Diagon Alley Officially Opens and CityWalk Update at the Universal Orlando Resort

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Orlando Parkhopper, Universal Orlando

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Published on July 08, 2014 at 3:00 am with 19 Comments

July 8th, 2014 marks the official public grand opening of The Wizarding World: Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort.

Diagon Alley Opens

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In the days leading up to the grand opening, Universal was soft opening the land, trying to get a grasp on capacity, and how long people on average spent in the land.  I know for myself personally, there is never enough time inside Diagon Alley. On the day of this photo shoot, I planned on 30 minutes in the land, and ended up being there over 2 1/2 hours.  The people watching is one of the most enjoyable things, as you see people dumbfounded, and delighted by why they are experiencing. Truly magical.

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Outside Diagon Alley, queues and barricades have been set up for the massive crowds that will descend on the Universal Orlando Resort.

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Diagon Alley is stunning.  Once you walk inside, the immersion is complete and you are no longer in Florida. . . you are now in the Wizarding World.

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Now that regular day guests are getting to see Diagon Alley, it is fascinating to see how people wait for the Dragon to breath fire, and then cheer ecstatically, and scream with fear as the Dragon Roars and shoots a fireball into the sky.

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The entertainment offerings in Diagon Alley are a bit more robust and accessible for the casual guest, who might not be the biggest Harry Potter fan, but might just want to listen to some good live music.

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Once again!  A FIRE BREATHING DRAGON! Sorry . . . I just can’t get enough of this!!!

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The Hogwarts Express is running with amazing efficiency, and I was amazed by the giddy reaction of guests to the Platform 9 3/4 effect.  Pure magic.

BreadBox Opens

With the opening of Diagon Alley comes the completion of the final CityWalk refresh projects.  BreadBox opened this past week, with simple sandwiches made with top of the line ingredients.  

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 I would equate BreadBox with Earl of Sandwhich at Downtown Disney.  It is delicious, fresh, tastes homemade, and is affordable.  I believe this will be my goto restaurant from now on at CityWalk unless I’m looking for something a bit more extravagant.

World Famous Hot Dogs Opens

Across from Antojitos, World Famous Hot Dogs has now opened and is serving guests the most famous hotdogs from America’s Baseball parks.

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That wraps up this week’s update, and we will be back next week hopefully with a full review of Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, which opens today (July 8th, 2014).

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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19 Comments

Comments for Diagon Alley Officially Opens and CityWalk Update at the Universal Orlando Resort are now closed.

  1. This looks fantastic! Congrats to Universal on what should be a truly impressive theme park experience.

    And yet this series of photos also reminds me what a shame it is that this has to be in Florida with that miserable climate out there; hot, rainy, sticky, and oppressive.

  2. Thanks for the update, Eric!

    Gringotts.

    Westsider, think of the Florida heat, humidity and thunderstorms
    like snow at a ski resort. You wouldn’t want to live in the stuff,
    but it can make for an adventurous week.
    Bonus: taking your kids to Florida in July or August–for those discounted hotel rooms and for having almost all of the rides open for the summer crowds–might decrease the chances that your kids will want to move away from our Southern California climate. (Though my mom did voluntarily move from Anaheim to Milwaukee as a adult.)

    Again, Gringotts. Need Gringott’s details. Please.

    • ^ ^ aN adult

  3. How does the Hogwarts Express work? Do they give you a ticket with a return time, or do you have to wait there the whole time?
    Thanks

  4. I was able to see it yesterday and will say it is stunning and so detailed it is a giant success in my opinion. The hogwarts express is a great little attraction yes you wait in line like any other ride but so far it has been very reasonable but the true opening has not happened yet either so who knows if that will continue. I really lovedthe experience and it is a great way to travel between the two parks. Hoping to get to ride Gringots tomorrow.

  5. Does HE only run one train back and forth or do they have two trains that pass each other each way?

  6. @LoveStallion
    There are 2 trains that ride in opposite directions and leave at exact the same time. They pass each other somewhere in the middle.

    • Yeah, I see a fuzzy area on Google Maps behind Mummy that looks to be the passing section. Good. Makes sense.

    • According to most reports, there is only one train.

      • Edit: just found an article that says two trains pointing the same way which is odd.

