A Muggle’s Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley
When I was 9, I spent most of my afternoons curled up in my bed, firmly clutching my Harry Potter book. No one tried to get my attention because they knew they would fail miserably. I was immersed into this magical world and everything else was just secondary. Every book was re-read, every movie re-watched. I basically grew up with Harry Potter and his friends by my side. So imagine my excitement when I first set foot onto the cobblestone streets of Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. I was grinning from ear to ear while my eyes wandered around. I was like a kid in a candy store; I didn’t know where to start! As a fan of Harry Potter, I noticed every detail. From the oddly shaped buildings to the colors on each signage..it was like I was transported into a whole other world. My husband couldn’t contain his laughter when I kept pointing out every single thing I saw. He must feel very lucky to be married to a Harry Potter dork lol.
First things first..
Before you reach Diagon Alley, you will first come across King’s Cross Station. This is where you can take a train ride via the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. Some people may not be aware of this but the only way you can ride the train is by buying the Park-to-Park admission ticket. This may come as a shock but the price to have access and enjoy this train ride is $219.99 per Adult. The 2-Day Park to Park Ticket entitles 1 guest admission to BOTH Universal Studios Florida AND Islands of Adventure on the same day and is valid for 2 calendar days. To sweeten the deal, they have a promotion going on online where you can get a 3rd day FREE for the same price ($219.99). You also have another option of paying less by purchasing the 1-Day Park to Park ticket that allows you to visit BOTH parks and of course, ride the train for $155. FYI: Diagon Alley is located in Universal Studios Florida & Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure.
For more ticket info click on this link: Universal Studios Pricing
What did we do?
- We ended up purchasing the 2-Day Park to Park Ticket so we can focus on one area (Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade) per day just to have a better experience. We could’ve saved money if we did the 1-Day pass but we didn’t want to tire ourselves out by doing both parks in one day. If you actually want to explore every nook and cranny and don’t want to be rushed, then I suggest for you to do the same. On our first day, we spent most of our time in Diagon Alley alone and we barely had time to go on the rides inside Universal. For the most part, we just stayed inside the two Harry Potter parks for each day we were there.
If you decide to start with Diagon Alley, then you must meet the Knight Bus conductor and the shrunken head. The Knight Bus is located right across the entrance to Diagon Alley. Just look for a purple triple-decker bus and you won’t miss it! It was cool talking to the conductor. He asked me some questions about Harry Potter, while the talkative shrunken head chimed in every now and then.
After chatting with the conductor and the shrunken head, we made our way to the hidden entrance of Diagon Alley. In true Harry Potter fashion, the entrance (found beside the Leicester Square Station) is a brick hole in the wall that opens to towering shops, colorful signs and a dragon, perched on top of the Gringott’s Bank. You can easily miss it if you’re just a regular Muggle like me. If you guys recall in the movie, the entrance to Diagon Alley is also hidden and can only be revealed by tapping on a brick. Although you won’t be tapping on anything here, it’s still a pretty cool way to enter the alley.
Diagon Alley is Universal’s latest addition to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The expansion was greenlighted after the success of Hogsmeade that debuted in 2010. This also paved the way for Hogwarts Express to get made and it’s one of the best attractions in the park. I liked Hogsmeade but Diagon Alley was far more superior in my opinion. Sure, Hogsmeade has most of the rides but I really enjoyed exploring the shops at Diagon Alley. I thought it was more magical and immersive than the former which is why we spent most of our time there.
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes
– This is one of my favorite attractions at Diagon Alley. It’s crazy how it’s a mirror image of Fred and George’s shop in the movies. Inside this colorful shop you will find novelty items (extendable ears, pygmy puffs, fanged flyers, boxing telescopes, etc) & sweets (fainting fancies, puking pastilles, fever fudge, nosebleed nougat, chocolate frogs, etc) that you will definitely enjoy.
Guess which one I purchased? Clue: it contains collectible cards
– Every witch and wizard needs their own wand to cast their spells. The best place to get them is at Ollivander’s. Stacked to the ceiling with wand boxes, this quaint shop is home to some of the most powerful wands in the world of Harry Potter. I had a hard time choosing what to buy so I ended up getting 3 wands – Hermione’s, Sirius Black’s & Lord Voldemort’s. There are two kinds of wands: regular and interactive. I bought an interactive Hermione wand and the other two were just the regular one’s. What exactly is an interactive wand? More on that later.
You can also join a short interactive show where you, along with a small group of people, will head to the back of the store and one of you gets chosen to have a wand magically selected. The wand’s not free but you have the option of purchasing it or not. Basically, you’re not obligated to buy anything & you’re just doing it for the experience. We were not the “chosen one’s” but I thought it was a magical experience nonetheless.
