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The Wizarding World of Diagon Alley
As a former witch from the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade, I had some preconceived notions on what to expect of Diagon Alley.
The London façade is impressive on its on. There's a classic red phone box for visitors to take pictures with, and the fan-favourite triple-decker Knightbus. King's Cross station houses the way to the Hogwarts Express where guests can ride the train to Hogsmeade where Hogwarts Castle is located.
From London to Hogsmeade
The queue is massive for this attraction so they're ready for the crowds. The design of Kings Cross Station, from what I hear, is straight on with the original. There was even a saxophonist playing by the Prams. Such a clever add-on.
The pathway between Platforms 9 and 10 was pretty awesome, too. There's a Porter there as well, so if you're not sure where to look to watch witches and wizards pass through the magical wall, they'll let you know!
I met up with a fellow wizard from Hogsmeade and his experience from London to the Village was totally different from mine. And yes, the train does go both ways, so you can spend your whole day completely absorbed in the Wizarding World
Escape the Bank
Unfortunately, the Gringotts ride was still in technical rehearsal during the Team Member preview, so I didn't get to fight alongside Harry and the gang. The main lobby is iconic, with the giant chandeliers and the hard-working animatronic goblins.
We were able to walk the queue though, and it was gorgeous. The queue is long but consistently interactive, with newspaper clippings on various work desks for you to read, and figures behind closed doors conversing with each other.
There are two stages for this ride, which help introduce visitors to the story behind the attraction. I hope to properly visit the bank once the wait time goes below 4 hours!
If you haven't visited Hogsmeade, then you may be unaware of the size of the retail locations within the land. They are quite small. The shops in Diagon Alley are still on the small side, but the size also gives the stores in this land a more village-feel in a theme park setting, which isn't easily achieved.
The stores now have outside queues set up and ready to go, and most are covered. And, thank the heavens, there are more shops so products are split up into separate areas, versus all in one, making shopping a much more enjoyable (and less chaotic) experience.
Wiseacres is hands-down number one for me. It's like a cross of the Noble Collection and Dervish and Banges from Hogsmeade. I returned to that store before the end of the night just to take more pictures and contemplate skipping a few meals to buy some of the collectible items, like these wonderful armillary spheres!
Weasleys Wizard Wheezes, the glory of the Weasley Twins Fred and George is the first shop you encounter when you first walk into Diagon, next to Quality Quidditch.
I wasn't a huge fan of Zonkos in Hogsmeade, and a lot of the product that I noticed (while making a quick walk-through before leaving the area) I had already seen in the Village store. However, the design of the shop was pretty awesome. There was a lot of colour and moving contraptions and even fireworks in the skylights above. Be sure to watch the Weasley Twin that stands about 20 feet tall outside the store to witness a magical disappearing act.
The Magical Menagerie is an adorable store. The wall of Pygmy puffs was too much cute in one section. However, there are so many things that move and make noise in this place, I'm sure I missed something, so spare some glances to the upper floors. Be sure to take a step outside to see the animals in the windows as well, since its quite hard to get a good look at them from the inside. The large window on the outside that house the snakes is also an interactive wand location.
Swish and Flick
Ollivanders is now officially in Diagon Alley. The extension shop in Hogsmeade will remain open as well. The wand-choosing ceremony that is conducted in Diagon Alley is located in one part of the building and the store is in the front. For those of you who don't know, many, many Muggles mistook the Hogsmeade Ollivanders where the ceremony was conducted as the store, which was actually Dervish/the Owl Post.
The interactive wands are more expensive but totally worth it. There are 24 areas throughout the streets of Diagon and Knockturn Alley and nine in Hogsmeade where witches and wizards can practice magic without worry of getting in trouble with the Ministry. Be sure to swish and flick and say the correct spell or it won't work. (SUCH AN AWESOME EFFECT!)
For All Your Dark Magic Needs
Knockturn Alley utilizes black light on the streets and dim ones for the window displays to maintain the theme. One awesome thing Universal did was include A/C. The second you turn down the street by Florean Fortesque's ice cream shop, the cool air is ready to greet you
Borgin and Burkes is the main store there and its got some interesting products in there. A friend bought one of the skull-dotted scarves, which was made of some silky material, way nicer than I expected. The visual displays are pretty intense as well. And that giant wardrobe that Draco Malfoy utilizes to invade Hogwarts is in there, too. I'm sure it'll be a big photo spot. If you're into the Death-Eater style, then I would definitely recommend hitting this place up.
Time to Depart
There's more that I could write about, like the Leaky Cauldron and the live performances, but I wanted to lightly detail some of the activities in the new area.
If you get the chance to visit Universal Orlando Resort, I would recommend giving yourself at least three days: one and a half days for both Wizarding Worlds and the remaining time for the attractions in Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.
I am in no way trying to promote Universal. I enjoy working for the company, but I don't work in the marketing department. I'm writing this tale for people who are curious about Diagon Alley. Feel free to ask any questions, though!