Over the weekend I visited Universal Orlando and mainly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
In 2010 I visited the Hogsmeade section in Islands of Adventure because that was the first part that was built. My new trip brought me back because they extended into Universal Studios Florida with a Diagon Alley section. When we booked this trip we told the booking person on the phone the reason we were coming and he told us about the Harry Potter package. It included a welcome package and breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron. We told him to sign us up!
How cute is our owl post! We got this box when we arrived with a stuffed owl and welcome letter. We also had Harry Potter room keys and tickets for breakfast. On Friday we headed to the parks early, but not crack of dawn early.
After wandering around for a little we decided to head over to Diagon Alley. To get there you walk past King’s Cross station!
There are a few other store fronts outside as well as the Knight Bus.
Sadly you couldn’t go IN the Knight Bus. You can stand on the back stoop and look in and you can also talk to the conductors. I called the conductor Stan, but his name was Paul. Ernie the driver was there though and we talked to them for a little bit. I thought it was cool that Ernie is a part of the conversation and asks you questions and cracks jokes.
Next we decided to head into Diagon Alley. You go what looks like an alley and then there is the entrance! There is a speaker playing brick moving noises as you enter too.
Right inside is Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.
Just like in the movie the Weasley takes his hat on and off and a rabbit appears and disappears.
The inside of the store is pretty cool. There are a few floors (but you can’t go up) stacked with boxes. The detail they put into these stores is incredible. There is even an Umbridge on a tightrope! You can buy extendable ears, pygmy puffs, nosebleed nougat, chocolate frogs and a bunch of other cool things.
Attached right next door is Quality Quidditch Supplies. I really liked all the shirts and quid ditch stuff.
Across from Weasley’s is the Leaky Cauldron. Our reservation wasn’t until 9:00am, but we were starving so we went in to see if we could make it earlier. Luckily we did! The times really don’t mean anything and after we went in the line got really long.
The inside was really cool. I loved all the pictures on the walls and the staircases and rooms. Even upstairs, where you can’t go, they have whole bedrooms set up!
It was so rustic and exactly how I imagined in the books (and mostly like the movies). I got the full English breakfast. It was pretty tasty, but not as good as the breakfast I got in London.
They even had a giant leaky cauldron!
After breakfast we decided to walk around a little more. The first thing you see walking into Diagon Alley is Gringotts with the giant dragon on top. It is really amazing (and even cooler since my cousin did the iron work on it). Every 15 or 30 minutes it breathes fire! It is definitely startling at first, but after the initial shock it is so cool to see!
Some other stores along the main street (that are just fronts and not accessible) are Flourish & Blotts, The Daily Prophet, Fillibuster’s Fireworks shop, Spindlewarps, Eeylops Owl Emporium.
The details they put into this section is amazing. They have interactive displays like the Monster Book of Monters in cages and even Self-Knitting Needles. It was so cool to walk around and soak it all in.
There is a new Ollivander’s shop. They have one in Hogsmeade (even though it belongs in Diagon Alley) and you can now buy regular wands or inter actives wands.
Another awesome shop was Madam Malkin’s. Inside they had really nice sweaters and clothing to buy. You can also get robes in there. They also have a talking mirror that comments on your clothes and some costumes from the movies.
Once you get to Gringott’s you can go right, which has a bunch of shops (you can buy Gringott’s bank notes) and a stage where there are daily performances.
Left with bring you down past the bathrooms and to Knockturn Alley.
I was a big fan of the Knockturn Alley section. It was dark, they had wanted posters on the walls (with moving pictures) and the store Borgin & Burkes. The store had cool merchandise and displays and the vanishing cabinet (when you got close) chirped like there was a bird inside.
Really I think the only thing missing in Knockturn Alley was the dark mark randomly appearing in the sky. It’s definitely possible since it is so dark and would be so freaking cool.
After we wandered for a little we figured it was finally time to brave the line for the new Escape from Gringotts Ride. As we were walking over we noticed that employees were letting people know the ride was down. This happened the last time when we were in Hogsmeade, so we figured we would tough it out. We had to put our stuff in lockers (which are free) so we headed over and Cheryl got in line. As we were walking to the line people started cheering. I guess the ride was working again.
The line looks a lot more ominous than it actually was. It was moving pretty consistently the entire time we were outside. There was also a lot of cool posters to read to keep you busy.
Then about a half hour into the wait we were inside!
The inside was so cool! I loved all the chandeliers and the goblins were so realistic. They were all keeping busy while we waited in line and sometimes even looked up and stared at you.
Unfortunately as we got closer to the end of the bank the line stopped moving. We waited for a good 20 minutes for it to start again.
Then we were down in the vaults. These are not the huge high security vaults, but the door was so intricate. Again the line stopped moving. Cheryl even had enough time to leave and use the bathroom and come back before we moved again.
At the end of the hallway was an employee telling you a number to go to. They have little areas to take your picture before you ride.
Then we were headed down another long hallway. This one had tables with the Daily Prophet (complete with moving pictures) and portraits of famous goblins. We stopped and waited again! This was the longest wait of them all, but there was no way I was getting out of line. We were so close!
Or so we thought….after being split into two groups you head into a room with an office. Then a video plays of a goblin and Bill Wesley. Even though Bill was barely in the movies, he is the main character in the new ride. After their little talk about the bank and going down into the vaults you are sent to another room to wait for the elevator. Once inside the elevator it moves and creaks like you are going really far down underground. As the doors open you are confronted with another line (of people getting their 3-D glasses) and then a line up a staircase to the ride.
I didn’t find out until later that the reason there are 2 lines here is because one is a single-riders line. Wonder how long they had to wait?
The ride itself was awesome. Definitely more roller coaster than some of the other 3-D rides in the park. The only thing that annoyed me was Hermione’s voice is not Emma Watson. Not sure why she wouldn’t have let them use her voice, but it is really noticeable and kind of put me off.
Even so the ride was a thumbs up!
After the ride we headed outside again and had some butter beer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. I really liked it because I devoured it before I took a picture! Fail.
Then we headed out into the park to do some other rides, but don’t worry. We went back again the next day!