In this second part, I’ll be talking about the new additions to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which consists of Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, The London Waterfront, and the Hogwarts Express. If you haven’t had a chance, feel free to check out Part One as well. For the major attractions and eateries, check out Part Three. Now let’s dive back in to the wonderful wizarding world.
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When I first heard that Universal was adding Diagon Alley to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I knew I would have to make a second trip. Boy, am I glad I did. The massive fire-breathing dragon perched atop Gringotts alone makes it worth it. Seriously, it breathes fire. You can feel the heat coming off of it. It’s incredible and it happens every fifteen minutes. Anyway, Diagon Alley is excellent addition to what was already an incredible experience.
The Shops at Diagon Alley
Similar to Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley features a variety of shops where you can purchase all sorts of items. While these establishments can certainly be busy at times, they weren’t all that bad when I was there. As in Hogsmeade, the shops here are made to reflect the descriptions in the books. Diagon Alley boasts a large selection of shops, though some of them are pretty tiny and seem to have been included simply for the storefront. Regardless, they all add to the magical effect of the park.
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
The presence of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes makes up for the closure of Zonko’s Joke Shop in Hogsmeade. Dominating the façade is a twenty-foot tall Weasley who tops his hat at customers while a white rabbit appears and disappears. Inside the shop you see bright colors and tons of whimsical decorations. Here you can purchase joke and novelty items such as Extendable Ears, Decoy Detonators, and Pygmy Puffs. The shop also offers some fun food items such as Puking Pastilles and Fainting Fancies. No need for concern though as they won’t actually make you sick.
Quality Quidditch Supplies
Quality Quidditch Supplies is exactly what it sounds like. It’s similar to Dervish and Banges, but offers a much wider variety of Quidditch-related items. You can, of course, purchase equipment such as Bludger bats and brooms, but there is also a massive selection of apparel and accessories. It includes fan gear for the Chudley Cannons, Holyhead Harpies, Ireland, and Bulgaria. I was thrilled to find a great t-shirt supporting the Bulgaria Quidditch team. Whatever your Quidditch needs may be, you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for here.
The Magical Menagerie is a little (stuffed animal) pet shop that was practically empty when I was there. The lack of customers allows for a great interaction and plenty of space to look around. This shop has many different magical creatures like dragons and hippogriffs, plus clothing items. You can find well-known animal characters like Fang, Hedwig, and Crookshanks as well. As with any shop in Diagon Alley, this one is worth checking out for the décor alone. If I recall correctly, there’s a giant snake that speaks Parseltongue.
Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment
Wiseacre’s is your typical gift shop and is attached to the Escape from Gringotts ride. It carries all of the usual souvenirs, which range from Hogwarts phone cases to cauldron mugs. Wiseacre’s also has some interesting and unique items such as crystal balls and hourglasses. This is the place to go if you’re looking for gifts or can’t seem to find what you’re looking for elsewhere.
Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions
If you’re looking for apparel of any kind, then Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions is definitely the place you’ll want to go. Here you will find school uniforms, sweaters, ties, jewelry, and so much more. There are dress robes and character costumes as well. Inside this store there were some really gorgeous outfits, so it’s worth going in to check them out if you have the time.
Scribbulus Writing Instruments
Scribbulus Writing Instruments is attached to Wiseacre’s and boasts a large selection of writing implements. It includes feather quills, pens, journals, and glass inkwells. Scribbulus also has small souvenir items such as magnets.
Wands by Gregorovitch
Wands by Gregorovitch isn’t really a shop you can walk around in, but it’s the perfect place to go if you know which wand you’re looking for and want to quickly purchase it. Basically, you walk up to the counter, tell the shopkeeper which wand you want to buy, then continue on your merry little way. Wands by Gregorovitch carries all of the same wands as Ollivander’s and didn’t seem to have a line all that often.
Shutterbutton’s Photography Studio
Shutterbutton’s Photography Studio is, well, just what it says it is. This studio, however, uniquely makes moving portraits. You get to feature in twelve scenes from around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, such as riding the Hogwarts Express. It takes about twenty minutes to go through the whole process.
Knockturn Alley is something I didn’t anticipate. There is a stark contrast between this area and Diagon Alley. Upon entering this Knockturn Alley, you are plunged into a darker and somehow colder world. While only one shop lies inside, walking through this area is an experience of its own. If you look up, you’ll see different projections of the sky, which make you feel that you’re still outside, though in a much more foreboding atmosphere. This passageway contains plenty of interesting and creepy things to look at including animated wanted posters of Death Eaters.
