If there was part of our US vacation that was the most anticipated, it had to be The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. As a huge HP fan and someone who has been totally inspired by, J.K. Rowling, it was a dream come true. To be able to physically step into the world created by J.K. is a mind-blowing experience.
EARLY WARNING: I have so many photos that it is nearly impossible to pick my favourites. There are lots of photos in this post.
Diagon Alley opened in August 2014 to surging crowds and excited fans. It’s the second HP themed park to open, the other is Hogsmeade (my post will be online soon). Universal has been very clever. Diagon Alley is situated within the Universal Studios park, and Hogsmeade is in their neighbouring park, Islands of Adventure. For those of you familiar with Universal Studios, you may remember the area that contained the Jaws attraction and Cabot Cove, well now it’s London, complete with the Knight Bus and Diagon Alley brilliantly nestled behind the Leaky Cauldron.
Once you enter from the London frontage, through the jagged brick wall, you are transported into the alley. It’s packed full of excited muggles gasping and exploring the stores from the books, and plenty of (cast) wizards and witches roam free.
The detail in the buildings is beyond description and I’m sure that the cast who work there everyday really believe they are in the HP books and movies. I heard passing cast members exchanging comments, “Who let all these muggles in?” A small touch that added to the magic and memories.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™
Gringotts Bank takes pride of place and is the focal point as you walk down the alley. Nestled high on its roof is the dragon, which roars loudly and exhales huge flames every so often. The rumble will give you warning of the imminent flames, so there’s time to get your cameras ready.
The bank houses the dark ride of Diagon Alley, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™. It’s an incredibly well done and exciting multi-dimensional thrill ride, where you plunge into the depths below the bank and encounter Voldemort and his evil sidekick, Bellatrix Lestrange.
The main hall of Gringotts serves as part of the line and it is filled with extremely life-like animatronic goblins working at their desk as they gaze at the crowds before them. The height of the room is spectacular and it has enormous chandeliers that shine and glisten high above your head.
Below is some footage I took of the Goblins as we passed them.
Then, as you weave your way through the corridors there’s plenty of other amazing sights, like silhouettes of HP and co chatting on the other side of glass doorways, lifts that descend deep into the earth, and spiral staircases that lead you into the main cavern where you board the ride vehicles.
Below is part of the pre-ride instructions riders receive before entering the rickety lifts that descend to the depths below the bank.
Once you’re strapped in and have your 3D glasses on, the ride kicks off. It’s full of surprises, coasting, spins, fog, amazing detail, 3D experiences and dangerous liaisons. This ride immediately jumped to the top of my favourites list. We loved it so much that we rode it half a dozen times during our stay.
One thing to know is that all loose objects (eg. bags, backpacks) must be stored in lockers before you enter Gringotts. The lockers are free for a decent length of time, but take note, they are always extremely crowded with pre-riders lodging items and post-riders collecting items. Just make sure that you remember your locker number.
At the end of a lane to the left of Gringotts Bank, there is a dark unassuming alley that you must look out for. If you’re brave enough to enter the darkness you’ll find yourself in the famous Knockturn Alley, full of darkened shops filled with dark magic and curios. I can well imagine that this area lays unknown to those who don’t know to look for it.
The whole HP Diagon Alley area is a marvellous creation. Its stores are filled with amazing curios, souvenirs and memories. Everything from feather pens, to Hogwarts gowns, to chocolate frogs and every flavour beans. It’s impossible not to feel the extreme need to get yourself something amazing and magical. Interactive wands let young wizards and witches cast spells that cause magical things to really happen. There is so much more that I haven’t even mentioned. Another post in the future is definitely needed. If you’re wondering about the Hogwarts Express, it’s covered in my Hogsmeade post (soon to be online).
I don’t think my words can describe how great Diagon Alley is. The best I can do is ramble a bit and show you some of the thousand or so photos I took. My compulsive picture-taking didn’t go unnoticed by my kids.
A visit to Diagon Alley is absolutely essential for all HP fans.
Here’s a special treat. See some of the HP cast as they experience Diagon Alley for themselves.
Be sure to take a look at my other posts about our travels as they go live, or check my previous Travel Adventures posts for the ones already published. If you’re not a current follower, just click the FOLLOW button on the sidebar.
PS: I have no affiliation or relationship with Universal Studios, except that I am a customer and fan.