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

Tagged: , ,

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.

London

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.

IMG_2827

IMG_3417

IMG_3416

IMG_2825

 

IMG_2834

IMG_3405

IMG_3407

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.

IMG_2830

IMG_3419

IMG_3422

IMG_2832

IMG_3427

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.

IMG_3245

IMG_3247

IMG_3248

IMG_3250

IMG_3252

To enter the attraction you need your park hopper ticket.

IMG_3254

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

IMG_3255

Mock billboards throw out subtle jokes.

IMG_3257

A larger area opens up to a switchback.

IMG_3259

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

IMG_3260

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.

IMG_3265

IMG_3263

IMG_3268

Here we are!

IMG_3270

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.

IMG_3295

IMG_3300

IMG_3301

IMG_3308

IMG_3312

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.

IMG_3313

IMG_3316

IMG_3323

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.

IMG_3368

IMG_3363

IMG_3357

IMG_3354

IMG_3346

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.

IMG_3374

IMG_3387

IMG_3376

IMG_3380

IMG_3382

IMG_3384

IMG_3393

IMG_3399

IMG_3401

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.

IMG_2838

IMG_2990

IMG_2992

IMG_2996

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

IMG_2997

IMG_2999

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.

IMG_3213

IMG_3189

IMG_2844

IMG_2846

IMG_3198

IMG_3199

IMG_3200

IMG_3201

IMG_3203

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.

IMG_3214

IMG_3218

IMG_3220

IMG_3221

IMG_3223

The meat pies are delicious.

The food is authentic English pub style

IMG_3230

IMG_3234

IMG_3235

IMG_3238

IMG_3239

IMG_3242

Olivanders

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.

IMG_3079

IMG_3081

IMG_3082

IMG_3084

IMG_3085

IMG_3432

IMG_3436

IMG_3441

IMG_3446

IMG_3449

IMG_3452

IMG_3457

IMG_3460

IMG_3467

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.

IMG_3001

IMG_3003

IMG_3007

IMG_3010

IMG_3014

IMG_3016

IMG_3020

IMG_3022

IMG_3024

IMG_3025

IMG_3029

IMG_3030

IMG_3036

IMG_3038

IMG_3040

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.

IMG_2968

IMG_2970

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.

IMG_3059

IMG_3062

IMG_3063

IMG_3065

IMG_3067

IMG_3069

IMG_3074

IMG_3076

Scribbulous

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

IMG_3099

IMG_3101

IMG_3104

Wisacres

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.

IMG_3103

IMG_3097

IMG_3094

IMG_2922

IMG_3095

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!

IMG_2891

IMG_2893

IMG_2895

IMG_2897

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).

 

IMG_2881

IMG_2884

IMG_2888

IMG_2889

Eternelle’s

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.

IMG_2935

IMG_2937

IMG_2939

IMG_2941

IMG_2957

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

IMG_2959

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.

IMG_2944

IMG_2948

IMG_2950

IMG_2952

IMG_2954

IMG_2956

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.

IMG_2872

IMG_3087

IMG_3089

IMG_3090

IMG_3185

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.

IMG_3109

IMG_3117

All the single riders…

IMG_3118

All the single riders.

IMG_3116

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.

IMG_3171

IMG_3168

These anamatronics really look alive.

IMG_3163

IMG_3162

IMG_3158

IMG_3156

IMG_3153

IMG_3138

IMG_3147

IMG_3144

IMG_3143

IMG_3140

IMG_3133

IMG_3131

IMG_3130

IMG_3126

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,

IMG_2899

IMG_2901

IMG_2903

IMG_2917

IMG_2926

IMG_2928

IMG_2930

IMG_2934

IMG_2966

IMG_2971

IMG_2972

IMG_2974

IMG_2975

IMG_2976

IMG_2977

IMG_2981

IMG_2982

IMG_2983

IMG_2985

IMG_2987

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.

Browse Archived Articles by

  • 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

        Ouch.

      • 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.

  • Pingback: E! Celebrates Harry Potter with LIVE FROM THE RED CARPET: Diagon Alley … – Broadway World | Newssplash.net()

  • 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!

  • KENfromOC

    YES THIS IS IMPRESSIVE! Very cool! Uni has moved the bar for sure and Disney should, and I think will, make note of that.
    However the difference FOR ME is that over the years I have gone from Orange County, CA to Orange County, FL for one reason: to vacation at Disney World, I wouldn’t at this point do so for Universal. Basically what I am saying is if Disney World was not in the Orlando area, I would not be going there just because of Uni., or SeaWorld or LEGOLAND.
    Sure, if I lived with a few hundred miles, a 6-8 hour drive, yes I would take a specific trip for Universal – But not a cross-country flight.
    To be honest, I live in an area where themeparks abound and can get media passes to them all (and yet I have not been to Uni Hollywood for over 15 years). The only “draw” for me in central Florida is Disney World, enough to make a trip out of it. Everything else would be a side trip if we could fit it in.

    I have to ask the other commentators here – Where do you live? How long of a trip would you take just for Universal? If all of you are living closer to Orlando, then that changes the dynamic. How many of you who live a days-flight away would be taking a specific trip just for Harry Potter? This is not a “challenge” to you all, I am really curious.
    In all my comments I have said where I live and why I am going to Disney again. What about you?

    • TheBig2na

      You are bang on Ken. This blows my mind and in the past if I was going on a cruise i would do a day or two at UO because the prices were much better than WDW, but if I had a choice it would be WDW. Will I make a specific trip for this? I don’t know. If I didn’t have young kids, absolutely I would, or if my kids were both over the age of 8 and enjoyed rides like Gringott’s or the Hulk. This is the most impressive thing I have ever seen in the theme park world or in any kind of re-creation of books or history.

      I think the answer to your question is going to be very personal and based on where people are in life.

