Becoming Part of the Magic in Diagon Alley
Written by Ashley Hubbard of A Southern Gypsy
To say I’m a Harry Potter fanatic would be an understatement. In 2010, I made the trip down to Universal Studios a mere two months into the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. In 2012, I made a special side trip during my Europe trip to spend my birthday at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, UK. And, in 2014, I made not one but two trips down to Orlando again that included the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The first being in January before they had opened up the expansion and the second being in October after the expansion had been open for a few months.
Some may see this as extreme but it’s a surreal (and okay, a bit nerdy) experience to step foot into a world you spent so much of your childhood, young adult and early adult years. What has been created by J.K. Rowling is something that will truly never die.
While the first half of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter blew me away four years ago, what Universal did with the second half, Diagon Alley, is even better. When you first make your way into Universal Studios, you’ll have to make the trek to the back of the park and before you know it, you’ll find yourself in London. Or, at least a replica of it - with a King’s Cross Station, Grimwauld Place and a secret (eh, not so secret with the massive crowds) corridor into Diagon Alley.
Once you find and enter Diagon Alley, you’ll be transported into the magic, equipped with everything your little witch or wizard’s heart desires. Here’s a few must do’s in the new Diagon Alley:
Have a Butterbeer or Two or Three
So, I’ll admit, out of all my times here, this was the first time I had a Butterbeer and I’m now kicking myself about that fact. It is delicious! It’s very rich and a different taste so you couldn’t keep drinking them all day (well, you maybe could), but a couple won’t hurt! You can find them all over the place.
Take a Dark Turn down Knockturn Alley
If you’re like me, then you love the darker aspects of Harry Potter. Severus Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange are my two favorite characters. With Sirius Black being a close 3rd so I lean towards that side of things. Not as in wanting them to win but just how amazing their characters are. So, I’m naturally drawn towards the darker side of Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley. When you step onto this dark, side alley, it’s like you’re transported into a whole other world - it’s dark and gloomy. Borgin and Borkes is also an amazing store you’ll find here.
Enjoy the Storefronts and Amazing Signage
I’m a sucker for signs and typography so I can’t even begin to count how many times I said “Oh! Look at that sign!” The details, the details, the details here blows me away. It made me so happy. Just like J.K. Rowling and her details in the books, Universal did a pretty damn good job here. So, just take a look around at all the storefronts and signage - it’s a free and entertaining thing to do!
Eat at The Leaky Cauldron
Theme park food usually isn’t that great and way overpriced. Exception - Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Definitely have a meal at The Leaky Cauldron - with traditional English style food, it’s really great - I’d say amazing in terms of theme park food. Also, the prices aren’t really all that different from a regular restaurant.
Get your own wand at Ollivander’s
I didn’t do this in Diagon Alley, because I had already done it in Hogsmeade (Ollivander’s is the only store that overlaps - as in there is one in each park). The first summer that Hogsmeade opened is when I waited in line for this experience for THREE HOURS. My inner nerd says it was worth it though - and you should experience it as well! If the line is too long however, you can still get a wand from the shop whilst skipping the Ollivander’s experience.
Shop for your Hogwarts school supplies
There are so many stores to buy your Hogwarts school robes, your school supplies, brooms, wands amongst so many other things. I usually try to skip buying too many souvenirs as they are usually money wasters but this is one place I make an exception. The quality of the items is mainly very good and they are things I won’t just throw in a corner of my house or a box and forget about. My dad got an absolutely amazing chess set while we were here (each Hogwarts house had a set - so essentially it was 4 teams within 1 set).
Ride the Escape from Gringott’s Bank ride
This is the only ride on this side of the park and the line is going to be extremely long. When the park opens, GO HERE FIRST! You’re probably still going to have up to an hour wait, but it’s better than 3 hours which is likely what it will be for the rest of the day. This ride is so different, I can’t really explain it. It’s a new, never been done before type of ride and for this reason it does go down from time to time - give them a break though- there literally is no other ride like it and so they are kind of having to fix things as they go along. Well worth the ride though. There is a single rider’s line (on the right side of the regular line) - I’d highly suggest using it if the line is really long. If, however, the line isn’t long or you don’t care about waiting, the only way you’ll get to see all the fun things is going through the regular line.
Go to King’s Cross Station and Enter Platform 9 3/4
Once you think you’ve seen everything in Diagon Alley, head outside of the alley (same way you came in) and enter King’s Cross Station and essentially Platform 9 3/4. How they made it look like you were entering the platform through the brick wall is awesome but I won’t spoil any surprises - make sure to take pictures of each other doing it though!
Take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade
Last but not least, take the Hogwarts Express to to Hogsmeade. I love trains despite Harry Potter so this was great for me. Make sure to take the train both directions- taking it back to Diagon Alley after you’re done in Hogsmeade as they are two completely different experiences.
Essential Info :
• Make sure to buy the two-park ticket option. It’s the only way to see both sides of the Wizarding World and the only way to ride Hogwarts Express. You can go back and forth between the two as many times as you want.
• Before Diagon Alley, Wizarding World was doable in one day with a decent amount of time to see the rest of Universal Studios. It’s really not anymore though. We spent the entire day just at Diagon Alley and Hosgmeade and still felt incredibly rushed. I would highly suggest thinking about a two-day, two-park option.
• Universal Studios is not a cheap park to get into, then food, Harry Potter souvenirs, Butterbeer and so on - make sure to budget in plenty of money to get the full experience.
• Almost all the rides, require you to put your bags in a locker (they are free up to a certain time - usually the length of the ride wait time) so either be prepared for this or take as little as possible.
• Just take it all in!
Ashley is a traveller with a passion for photography, adventure, the outdoors, amazing food and wildlife. She admits to having an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter! Ashley can be found around the internet at:
Facebook - https://facebook.com/asoutherngypsy
Twitter - https://twitter.com/asouthern_gypsy
Pinterest - http://pinterest.com/asoutherngypsy
Instagram - http://instagram.com/asoutherngypsy
Site - http://asoutherngypsy.com