I could honestly just leave the review as, “WOW!” and it would be sufficient.
Universal is getting ready to unleash Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley; the 2nd part of what will most likely be the Potter Theme Park Trilogy to the world, on July 8th, and will undoubtedly be the smash-hit just like its predecessor over at Islands of Adventure.
Last week, Universal finally let the public into the Diagon Alley for the first time during its “Preview Phase” and without any doubt, is not only the best expansion ever created, but one of the most in-depth areas in any theme park.
And that’s without the signature attraction being open.
Sadly, those who were lucky enough to check out the preview, didn’t have the same luck to experience “Harry Potter and Escape from Gringotts” as it is still getting ready for its official debut on the 8th.
But whereas the drawing attraction is Gringotts, the meat & potatoes of this expansion lies within the streets of Diagon. Every nook, crevice, and cranny has been thought of to offer some value of entertainment. From the interactive wands to Butterbeer Ice Cream, Universal immerses you into the world of Harry Potter where you can literally spend hours of your day at the park, and be completely OK with that.
Park-goers over the weekend seemed most enthralled with the dragon.
Sitting atop Gringotts, the Ukrainian Ironbelly instantly grabs your attention as you enter through the “moving” bricks. Visitors would stand throughout Diagon Alley, all with cameras and phones pointed directly at the dragon, waiting for the fire to erupt from its mouth; applauding and cheering with each flaming breath.
One of the most interesting aspects of the expansion is the inclusion of Knockturn Alley. For those unfamiliar with Potter-lore, Knockturn is mostly occupied by those that involve themselves with the Dark Arts. Naturally, the area nails that foreboding presence. From the darkly fascinating Borgin & Burkes shop, which yes does sell a Death Eater mask for a $106 plus tax, to the slightly macabre interactive window which may end with a bird getting boils.
2 shows are featured in Diagon Alley, that interchange throughout the day. We sadly missed Celestina Warbeck, but managed to catch “The Tale of the 3 Brothers”. The performance is influenced by the segment that was featured in “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows: Part 1”. The puppets themselves are fantastic, and offers a great chance to enjoy the shade offered by Carkitt Market.
Universal continues to incorporate food and merchandise as part of the complete experience. Butterbeer fans will be glad to hear that Butterbeer Ice Cream, which is served at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, is just as tasty as you would think it is. The parlor also offers an array of different flavors, ranging from Chocolate Chili to Clotted Cream. The Chocolate Chili has a great chocolatey taste but with the bite of the chili at the end.
Wands have been upgraded, with adding interactive elements around both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. For $45, the new wands will allow guests to interact with 25 different windows or features. During the preview, some of the interactive elements were down, or “jinxed” per the wizarding employees.
Outside of Diagon, the expansion has the distinction of uniquely connecting both parks, by way of the Hogwarts Express. Yes, the experience is more of a method of transportation, but it’s one of the most beautiful additions to the expansion. From the realistic urban feel of King’s Cross Station to the majestic sight of seeing the Hogwarts Express billowing smoke in Platform 9 ¾. The journey itself will pull on the heartstrings of Potter fans as they see their favorite locales and characters.
Words really can’t describe what it’s like to experience Diagon Alley. It needs to be experienced first-hand. Potter fans, theme park fans, even casual fans; if you have been looking for a reason to visit Universal Orlando, this summer would be a great time to do so (or maybe a little after, summer crowds are going to be insane!). The land is simply gorgeous.
To see what everyone has been saying, or to share your experience, visit our Diagon Alley Review thread on our forums!