    • WDWorldly

      Locals respond to new theme park attractions quicker than tourists, I think, because its easier to get there, as you said. I know a lot of tourists who still aren’t interested in visiting Universal because there aren’t enough family-friendly attractions, there’s a lot less to do overall, getting there if you’re based in WDW is kind of inconvenient, and the best one — it’s not “Disney” — whatever that means.

    • Melonballer

      I live in Washington State. I went to Universal Orlando and WDW in 2012. I have an offer to join family at WDW later this year, but have no interest. I will go again someday, but I am much more interested in returning to Disneyland. Now if someone wanted me to join them for a few days at Universal, I would go. Also some local friends of mine have been to Universal Orlando at least twice over the last 10 years and have not visited WDW when there. I imagine there will not be too many people says Universal only here on a Disney related site. This might be a more interesting question over on a non-Disney focused site like Theme Park Review.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Interesting to note that both Theme Park Review and Theme Park Insider are foaming at the mouth (in a good way) over this expansion, with Theme Park Insider going so far as to note that “To call this a theme park land diminishes it, for Diagon Alley exceeds anything ever before carrying that label.”

        As I noted in another thread, I think the vacation market in Orlando is vastly different than other tourists sites around the country, in that for a long time, the sole purpose of going to Orlando in the first place was to go to Disney World.

        WDW has capitalized on that by creating a multi-day experience, a modern Catskills for the long-term vacation visitor. It just doesn’t make financial sense to not buy a multi-day pass, even if you’re brand agnostic.

        And they’re also Disney, the power brand, the beloved Haus of Maus, so a ton of folk will gravitate towards their parks just because they’re “Disney” and the rest is “not Disney.”

        Taken together (the historical visitation pattern, the financial ‘deal’ on a multi-day pass and the Disney love,) this gives WDW a massive competitive edge in the market, so much so that they can open a theme park with minimal rides and attractions and outsell the competition (DAK, DHS,) or they can close up entire sections, floors and areas of their parks and still get more than 10 million visitors (Epcot.)

        Indeed, it’s this competitive advantage that rankles critics of Disney so very much, and it enables the corporation to either delay, defund or ignore investment in their parks at WDW.

        Contrast that situation with DCA, for example, which was massively rejected by the visitors to Anaheim’s offerings. Unless the company cares about the mindshare (as in losing the ‘innovation in theme excellence’ banner,) and the people keep going to WDW in record numbers, they won’t pony up the cash to invest in their parks (with Epcot, in my opinion, being the most divested at this point.)

        Hence the idea that if you want Disney to get back in the game, you’ve got to not go there. Attendance should be a reward for a job well done, not an expectation. But, clearly, I’m in the minority, as WDW posted ever increasing attendance numbers.

        So, no. I don’t think many people will choose ‘just Universal’ at present, although I suspect more of them are then ever have before.

      • solarnole

        I know lots of people that only go to Universal because they have kids older then 5 that don’t care about meeting characters or going on slow rides. Puls Universal does not lock you in like Disney. You can easily cross the street to International drive.

        Most people that skip Disney for Universal are not only going to Orlando they are also visiting Tampa or Miami. As a native Floridian I know lots of people that do this.

        People that don’t live here like to claim that Disney is the only draw in Florida but it’s far from the case.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Solarnole,

        I was born, raised, educated and started my adulthood in Florida. Miami, specifically. I’m well aware of Florida’s vast vacation offerings, and that quite a few people don’t merely equate Florida with WDW.

        I was noting that WDW’s visitation paradigm seems to be the multi-day visit, and that the integrated resort model that they offer to their visitors and their repeat visitors gives the property a decided advantage over its competitors in the marketplace.

        …and really, before WDW, there was little reason to visit Orlando in the first place.

    • Country Bear

      Hi Ken,
      I live in Western Canada and it would be (and is) a huge financial commitment to visit Florida (more than twice the cost of California for us). I have to plan the Florida trips well in advance because of dollars, Disney reservation policies, etc. I have booked trips to California as little as six weeks out to see specific attractions when they opened such as Earthquake (USH – yes I’m that old!), T2-3D (USH), Splash Mountain (DLR), Carsland (DLR), Several Coasters (SFMM). I don’t stay in Disneyland owned Hotels because I don’t make that kind of money (I question who does?). When planning for Florida I have always split the trip into 2 parts: Disney (staying on property in several resorts) and The Rest of Florida, where we stay in an offsite hotel to not waste money at Disney while we tour other attractions in the state. This “split” plan has worked pretty well for us for decades now. We are heading back to California in a couple of months, but will be heading back to Florida next year. Only we will likely not be staying at a Disney World hotel this time. opting to stay offsite for our Disney components (we used to stay 12 days at a Disney resort with full dining plan, etc) but there doesn’t seem to be anything calling us to do that anymore. We’ll still visit Disney and likely spend 6 days at their parks (that’s down from 12). However, for the other part we will now be staying at one of Universals hotels to take full advantage of their onsite options to enjoy their resort which feels a lot easier to manage than what WDW has been of late. We are planning the trip to Florida BECAUSE OF Harry Potter and Diagon Alley. It is so appetizing to me that we want to experience it as soon as we can afford it. I’m a huge Disney fan and have proven that with my spending in the past. But Universal is doing exactly what I crave – new E Ticket attractions. Disney (bless their soul) has not put one in since Everest (which I also planned a trip for just to see it). Any park/resort who is going to DEMAND I visit by putting in the sweets I crave, is going to get my money. Universal had some of it already (and I happily gave it), but now they are getting a LOT more. And that money shifted from Disney.

      I love all attractions and try to see as many of them as I can fit in when I visit (don’t despair Seaworld/Busch/Gaterland), but Universal is doing what Disney used to do – build new E Ticket attractions and experiences. Tit for tat – you spend money on what I want and I’ll spend money on what you want. Seems like a fair trade to me.

      I do not have children except for the one inside of me :). We normally travel as a family of 2 – 4 adults.

      Short answer – I do travel to theme parks from far away because of new attractions.

