By Susan and Simon Veness
Universal Orlando’s webcast on 23 January shed light on a few more details from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion. Let’s have a look at what’s on the way.
Mark Woodbury, President of design and development at Universal Orlando called the newest addition to Universal Studios, "A whole new level of storytelling and a theme park adventure that's beyond belief.” And that it is “rich with magic, shops and dining, and just as authentic as Hogsmeade."
Hosting the webcast, Woodbury revealed that the first thing guests will see is the Knight Bus, then they will move straight into Diagon Alley via a special-effect entry (details of which have not yet been released, but it’s safe to assume there will be moving bricks involved). But what will we experience once we’re there? Here’s a breakdown of all the exciting new shops, dining and attractions.
There will be six shops in Diagon Alley, all of them well known to fans of the Harry Potter series.
Madam Malkins: Find all of your wizarding garment requirements here, including robes, scarves and hats. Fans will remember Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, located on Diagon Alley, as the place where Harry and his friends purchased their Hogwarts school uniforms. Harry also met Draco Malfoy for the first time while visiting the shop.
Ollivanders: Every respectable (and not so respectable) wizard gets his wand from Ollivanders, and while the shop in Hogsmeade will remain, there will be a new, larger shop here on Diagon Alley. After an elaborate ceremony in which the wand chooses the wizard, all guests can purchase a unique wand, or a replica of the wand wielded by their favourite Potter character. Fans will remember Ollivanders as the shop where Harry’s wand ‘found’ him, and it was revealed that his wand’s brother belonged to none other than Voldemort.
Quality Quiddich Supplies: Cheer on your favourite Quiddich team with apparel, pennants and accessories, or pick up a Bludger, Golden Snitch or even a broom for your next game. Fans will remember this as the shop where Harry Potter got his first broomstick, the Nimbus 2000, and Sirius Black purchased the Firebolt for Harry for Christmas.
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes: A world of wizarding jokes, novelties and toys awaits at Weasley’s. Stock from Zonkos in Hogsmeade will be moved to this shop, where Extendable Ears, Skiving Snack Boxes and other mischievous merchandise can be had. Fans will remember Fred and George Weasley opened this practical joke shop on Diagon Alley from their home-based, ‘owl post’ business.
Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment: Need a magical telescope or an armillary sphere? You’ll find it at Wiseacres, along with House apparel for Hogwarts students. Fans may recall this shop was not mentioned in the books, but debuted on the DVD Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Borgin and Burkes: Located in the Knockturn Alley area, mysterious Borgin and Burkes is the place where the Dark Arts take center stage. Fans will remember this eerie shop from Harry Potter’s misadventure with Floo Powder (when he mispronounced the name of his destination and landed on Knockturn Alley rather than Diagon Alley), and from Draco Malfoy’s visit to ask for help in repairing a Vanishing Cabinet.
Dining along Diagon Alley is sure to be magical, if Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade is anything to judge by. Diagon Alley will have one restaurant and one snack location.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour: The ideal stop when Diagon Alley heats up in summer. Sweet treats and ice cream are found here, with some unusual ice cream flavours, such as strawberry and peanut butter. Fans will remember Hagrid presenting Harry Potter with an ice cream cone during Harry’s first visit to Diagon Alley. The shop owner, Florean Fortescue, was subsequently abducted and killed by Death Eaters.
Leaky Cauldron: This is the spot where the wizarding world gathers for pub grub and good company. It’s a taste of home, with traditional favourites such as fish and chips, cottage pie, and bangers and mash, with Butterbeer and pumpkin juice added to the lineup. It is located at the entrance to Diagon Alley, just as it was in the books. Fans will recall the front façade appeared to be a dilapidated shop to the Muggle world, but the back of the shop opened up to the wizarding world and Diagon Alley. Harry and his friends visited the Leaky Cauldron often, and Room 11 of the pub’s inn was the place Harry stayed when he ran away from the Dursley’s home.
If you have already seen the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, you know the atmosphere is an attraction in its own right. It is so convincing, guests often wander the street just taking in the architectural details. Diagon Alley and its darker sister Knockturn Alley take that authenticity and kick it up another notch.
Diagon Alley is the main street, with all the shops and restaurants, and a happy, bustling air about it. At the end of the street you’ll find Gringotts Wizarding Bank, and frankly, you can’t miss it. Why? Because there’s a fire-breathing dragon on top, that’s why!
Knockturn Alley is darker, danker, and narrow enough to make you uncomfortable. Anything could jump out of the shadows here. This is where the dark arts find their home, and the most unsavoury of characters do their shopping.
King’s Cross train station ties Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade Village in Universal Studio’s sister park, Islands of Adventure, and you’ll need a park-to-park ticket to board Hogwarts Express train for the journey through London and the English countryside to Hogsmeade Station. The journey will be spectacular, with some very special surprises along the way.
But the big announcement during the webcast was the official name of the headliner attraction on Diagon Alley, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts: Massive marble lobbies, goblins tallying up their numbers, ancient vaults, cavernous plunges, and an extreme-thrills mine car ride that will leave you breathless await in this multi-sensory, multi-dimensional attraction. More details are yet to come, but yes…there is a dragon.
Universal will be announcing even more details in the coming months, and you can be sure there will be some incredible surprises that will add even more excitement to the fervour that already surrounds the opening of the biggest thing to hit Orlando since Harry first arrived.