      • No, it makes sense. They don’t have a turntable or anything. The train from Hogsmeade to Kings Cross runs with the engine in the back. So all engines will face Hogsmeade at all times.

  7. Cant wait for the escape from Gringotts ride POV!! and my next trip back to UNi/IOA!! The area looks fun….

  8. i’ve never seen any of these harry potter movies, but the theming here looks pretty good.

  9. I’m so looking forward to going and experiencing this for myself!!!

  10. So exciting. I’ll be there in 3 weeks… it will be my first time in Orlando where I skip Disney completely. Was contemplating a short half-day trip to experience the Dwarfs coaster, but with all of the details in DA I don’t think I’ll be able to pull myself away.

    Also… eagerly awaiting a Gringotts review… wish Micechat had a little more coverage today of the opening. I get that its a Disney site, but I can’t recall something this exciting happening in Orlando for a long time.

  11. For anyone looking for info about gringotts…I luckily rode three times today, once was a breakdown during ride.

    1. The crowd control was completely planned out from parking to gates of diagon. Well managed through there. However, it did have some serious issues once the crowds got into diagon and literally the entire crowd was rushing gringotts/the lockers and completely ignoring the rest of the area at the beginning. Wait times surged from. 15-300+ with ridiculous speed.

    2. Longest wait outside area was 2.5 hours, return tickets for the area started issuing midday. Longest wait for hexpress was about 75 from studios…IOA was light crowds all day. Longest gringott wait was 460 minutes! Wait was cut off for the day around 4:50pm.

    3. Uni sold opening day memorabilia in wiseacres shop. Wait times for shops were pretty light all day, everyone came for the big ride.

    4. Gringotts operations…yikes! Was running 3/7 trains all day long, only one side if the station open, pretty slow dispatch intervals…frequent 10 minute breakdowns, I waited through at least one 60 minute breakdown. Clearly we can expect this ride not to be reaching its full throughput potential anytime soon, especially after missing all of preview week and just becoming operable. BE AWARE.

    4. SPOILER TIME LEVEL ONE.

    5. The ride is quite good! Not a lot of rollercoaster action in the end, much closer to transformers than mummy. Vast majority of the action is screen based, with a lot of track/cart motion.

    • …sorry on mobile…The biggest improvement over Forbidden Journey is that this ride has a much more clear storyline and can be followed by any old muggle…especially in my highly recommended BACKSEAT of the cars. The sound seemed MUCH better in the back seat, and the Coaster motions were more pronounced and more fun. One note about the ride right now…the operations affect the quality as well. I took three rides on the coaster and came away with wildly varying opinions of each ride based on whether things actually worked. With everything going I thought it was a solid B+ or A attraction, and certainly an A if the queue line is factored in.

      6. MEGA SPOILER ALERT: The highlights of this attraction include the pre show elevator ride down to the vaults where you then take a staircase to the massive cave/tunnel double loading station. Highlights of the ride include being lifted by a Bellatrix Lestrange charm and then being physically dropped forward onto rollercoaster track. One of the best aspects between show scenes on the actual track is the fact that universal themed every single inch of the entire ride path, there is absolutely no stretch of backstage on this ride. I also enjoyed touches such as huge fake mine track overhanging the ride in areas, and the realistic portrayal of a few dragons with fire effects well used. There is an effect used with lord voldemorts pet snake used later in the ride which is really incredible in the way he looks at you.

      • Also notable is the vast array of movable track this ride has, whether tilting or launching or twisting, all very interesting. Overall I think the uniqueness of forbidden journey is the winner here, though gringotts is much less nauseating.

        So would it be worth 7 hours of queuing for? Absolutely not, but it is a very good ride. It is certainly not the world beating clear cut best ride in the world I was hoping for, but I wasn’t disappointed in it and the land and theming surrounding is itself unprecedented and astonishing.

        I do think universal has enough Harry Potter now even for a fan like me, and I an also hoping that When Kong Arrives he brings many animatronic friends with him. Fun stuff.

        Oh and one last thing: Clotted Cream ice cream is OMFG bad! Avoid!

  12. BlahBlahson, THANK YOU for that excellent mix of details with commentary. If there were a Micechatter of the Week Words Only category I’d vote for you. I sort of want to sample Clotted Cream ice cream to taste if its as awful as you claim. Is it from Scotland? If so, did it contain actual blood clots? :)