      • CaptainAction

        Country Bear, the best rates we have found at Universal are with the annual passes. It’s worth it, usually to buy one, at least for the hotel, food, and store discounts.
        The Stay More Save More rate is close behind that.
        We never thought we would stay at Portofino, a Universal resort, but by staying just a few times and joining their Loew’s First Club, which is free, the benefits stack up great. Free room gifts, $100 at check in to use at the resort restaurants, the free Express Pass, and a free upgrade to a 900 sq ft suite if we plan ahead right. This suite has two full baths also.
        We can pull off the suite for less than two rooms at Pop Century. We have three kids so we need more than one room.
        If there are just two of you Royal Pacific is really cool too. Have you stayed there before?
        Did I tell you anything you didn’t already know? Hope so.

    • Ravjay12

      We’re in Kentucky and WDW wasn’t even considered for our Orlando vacation. Even though it’s cheaper to go to WDW, we’ll be going to Uni, IOA, and Sea World. Disney has nothing new we haven’t or care to see this time around. Hope that changes soon because we really like Disney

    • Kenny Loggins

      Living in SoCal and having the DLR a short drive away, the Diagon Alley expansion is the ONLY reason I just booked a trip to Orlando. I’ve been wanting to visit Universal out there for some time, and seeing this review and a few others pushed me over the edge.

      Now, will I visit WDW? Of course, but only because I have a premium AP and it’s not much more to upgrade to premier. I won’t be staying at WDW though, would much rather give my money to Universal.

    • danielz6

      I live in CA, and I absolutely WOULD make the trip just to see Diagon alley. I know how good potter 1.0 was and i’m sure this is equal to that, or even better. Of course I’d do other things in Fl too like beaches and other theme parks.

      • KENfromOC

        Thank you to all who replied! Great honest and diverse answers from everyone. I am sure one day we will go to Uni Orlando, unless Uni Hollywood gets a Potter area just as good soon.
        To be honest, if I did not have a 7-1/2 year old girl who has grown up at Disneyland, and the fact my sister and nephews from San Francisco will also be there (planning their trip before us) and can afford a huge Disney trip at this time without charging it, we would not be going either. It just all fell into place.
        And next year it will probably be the Aulani in Hawaii for our 10th anniversary.
        So we will see!
        But those hot dogs at City Walk are calling me!

    • CaptainAction

      Ken, I think this makes sense. Tell me what you think.
      Most folks are always going to hit Magic Kingdom for a day or two. After that though, imagine being at Disney Studios doing the same things you’ve done for the last 12 years.
      It’s easy to imagine that you would be having a better time doing new things at Universal.
      Same thing goes for being at Animal Kingdom – don’t you think Universal would be the better choice here too?
      Epcot, same thing for us. We like Epcot best out of these 3 parks but the last time we went we felt like we paid $500 for our family to ride Mission Space (which the wife and I can’t ride) and Test Track and shop the countries. The rest of the park is just the same stuff we’ve done for over a decade. So again, Universal is more fun and we love all the new stuff.
      Hard for us to justify Disney Studios, Animal Kingdom, or Epcot as better than Universal now.
      Thoughts?
      I could see many new visitors going to Universal and IOA for 3 days and hitting Magic Kingdom on a couple of mornings which aren’t magic mornings for WDW resort guests.
      Going to take a while for the uninformed to reach this conclusion and catch up with the informed though.
      Going to take a lot of marketing by Universal, another gate, and some time.
      l

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Captain,

        I think the strategy of Universal Orlando is based on Harry Potter’s 1.0 and 2.0 drawing visitors to their resort, and then going to explore all of the rest of the stuff to do there.

        People budget a day to go and see Potter, and then they walk around the parks and notice everything else. They may not know the nerdy stuff that we all do (like that basically everything at USF has been churned over in the last decade and is nearly an entirely new or renovated park at this point, or that nothing at IOA is older than 15 years old,) and they may not like the franchises/brands/IPs with the fervor that they like Potter, but there’s no ‘deal mall’ space or aspect to UO.

        One of the things that I really appreciate about Universal as a theme park operator is that they really decided way back in 1999 to not be another “added day after Disney” park, and that they went about achieving that goal via massive attraction and infrastructural development. It’s like they are trying to overcome inertia in the market by basically making it impossible to pass up all that’s going on there.

        I still think it’s too early for them to open a third gate. I’d really like for them to keep the churn going at their existing two parks, and get to the point where basically everything has been renovated or is a new, premium experience…

        …and that the parks are basically busting out at the seams with attractions…

        …so that there’s no choice BUT to open a third park because they’ve filled in every nook, cranny and square inch of space at their existing parks with super-awesome greatness.

        One of the downsides to WDW from a theme park fan standpoint is that they open new parks before the existing ones get to that ‘busting at the seams’ place. The new parks are generally underdeveloped on Day One, and the attraction money that could have gone to the existing parks goes into developing the new one.

        Epcot is a prime example of this, going from basically 1987 to 1997 without anything added, renovated or renewed, all because the development money went into opening Disney-MGM and in getting that park up to speed (ish.)

        So…long story long…I hope that Universal Orlando “gets it right,” and, in a way, follows the Disneyland model versus the WDW model, where the former has so much to do in a thematically excellent environment, that they basically ran out of space and HAD to open a second gate (integrated, multi-day resort ambitions aside, of course.)

  • doppio

    WOW!! Looks like we will finally book that first trip to Florida. Excellent job Universal.

  • thebear

    Btw… anyone check out Jimmy Fallon from Orlando this week? He was hilarious, as usual. Had some funny theme park jokes. Especially liked the one about people who wear a pancho on water rides.

    • CaptainAction

      The Miami Vice opening was hilarious. Did you see that part?

      • thebear

        Yes, it was awesome. Higgins riding a wand into the wall. Getting their wands picked out. His joke about drinking in the park and needing help getting off the roller coaster, err… bench. It was a great week. He was funny like always and it was a great way to introduce the resort and the changes to the whole country.

