There are no words to describe the looks that passed over my boys faces when we first passed through the enchanted entrance to Diagon Alley in Universal Orlando’s newest Harry Potter addition. Awe and wonder took turns gracing their faces as they peered into shop windows, watched as magic literally happened right before their eyes from the wands of others, spoke with a goblin at the Gringott’s Money Exchange, and watched the fire burst forth from the mighty dragon atop Gringotts Bank. We spent hours wandering the streets of Diagon Alley, and came up with a list of 15 things you can’t miss when you visit.
1. Ride Escape from Gringotts
The number one thing you shouldn’t miss when visiting Diagon Alley in Universal Orlando, is the Escape from Gringott’s ride. The effects in this ride are absolutely spot on. It literally places you inside the movie, and take you on a wild adventure with Ron, Hermione and Harry.
For those of you who feel the Forbidden Journey ride is too rough for them, you will be pleased to know that the new Escape from Gringott’s is more forgiving on your stomach. Be sure to arrive first thing in the morning for the best chance at short lines, and remember, guests of a Universal hotel get in an hour early to experience the land.
2. Watch the Ukrainian Ironbelly Breath Fire from Gringotts
As you enter Diagon Alley, there is one figure that dominates the sky, and that is the figure of the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon high atop Gringotts Bank. Do not miss his spectacular display of skill as he breathes fire into the air every 15 minutes or so. Listen for his low grumbling and roaring to know that the fire is coming soon.
3. Talk to Sir at the Gringotts Money Exchange
If you’ve ever dreamed of talking to a goblin, now is your chance at the Gringotts Money Exchange. Step inside and ask the goblin who wishes to be referred to as “Sir” anything you wish about goblins, the bank or anything else that comes to mind, but don’t expect a cheery answer. Fun tip, you can trade in your muggle money for Gringotts Bank Notes that you can either keep or spend in the Universal parks during your visit.
4. Take a Stroll Down Knockturn Alley
No trip to Diagon Alley would be complete without taking a trip down the side street to Knockturn Alley. The mood instantly changes from cheery to creepy in an instant, as mermaid skeletons and talking heads lurk all around you. Be sure to enter Borgin and Burkes and see if you can find the hairy hand that scared Harry Potter when he first landed in Knockturn Alley after attempting to use the Floo Network for the first time.
5. Have Lunch at the Leaky Cauldron
The Leaky Cauldron is a must see, and if you can, splurge and have a meal there to enhance your experience. Serving up a wide range of dishes straight from the streets of England, you can also get butterbeer here, and for a limited time during the holidays, you can get hot butterbeer too. Be aware that no soft drinks are served here.
6. See the Knight Bus
Located in London just outside the entrance to Diagon Alley, the Knight Bus is a must see. Have a conversation with a shrunken head and pose for photos with the conductor.
7. Visit 12 Grimmauld Place
Take a stroll down London streets and stop at 12 Grimmauld Place to see the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Be sure to wait a few minutes to see Kreacher the house elf appear in the window above the door.
8. Let a Wand Choose You at Ollivanders
If you are in the market for a new wand, do not forget to partake in a wand choosing ceremony at Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley. You can now purchase new Interactive wands for a slightly higher cost that allow you to perform magic acts at various locations all around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
9. Pick Up a Potion
Need a special potion? Stop by Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshments stand to pick up your potions for everything from love to fire protection. You can drink the potion straight from the vial, or dilute it in a bottle of water if it’s too strong.
10. Dial the Magic Number in the London Phone Booth
In the streets of Muggle London, there is a bright red phone booth on the sidewalk. Children are naturally drawn to it, but there is a secret surprise waiting inside. Dial the magic number located on the phone for a fun conversation experience.
11. Have some Butterbeer Ice Cream
That’s right, Diagon Alley has brought Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour to life, and they serve butterbeer ice cream among other delicious flavors including chocolate chili and sticky toffee.
12. Take in a Show on the Stage in Diagon Alley
Live performances take place throughout the day in Diagon Alley on the stage/steps located near the Gringotts Money Exchange. Do not miss one of these magical performances featuring Celestina Warbeck, the singing sorceress, and the Banshees.
13. Shop in Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes
You can’t visit Diagon Alley without stopping in for a peek at the goodies that await in Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes shop. Now bigger and better than ever, you can pick up anything you need for a good prank at the Weasley brothers’ novelty joke shop.
14. Go Through Platform 9 3/4
Keep your eyes peeled or you might miss this unique video catching experience. As you turn around one of the bends in the queue for the Hogwarts Express, look for people mysteriously popping through Platform 9 3/4. If you pass it, you would never know you are walking through it yourself.
15. Ride the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade Station
Perhaps the best experience in all of Diagon Alley is the ride you can take between the two Universal Parks on the Hogwart’s Express. Universal has gone to great lengths to make this experience as authentic as possible, down to purchasing the same fabric used in the train seats in the movie for the train at Universal. High definition screens act as windows, taking you across the English countryside and on to the magical world that awaits at Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Pay close attention and ride more than once to catch all the special effects.
The new Diagon Alley area at Universal Orlando is a must see experience for any Harry Potter fan, and a delightful experience for even those muggles who have no clue who Harry Potter is (yes, some of those still exist.) If you have been looking for the perfect way to immerse yourself in the world of Harry Potter, then start booking your trip to Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure today!
Our park tickets were provided, but all opinions are our own.