In May 2013, Universal finally confirmed the rumours about the new construction taking place in Universal Studios Florida on the site of the Jaws ride and Amity area which closed at the beginning of 2012.
Known as “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley”, it is themed on the areas of London that feature in the Harry Potter films and books. The Grand opening date was July 8, 2014.
Diagon Alley perfectly compliments the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter featuring Hogsmeade village and Hogwarts School at Universal’s Islands of Adventure that opened in 2010. The original attraction is now known as “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade”.
Following the amazing success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, introducing a second Harry Potter “mini park” at Universal Studios Florida is sure to encourage repeat visits and multi-park ticket sales.
To add to the adventure, a Hogwarts Express train transports multi-park ticket holders between the two separate Harry Potter “lands” at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It was not possible to convert the backlot at Universal into rolling English countryside so the railway carriages are fitted with video displays to represent the passing scenery on the journey and show clips from the films.
When guests arrive in Universal Studios, the train pulls into a representation of London’s Kings Cross Station, as featured in the films.
In March 2014, Universal Studios released further details about the ground-breaking ride attraction that connects the two Harry Potter themed areas in Universal Orlando.
Guests can board the authentic looking steam train at either the new Kings Cross Station in Universal Studios or at the new Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure.
To board the train you need a “park-to-park” ticket. Without a “park-to-park” ticket you can still enjoy the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed areas but not the Hogwarts Express train ride.
At Kings Cross Station you have to pass through the brick wall to reach Platform 9¾, leaving the Muggle world for the Wizarding World.
The ride is different depending upon the direction of travel and combines story telling with special effects and lifelike animation.
To recreate the journey between London and Hogsmeade in Scotland, the windows of the carriages act as large projector screens and you can expect to see many of the Harry Potter characters including Hagrid on his flying motorbike, Buckbeak the Hippogriff, the Weasley twins on flying broomsticks, Mad-Eye Moody and the Nightbus plus of course Dementors.
The star attraction of the new Diagon Alley is the indoor roller coaster ride called “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts”, topped by a fire breathing dragon.
Diagon Alley is themed with shops and restaurants including Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Quality Quidditch Supplies and Scribbulus and Borgin & Burkes magic shop.
The signature restaurant is The Leaky Cauldron serving British pub fayre such as Fisherman’s pie, Ploughman’s platter and bangers and mash and a selection of new drinks.
A second copy of the very popular Ollivanders Wand Shop is also present. You can now buy a special “enchanted” wand priced at $44.95 that will trigger various activities throughout the Wizarding Worlds when waved at the appropriate medallion object. Grab a copy of the map that shows you where some of the medallions are located.
The Night Bus, used to transport the wizards, can be spotted, parked on the London waterfront complete with conductor and a talking shrunken head.
Gringotts Bank Notes
Like “Disney Dollars”, Universal has also introduced their own currency, namely “Gringotts Bank Notes”. Available in $10 and $20 denominations, they can be exchanged for Muggle dollars at the Gringotts Money Exchange and spent throughout the Universal resort.