“You’re a wizard, Harry.” Whether fans of the Harry Potter books and movies or not, we all know those words. Even if you did not personally read the books or watch the films, you grew up surrounded by people who did. We are the Harry Potter generation, the children who all waited desperately for their letters from Hogwarts.
While none of us actually went to Hogwarts—and if you did, well, please let me know, I would love to talk to you—by attending Rollins, so close to Universal Studios Orlando, we have gotten to experience the second-best thing: visiting the recreation of the castle and Hogsmeade village in Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando.
We walked through Hogwarts in awe. We ate chocolate frogs that, thankfully, did not actually hop. We wandered through stores with too-small aisles, gaping at the tiny details that brought our childhood fantasies to life. And, now, four years later, we get to enter Harry’s world again. This summer (no opening date has been officially set), Universal Studios Orlando will open another portion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Diagon Alley. Just like Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley will immerse you inside Harry’s world with a variety of new attractions and features:
London Waterfront: Just as Harry and his friends do in the books, you will start in London. To your right, you will see King’s Cross Station. To your left, you will see the entrance to a shady looking pub—the Leaky Cauldron. You can stop in the pub for a meal or continue through to tap a few special bricks to enter the magical world of Diagon Alley.
Shops and Restaurants: As soon as you pass through the entrance to Diagon Alley, you will be surrounded by magic. Three different alleys will contain various stores—Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, and Horizont Alley. While there will be a variety of fake storefronts like in Hogsmeade, a number of real stores, including Quality Quidditch Supplies, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occassions, Florean Forescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor, and an expanded Ollivander’s Wand Shop, will exist for guests to enjoy. The headlining store, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, will be a three-story joke shop made to look like the set from the film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts: The star attraction will combine 3D technology to create a dark roller coaster experience. You will enter Gringotts Bank—topped by a fire-breathing dragon—and will go on a journey, narrated by Bill Weasley, to open and visit your own bank account and escape Gringotts before getting killed by the perils along the way.
Hogwarts Express: Now that Diagon Alley and Hogwarts both exist, guests will need a way to travel between both parks. Just as Harry and his friends do, you will be able to board the Hogwarts Express and travel between King’s Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station. Each experience will be unique; sometimes your train may be stopped by Dementors, other times you will see Harry’s friends flying past your windows as you travel to and from the school. You will need to purchase a two-park ticket to experience the Hogwarts Express.
Even as Universal is finishing up construction on Diagon Alley, rumors are circulating—though not yet confirmed—that Diagon Alley is just the beginning of a series of new additions to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. According to the Orlando Informer, the current location of the Fear Factor show at Universal Studios is being scouted as a potential location for the Ministry of Magic.
Another rumor is that Universal is looking to build a fifth hotel—even though they just opened their fourth. Current insiders suspect that this fifth hotel may add an entirely new dimension to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by creating a Harry Potter hotel.
Only one thing is certain: Universal is nowhere near done bringing the Harry Potter world to life.
All photos by Universal Studios