  • TOONager

    Great update, I can’t wait to experience this myself!

    Out of curiosity, were you able to find any homages to Jaws anywhere in Diagon Alley?

    • BlahBlahson

      From following Eric’s and Behind the Thrill’s facebook, I’m 100 percent certain I saw a post about there being great white mouth bones in one of the shop windows, probably in knockturn alley.

  • TheBig2na

    I have not read the books. I thought the movies were alright…Wizards and such aren’t my thing… but the Wizarding world blew me away. this makes the wizarding World look like a side of the road carnival. WOW. I have loved the Universal parks since my first trip in 1990. When I saw IOA I was blown away again. I could never understand why that park didn’t take off. This is the best of the best bar none. And I am a huge Huge Huge Disney guy and always will be. I have never felt the need to compare the two resorts and probably never will as my trips always include all 6 parks. Far and away this is ridiculous and makes me want to actually watch the movies again. It also makes me want to sneak in a trip this fall instead of waiting until next year. Whether you love or hate Universal or Disney or Six Flags, this is top drawer stuff. I really want to swear when I look at this, but in all the right ways.

  • daveyjones

    i’ve never seen the harry potter movies, so i can’t speak to the accuracy of the theming, but wow. this is truly impressive thematic design work.

  • Country Bear

    I guess EPIC is really the word that has to be used here.

    Thanks Eric for your usual awesome reporting. I totally understand your comment of being emotionally overwhelmed when you experience something so fantastic and I look forward to having that same experience. It is my understanding that when we attach emotions to an experience, we remember it for the rest of our lives. I think a lot of people are going to remember this.
    Congratulations Universal Creative!

    Eric, I know you don’t want to spoil it, but are you planning on discussing Escape from Gringots any further once you experience the whole thing? It obviously precedes any other theme park experience you’ve described to this point, so I wouldn’t mind hearing a little more about the que area before load, your impressions (or level of surprise) of the attraction itself, as well as ride length, etc. Also, did you have different experiences on your Hogwarts train ride when you repeated it?

    Thanks again for your wonderful coverage on this very exciting topic. Many of us are living it vicariously through you till we can get there.

    • Country Bear

      Sorry, one more question.

      Does anyone know who is doing Universals AA’s now? They look to be of the highest quality.

  • Zorro825

    Mind=BLOWN!!!! I am seriously considering a vacation to Orlando now!!! Might have to scrimp and pinch pennies all summer, but it will be worth it!! Thank you so much for this report Eric!!! You ROCK!!!

  • CreepyMonkey

    It really IS epic…the queue itself is exciting and amazing. There are so many fun little details involved; I don’t want to give spoilers, but let’s just say, the queue itself is extremely interesting to explore and experience, even more so than any other ride I’ve seen at any theme park, including previous Universal offerings.

  • Chernabog

    Holy schnikes! This looks utterly jaw-dropping, and there are more amazing things coming to USF in the pipeline.

    Meanwhile, back at Disneyland there are new safety railings, and at WDW there’s a new kiddie coaster with Avatarland (zzzzzzzz……) on the way in (two? three?) years. Come on Disney, let’s step up your game!

    • CaptainAction

      I just don’t understand how to not compare this to the old leader of theme parks.

      This just blows away anything done before, and Hogsmead blew away everything before this.

      Universal raised the bar on itself with this!

      Universal is raising the bar beyond what ANYONE has done before, FOR the SECOND time, in 3 YEARS!

      Who is not amazed by this?

      • AaroniusPolonius

        And it’s such a pithy complaint. Disney is the center of the theme park universe. It’s like comparing luxury sports sedans and not ever mentioning BMW.

        As for who is not amazed by this…take a guess.

      • solarnole

        Universal is selling game changing Telsas while Disney is hawking recalled Cadillacs that you pay more for based on name and history not current quality.

  • CreepyMonkey

    ALSO, don’t forget, the bank area with all the amazing interactive goblins is also a part of the queue. So that’s how you START your queue experience. It’s not all that amazing but it is over top cool. I felt like such a nerd, noticing all the little details and cool things. Wish I’d had more time to explore it.

  • ayalexander

    ok… I HAVE to go and see this. This looks freakin awesome. It actually looks like you stepped into the movies!

  • Klutch

    A British pub serving high quality, delicious food? Clearly, this is NOT authentic. Authentic would be poor to mediocre food with warm bitter and no ice available for anything.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Funny post, Klutch, but as the former Chairman of The Pub Club at Richmond College (Kensington branch) in London, I must defend London pubs. Many are beautiful inside with some of the best beer in the world, and often delicious food. And many of the patrons are English, so the company is good too.

      I’ve twice suggested that ALL employees in the WW of HP speak with British accents. Paying attention to this would make the area even more amazing, especially if there were a variety of accents. Better yet, fill the Harry Potter with British workers!

      Yes, I’m a big time Anglophile!

      • Klutch

        Of course, you’re right, jcruise86. ‘Twas all in fun.

        I was, however, most disappointed with the couter service fish & chips I bought in downtown London. Apparently, I chose the only lousy fish window in London!

        Teaching the cast British accents sounds nice. Unfortunately, few things are more awful than a BAD British accent and I fear that’s what we’d actually get.

      • BigBobxxx

        Missing the mashed cauliflower and boiled steak, huh?

        Eric’s food pictures — taken from actual food that was served to the guests — are absolutely amazing!
        Dining Plan? Pfft…

      • LoveStallion

        Heh. Amusing. I won’t defend all British food, but when I lived in Scotland I was able to enjoy the fine world of deep fried Mars bars. So strange. So awful.

        I think the biggest perk of being in Britain is the abundance of awesome Indian food. That’s not as easy to come by in the States.

    • blondiemouse72

      And replace the pies with bad chicken curry

  • Imagineer45

    What’s really amazing is that Diagon Alley only cost about $256 million to build, and they did it in two years. NFL at MK was almost half a million and took 3 years and doesn’t even compare to Diagon Alley. Disney really has to pick up it’d game and learn to build quality attractions cheaper and quicker.

