Hello, and welcome to Dateline Disney World, or should we say Dateline Universal Orlando Resort? This week we explore the exciting addition of a new retail spot, the Marketplace Co-Op store in Downtown Disney.  So much shopping, and merchandise. Next we finally wander down the I-4 to Universal Orlando Resort’s new Diagon Alley.  Yes, it has been covered before in the Orlando Parkhopper and in other websites around the internet.  But what does the Universal addition mean to the Walt Disney World vacationer?  Should WDW fan boys break out of their Disney habit and go off property to explore this expansion?  You are about to find out.  But first, Disney plates, t-shirts, and tchotchkes!

The Marketplace Co-Op store opened a while back, and is a place to go check out some of the best merchandise WDW has had in years.

There is a sports themed area called the Trophy Room (which made me think of the old Club 33 at Disneyland).

You can also get really creepy Disney art, and special Disney bags here.

But, like I mentioned above, the classic Disney merchandise is what will draw people to this location. And there is plenty of it in the Disney Centerpiece area.

Lots of good stuff in there, and much of it is pretty reasonable in price. Lots of the plates and bowls were in the $12-15 range.

For a bit of a change, I thought we could take a ride up north to Universal Orlando, where the new Diagon Alley expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the hot new ticket this summer. Many folks have decided to not include Universal in their Orlando vacations for some time now, but with two large Harry Potter themed lands, it feels like that is about to change. These photos are are in no particular order, but show off the amazing details that exist in Diagon Alley, as well as the Hogwarts Express transportation attraction that sends guests from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade area.

Details everywhere.

The dragon breathes fire to applause every few minutes.

Inside the Leaky Cauldron, which serves all British fare.

Carkitt Market is under cover and holds several stage shows along with a way to get out of the rain.

There are stairs throughout the area which give a great sense of scale and suggest more expanse to the land than there really is.

The same technique is practiced in Knockturn Alley, where the Dark Arts take the stage. It is fully indoors, so it is nighttime all the time, and also air conditioned!

You can get Butterbeer Ice Cream as well as many other exotic flavors at Florean Fortescue’s.

Inside of the weenie that is the Gringotts Bank building houses the main attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

I won’t spoil anything since many have yet to ride, but Gringotts is one of the most complete themed attractions I’ve been able to experience. The queue has many layers, two pre-shows (one of which will excite EPCOT Center Hydrolator fans), and a fantastic dark ride/coaster attraction that tells part of the Harry Potter story from a new angle. I like to compare it to the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland in terms of how complete it feels from the moment you enter the queue until the ride is over.

Diagon Alley really shines at night, as well.

Now, it can feel kind of cramped in the area at times, especially some of the gift shops. But, that same idea applies to Hogsmeade, so it kind of makes sense that they would do it that way. Overall though, Diagon Alley is really a transportive experience. You cannot see any part of Universal Studios once you pass through the brick walls, and I think it has the most detail of any themed land in Orlando.

Once your experience in Diagon is done, you can hop on the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 over to Islands of Adventure and the original Wizarding World, as long as you have a two park ticket.

I can’t applaud Universal enough for taking on a project this large, and showing that Disney isn’t the only company in town that can do something with this level of detail that is sure to please guests for years to come. I very much look forward to their future projects and I would LOVE to see them try a traditional dark ride.


MiceChat Walt Disney World Invasion – October 22nd through 29th, 2014: We’ll visit the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando, offer an optional Halloween Horror Nights event, hold a Walt Disney World GUMBALL RALLY, travel the World Showcase in our wonderful Food and Wine Festival Sip and Nibble event, enjoy Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, PLUS La Nouba, meet-ups, meals and more. Don’t miss this fantastic week of Orlando fun!!! Contact [email protected] to book travel to Orlando. Sign up for our email list to be sent information about  the Gumball Rally, Sip and Nibble and other MiceChat Invasion events! REQUEST ADDITIONAL INFORMATION HERE

Hopefully you all enjoyed this little deviation from WDW. We’ll be back there next week with the typical news and construction photos. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!!

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