m going to be attending funerals like I used to attend weddings in my early 20′s. Liked the weddings better and there was cake :)
        Again I’m sorry but welcome back.
        Missed your posts.

      • Marko50

        C’mon, Cap! Weddings keep happening for younger folks and, since I know you have kids, they’ll be coming back (the weddings, not the kids…although…).

    • CaptainAction

      Yes, thank you Eric. What a great job you’ve done. I almost feel like I’ve visited the place!

  • Park Hopper

    I just purchased 10-day unrestricted access tickets to Universal, Islands of Adventure and Wet and Wild for $175.99 per person. I was only looking for 4-day tickets but they had this deal for the same price, so I hopped on it. And now I’m very glad I did. It looks like Universal may be getting a larger chunk of my vacation than I anticipated.

    Thanks for all the great photos. I can’t wait to see the place in person!

    • CaptainAction

      Wow, what a great deal! Congratulations!

      Wish I lived closer.

  • jcruise86

    Truly unswattable.

  • JCSkipr79

    We need to ACCEPT Disney is DONE

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Hopefully this will inspire good ol’ competition that used to make America so great before corporations blobbed into mini-USSRs.

      • BigBobxxx

        ^ Or, Disney could just cut back on hours and cast-members, increase prices and raise parking to $20 to make up for the revenue they’re going to lose to HP2? ROFL

    • Disney isn’t done by a long shot, but they did just get glove slapped by Universal.

    • WDWorldly

      Including DLR. Disney’s lack of innovation and shortsightedness are symptoms of a broader problem–its not just WDW.

      • Country Bear

        I’m interested in your perspective. Would you like to share more of where you’re coming from with your comment?

      • AaroniusPolonius

        I’m interested, too. Please elaborate.

    • CaptainAction

      One other very good observation about the Hogwarts Express and switching parks.

      It is much cooler and more realistic to ride a train to another distinct location. How cool is it to get on a train, enjoy a unique experience with the Potter characters both inside the train with you and outside the train and then come out in another completely different location!

      This is much cooler than riding a train which ends up 600 feet from where it began and you could have just walked over in 2 minutes.

      The two park pass argument is silly anyway because at this point everyone coming to Universal should be buying Annual Passes anyway :)

      • solarnole

        Disney did this when they opened Epcot in 1982. Tommowland and Future World are the same theme. Horizons is even the sequel to Carousel of Progress. The new park is connected by a monorail. Disney could had just expanded Tomorrowland to include Future World, they had lots of empty land back then but they forced guests to buy another day.

        No one knocked Disney for it. People were happy that they spent millions on state of the art attractions and transportation like what Universal is doing now.

        Universal is doing great if buying a park hopper is the biggest complaint. At least they are not trying to pass meet and greets as headline attractions.

      • redrhino54

        I wanted to see more about the H.E., so I checked out some videos on it. Theming looks great, and ill hold my opinion about the effects until I ride it myself. One video was from a chopper, and showed the trains in motion. If what was shown was in real time, it looks slow. Anyone know the how many each car holds?

      • Buffett Fan

        The only negative that could happen is the attraction may create a wait. If the wait time on the Express is 90-120 minutes, will guests skip the attraction and walk between the parks.
        This may not be bad on the London side with the elaborate theming, but could be a drag leaving IOA.
        Will be interesting to see if the hourly capacity can keep up with the demand.

  • LoveStallion

    “Every attention to detail was made to make this station evoke the feeling of the one across the pond.”

    Except in Britain, ATMs aren’t called “ATMs,” but I think we’ll let this one slide. :)

    Awesome photos and updates. I assume the roof in Diagon Alley in some places is just because of Florida Rain? It works pretty well, considering London has similar arcades, but if I can find an aesthetic quibble, it’d be that. It looks ever-so-slightly tacked on rather than a sensible part of the architecture.

    Hope to see this someday. I haven’t even been to Universal Florida ever.

    • THE1andonlyAUZ

      I think the roof is just over the “Carkitt Market” section of Diagon Alley. It’s something they designed specifically for this experience. This would be why it looks “tacked on” (and I agree it does look a bit out of place), however, I think it may have been designed that way.

      Either way, I’m very much looking forward to seeing this all in person at some point.

    • CaptainAction

      LoveStallion, are you in Europe? The reason I ask is because the dollar has been kept artificially low in value verses the pound and the euro.
      We have been to Europe three times and always have to be so careful with the dollars because of the lousy exchange rates.
      I guess you know that the pound goes twice as far in the USA. English folks have grand holidays here and us yanks have to watch every buck when in Europe.
      I’ve had friends from Europe tell us it’s less expensive to have a four star holiday here than a 2 star holiday at Disneyland Paris.
      Anyway, hope you make it to Florida sometime.

      • LoveStallion

        Nope. I’m in DC. I’ve lived in Europe a handful of times and went to grad school in Scotland. My only point was that ATMs are called “Cash Machines” over there, so that’s a small strike on the authenticity of King’s Cross, but it really does look great.

        Yeah, it’s typically $1.70/£1 nowadays, which is about where it was when I was there. Bear in mind that while the Brits do come over and find things to be cheap, their wages are still with respect to their currency, so overall, there’s not much difference.

        If you really want a kicker, go to Denmark or Norway. Holy hell. Enjoy your $15 McDonald’s meal.

    • Rebekkap

      Yeah they are called ATMs in Britain. http://www.postoffice.co.uk/atm-locator

  • toonaspie

    HOLY FLIPPING COWS!!! This is waaaaaaay more than I had expected to see in Diagon Alley that it’s crazy! It definitely is indeed Hogsmeade taken to the max.

    Wizarding World is pure brilliance in that even though the attractions are fews the shops and eateries are an attraction in themselves and the theming throughout more than makes up for it. It’s pretty clever. Universal is going to see an insane amount of cash pretty soon once more.

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  • Orlando71

    WOW this looks amazing. Now Disney will have to build Star Wars land sometime or risk being continually humiliated. Congrats to Universal for raising the bar and hopefully this will make Disney better too!

  • Cory Gross

    I freely admit that those are some great looking shoppes.

  • DuckyDelite

    Wow. Thank you again for another great update. I quickly scrolled through the pictures as I still can’t decide if I want to see spoilers before I get to experience it all in person, but even the quick peeks look amazing. I was blown away by Hogsmeade and it looks like Uni is not going to disappoint with Diagon Alley.

  • gboiler1

    Amazing! Will Olivander’s now be in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade?
    On Hogswart Express will the show be the same each time or will it change like Star Tours?
    I wonder if anyone will purchase single park tickets anymore!?

    • CaptainAction

      The new random trips are being saved for a different year. Gives something to lure new guest visits in the near future.
      The giant stage between London and MIB will become the Ministry of Magic also, if the very logical rumors hold true.

  • themur

    I miss Jaws but I guess this will do ;-)

    Congratulations Uni, Orlando and the theme park world is a better place.

  • martinjbell1986

    Wow. Can’t wait to go in January. Disney better step up their game.

    • CaptainAction

      January is one of our favorite times to visit. Got one kid in college now and one in high school and one in 6th grade. School schedules are all different so it’s really hard to work out the January trip. We always pulled them out of school but can’t do that with college now.
      We’ve always had great weather in January and the crowds are great.
      Great timing on your vacation!