    • Klutch

      Was it actually half a Billion?

      • AaroniusPolonius

        …because half a million for all of New Fantasyland seems like the deal of the century! :p

  • AaroniusPolonius

    OK, wow.

    I knew Diagon Alley was going to be excellent, but I didn’t think it would be such a banner game changer in thematic excellence.

    Not being a massive Harry Potter fan (but not being such a turd that I can’t appreciate amazing theme park design and attractions…you know who you are,) it looks truly stunning, like an entire world unto itself. The lobby at Gringott’s is pure magic. The level of detail all around the area is layered and authentic and real. It looks like a place that you want to explore.

    I have a couple of nits. The first is Hogwarts Express, and it’s minor. The train is always going to ‘back out’ of Hogsmeade and ‘back into’ Diagon/London, correct? If you’re waiting in line, you’d see this, and won’t it be a little weird to see the train ‘depart’ backwards?

    The second is the number of shops, restaurants and such. Yes, I understand that Diagon Alley is a commercial center in the PotterVerse, so there’s some thematic warrant and justification here, but if we’re going to take Disney to task for placing an emphasis on shops, restaurants and retail over attractions, you can’t just ‘wave a wand’ over the idea that Diagon Alley has a ton of non-attractions in the land.

    Now, having said that, if they ARE (both Disney and Universal) going to place a focus on retail in their theme parks, I truly appreciate the Universal approach, where the offerings are really specific and integrated into the land itself, rather than slapping a new name over a joint that sells franchised burgers. I love that they’ve made the mall component of Potter 1 and 2.0, as well as the Simpsons via Springfield, really unique and distinct by selling singular stuff in either ‘land.’ I especially LOVE that you buy an ice cream and you get a non-park-generic holder for the ice cream. It’s those little details that go a long way.

    Incidentally, this is something that Disney used to do en masse at WDW, where there was a much larger variety of unique, thematically appropriate places to eat, so it’s not as if the Big Dawg doesn’t know HOW to do this. Indeed, Epcot is defined by this very experience.

    In any case, I’m impressed.

    Since IOA opened, Universal has really been in the game, and really pushing their own envelope as to what they can do and how far they can go.

    Since Comcast, they’ve been well-funded and expansively minded, not appearing to settle in terms of quality nor being a “fifth or sixth day” to Diz up the street. Hopefully they’ll find massive success with this expansion. They deserve it. Just WOW.

  • redrhino54

    Great report and pics, as everything looks amazing ! Lots to see, and different types of shops to nose around in. Only thing that im bummed about, is only one real ride. Will more HP based rides be built in the future? Be seeing it in a few weeks.

    • CaptainAction

      Red, the Hogwarts Train is an E Ticket and different in each direction.

  • BigBobxxx

    But, where are all the plush dolls and “Universal Parks” merchandise that everyone craves? ROFL

  • thebear

    Everything looks cool and everyone is excited but I still don’t really know anything about the main ride 🙁
    Apparently Jimmy Fallon and the tonight show group went on it and he was blown away. I’ve stayed at the Universal Orlando Resort before. If the new ride lives up to the hype I might have to stay there again next visit.

  • disneytom

    Diagon Alley is “one small step for Universal Studios Florida, and one giant leap for theme park kind.” I mean seriously, wow, this new area is jaw-droppingly cool and I am now more giddy than ever for my upcoming visit in November. I’m attending the D23 attraction rewind at the Contemporary but, to be honest, Diagon Alley is what I’m most looking forward to out of that Orlando visit.

    Congratulations and kudos to Comcast/Universal for:

    1.) Finally getting your act together and realizing that if you invest in a quality product offering and are sincere about doing so you will be recognized and rewarded for your efforts.

    2.) For building yet another top-tier, world-class attraction in record time and with an attention to detail that is mind boggling. I haven’t seen this much positive buzz since the accolades poured in for Tokyo DisneySea – even the original EPCOT Center wasn’t this well received and, truthfully, neither was Cars Land (and I think Cars Land rocks).

    3.) Providing ongoing respect to those of us who take our theme parks and vacation dollars very seriously. For this respect we will reward you in kind with purchases of park hoppers, wands, butter beer, yummy ice cream and other trinkets and treasures.

    In summary, thanks. Hopefully other parks will see how your efforts have paid off and this will be a wake-up call that they are leaving money on the table because they are catering to certain demographics and not others. I’m sure once the analysts on Wall Street weigh in on this new expansion and its impact to the Uni bottom line then they’ll probably take turns at pulling the mouse’s tail and that will finally be a catalyst for them to start building attractions of substance at WDW (their mature asset in Florida). Of course, if you measure growth and quality by Disney Vacation Club resort construction, well, then Mickey is traveling at warp speed – “Engage Ensign Crusher!”.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ DisneyTom, excellent post! Thank you!

  • fnord

    Celebrate me home!

  • mickeyandme67

    Well, I’m waiting for some actual non fan-boy reviews. The gushing here about made me sort of sick to my stomach. Wait until it is open to the public and experience it with the paying and un-washed, then review it. It may be “all that and a bag of crisps”, but this was sort of embarrassing.

    • CreepyMonkey

      Well I’m certainly not a fan boy and I thought it was amazing. The theming, detail and attention to fan experience is even better than what they produced with Hogsmeade. I haven’t seen anything that impressed me this much since Indiana Jones opened in Disneyland.

      By the way, its easy to express your opinion without sounding like a douchey troll.

      • michael darling

        But you just did. Don’t need to make comments like that when someone is merely expressing an observation.

      • CreepyMonkey

        Hey Michael Darling, not sure you understand the definition of a troll (or a douchebag for that matter) – for the record, In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.

        Using language like “fan boy review”, “sick to my stomach” and “this was sort of embarrassing” all fit that definition. My calling a spade a spade doesn’t.

