Universal Orlando Resort opened its new, richly detailed Harry Potter-themed area to media and other travel industry insiders on Wednesday night.
The new park zone, called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, will delight fans of the hit book and movie series with a marquee ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (which coincidentally wasn’t working Thursday during a media preview).
But Diagon Alley is also heavy on experiential retail, with stores so entertaining and visually stimulating that you almost forget you’re shopping. Diagon Alley even has its own currency, so guests can swap U.S. dollars (muggles money) for wizard cash, to spend or to keep as a souvenir.
The attraction doubles the size of the Harry Potter footprint on Universal’s property. Diagon Alley opens to the public July 8 at Universal Studios. A train called the Hogwarts Express connects the new area to the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade, which opened in 2010 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studio’s sister park.
Even the train ride between the two parks is immersive. Visitors board at either King’s Cross Station (built like a real Tube station) or Hogsmeade Station for a two-minute trip in enclosed compartments. A video screen (instead of windows) shows a passing urban landscape, then countryside, along with Harry Potter characters. Outside the car door, silhouettes flit in the corridor and familiar voices from Potter movies are overheard.
If fans want to ride the train, a two-park ticket is required. For adults, a two-park ticket for one day costs $136; for children, it’s $130.
The new Harry Potter area has one main eatery called the Leaky Cauldron. It’s a large restaurant with large group tables just inside the entrance. There are also street kiosks with food and drink, plus Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour.
Here are some must-try culinary adventures from Diagon Alley for us ordinary muggles.
Here are other first impressions of Universal’s new Diagon Alley, which was inspired by the fictional London location famous for wizarding supplies in the Harry Potter series: