When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, my family and I were fortunate enough to go to Hogsmeade Village, salivate at HoneyDukes Sweets shop, dine at the Three Broomsticks and take the Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts Castle. As part of my trip down to Orlando last week, I had the opportunity to explore the first major expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley. Let me tell you, it was just as stunning, just as magical, to see that iconic place from the films recreated and brought to life with such detail and care. Every shop ever mentioned in the books is there, from Olivander’s, to Florian Fortesque’s Ice Cream Parlor, to Madam Malkin’s to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes to Flourish and Blots to the Magical Menagerie, even Borgin and Burkes in Nocturne Alley.
Sometimes the overwhelming crowds at attractions like this could be obtrusive, but I actually found the crowds, bustling and moving about in Diagon Alley, the cultural and commercial focal point of the Wizarding World, to be rather appropriate.
The sickly Ukrainian Iron Belly Dragon, famously liberated from Gringotts by Harry, Ron and Hermione, loomed large over the entire park.
The Animatronic Goblins seated at desks along the-universe waiting line for the “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” ride were some of the most convincing I’ve ever seen. I could swear that one on the right was giving me a “really?” face when I took this picture.
THE leaky cauldron in The Leaky Cauldron.
Inside the cramped and delightful Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, where you’ll find everything from decoy detonators to pigmy puffs, to extendable ears, to you-no-poo, to sneako-scopes, to puking pastilles.
The facade of the King’s Cross station at Universal that hides the hidden entrance to platform 9 ¾ .
I got such a rush seeing this part of the ride line for the first time.
The famous platform from which the Hogwarts Express takes young witches and wizards from London to Hogwarts School. Park goers can take the train both ways between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley for a slightly different experience either way.
The famous pop singing sorceress from the Harry Potter series, Celestina Warbeck with her trio of enchanting backup, the Banshees, singing such recognizable hits as “A Cauldron Full of Hot Strong Love” and “You Charm the Heart Right out of Me.” One of several live performances show at Diagon Alley.
Since the park is still relatively new, some parts of it weren’t always completely operational. Fortunately, I was able to get a shot of one of the most eye catching sights at the Park. Every so often the Dragon atop the Gringotts roof would let out a heavy rumble followed by an ear-splitting roar and a blazing jet of fire that could be felt all the way down the Alley. One of the most memorable parts of the whole park.