Checking out the wand
Duh, of course I had to get Hermione’s and Sirius Black’s! James wanted Voldemort’s coz it looked cool
– Knockturn Alley is famously known for shops devoted to the Dark Arts. Just like in the movies, this is where you will find Borgin and Burkes. This antique shop holds the other half of the vanishing cabinet that Draco Malfoy used to transport several Death Eaters into Hogwarts. You can find the replica sitting in the corner of the shop – don’t forget to listen for a bird chirping inside just like in the Half-Blood Prince. Here you can also purchase Dark Arts objects such as Death Eater masks, skulls and costume replicas. You might not be able to take good photos here in Knockturn Alley because it’s dimly lit and really cold, if I may add. Colder than any part of Diagon Alley! If you want to explore this sinister side of Diagon Alley, make sure you arm yourselves with your wands and a few casting spells.
With one of my favorite characters in Harry Potter
– Perched on top of the bank is an angry Ukrainian Ironbelly that breathes fire every 15-20 minutes. This is the focal point of Diagon Alley and rightfully so. As we entered the grand marble lobby of the goblin owned bank, I couldn’t help but admire the towering columns and gigantic chandeliers. You’ll also get to meet the not-so-friendly lifelike goblin tellers that are hard at work inside the bank.
Purchase an interactive wand at Ollivander’s
– Casting spells are no longer just for real wizards and witches. Even muggles can cast spells now! Just as long as you buy the interactive wand, of course. The wand comes with a map with medallion marked locations. Once you find the medallion, you can start casting spells. To cast a successful spell:
- Make sure you’re facing the right direction. The medallion is marked with an arrow to where you should be facing.
- When you’re going through the spell casting motion, make sure you keep your arms straight and point it directly to where the four dots of red light are.
- Your movement should be minimal. Don’t move your whole arm but instead just move your wrist.
- Don’t forget to say the words to your spell. Remember: It’s LeviOsa not LeviosAR! 😀
If you forget how to do the motions, just take a look at your map or better yet ask the park member overseeing the medallions. They will gladly help you perform your spell.
Experience the thrilling ride, Escape From Gringotts
– This is the only ride inside Diagon Alley so brace yourselves for the inevitable long lines. This 3D multi-dimensional ride takes you through the scenes of Harry, Hermione and Ron escaping the Lestrange vault in Deathly Hallows Part 2. Although it’s a short ride, I still enjoyed it.
Try on robes at Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions
– Here, you will find a great selection of wizard wear such as: school uniforms, ties, scarves, sweaters, cardigans & accessories inspired by your favorite four school houses of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.
Exchange money and talk to a realistic Goblin at Gringott’s Money Exchange
– Exchange your muggle money (US currency) for Gringott’s notes that can be used throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade! They’re available in $10 or $20 denominations. You can also talk to the animatronic goblin that will answer all of your questions.
Shop for your favorite creatures at Magical Menagerie
– Do you want your own Hedwig, Crookshanks, Fang or Buckbeak? How about Scabbers or Fluffy? This shop is the perfect place to find your own magical creatures. Don’t forget to listen to the snake outside the shop. It speaks Parseltongue!
Dine at the Leaky Cauldron
– This is the pub and inn that Harry and his friends often visit. But unlike the movies, there’s no inn inside the restaurant. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu consists of traditional British food which includes: Fish & Chips, Ploughman’s, Bangers & Mash, Beef Lamb and Guinness Stew, Toad in the hole, Cottage Pie, Fisherman’s Pie, Soup and Salad. They also serve kids meals and desserts. We didn’t get to try their breakfast menu so I’m not sure if it’s any good. But the Bangers & Mash (english sausage, mashed potatoes, green salad) was pretty tasty. Prices are decent, ranging from $9-16 per person.
What I loved most about dining here was the ambiance. The whimsical decor was on point and will definitely remind you of the pub in the movies.
Indulge in treats at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour
– If you’re craving for something sweet, then you should stop by this quaint ice cream parlour. They offer a variety of treats to satisy your sweet tooth. Don’t miss out on the magical flavors available for soft serve and scoop ice creams. Some of the flavors are: butterbeer, toffee, granny smith, orange marmalade, & peanut butter.
Drink Butterbeer at The Fountain of Fair Fortune
– Get your Butterbeer fix at The Fountain of Fair Fortune. Butterbeers can either be served hot, cold or frozen. I got mine cold and of course I had to have it on the souvenir cup! It tastes like root beer but on the sweeter side. You can’t leave the park without trying one!
Before you head out, grab some gillywater, fishy green ale or dragon scale to hydrate you throughout the day.
Part 2 Hogsmeade – Click this LINK
Have you been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What did you like most about it?
Let me know in the comment section below.