Ukrainian Ironbelly Dragon at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Diagon Alley: Universal Orlando’s Most Magical Experience

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If you read the Internet at all, you’ve likely caught wind of the holiday that was yesterday: the much anticipated Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. If you haven’t heard of anything I’m about to tell you, then you’re clearly a Muggle. (But me? I’m a wizard, Harry!)

Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Four years after the fantastical Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuted at Islands of Adventure, Diagon Alley arrived at the adjacent Universal park to double the experiences fans have already been able to enjoy. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be a part of the preview last month. Want to know why? Well, here are four reasons right here:

Harry Potter cast at Diagon Alley

Yes, that is indeed Luna Lovegood, Fred and George Weasley, and Neville Longbottom. (I know what you’re thinking—as everyone is saying it—Neville grew up quite nicely, didn’t he? Truth be told: I didn’t know what to say to any of them. It was a bit like being plopped in the center of my wildest dream. I felt like someone put the Tongue-Tying Curse on me, or maybe the Weasley brothers slipped me a bit of their Ton-Tongue Toffee without my knowing it.)

Harry Potter cast at Diagon Alley

And here’s another:

Professor Flitwick, aka Warwick Davis

Professor Flitwick in the flesh! Or, to you cinephiles, Warwick Davis. And still yet another:

Tom Felton, aka Draco Malfoy

Don’t even say it; I already know you’re jealous. He’s quite easy on the eyes, that Malfoy. Tom Felton couldn’t have been more pleasant and unlike his character, and his girlfriend Jade Olivia was a doll. How cute that they met on the Harry Potter set when she was a stunt coordinator’s assistant! I wasn’t the only one excited to see Draco either. He spent hours appeasing his throngs of tween followers with selfies and autographs.

Harry Potter Diagon Alley-12

At the preview itself, there was a red carpet with tons of press, a whole lot of screaming fans and some other special guests. I turned to my right to see Tim Burton standing there with his son, present to support their woman Helena Bonham Carter—who I passed in the bathroom the next day and almost fainted when I saw; it might be because I feared she’d try Avada Kedara on me, or possibly just because I love her so—as she did round tables. I turned to my left and I saw a glimpse of Joey Fatone before he went bye, bye, bye.

Helena Bonham Carter at Harry Potter Diagon Alley

Tim Burton at Harry Potter Diagon Alley

That night at the press party could not have been more surreal: trolling around Diagon Alley without the crowds, cast members and wizards dressed up to play the part passing me by.

Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

I was there with my dear friends, the lovely Jet Sisters—who were working PR for the event and with whom I first experienced Wizarding World in 2010—and my favorite part of the night was seeing a quintet of wizards examining Angie’s iPhone when she asked to take a selfie and inquiring “what is this Muggle device?” Without pause, she responded: “an iWand!”

Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

I already gave you a behind the scenes at Wizarding World and now a peek at the larger-than-life Hogwarts Express—and if you missed the video, you can click right here and watch it (seriously, Platform 9 3/4 is so cool)—but what else do you have in store for you at the new theme park? Quite a lot, it turns out…

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

More butterbeer. There’s frozen butterbeer, there’s regular butterbeer, but now there’s butterbeer ice cream (soft serve, but still). I know, right? Your mind is clearly blown, too.

Butterbeer at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley

The creamiest gelato. Just in case butterbeer soft serve doesn’t do it for you, you can also choose from a whole case of England-inspired gelato flavors. It seems weird to write about how gosh darn good theme park-made is while I’m currently enjoying my final days in Italy—where I’ve averaged a gelato every day and a half, thank you very much—but it is that impressive. I had the clotted cream and sticky toffee pudding at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, but others of note are the Earl Grey and lavender, orange marmalade, salted caramel blondie, and chocolate chili flavors.

Ice Cream at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios

Potter drinks beyond butterbeer. While I could drink Butterbeer all day, every day (clearly), Diagon Alley offers a half dozen or so new cold treats, like Fishy Green Ale (not actually fishy, but the jury’s still out on how I feel about that one) and Gillywater. Without a doubt, Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice with a cinnamon rim was my favorite. There’s also real beer—Wizard’s Brew and Dragon Scale—for those of you who need something stronger.

Fishy Green Ale at Diagon Alley

Another wild 3-D ride. Unfortunately, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was not open (it is now!) when I was there—though I already have plans to take my nieces to Orlando next June, so guess I’ll just have to wait until then—but I know the new ride is going to be epic. You ride through the twisty labyrinth of the goblin-guarded vaults, only to come face-to-face with Bellatrix Lestrange and He Who Must Not Be Named. I mean, have you been on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey over at Islands of Adventure? Legendary.

Escape from Gringotts at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Goblins galore! Even though the ride wasn’t open, I got to peek inside the goblin-run bank. Not gonna lie, it was both eerie to be in there alone but also cool to see how lifelike the little banktellers were! Universal spares no expense, and Gringotts is proof of that.

Escape from Gringotts at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Escape from Gringotts at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Escape from Gringotts at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Escape from Gringotts at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Goblin currency, even. If you’re not so sure about opening an account at Gringotts just yet, you can still pick up Goblin money at the Gringotts Money Exchange to use throughout the park (a fun addition if you’re traveling with kids). Fun fact: I was the first person to use said money, and the cashiers at the Three Broomsticks didn’t know what to make of it!

Gringotts at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Gringotts at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

So much delicious pub food. You needn’t even buy a ticket to London to experience some of the best British fare you’ve ever tasted. Shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, Ploughman’s lunch, bangers and mash, fish and chips, treacle tart. They aim for you to leave the new Leaky Cauldron a full pants-size bigger.

