Yes, I Cried When I Saw Diagon Alley
I am happy to say that I’ve been writing for MuggleNet for ten months now. I am even happier to say that because of my MuggleNet family, I’ve been able to do some pretty great things. This year, I took my first trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort for A Celebration of Harry Potter 2016… which is where this story begins!
So as the title suggests, I did cry under the bricks of Diagon Alley (three up, two across) on Friday, January 29. Not ugly cry, thank goodness, but the happiest cry I’ve ever cried. Even explaining it to friends and family back home makes me tear up. The experience of walking through the wall was breath-taking. Between the sound effects and the aesthetics, your entrance into Diagon truly feels personal. For a moment, I didn’t see the crowds in front of me or even my friends beside me. That first moment in the archway was completely mine, and I was overwhelmed.
Of course, I did eventually notice my friends (three of whom had also never been to the park), and all of our tears encouraged each other, and it was just an emotional time. Even our veteran friends felt all the feels with us. It truly was a magical first experience at the park.
Throughout the day, we did all the big stops. I met Nigel at the Knight Bus and called the Ministry of Magic to see if we could get in. Unfortunately, I was informed that there was a breach within the Muggle artifacts area and that they would not be accepting visitors.
We went to Gringotts Bank and caused some trouble with the goblins before we rode Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Bill Weasley is my hero, *swoon*), which is not for those prone to motion sickness. By the way, this is about the time when I learned that I get motion sickness.
After the excitement at Gringotts, we grabbed a butterbeer and headed over to Ollivanders to get our wands. The Wandkeeper makes the experience completely worth it, even if you don’t get selected to have a magical wand-pairing. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Ollivanders has an incredible selection of character wands, as well as a few that suit your zodiac. Just give your birthday to one of the workers, and they’ll let you know which wand is meant for you! I went with my favorite character’s wand instead of my own *and oh my goodness just splurge and fork over the extra ten dollars for an interactive wand because magic is real and you need to experience it for yourself*.
Once we had our wands and were ready to go to Hogwarts, we went to King’s Cross station to get onto Platform 9 ¾ to board the Hogwarts Express. Even the train ride from London to Hogsmeade is a magical journey! *Make sure you ride both ways, though, because the experience is different each way.*
Upon arrival, I was greeted with the cold white stuff that I had left behind in Wisconsin. Thankfully, Hogsmeade is bewitched not to feel winter’s chill. The village is breath-taking and has a beautiful view of Hogwarts castle. I was in such awe of the castle I forgot to cry this time.
Once I got over the shock, we got in line to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. *Also not really for people who get motion sickness, but surprisingly easier than Gringotts.* Now, I refuse to spoil any of the details of this ride for you, but I will say that you should expect to see multiple books represented. That is all. Oh, and a tip of the hat to Miss Hermione Granger for her brilliant Levitation Charm. Flying is just as incredible as you’d expect. *You can take pictures throughout the castle before you get to the ride! Do it!* We ate at the Three Broomsticks for lunch, and it proved to be just as delicious as the Leaky Cauldron (that’s in London). *Ladies, if you need to make a pit stop, do so in Hogsmeade… you might meet someone in the bathroom.*
On Saturday, January 30, we decided to try to get into the Expo for Celebration of Harry Potter. We were bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and at the park shortly after open, but alas, it was not meant to happen in the morning. A five-hour wait to get inside determined that we would visit Diagon Alley once again. This fateful decision led me to one of the highlights of my trip: butterbeer ice cream.
Yes, butterbeer ice cream is not only a thing but also the most delicious thing I had on my entire trip to Universal. We ate at some pretty great restaurants in CityWalk, and the Leaky Cauldron did not disappoint, but if you haven’t yet, you must try butterbeer ice cream. *Pro tip: If you purchase the $20 dining plan with Universal Studios Resort, your butterbeer ice cream can count as your snack. The dining plan is totally worth it. Lunch itself costs almost $20 in the parks, and the dining plan gets you a meal, a drink, and a snack. You’ll thank me for this.*
After the butterbeer ice cream and an emotional run-in with my childhood love Scooby-Doo, we got lunch at the Monsters Cafe and checked the line for the Expo again. It was only a two-hour wait, so we jumped in line and played Heads Up to pass the time. Other folks in line did the same, and they had Harry Potter decks, but we are evidently not as cool.
The line for the Expo really only ended up taking about an hour and a half to get through, but once inside, the line to do the mini Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter was another hour wait. My friends and I decided that we’d just see the sights the Expo had to offer, including a great MinaLima display, and then leave.
At one point, while signing up to win a hardcover set of the Harry Potter series, all of a sudden everyone around me was cramming into my personal bubble. Well, lo and behold, I was standing directly across from Katie Leung, who showed up for a press event and started to sign bookmarks. I became the designated bookmark passer, no big deal. Katie is incredibly nice and laidback. I bet most people don’t get to say that they met an actor from the Harry Potter film series the first time they visit the WWoHP. So you know, boo-yah!
Saturday was also the day of our MuggleNet Tribute to Alan Rickman on the steps of number twelve, Grimmauld Place. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. It was a short event, but it was moving all the same. A great mass of people gathered for about 15 minutes to give a wands-up salute to the beloved actor, and I even saw a few people in the crowd crying. It was incredibly touching to see the impact Rickman had on Harry Potter fans; one girl had even traveled all the way from Syracuse specifically for our tribute. Now that’s saying something. Clearly, we here at MuggleNet are making quite the impact, too, and it is humbling to be a part of that.
Sunday was filled with photo ops! *Definitely try on your House robes in Madam Malkin’s and take pictures, even if you don’t purchase a robe. Someone in the shop always has some great fashion advice for you, too.*
We also took time on Sunday to explore other areas that Universal has to offer. We traveled to Marvel Superhero Island, visited Jurassic Park, and yes, even stopped in Seuss Landing. *Please do not forget that these amazing areas exist! Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are breath-taking, but you will make plenty of memories in the whole park!*Monday was our last day in the park, and time was precious. Luckily for us, the attendants working on Platform 9 ¾ are wonderful people, and the line for the Hogwarts Express was so short, we were able to capture the moments of our crossing the barrier onto the Platform. It’s a quick moment but completely worth it to see it on camera afterward!
We had one more round of butterbeer ice cream and headed back to our hotel to catch the shuttle to the airport. I wasn’t sad until I got to CityWalk and it all hit me: I don’t get to come back tomorrow.
It was hard saying goodbye to my MuggleNet family as we went our separate ways, but the trip overall was amazing. If you haven’t yet, absolutely make it a Harry Potter bucket list item to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort! *Also, another pro tip: Buy an annual pass. You will want to go again, and it saves a lot of money from admission to discounts in the park! And you know… Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.*
The fabulous featured image for this post brought to you compliments of Stephanie B.!