This last week, MuggleNet was down in Orlando, Florida, at Universal Orlando Resort for a VIP/media preview of the all-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley expansion. No doubt you’ve seen the trailers, the photos, the interviews, and the endless pictures of people standing on benches trying to get a glimpse – and all of that stuff is great. But what you can’t see is the absolute best part of the park – the inherent magic.
Now, maybe this sounds cheesy, and it probably is, but when I say that Diagon Alley is magical, I mean it. Let me backtrack a little bit and say that the first time I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, I was underwhelmed. I had been hearing about how amazing it was for almost three years (my first visit was April 2013), and once I finally got there… it just didn’t impress me. Sure, it was beautiful and very fun to walk down the streets, look in the shop windows, and drink Butterbeer – okay, Butterbeer is pretty great. However, overall, I didn’t feel the pressing need to go back. I have now been away from Diagon Alley for barely 48 hours, and I am going through withdrawals.
Back to the magic that I mentioned. Starting out in the London waterfront is perfection. I may be American, but the UK has a special place in my heart. Standing out in that little strip of street, in front of King’s Cross and Wyndham’s Theatre, felt right. The atmosphere was perfectly British, right down to the double yellow line on the edge of the road and the authentic phone boxes. The fountain in the center of the waterfront is absolutely glorious. The detail is bar-none – but this is true for everything in the London/Diagon Alley area. More on that in the coming days.
To enter Diagon Alley, you walk around several bricks walls that are in the shape of an “S.” This is obviously to prevent prying Muggles from being able to see into the magical world. It’s absolutely the perfect way to enter the Diagon Alley streets because not only does it keep the Muggles from seeing in, but it also keeps the wizard entering from seeing too much, too soon. The minute you turn that last corner, though, and Diagon Alley is stretched out in front of you… there are no words. I remember stopping there, in the open brick archway, and just staring. The only other time I have felt that degree of awe was when I walked into the last room at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
Harry wished he had about eight more eyes. He turned his head in every direction as they walked up the street, trying to look at everything at once: the shops, the things outside them, the people doing their shopping.
Once the awe wore off, I proceeded into the streets and was promptly handed a map of both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Once gathering back up with friends, we decided to make our way toward Gringotts. Just walking up the alley, toward the massive, white bank at the top, was incredible. Maybe it was the atmosphere of the evening, but I don’t think so. The streets are wide, the windows plentiful, and the graphics and signage are striking. I truly, truly felt like I was walking down the street of an all wizard city. It felt alive, like few places I had ever been in my life.
The Gringotts ride was of course one of the main things that we wanted to accomplish that evening, so into the line we went. Without spoiling it for you, because I am sure you have seen the photos or read endless accounts of how gorgeous the lobby is, multiply that by ten, and you haven’t even come close to how visually stunning it is. Each chandelier has 26,000 crystals on it – yes, 26,000. The floors are real marble (they were painted paper in the films), and the goblins – they’re just as creepy as they look. I’m sad to report that we didn’t end up getting to actually go on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. We made it to the ride platform, but after many delays and shutdowns, the line was evacuated. The entirety of the line was just as beautiful as the lobby, though – right down to the silhouettes behind closed, office doors, to the elevator that takes you into the depths of the bank. I can’t wait to go on it during my next visit!
The rest of the evening was spent walking in circles, back and forth, up and down, through each and every little nook and alley. The longer we spent there, the more magical, and more real, it felt. We had only about three hours in Diagon Alley that night, yet it felt like three days. I left there around 1 a.m. feeling like I had seen everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. Even now, looking back, the details of the experience are a bit lost on me, and all that is left is a feeling of pure joy, excitement, and wonder. I imagine this is what Harry felt when he walked into Diagon Alley for the first time. So really, I am okay with this feeling. I wanted to feel magical, and that’s exactly what I got.
There is still so much more to say, so be sure to check back throughout the week for our features on the food, entertainment, Hogwarts Express, and overall impression of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley!