Have you ever said the words, “I’m still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts?” I’m holding out hope that one of my uncles is a wizard, and he’ll accidentally reveal his secret to me after one too many whiskey gingers on Thanksgiving. In the meantime, it is a tragedy I have never been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. It’s a bucket list item for most diehard Potterheads. And as of July 8th, there will be not one, but two Harry Potter theme parks in Orlando I have not been to: Hogsmeade (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) and the new Diagon Alley (Universal Studios Florida).
Diagon Alley, the latest addition, will double the size of Harry Potter World. The parks are said to be very accurate to the movie sets, so visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is as close as it gets to the real deal. Because we love all things HP (who doesn’t?), here’s a handy guide to the new Harry Potter theme park attractions.
You Can Ride the Hogwarts Express
Maybe you’ve been to the real King’s Cross Station in London and have taken an adorably touristy photo with the pushcart that’s so cleverly sticking out of the wall. Well, prepare to knock the pants off that pic, because you can ride the Hogwarts Express between the Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley theme parks. If you have to pass through a brick barrier to get to the platform, my life will be complete.
You Can Visit Diagon Alley…
Here’s our chance to see the storefronts we’ve heard so much about up close. And if you have a wand, you can use it to interact with windows in Diagon Alley to cast spells and conjure up mischief. For example, in one window you can use your wand to make trolls dance. Repeat after me: swish and flick.
… and Knockturn Alley
Shiver. Tell the Malfoys I said hello.
Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes Joke Shop
It’s like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for practical jokes. The joke shop is three stories tall! Stop in and pick up some Pygmy Puffs, Weasley’s Wildfire Whiz-Bangs and Extendable Ears (Crookshanks ate your last pair). I would also love it if there was a tribute to Fred Weasley. (Good god Elizabeth, he isn’t a real person.)
There’s a Ride (and a Dragon) at Gringotts Bank
When you walk up to Gringotts Bank, you are greeted by a 60-foot fire-breathing dragon. I repeat: A 60-FOOT FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON. There will be a ride, Escape from Gringotts, where you must retrieve a lost item from a Gringotts’ vault. Plus, there are animatronic goblin bank tellers. Seriously, icing on the cake of magical awesomeness.
You Can Eat at the Leaky Cauldron
Does the food appear as if from nowhere? Is there a secret entrance to Diagon Alley? Will I finally find out what Treacle Tart is? I will be heading to the Leaky Cauldron with a list of questions.
It’s decided: My next vacation is to Orlando.