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5 Things That Make Diagon Alley a Harry Potter Fan's Dream Come True

Jul 8 2014 - 5:30am

Universal Orlando is opening the Diagon Alley expansion to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter today, and it's a must see for muggles and wizards alike. The new park features a London facade, Knockturn Alley, The Leaky Cauldron, the Escape From Gringotts ride, and the Hogwarts Express — a full-size train that takes you from King's Cross Station in the new park to Hogsmeade and the original Harry Potter park. Here are the five best elements of this magical expansion (including interactive wands [1]), and see even more photos and videos from Diagon Alley here [2]!

Source: Getty [3]

Hogwarts Express

Aside from the new Gringotts ride, the Hogwarts Express is the other big feature of the new land. In fact, several of the actors who attended the preview for the park noted that it was one of the most immersive elements to Diagon Alley. It begins with a walk through the wall onto Platform 9 3/4, a really cool component to the queue for the ride. Boarding the train is like stepping into the films, as every little detail is accounted for. Even the fabric for the seats is the exact same fabric used on screen. Once seated in your cabin, you watch scenes on a 3D video screen window that takes you from London to Hogwarts, and you watch a completely different one on the way back. On the other side, you hear and see the shadows of characters from the series, like the candy-cart lady, the lead trio, and the especially creepy Dementors.

Source: 2014 Universal Orlando Resort [4]

The Spells

First, real magic. OK, not real, but close to it. The new wands in the park are interactive, so at 25 locations in Diagon Alley, you can wave your wand, say a spell, and perform actual magic. You can make a feather rise up with Wingardium Leviosa, turn the drinking fountain on with Aguamenti, and even perform some dark magic in Knockturn Alley.

Source: Tara Block

Butterbeer Ice Cream

There are plenty of new food and beverage offerings in Diagon Alley, but the one thing you must try is the butterbeer ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. It's a creamy, caramel-y delight and definitely the big hit at the new park. Another unusual new treat is the Fishy Green Ale at The Leaky Cauldron, a nonalcoholic minty green drink with boba-like blueberry-juice-filled balls at the bottom. But it's nowhere near as tasty as the ice cream!

Photo: Tara Block

Gringotts

Gringotts is the main attraction, and it's not just the ride itself that's awe-inspiring. There's an extremely lifelike Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon atop the bank that breathes actual, real fire at intervals. Then the entire queue is an experience in and of itself, beginning with the magnificent chandelier-filled lobby that's pulled straight from the films. As you walk through the lobby, you pass animatronic goblins you'd swear are alive, thanks to help from the film team in creating them (they even took molds of the goblins used in the movies). Then there's a fun preshow that takes place in Bill Weasley's office, a combination of real props and screens, and a fake elevator ride with some special effects that make you really feel like you're headed underground. The ride itself is a thrilling high-tech mix of real elements within a 3D projection dome that follows Ron, Harry, and Hermione as they escape from Gringotts Bank.

Source: 2014 Universal Orlando Resort [5]

The References

The Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes shop is a great example of how closely the park parallels the films. There's even a toy Umbridge riding her unicycle above you. At 12 Grimmauld Place, in the London area, Kreacher the house elf peeks through the window every few minutes. Knockturn Alley is kept air-conditioned separately from the rest of the park so that it feels dark and chilling. Evanna Lynch, who plays Luna Lovegood, said, "You can just walk through the books in this land." And it's true. As much as they pulled from the films in re-creating the sets, there are numerous obscure references to the original stories, as well. The attention to detail is incredible. There's a musical performance by Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, whom Molly Weasley mentions in the books as her favorite singer. Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour is featured more in the books than the films, and there's a Crumple-Horned Snorkack in the Magical Menagerie — a reference only readers will get.

Source: 2014 Universal Orlando Resort [6]


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