Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Travel: Universal Studios Diagon Alley

Extreme Harry Potter geekiness ahead. You have been warned. 

About 5 or 6 years ago I visited Hogwarts/Hogsmeade at Universal's Islands of Adventure and it was truly magical. When Savanna's 9th birthday approached she mentioned wanting to check out Diagon Alley so it was a no-brainer for me. We would have ideally loved to have done the two park pass but it was $155/person while a regular one park pass was about $100. So we stuck around Diagon Alley most of the day. 

Outside of Diagon Alley is London with King's Cross Station, the Knight Bus, the telephone booth that takes you to the Ministry of Magic (make sure to dial MAGIC and listen) and Grimmauld Place. The musical score from the movies takes you right into the scene.

The talking head and the bus attendant conduct a jocular back and forth for passer-by's amusement.

Kreature peeks out of the curtains from Number 12 if you wait long enough.

Between a record store and Grimmauld place lies the entrance to Diagon Alley where the sound of bricks grind against each other to reveal the magic that lies behind the wall. As I walked through and gazed down the road I teared up. Literally. 

Immediately to your left is The Leaky Cauldron, where the inside looks exactly like the film. I wanted to run behind the stone pillars to spy Mr. Weasley giving Harry the down-low about Sirius. 

Peering in the Potage's window, self-stirring cauldrons could be found.

The signage, weathered buildings, and window displays left me furiously trying to take it all in. My husband and in-laws were bemused at my intense excitement and frequent photo snapping. We went through Diagon Alley three times that day and I know I still did not see everything.

The wand shop (Ollivander's and Gregorovich's were both there) carried towers upon towers of wands. The wand choosing ceremony was touching (tears again).

You could buy several characters' wands that were either plain or interactive. Prices were not on the boxes that I could see and in my excitement I mentioned letting the girls pick out interactive wands. Adam grabbed McGonagall's for me too since I drooled over it a bit. But when we got to check out and I saw how much they were I pleaded for him to put mine back. But he insisted and I was thankful. They were $50 each. So be prepared. 

The wands have an infrared beam that shines out the tip and can be detected on cameras throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. There are brass markers that show a spell and how to perform it in order to make magic happen. If you don't perform it just right it won't work. Trust me, sometimes it would take 2, 5, 8 tries to get it right while other more experienced wizards got it in just one. See the four purple lights in the photo above? That is one of the cameras that you would point your wand towards. 

Knockturn Alley was featured as well and was very dark with some blacklight action. 

These shrunken heads sing a chorus if you do the right wand work.

The frozen version of Butterbeer was my favorite. I crave another one. 

Next time I would like to get some ice cream at Florean Fortescue's, they have quite an interesting selection of flavors. But we did quite enough splurging with the wands.And pretzels. And churros. And Butterbeers. And Pumpkin Juice (Very good! Tastes like apple juice and pumpkin pie mixed).

The dragon blows real fire every 10 minutes or so. The Gringott's ride blew my mind. I cried on that too. Seeing Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang in new material was emotional overload for me. I undoubtedly looked like a nut being a mid-30's lady bawling like a baby on a roller-coaster ride. At least it was dark. And I could hide behind my 3-D glasses.

Wax. Just keeping it wax related.

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes caused a lot of ooohs and ahhhhhs. It was multi-leveled though you could only walk on the first floor. Through the skylight in the ceiling you would watch their fireworks explode. I wish I would have taken more time to really see what they sold. 

It was a beautiful day full of great memories. It pumped me up for the new book/play script release and renewed my fervor. Not that it waned but I do want to re-read the series.... yet again. Dreams of my future visit to the Warner Bros Studio Lot in London swim in my imagination. Only about 5 more years or so. Have you visited either of the parks? Are you a Potter fan? Have you tried Butterbeer? I think I need to brew some soon.


  1. Such a fantastic trip and gorgeous photos! I would be right there with you, sobbing over all of the intricate details and sensory overload! I grew up on Harry Potter, and the entire series is one that I can read over and over and over again without ever being bored of the series. The movies, not so much. I have a fond place in my heart for the first two, as there was a sense of magic and wonder I can't explain. Those movies also came out before I started reading the series so I believe that influenced how I viewed JK Rowling's universe. The rest are still good, just not magical. :)

    I have NOT visited either of the parks. I live vicariously through videos and pictures of others' visits until the day comes that I can go! I've not tried Butterbeer. I'm paranoid that anything I try will not live up to my expectations from the books.

    1. Thank you Liz! I hope you get a chance to come and see! You are much closer to Harry Potter Japan at the moment though. I wanted to visit it while I was there but it was too far from Tokyo and would have been expensive to drive or ride there.

      There are some yummy recipes online. It is an uber creamy and butterscotchy cream soda type of flavor. Very indulgent.

  2. Great photos! I love the care and attention to detail the designers put into everything. My mom & stepdad absolutely loved Wizarding World but they're waiting for a family visit to head over to DA.

    1. You hit it on the head. I was very impressed with the attention to detail. It transformed a relatively small space into an area I could spend days inside of, searching out those details. I hope you get a chance to go with the family. It is amazing! Have a great week Kate.

  3. I absolutely loved reading this post and looking at all the pics. Oh my gosh, how awesome this place sounds! I'm sad though, that I've fallen far enough out of my Harry Potter phase that I don't remember things anymore. =( Like Kreature and No.12 Grimmauld Place.


    1. One day when you're a snowbird we can go together. :-) Do you have any urge to read the series over? I want to pick up the new illustrated version soon. Maybe in a couple weekends.

    2. I want that illustrated one too! I'd hoped Santa would bring it to me but I guess he had to keep it to read for himself.

      I do want to read the books again, and watch the movies again, but there are so many other books I want to get to, and I've been so pokey in my reading my lately.


  4. I loved this post. I've tried to post one time previously so I hope I don't say the same thing twice. This looked like a brilliant visit and you've reminded me that I must go to the London one with the kids. I'm reading the first Potter book to my youngest - he loves it. Such a great series of books and films.

    1. Thank you! It was brilliant! My oldest daughter I read the first to and then she read the second herself. I told her she has to read the third before I take her to the other park that has Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. The Lindon studio is in my wish list. It looks so grand! I agree, a beautifully written series and well done films. Will you be watching the new movies coming out? Fantastical Beasts and Where To Find Them?