The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley
I finally got the opportunity to visit both Harry Potter worlds (Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade) down in the Universal Parks in Orlando. Unfortunately, I visited during spring break (any amusement parks peak season) so I was able to experience two very different feels for the areas – during the day when there were a lot of visitors and during the evening when there wasn’t so many. But as with all attractions, there’s the good, bad and ugly.
Once you step into Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade you really feel like you’re there. So much attention went into detail from the ground to the roofs and everything in between. The food is great and will feel you up (try to get early reservations for the Leaky Cauldron – it’s worth it). I didn’t care for the butterbeer, just because the taste wasn’t my cup of tea, but my son loved it. You have a choice of a souvenir butterbeer cup or just a regular cup. You can guess which one is more expensive. The Hogwarts Express is great too. A few nice minutes to rest your feet and the movie from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure differs from the movie from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios, so try to catch both if you can. You can also purchase interactive wands that you can use to set off animatronics at both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Your wand purchase comes with a map showing interactive spots in both areas and with directions of how to move your wand and what ‘spell’ to cast to set off the animatronic. A few were hard to master and some (as told by employees) were not working.
Absolutely no express passes for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts or the Hogwarts Express which means you have to wait. And during spring break, that’s exactly what we did – wait. Even with the early admission wait times got up to 45minutes in less than 5 minutes. But the great thing is, the rides are continuous so the lines are rarely standstill but always moving. And there are great interior designs and animatronics to keep your attention while you wait. Of course, during the slow season you’ll be able to walk through with barely any wait – but make sure to slow down a moment to take in the details around you. Another downside is that there are no bags allowed on either the Forbidden Journey or Escape from Gringotts ride. There are temporary free lockers by the rides unless you want to pay for a locker for the entire day. I didn’t take a bag into the parks so I can’t say how the temporary lockers worked, but from what I was told the bigger sizes always seem to be occupied and really aren’t that large enough to hold a medium size bag (a few people complained they weren’t even long enough to hold the boxes that the wands came in but my son had a robe so he just stuck his wand inside his pocket -the box we had delivered to our on-site hotel).
It’s expected that anything in a theme park is to have a high price tag. It’s also expected that anything related to one of the most beloved stories of all time is to have a high price tag. But that still doesn’t cushion the blow when you get totaled up. The robes were $99.00 and that was for children and adult sizes. The interactive wands started around $45 and if you wanted a wand display stand that’s another $25. The food varied in prices but you did get plenty depending on what was ordered. Small knickknack merchandise – I didn’t see anything under $10 or maybe I was just looking in the wrong areas? Uglier than the price was the crowd during the day. Again, I went during spring break so I know that’s not the typical crowd year-round. But those two Harry Potter areas will always be the most crowded areas of the two parks. It was literally shoulder to shoulder spacing in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, so much so that I told my son that we’ll do one walk around so he can see everything in daylight but all his activities and shopping will be in the evening. The evening was so much better, there were just a handful of people shopping and everyone else were in lines for the rides. My son was able to shop with plenty of elbow room and do interactive wand activities without having to wait in line (yes, during the daytime people were forming lines to do the interactive wand activities. But, my son and I both agreed that Disney’s Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure has much better interactive animatronics than the Harry Potter areas.)
Overall it was a great experience to visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I’m not a big Harry Potter fan but even I got caught up in how much detail went into both areas. However, my son is a big Harry Potter fan and walking around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in his robe with his wand – he really did feel like he was following in Harry Potter’s footsteps.