        If mickeyandme67 had really meant to just express an opinion then it could have been phrased much more politely. I might have said, “I’m not sure I trust the neutrality of this review Eric; it seems you’re too close to the matter for a subjective view on it. I think I’ll withhold my opinion until I see someone reviewing it that has seen it with the summer crowds.”

        See? Expressed an opinion without being an asshat. But thanks for chiming in.

      • Zero56

        *Looks at Username*

        *Laughs historically at the fanboy comment.*

      • jcruise86

        “Objective,” CreepyMonkey. This from the king of typos. (Me.)

        So where does the name “CreepyMonkey” come from? And “RedRhino”? Or “DustySage”?

        That thread would be interesting thread to me: “Why did you pick your Micechat name?”

        But I digress. . .

      • CreepyMonkey

        Ha ha ha, you’re right of course, I meant objective. Dumb…lol.

        Creepy Monkey comes from me, actually. I used to be a member of TotalFark.com, and another members username was SockMonkeyHolocaust (another curious user name) and I remember thinking, quite randomly, “human beings are really just kind of creepy hairless monkeys…” and so the name was born. From then on out I just kind of used it for everything. So there you go.

      • jcruise86

        Thanks! That changes the origin segment of the CreepyMonkey graphic novel I’ve begun. 🙂 (We’ll split the film rights.)

      • Marko50

        Um, calling a spade a spade does not get you a free pass to calling someone a douchey troll. You lose.

    • CreepyMonkey

      By the way, I didn’t pay to get in, but I did enjoy it when it was very crowded the night of the red carpet event and it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of it in the least.

    • CaptainAction

      Mickeyandme67, what would you compare this to at WDW?
      Hogsmead was already more immersive and better themed than anything at WDW.
      Universal raised the bar above WDW.
      Now London and Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley are better themed than Hogsmeade.
      Universal raised the bar on itself and double raised the bar over WDW.
      Forbidden Journey from Hogsmead side, is unique as a ride and a system.
      Gringots same thing.
      Hogwarts train is unique too. Yes, it’s like Star Tours but it has as many interactive elements going on inside the train with characters, etc. and it takes you to another separate location.
      My argument for the train taking you to another park is that it would be crummy to take you to a location just 4 blocks away which your friends could walk over to and meet you while you’re riding. It’s cool and more realistic to be taken to another separate location.

      • mickeyandme67

        Oh guys, I didn’t mean to make anyone upset. The uber glowing review just made me uncomfortable. The free junkets and courting of reviews is a slipperly-slope when it comes to journalism, internet or not. The paying public won’t get the free Blue Man Show, the free food, the welcome from the CEO of Universal and the ability to experience the area in a non-crowded, scripted presentation.

        I am sure the themed shops are great and the rides better than most of what anyone in the theme park business is doing. I’m glad Universal is making the most out of the Harry Potter property. It was a fantastically themed series of movies and their ability to copy the look, bring their own touches to the merchandising and such should be commended. I’m looking forward to going and seeing it for myself.

        I just wanted to mention that junkets are a tricky journalistic mine field and one has to be very careful where one steps.

        Congrats to Universal. I’ll be there this Fall.

  • BrerJon

    How does it compare to DisneySea? Looks almost on a similar level of theming and attention to quality.

    • CreepyMonkey

      I’d say it was right there as far as my knowledge goes. Frankly, DisneySea is amazing from all accounts. I’ve not had the pleasure of going myself but have read a lot of reviews and trip reports and I’d have to say it is either level with or extremely close in overall attention to detail and theme according to what I’ve read of DisneySea.

      Let’s just say that for a domestic company to put such detail and attention into guest experience is a pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I plan on going back and taking my family, where likely I will buy interactive wands for them etc. etc.

  • jcruise86

    This reminds me of Space Mountain opening at WDW in the mid 1970s. Disney had ads for it in the MW and I felt like I HAD to see it. Same with EPCOT.

    I think the Disneyland Resort has been fantastic since its 50th in 2005, so it’s been hard to justify going to WDW with Disneyland about 30 miles away, but now we will finally go back to Orlando. I imagine the crowds will be horrendous in July and August of 2014 for the new Wizarding World, and some bugs will be worked out, so we’ll wait till next summer.

    I wonder if a bunch of Universal designers and engineers are now flying to Japan to help with their new Wizarding World opening this summer, and if they’ll then head to Universal Hollywood.

    Are those potions new? I think they’ll be a hit–especially in California. Universal should open a chain of potions shops around the country to compete with GNC. 🙂

  • Tielo

    I was sad when Universal Orlando announced Jaws would leave, it was a fun ride.
    Now only a few years later and a whole land has emerged and from what I have seen and read it’s even a step (or 10) above the already excellent Hogsmead at IOA.
    Our annual passes will be bought as soon as we land in Orlando for our 2 month vacation this winter. I’m looking forward for the many new rides and experiences Universal the last 3 years.
    Thanks for your great work Eric for reviewing this new addition in an already beautiful movie theme park.

    • jcruise86

      Please post a trip report, Tielo! 🙂
      I’m, sadly, all about vicarious for another year.
      If I had more money and free time, I’d be in Orlando now, and in late Sept. for Hollywood Horror Nights, or whatever Universal Orlando calls their reportedly best-in-the-country Halloween event.

  • tooncity

    Clearly, Disney has lost all of its magic. Disney runs off of nostalgia of eras that are long gone. The company still needs to prop-up old Walt’s bones to make a buck. Sad.

    Disney could NEVER have built this kind of attraction. Immersive, beyond immersive. Disney has NOTHING compared to these guys. It’ll be a pleasure to watch Disney to try and catch-up.
    I’m out in CA, and I can’t wait to see the numbers change for Datedland when Uni Hollywood really kicks in. Disney’s penny pinching, with weak results will come home to roost. If Disney had only done things right from the beginning, they wouldn’t have to play catch-up.

