The Wizarding World: Diagon Alley

Part 2 of our Harry Potter World adventures took us over to Universal Studios to visit Diagon Alley! Just as it is in Islands of Adventure, you need to walk through the entire Universal Studios park to reach Diagon Alley. Along the way, we soaked in some awesome "Old Hollywood" sites and charm, enjoyed some Duff Beer at Moe's, helped E.T. escape to his home planet, and completed our MIB alien identification training.

As soon as we caught a glimpse of the Knight Bus rising up in the distance, we knew we were in the right place. 

Diagon Alley was amazing, impressive, and intense. You are completely overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of the real Diagon Alley as you marvel at the detail and scale of the experience. Unlike Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, Diagon Alley has a great deal more to explore, with hidden alleyways, and multiple streets filled with shops and experiences. 

Your first glimpse down the main drag as you enter the alley is of the immense, literally fire-breathing dragon perched atop Gringotts - a site I will not soon forget!

Potentially the only drawback to the Diagon Alley part of the Harry Potter World experience is that there is only one ride. However, it's a doozy.

Escape from Gringotts: Like "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" from Hogwarts, this is a rollercoaster/simulator hybrid. This one, however, is a little heavier on the roller coaster aspect of it, and requires you to wear 3D glasses. We were incredibly excited for this ride, but sadly to say, we were a bit disappointed. It's not that the ride wasn't great, it was that there was some sort of mechanical failure during our experience, and we were stuck inside the ride for about 15 minutes. That chunk of down time really killed our mood, our expectations, and essentially ruined our judgement of the remainder of the ride. The one cool part, however, was getting to walk through the lobby of Gringotts and seeing the beautiful (and ginormous) chandeliers and all of the Goblins hard at work!

Photo via Chris Crockford
Photo via Chris Crockford

Food & Drink
Butterbeer, butterbeer, butterbeer! Of course it was every where you turned, and of course we enjoyed some more. In addition to butterbeer, we and our friends sampled some Fire Whiskey (think Fireball, but smoother), and some Butterbeer Ice Cream (think vanilla ice cream, with butterbeer syrup - yummmmm). 

The Leaky Cauldron: The food here was very similar to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, but since the interior of The Leaky Cauldron is featured a bit more prominently in the movies, it was a cooler experience. We were able to recognize the layout and decor of the place (like where Arthur Weasley pulls Harry aside to talk to him about Sirius Black escaping from Azkaban). 

It's safe to say that the bulk of activities to do in Diagon Alley center around shopping. That being said, shopping and attractions seem to bleed into one another quite a bit. We didn't have time to explore everything, but here are a few of the places we did get to enjoy:

Ollivader's Wand Shop: We entered Ollivander's just thinking it was a shop where we could browse and potentially purchase wands. Little did we know, we were also attending the "wand chooses the wizard" show with about 20 other park guests. During this show, Ollivander selects one attendee ("a wizard with much potential!") for the wand choosing. I don't mean to brag, but... OLLIVANDER PICKED ME! I'M NOT A MUGGLE AFTER ALL!

Here's a rather dark video of me finding THE PERFECT WAND (vine with a phoenix tail core, in case you're curious.) Prior to finding the wand that was meant for me, I had to try a couple others and caused a bit of mayhem (not caught on tape, unfortunately.) The whole experience was so awesome, but I still had to pay $47 to keep the dang thing (seriously, Universal?) The coolest thing about the wands, which we briefly mentioned in the previous post, is that they are interactive. You can take them to different storefronts in the Wizarding World and MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN. Enough said.

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes: This is a super fun store to explore. So much of it is set up just like in the film, from featuring products like Puking Pestules, to seeing Umbridge riding a unicycle while carry cauldrons on tight rope high above. 

Borgin and Burkes: No sooner did I say, "I wonder if they have a Knockturn Alley here somewhere" did we stumble right into it. Cold, and dark, this was very interesting to explore. In here we of course went into the famous Borgin and Burkes to see skulls, dark magic tools, the Death Eaters' Vanishing Cabinet, and tons of other great gizmos and gadgets. Our friends purchased awesome Dark Mark tattoos to sport on our last day at the park too!

Marvel at the giant fire-breathing dragon, snap some pictures of Hagrid's flying motor cycle and side car, cool off in the dark and mysterious Knockturn Alley, enjoy a puppet/magic live show on stage, and use your wand to make magic happen in a storefront window! Like I said earlier, Diagon Alley has loads to explore, and it would be easy to do so for an entire day.

We truly had such a fantastic time on this trip. I'm so glad that we finally got to fulfill our dreams of feeling like true wizards and share the experience with friends as well. If you have any questions about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, be sure to let us know because we'd LOVE to talk about it forever and ever!

Vacation's not quite over yet though! Soon we'll share more about our visits to Charleston, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina on our 1,200 mile road trip home from Orlando! Stay tuned!

Sarah & Nick