Magic, Mischief, and Madness: MuggleNet’s report from the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
This past Tuesday, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley officially opened to the public! Thousands of Potter fans turned out for the grand opening, and I was excited to be among them.
I had previously attended the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, so I knew what I was getting myself into. At least, I thought I did…
My friends and I stayed at a hotel less than a mile away, so we decided to walk to the park instead of fighting the crowds in the parking garages. We woke up at 3:45 a.m. and headed out. Guests were allowed onto Universal Studios Resort property at 5 a.m., and the line into Universal Studios began forming immediately.
Even this devoted Potter fan found herself around 200 people back from the front of the line.
At 5:45 a.m. we were corralled through the front gates and to the turnstiles. There we waited for another fifteen minutes, until our tickets were scanned, and we were allowed to make the long trek though Universal to the London waterfront.
Here, we reached the line we would wait in until the official opening time of 8 a.m. Right on time, the opening ceremonies began. Scotty, a Universal employee, came out to greet the very anxious fans clamoring to enter Diagon Alley.
He was followed by the president of Universal Orlando Resort and Chief Operating Officer Bill Davis. Then, the lucky first guests were allowed through the magical brick archway and into Diagon Alley!
We were greeted with fireworks and confetti as we traipsed down the red carpet. The witches and wizards who work throughout Diagon Alley crowded the sides of the entryway, clapping and giving high-fives (a gesture common among Muggles signifying excitement).
And let me tell you, Diagon Alley is breathtaking. It looks like it was ripped straight out the movies and out of J.K. Rowling’s imagination! As we passed Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the Leaky Cauldron, Madam Malkin’s, and the Magical Menagerie, it became clear that we were all headed to Gringotts for the brand new ride.
Not even a fire-breathing dragon could keep us away from Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts! The line into Diagon Alley morphed into the line for Gringotts. When we entered the line, the queue stated that it was a mere 45-minute wait. Pah! During the grand opening of WWoHP – Hogsmeade we had waited almost 2 1/2 hours to first ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. 45 minutes was nothing!
So my friends and I bought ourselves some Butterbeer, put our bags into lockers, and got into line. We quickly realized that the wait time would be much longer than anticipated. The line was barely moving, and as we checked the wait time on the official Universal Orlando app, we realized that we had signed up for a MUCH longer line. After two hours of waiting and finally reaching the queue line inside the bank, we asked a Gringotts employee how much longer until we would be boarding. He informed us that the line was moving as quickly as possible but that he couldn’t give us a definite time. He did say that those entering the line now had an expected six- hour wait!
After almost 3 1/2 hours, we finally rode Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts! It was AMAZING! From the elevator that makes you feel like you’re actually traveling miles underground, to the amazing 3D screen effects throughout the ride, to the roller coaster portions that rocket you in absolute darkness, this ride was AWESOME! My friends and I all agreed that it was even better than Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Sadly, we only got to enjoy Escape from Gringotts once during our visit. After riding, the wait was up to 7 1/2 hours, and the ride experienced a lot of technical difficulties, which never allowed the wait times to go down enough for us. However, because so many people were stuck in line at Gringotts, the rest of Diagon Alley was vacant! We decided to grab some ice cream and elixirs and take a seat in Carkitt Market to catch some shows.
We waited a mere ten minutes to get Butterbeer ice cream. ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! Plus, we tried six of the exotic hard scoop ice cream flavors. Earl Grey and lavender is very tasty, but the floral notes of lavender are a little off-putting if you’re unfamiliar with it. Chocolate raspberry is very tasty but a little tame. Salted caramel blondie is really good, especially the small bits of blondie scattered throughout! Sticky toffee pudding was good, as was apple crumble, but neither of those really stood out. Chocolate chili was my favorite, after Butterbeer, of course. It tastes like average chocolate ice cream, but then the heat kicks in. It was a strange but enjoyable experience.
Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment provided the drinks. On the left is the Draught of Peace, which gives your Gillywater a mixed berry flavor. In the middle is the Elixir to Induce Euphoria, which tastes like a combination of pineapple, green apple, and mint. On the right is the Fire Protection Potion, which tastes like watermelon and will come in very useful if you get too close to the Ukrainian Ironbelly atop Gringotts. (Tip: You can add the elixirs to any bottle of water. The Gillywater bottle just looks cooler.)
Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees was a really fun show. She has a great voice and stage presence, and she got the whole audience involved (see above). All of the songs she performed were songs mentioned in the Potter books; if you remember, Molly Weasley is a huge fan of hers!
But the best show was undoubtedly “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” You will honestly forget that you are watching a puppet show! The puppeteers are amazing, and they really bring the story to life.
After watching the shows, and letting our feet rest, we headed out to do some shopping in Diagon Alley. During the grand opening of Hogsmeade, there were waits to get inside all of the shops. (We had to wait two hours to get into Dervish and Banges!) There was absolutely no wait to get into any of Diagon Alley’s shops, so we were free to take as much time as we wanted. Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment is gorgeous, as is Madam Malkin’s, but the best shop is Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.
Here you can buy Skiving Snackboxes, U-No-Poo, and so much more! And it’s so realistic; it looks like you’re in the movie!
By this time, we were feeling a little peckish, so we headed down to the Leaky Cauldron for some grub!
The food was delicious! I order the fisherman’s pie, which was really good, but it’s made with shrimp, cod, and salmon, so it is a little fishy. My friends ordered the bangers and mash (really good) and the fish and chips (can’t go wrong).
After eating, we decided to head out of Diagon Alley to explore the London waterfront and ride the Hogwarts Express!
The Knight Bus is spectacular, especially the conductor and the shrunken head. Our conductor was named Nigel, and he was hilarious! He and the shrunken head noticed my friend’s Slytherin headband and proceeded to warn the entire crowd that they needed to watch out for her.
There’s also a Muggle phone booth, which is a great photo opportunity. And if you dial 6-2-4-4-2, you just might be able to contact the Ministry of Magic.
We headed to King’s Cross station to begin our journey to Hogsmeade. King’s Cross is beautiful! I have never been to London, but our first ride was with a young British man, and he couldn’t believe how accurate everything was!
The Hogwarts Express is so much fun! We rode it to Hogsmeade and back again to King’s Cross, and it has completely different experiences for the two trips. I don’t want to spoil too much of the ride, but you will see some old friends on the way. And watch out for Death Eaters!
Overall, it was an amazing and magical experience! It was great to see so many devoted Potter fans braving the Florida heat! I wish that I could have ridden Escape from Gringotts again (at least another hundred times), but I would never pass up the opportunity to attend a grand opening for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I can’t wait to go back!