    Oh, to the folks who claim that the Disney is different now, from the Eisner years, are just flat out wrong. Bob Iger is a CLONE of Michael Eisner. The big difference is, he’s more SLICKER and polished then Eisner. He’s cheap, gets huge bonus for every bad investment he’s made.

    Disney is Dead, boring and old. Uni is New, fresh, inventive and just a better deal for the money spent.

    • Ravjay12

      Let’s just hope Universal’s success will prompt Disney to respond. I still hope Avatar will be spectacular addition to Animal Kingdom. To me, Avatar looks great! There are three more Avatar films, three more Star Wars films, and of course Marvel. They have all the great franchises, they just need to step up and show that they still have it. They are capable of making great theme environments such as the new Fantasyland and Cars Land, they just need to get some momentum going in their attractions.

      • CreepyMonkey

        Personally I’d like to see Disney step up and utilize Star Wars as a “land”, because it has almost unlimited potential for diverse “experiences”. The only thing I question is, out of all the StarWars or Avatar scenes in the movies, what is iconic and interesting enough to put this level of detail into?

        With Star Wars I suppose you could do Mos Eisley. Or would they choose to do something from the first three films? If so, that would be a tough choice as there is nothing that stands out for me.

        TWWoHP in Orlando has utilized the most iconic experiences of the characters and brought them to life. What could you do with SW or Avatar?

      • AaroniusPolonius

        RavJay12, I think the issue with WDW is that they’ve spent such a long period of time letting their parks calcify and not keeping them current or full of attractions, that they need to do a LOT of work to get them up to speed.

        Here’s an example:
        At MK, WDW’s most “complete” theme park, go take a ride on the WEDWay PeopleMover. When you curve around the Carousel of Progress building (itself not updated since the 1980s,) look closely at the ‘edge’ there, where the ‘New Tomorrowland’ theme (1994) wasn’t extended out to the rest of the building. Then, as you glide towards the Pixar-dominated building, you’ll pass a ghetto of unused space. It’s very much like a Dead Mall, where a dated or failing anchor doesn’t attract or encourage other stuff in the immediate area to be lively, profitable, enjoyable.

        And this is in the most visited theme park in the world.

        Here’s another:
        In Epcot (prior to FastPass+,) they used to go and hand out ‘FastPasses’ for the 3-D movie over at the Imagination Pavilion in front of either Test Track or Mission: SPACE. Now, leaving aside the quality of the stuff to do there and the age of said stuff, there’s an entire section of that entire pavilion that’s been closed and off limits for years. YEARS. (I could go on for days about Epcot, really.)

        And this is in one of the top five most visited theme parks in the country.

        So,,,it’s not just Avatar or Star Wars or whatever they decide to do. It’s that they have a LOT of these Dead Mall spaces/aspects to their four theme parks…spaces that have either never been developed or have simply just closed up shop. It’s almost like they have to work on several medium-to-large projects in all of their parks at the same time.

        Or, to put this another way, even if they build a Star Wars “land” at DHS, the COP-Dead-Mall will still exist at MK, the closures will still exist at Epcot, and so on.

        On the plus side, at the very least, this gives them a lot of space with which to work!

    • AaroniusPolonius

      I strongly disagree regarding Iger being a clone of Eisner.

      Eisner, for all his many faults, was a very ambitious, risk-taking CEO at Disney. All of the times where he cheaped out and held his chips were the result of his making big bets that sometimes didn’t pay off.

      Iger is much more steady and calculated. You can basically set his action by a watch: measured, but significant investment in the theme parks where attendance needs a boost (so, not WDW…yet,) and the purchase of companies that hold either great creative talent or great intellectual properties.

      • CaptainAction

        Hey Aaronius, I don’t think I know the WDW execs like you guys do, but I think Eisner did all the vertical integration of the hotels, some of which I appreciate.
        Iger really seems to be in a class unto himself.
        The holes you correctly pointed out of dead spaces at all the parks, the lack of building out more space for the crowded guests, lack of unique anything, etc.
        He shouldn’t get props for refurbishments as any park must perform maintenance.
        Universal has integrated the food at Hogsmead and Springfield, and now Diagon Alley.
        Universal is raising the bar on itself because nothing at any park in the USA is themed as well as Hogsmead.
        Interesting times to watch Universal take up the mantle of innovator and unique guest experiences from WDW.
        If Universal gets close to park attendance of AK, DS, or Epcot, after a full year of Potter, Transformers, Despicable Me, Springfield, Cabana Bay, King Kong, etc. that will be hung around Iger’s head like a laurel. I will laugh my rump off.
        Universal shouldn’t stand a chance of this and the odds are in WDW’s favor of course – the sweeter things will be if they get close.

    • jcruise86

      Tooncity, I don’t think Disney has lost ALL its magic. The Disneyland Resort is still magical. (Based on at least 80 trips over the last 8 years) and I got to go on a Disney Cruise to Alaska in 2013, and I’ve never had a better Disney experience–not at WDW in the 70s (EVERY summer in the 70s), not at Tokyo Disneyland (pre-Disney Sea), and not at the Disneyland Resort during or since the great comeback its made since the 50th Anniversary.

      Although I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan, I could still imagine Disney outdoing Universal.

      I bash WDW
      (as RedRhino correctly points out, without having gone there since circa 2001 or 2002, though I went there at least 16 different years before that),
      but despite my Potter excitement, I see Universal foremost as a means of kicking WDW off its butt.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Agreed, Jcruise86. Part of the frustration with Disney at WDW is that they COULD offer a DisneySea experience to its guests. They CHOOSE not to.

      • jcruise86

        But maybe Disney will be like the Celtics, Lakers, and Packers. Rise from a mediocrity that its younger fans aren’t even aware of.

        Walt built the Haunted Mansion entrance shell at Disneyland in ’63, then got distracted by the ’64 World’s Fair, Mary Poppins, planning Disney World, and death; and that attraction didn’t open till 1969. So maybe Iger is doing something great in Shanghai and will focus back on Walt Disney World soon.

        The Magic KIngdom’s world record 17-million visits every year would inspire me to raise admission and parking prices for that one park, and try to make the other three WDW parks worthy of each getting 16 million vis (& expect) its dramatically and steadily increasing attendance #s–since the first WWoHP opened in IOA–will continue.

      • jcruise86

        ^ ^ Speaking of typos, I think I accidentally deleted part of the message above. “Vis” should be visitors. THEN there were a few words about Universal. I guess that post will be my Magnificent Ambersons, unfinished symphony, Last Tycoon or Smile album.

        Good night, y’all.

  • quizkid8279

    The number of typographical mistakes in this article is frankly embarrassing.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Especially since we pay so much for for these frequent, detailed updates, and the update team members are paid so much. I had a typo (its should be it’s) above, so I’m just really grateful that the great Eric Davis (and Andy, Fishbulb, Kevin, etc.) is doing such a great job for us.

      Maybe if you send a message to the author soon after it’s posted listing the errors, the typos could be corrected.

  • Jabroniville

    WOW- I am VERY impressed. I was expecting good, but THIS… I mean, it’s only two rides and a bunch of shops, but that’s amazing use of the space they had. they’re really catching up to WDW (which still has more stuff OVERALL, but has changed relatively little, so I can imagine locals finding it much more interesting), and I hope Disney steps it up just as much, even if they still dominate the market like they always do.

    I’m not crazy about Avatarland, so hopefully the next thing will be huge.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ I wasn’t crazy about Carsland at DCA . . . till it opened, that is. 🙂

  • jcruise86

    CNN.com had a post about this that I liked. I’ll add the link below. For now, I liked this part of it:

    “Perhaps the most talked-about food item is butterbeer ice cream, served at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.

    There are live shows throughout the day. ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ features a troupe of four from the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts. The lively performers retell two of the famed tales of Beedle the Bard, a 15th-century author of wizarding fairy tales. The other show is a lively musical performance featured in the Potter movies.”

  • jcruise86

    So, we love the shops, the look of the Leaky Cauldron bar and a dozen other details.

    Now, how is the Gringott’s RIDE itself?

    I’m curious what will be better: this new Harry Potter expansion,
    or the Paris section and Ratatouille attraction at Disney Studios?

    Only partly to be annoying, I think I’ll start a poll we’re currently all unqualified to answer.

    Diagon Alley/Hogwarts Express at the WWoHP in U. Orlando
    vs.
    DCA’s Carsland
    vs.
    Ratatioulle’s attraction & Parisland at Disneyland Paris’ Studios
    vs.
    The new Vizio sound bar I’ve added to my almost-big screen TV

    To vote you can’t actually have experienced any of these areas, but go just by your gut reaction based on Micechat photos, as I ALWAYS do.

    • CreepyMonkey

      When I was on Gringotts it was experiencing many technical difficulties. Once we got on the ride we went through scene one and scene two and the ride broke down; we subsequently had to be evacuated off the ride, so I never finished it.

      HOWEVER…what I saw of both of those scenes was amazing. The queue is detailed and amazing, and from what I saw of the actual ride it is too.

  • Pingback: Diagon Alley! | PSBcreative.()

  • danielz6

    Haha Jcruise, sound bar all the way! No but seriously I think diagon alley is a whole level above Carsland and ratattouille. Considering that both rides use technology or present the technology in a way that’s never been done before, this is a big deal.

    • jcruise86

      The only solution is for Micechat to send at least 30 of us on a first-class tour of every Disney & Universal Resort. (Previous similar suggestions have been ignored.)

  • wmatzner

    Even though I am a huge Disney fan, I am looking forward to seeing Harry Potter at Universal when I go back to WDW in mid July. Diagon Alley has finally enticed me to see Universal Orlando.

    I think that you all should compare the Disneyland Resort to Universal Orlando. Disney has done a much better job with redo of California Adventure and all the upgrades to Disneyland, that has NOT been done at WDW. Almost like DL is the showcase and WDW a stepchild.

  • Marko50

    I was looking forward to planning a trip to UOR – really, really looking forward – until I went to their site and found out what I could ride.

    Universal Studios Florida®

    Shrek 4-D
    Terminator 2® : 3-D
    Animal Actors On Location!™
    A Day in the Park with Barney™
    Curious George Goes to TownSM
    Fievel’s Playland® (except the waterslide)

    Universal’s Islands of Adventure®

    The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad®
    Camp Jurassic® (except Pteranodon Flyers®)

    Yep, there’s so many rides I CAN’T ride that they found it easier to list what I could. You see, I use an oxygen tank.

    Color me muy disappointed.

  • Aotphks

    WOW!! This new area of Harry Potter looks phenomenal!! Makes me want to start planning a family trip to Orlando. But among all the praise, I have to ask a question. Is Universal Florida taking steps to improve the rest of their park to this luxurious standard? Because the last time we visited, we were not that impressed with their studios park. It seemed dated and run down in some parts. I am however intrigued by the comments made here about this Harry Potter land being the best themed section in the world in a themed park and so forth.. but better than Tokyo Disney Sea as a whole THEMED park experience? Doubtful. Maybe because the quality of most theme parks in Orlando appear to be sketchy, this Harry Potter land seems better than most?. Still what I’ve seen in the pictures here looks great. They did a good job it seems. I guess I will have to watch those Harry Potter films to get the full idea of the land. I think Disney World should take notice.

  • connerd

    Any idea what the next addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter may be? I assume they will add something in IOA since Diagonal Alley is brand new.

  • DisneyPhreak

    It’s late for this question but I haven’t seen it addressed: Was Disney ever interested or in the running for the rights to using Harry Potter in their theme parks? From the first time I heard that there was going to be a Wizarding World of Harry Potter I wondered why Disney wasn’t adding it to their parks. What a missed opportunity. I just don’t think Avatar, even with additional movies coming out, can compare to the popularity of Harry Potter with people of all ages.

Share2K
Tweet
+112
Pin1
Stumble