Borgin and Burkes is the infamous Dark Arts shop that lies within Knockturn Alley. This shop, like the rest of the alley, is a hidden gem. This is a place where you find an array of Dark Arts artifacts and seedy décor. The shop is filled with lots of skulls, “cursed” necklaces, horcruxes, and Death Eater masks. However, there are also lots of great clothing items, accessories, and souvenirs that could make great gifts. This is where I found my Deathly Hallows baseball hat, which I’ve gotten many compliments on. Even if none of these items sound appealing to you, I would recommend checking this shop out for the experience and the décor.
The Hogwarts Express
The first time I rode the Hogwarts Express, I had a ridiculous grin on my face the entire time. The train runs between Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross in London (Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade Station (Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The lines weren’t too bad when I was there, and even if they are, it’s worth the wait. It’s important to note that there are two distinct journeys depending where you’re coming from and where you’re going. I recommend experiencing both if you’re able, though it’s important to note that you’ll need a park-to-park ticket if you choose to do so.
In order to keep things flowing more quickly, Universal created two trains that run simultaneously from each station. Each train consists of a replica steam locomotive, a tender, and three carriages. They have a total of twenty-one compartments that can each hold up to eight people. Both trains have replaced the windows with curved screens, which display realistic looking scenes that look real no matter where you are seated within the compartment. Both trains also have frosted glass on the compartment doors, where you can see some silhouettes of different characters as they pass by.
King’s Cross Station
To get to King’s Cross station, you have to leave Diagon Alley and pass by the London waterfront, making the experience more authentic. The line is completely indoors, which is nice if the weather is choosing not to cooperate. When you first enter the station, you see employees who are appropriately dressed as muggle workers and a station that greatly resembles the actual King’s Cross station. As you ascend to the second floor, you pass through the magical barrier (a neat trick where others seem to disappear in front of your eyes) between Platforms 9 and 10 onto Platform 9¾.
The trip from King’s Cross to Hogsmeade is a somewhat spooky at times. The scenes you see outside the window include Hedwig, Death Eaters in London, Malfoy Manor, Hagrid on his flying motorbike, and the Ford Anglia crashing through the Forbidden Forest. At one point, the train goes through a tunnel, and all of the lights go out as a dementor boards the train. Fortunately, Harry is there to save the day. Be sure to keep an eye on the frosted glass compartment doors as well, since you never know who might be passing by. The friendly voice of Hagrid greets you as you pull in to Hogsmeade.
You will find Hogsmeade Station just outside of Hogsmeade. It is a much less inclusive experience than King’s Cross station, but still offers its own charm. For example, standing outside of the station is a moving carriage, presumably pulled by an invisible thestral. Unlike King’s Cross, the Hogsmeade station is mostly outdoors, so plan accordingly if possible.
The trip from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross is cheerier than the trip goingthe other way. Outside the window you see Hagrid waving goodbye, Buckbeak flying, centaurs running, and Fred and George Weasley riding brooms and playing with fireworks. You can also see the silhouettes of Harry, Ron, and Hermione outside of the compartment doors. As you get closer to London, you see the Knight Bus squeezing through industrial and residential areas. Alastor Moody’s voice welcomes you to King’s Cross as you pull in.
The London Waterfront
The London waterfront lies outside of Diagon Alley. Though it is seemingly meant as a simple façade to hide the magical world lying beyond, it actually houses many of its own little treasures. There is an impeccable amount of detail given to this area that is too quickly passed by, so if you visit this area, be sure to spend some time looking around and taking it all in. Also, be sure to check out the cabmen’s shelters for exclusive British Muggle merchandise. You should also check out the working London-style phone booth (though you won’t end up in the Ministry of Magic).
Among the awesome things you find at the London waterfront is 12 Grimmauld Place. You may think it is simply a door with the number 12 above it, but if you’re patient, you’ll see Kreacher peeking out of the window. The waterfront also features the Eros Fountain from Piccadilly Circus and a realistic looking Knight Bus that includes a talking Shrunken Head. Everything about the London waterfront is made to convince you that you are, indeed, in London. You may even get to witness a street busker playing music to help keep you entertained.
A Splendid Experience
Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, the London Waterfront, and the Hogwarts Express are all incredible additions to the wizarding world at Universal. Yes, you need a park-to-park ticket, but it’s the experience of a lifetime. If possible, I would go back in a heartbeat to do it all over again, and I know it would be just as great as the other two trips.
Shout out to Sarah, Nicole, and Vanessa Schultz and Jake Reardon for contributing some great ideas about what to cover in this post. Thanks for all your help! 🙂