Leaky Cauldron at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Leaky Cauldron at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

A fire-breathing dragon. This enraged Ukrainian Ironbelly is not kidding around. He emits scorching flames every five minutes, so have your camera ready (and hide your kids!).

Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping, shopping and more shopping. Even if theme park rides aren’t your thing and you’re not keen on British delicacies, you can spend the better part of an afternoon popping in and out of the shops that line the twisty ways of Diagon Alley. Buy your own Quidditch gear, outfit your child in his/her favorite house apparel from Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions (uh, Gryffindor being the only choice, duh), stock up on jokes at Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. The options are endless!

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Wands that perform magic. I know what you’re thinking: yeah, right. But seriously, the new wand experience allows you to travel from bronze placard to bronze placard, following the map included with the purchase of your wand, and perform actual spells (kinda). So stop by Ollivanders for the Wand-Chooses-the-Wizard ceremony or even Gregorovitch—Diagon Alley has not one but two wand shops—and see just how good an Alohomora you can muster.

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Take a stroll down Knockturn Alley—if you dare. Go where only the sinister souls are, but tread lightly. You never know who you might run into, and you can pick up your share of Dark objects at Borgin and Burkes if you’re that kind of wizard.

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

So much visual overload. You could camp out in Diagon Alley for days and not get to see everything there is to see. It’s truly magical; there’s simply no other word for it.

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

Now, tell me: What are you most excited to see at Universal Studios’ brand spankin’ new Diagon Alley?

Shopping at Harry Potter's Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Florida

COMMENTS
  • July 9, 2014

    Ahhh this post made me so excited, I visited Universal Studios like two years ago purely for the Harry Potter part and I’m so excited it’s been expanded it looks AMAZING. I love this post, especially since I probably won’t be heading back to Florida for a good while now. I bet it was crazy to be one of the first people to experience it all! x

    • July 10, 2014

      I mean, Wizarding World was enough for me…and then I went to Diagon Alley. You will LOVE it, no doubt. Just go in the off-season as the line for Escape to Gringotts topped 460 minutes on opening day! We went the week before Christmas for WWoHP the first time, and it was blissfully empty.

  • July 9, 2014

    I love this and am super jealous. So legal (Brazilian Portuguese for ‘cool’).

    • July 10, 2014

      Aaaand this is why we’re friends. (Miss you.)

  • July 9, 2014

    So, I haven’t got a clue what any of this is about, but I forwarded to my Harry Potter-obsessed friends and they all agreed that this was the coolest and they are super jealous of you 🙂

    • July 10, 2014

      So you know what you must do now? READ THE BOOKS. C’mon, you live on a tropical island; surely you must need an amazing book to read from time to time? 😉

  • July 10, 2014

    ummm you are SO lucky!!!! i am a huge harry potter fan/geek. I am dying to go here!!

  • July 10, 2014

    Super jealous!!! I can’t wait to take my obsessed kid there later this year. Last winter we visited the WB Studio in London so this will make the experience even grander in scale. I don’t know about my kid but I’m so looking forward to the train ride between the parks!

  • July 10, 2014

    Hey!
    Thanks for the great visual tour. We have been to Universal Studios many times and my family and I think that it way out-surpasses Disney!
    Now the kids are older and we’re new ’empty nesters’ but I think a trip to Universal to see this would be in order for any age. Pardon me for making this short, I’ve got to go and figure out when we’re going.
    Love reading your blog!
    Blessings Abound,
    Victoria

  • July 10, 2014

    Ahhhhh I am SO jealous!!! My husband and I have been planning a visit since we heard about the opening. We are going over Labor Day weekend so I am keeping my fingers crossed it is not too packed.

    ~Elena
    The 20-Something Project

  • July 10, 2014

    Ahhhhh I am SO jealous!!! My husband and I have been planning a visit since we heard about the opening. We are going over Labor Day weekend so I am keeping my fingers crossed it is not too packed.
    ~Elena
    The 20-Something Project

  • July 11, 2014

    I sooo want to go, it also makes me want to watch the movies again. thanks for all the great pics!

  • July 12, 2014

    The level of detail at this new Universal attraction is stunning. My nephews and niece would be super excited to visit this!

  • July 24, 2014

    Oh my gosh, I’m so jealous! I’d love to go there and I definitely have to put it on my list of places I want to visit! Next time I visit the U.S. I’ll have to plan things to be able to go there. I love it! Thanks for sharing!

  • August 23, 2014
    Laura

    Hello!!! Sorry my english 🙁 I would know How is Tom Felton in person, He is nice? He seems very lovely 🙂 and His girlfriends jade Olivia, How is her in person? she is cute and lovely? She is very pretty, right?
    You blog is perfect 🙂

  • March 31, 2015

    What gorgeous photos! I love this area and could spend several hours roaming around looking at all the small details. How cool that you got to visit during the media preview! My boyfriend assisted with the engineering side of the project. It was such a treat to go to the Creative preview, but we sure didn’t get to see any of the celebrities! I’m super jealous, and so happy you loved it!

    P.S. They now serve hot butterbeer in the park!!! (About time)

    • April 1, 2015

      Excellent information to have as I’m going back in June with all my family. Any other new stuff I need to check out at either Universal?

      • April 1, 2015

        Nahh. They have several things in the works, but nothing to top Diagon Alley, as far as I’m concerned. I hope you all have an awesome time! 😀

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