Having grown up with the Harry Potter books and movies, I couldn’t wait to share Diagon Alley with my girls for the first time this year. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so special to me and my family. Diagon Alley is a magical area that brings wonder and excitement to Potterheads of all ages. My girls’ expressions and exclamations at their first viewing of Diagon Alley were 100% worth the wait. Now you too can know the wonder and secrets of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando.
Secrets of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando
If you’ve come to this post to hear all about the Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios, I hate to disappoint you. While “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” is awesome, I will not be focusing on it today. Instead, I’m sharing some hidden gems for making the most of your visit to Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
See House Elf Kreacher at 12 Grimmauld Place
First, don’t overlook the London cityscape outside Diagon Alley. Number 12 Grimmauld Place is home to the Black family (as in Sirius Black) and is also the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Grimmauld Place can be seen outside of Diagon Alley in the London area, across the lake from Krustyland. It might look like another façade or apartment building, but you’ll notice the Black Family house-elf, Kreacher, occasionally peeking out from behind the curtains on the second-floor window.
Chat with the Knight Bus Crew
Also, outside Diagon Alley, and across from Kings Cross Station, is the tall purple Knight Bus. Chat with its driver (occasionally Stan Shunpike, but more than likely one of his other friends) outside the bus, and its shrunken head inside bus. You can banter with both the conductor and hilarious shrunken head, plus pose for photos.
Discover the Secret of the Ministry of Magic
Between Kings Cross Station and the entrance to Diagon Alley is an iconic, red London phone booth. It’s not there simply as decoration but as the secret entrance to the Ministry of Magic seen in the films and discussed in the books. You can actually go inside it and follow the instructions to dial the Ministry of Magic.
See a Fire Breathing Dragon
When walking into the “secret” entrance to Diagon Alley through the bricks, you’ll immediately notice the enormous dragon atop the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. By all means, stop and take a photo, but also wait for a few moments, and you’ll be rewarded. Fire erupts from its mouth every fifteen minutes or so, and it’s fun to try to capture it on video or in a photo. You’ll know it’s about to happen when it emits a low, gurgling noise right before it erupts.
Meet a Gringotts Goblin
Next, go inside the smaller Gringotts Money Exchange building and ask the goblin banker questions. This is a fun, unique experience that doesn’t require guests to ride the adjacent ride. Guests can ask the goblin anything, and he will answer accordingly. Be careful what you ask or you may not like his answer!
Make a Visit to Knockturn Alley
There is so much to see in Diagon Alley, it might be easy to miss Knockturn Alley. Look for a small, wooden arrow near Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions pointing the way. At first, you might think you made the wrong turn, but keep walking down the dark passageway and you’re there. Borgin and Burkes, the dark wizard shop, it just as creepy in person as it seemed in the books and movies!
Ride the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade
Once you’ve had your fun exploring London and Diagon Alley, it’s time to enter Kings Cross Station. Find platform 9 ¾ and make your way to Hogwarts. This was my favorite experience yet. They actually simulate walking through the brick wall and out onto platform 9 ¾. You can easily miss this while running through line eager to board the train, but take your time and you’ll notice the people in front of you disappear (unbeknownst to them)!
Once on board, the train go right into one of the compartments, just like the students do on their way to Hogwarts. Be sure and ride the train in both directions because each way is a different experience. Not only is it fun, it also makes it more convenient to go to each park.
Traveling Mom Tip: You can only ride the train if you have a Park-to-Park admission ticket or an Annual Pass. The train takes you to Island of Adventure, and that requires a separate ticket or park-to-park pass.
Try Some Butterbeer (in More Ways than One)
Just when you think Butterbeer can’t possibly get any better, the park now offers HOT Butterbeer and Butterbeer ice cream. Go to Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley for the Butterbeer ice cream treat along with other unique ice cream flavors (Chocolate Chili, anyone?). I also tried Butterbeer flavored fudge but was a little disappointed in it. It just didn’t have enough of that Butterbeer flavor for my liking.
Cast a Spell Like a Real Wizard
Interactive wands can be purchased at wand shops around the Harry Potter areas and at certain Universal Orlando stores. These wands have RFID chips that interact with various props in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. They also come with a map that shows you locations throughout the parks where you can cast spells.
The wands cost $45 plus tax, only $10 more than the old wands that were not interactive. Wand experts are available around the park to help you cast these spells should you need it.
Traveling Mom Tip: Smaller movements register better and will get the “spells” to work right away.
What other Diagon Alley “must dos” are on your list? Let us know what you love to do when you visit Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter!