Here we are! The fifth and final chapter of A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Well, for Orlando anyway. I do always like to save the best for last, or rather, it’s my favorite part of the attraction that spans Orlando’s two parks: Diagon Alley.
#DiagonAlley at #wizardingworldofharrypotter was so amazing 😍. All I want now is to re-read the books & rewatch all the movies. Cannot thank @alstonstephanus enough for being nerdy with me 😭, so sad it's over (for now) . . #TravelNerdy #universalstudios #universalorlando #universal #Orlando #themepark #travel #adventuretravel #travelgram #havefun #travelwithme #enjoylife #universalpark #IslandsOfAdventure #HarryPotter #dragon #letsgo #fun #likeakidagain #florida #igersorlando #ig_universal
I feel quite bad for the other parks to be honest. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are, of course, stunning. They’re incredibly immersive experiences, and they steal your breath away when you see them (especially the castle, who DIDN’T get goosebumps when it first came into view in the first film?). But there is something just… that much more magical about Diagon Alley.
Afterall, that’s where you really go shopping right? Hogsmeade had a few things, but it was the mystical and swirling alley of magical bits and bobs that was Harry’s first introduction into the world of witches and wizards. As such, it was also all of ours. Here you can wander around the shops, each one painstakingly recreated and unique. Like the books, each has its own purpose, selling specific witch and wizardly wares for the up-and-coming sorcerer.
Diagon Alley was added to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the Universal Studios Resort Orlando expansion that includes Muggle London and King’s Cross. Much like the book, you proceed to Diagon Alley through a brick wall that opens before you (though in this case it’s always open because imagine the bottleneck THAT would cause if it open and closed all the time!)
It’s that first sight, much like Harry had that really just opens up one’s imagination. Rows of shops are on either side you as you step in, their buildings twist and turning in that quirky and whimsical magical way. Broomsticks and wands and exploding candy and beyond are all around you, and at the very end is the curved and structurally unsound Gringott’s Bank… and atop that… is a fire breathing dragon.
It’s undoubtedly the star of the park and once it begins roaring, everything stops and eyes go skyward and it breaths a healthy dose of fire. It’s super cool, especially at night when it illuminates the whole alley.
Harry Potter and The Escape from Gringotts
It’s also the main star of Harry Potter and The Escape From Gringotts, Diagon Alley’s 3D rollercoaster adventure that is just as popular as The Forbidden Journey over at Hogwarts. I’m not usually a fan of 3D anything; I’m a glasses wearer and the double glasses look is never good, nor is it particularly easy to wear. However, I gladly made the exception to Gringotts and I’d do it again… and again… and again. I really enjoyed The Forbidden Journey (especially since we got a secret tour AND got to skip the line), but I think The Escape from Gringotts may be my favorite ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Like the rest of the park, there is a ridiculous amount of detail put into place here. Gringott’s is beautiful and startling, goblins working away and occasionally looking to you. They really do look lifelike. Once you pass through Goblin Inspection, the line takes a more interactive turn in a way.
It all begins with a souvenir of sorts. You get our photo taken before entering the ride, perhaps to make sure you’re not going to go rooting through all the vaults and steal some magical artifacts ;). You won’t be getting any other sort of ride photo here, so it’s a nice compromise and something a little different.
And then it’s ride time! The best time. Everyone’s favorite time. And the ride is AMAZING. it’s thrilling and exciting and magical all at the same time. Expect to wait for a long time though, it’s rightfully popular, but well worth it.
Shows and Magic!
There’s more to enjoy in this section of the park other than just the main drag of Diagon Alley. There’s an expanded part as well with a nice courtyard where you can see some shows! We weren’t able to catch them as we were too busy trying to get our magic on (the wands you can buy here are interactive with various sections of the park and you CAN DO MAGIC!).
There are two shows you can see here, The Tales of Beedle the Bard show and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees performance (which is what was playing while we were there; they’ve got killer voices).
You’ll find a bunch of the interactive wand sites here, just look for the lines to try them out. It really is one of my favorite parts of the park, it’s just such a fun and unique experience.
If you’re more interested in the Dark Arts and want to get in touch with your inner Voldemort, you can head into Knockturn Alley. You’ll know when you get to the shopping district known for more unsavory wares because it gets very dark very quickly. This is where the unsavory go for their magical tricks and wares.
There’s not too many stores here, and nothing you can’t get in the other ones in Diagon Alley, but you can try your hand at magic as many of the interactive wand stations are located in this area. Though be careful if you don’t like spiders… found this out the hard way from Alston. Grr.
Diagon Alley is the shopping mall of the wizarding world, and its replica here is no exception. Here you can get everything from wands to candy to robes to sweaters to ice cream to practical jokes. Want a chocolate frog? Done. Fancy a Hufflepuff t-shirt? Sold. The shops you can find in Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley are: The Leaky Cauldron, Ollivanders Wand Shop, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Borgin and Burkes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, and Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.
To know how to best dress the part and where to go, check out our How to Dress Like a Witch or Wizard part of our Wizarding World series!
My favorite shop was Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke store the Weasley twins owned. It’s architecturally very pleasing and delightful, plus there are lots of fun things you’re able to get here than can be fun gifts.
There is a great sense of joy one has when roaming around all these places, recognizing the names from the books and films. And really, that’s what makes Diagon Alley my favorite part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Hogwarts is great, yes, amazing to look at, but here you really get to explore more and feel a bit more immersed into the magical world so many of us grew up with.
So, have you packed your bags yet?! Don’t forget your wand!
A Muggle’s Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of the Disney Adventures collaboration between The Nerdventurists and Alston Stephanus of Alston Stephanus Accessories. Check him out on Instagram & his company!
Photos and video by Noriko Sugiura.