I’ve read all of the books. I’ve seen all of the movies. Visiting Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando was at the top of my list when I started planning my fall vacation. If you’re even the teeniest, tiniest fan of Harry Potter it should be at the top of your list, too. Just to make sure you don’t miss anything-even though I’m fairly confident I did-I made you a handy little checklist for your trip.
One of the cool features of Diagon Alley is that it’s an area all to itself. You can’t see the rest of Universal Studios from inside of Diagon Alley and you can’t see Diagon Alley from the rest of Universal Studios. Consider it a fully immersed experience. That doesn’t mean there aren’t cool things going on right there in the London entrance to Diagon Alley. Make a phone call in the phone booth. Have a chat with the Knight Bus conductor. Take a peek in the windows. I think you’ll be in for a few surprises. No, I’m not giving more details. Surprises. It’s all about surprises.
✔Do Some Banking
Don’t forget to stop by Gringotts Money Exchange. There you can turn in your muggle cash for Gringotts Bank Notes. They can be used throughout the resort or kept as a souvenir. Have questions while you’re there? Ask the friendly goblin behind the desk. He’s sure to have the answer you need. And tell him I said hi.
Visit Ollivanders to purchase an interactive wand. Your wand will come with a map that shows you the locations throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade where you’ll be able to make a little magic happen. And no trying to fake the spells. It won’t work. Not that I tried to fake a spell or anything. But I’ve heard from other people that it won’t happen unless you do it correctly. Me? I follow instructions.
✔Explore Dark Magic
Explore your dark side with a trip down Knockturn Alley. There you’ll find Borgin and Burkes-purveyors of all things sinister. In news that should surprise no one, this was one of my favorite shops. What can I say? I like all things dark and creepy.
There’s a Ukrainian Ironbelly Dragon on top of Gringotts Bank. Throughout the day, the dragon will breathe fire, and you’ll defeinitely want to watch. You get a warning because he starts to rumble a bit before he goes. Or, just watch the people. Everyone stops to look up and watch. I had just purchased a Butter Beer and was looking for a restroom when he decided to go the first time during my visit. Such bad timing. Luckily he does his fire thing enough that you shouldn’t have any problems checking it out. There is way too much going on in Diagon Alley to make it a quick trip.
✔Drink A Butter Beer
Confession time. I knew before I ever visited Universal Studios that I was going to try a Butter Beer. It seems like one of those things you do, even if you don’t want it. And I didn’t want it. I’m not a fan of butterscotch, which is what I assumed it tasted like. It’s not that they don’t taste like butterscotch. It’s more that it tastes like the best butterscotch ever. I tried the frozen. I liked it. I recommend it. I didn’t try the Pumpkin Juice, but I’ve heard good things. I kind of want a Butter Beer right now. I’m also about ten hours away from Orlando. Anyone know how I can make this happen? Help a girl out…
I loved the Hogwarts Express. It’s a must do. It means you need a park to park ticket. It’s worth it. Trust me. Ride the Hogwarts Express both ways. It’s a different experience each time. I don’t want to spoil it. Just trust me. You want to do this. You trust me, don’t you? Just do it. I’m really calling on your trust, aren’t I? I promise I’m not steering you wrong. Trust me.
✔Escape From Gringotts
Don’t let the wait time scare you. Escape From Gringotts? Worth it. It’s a roller coaster. It’s a 3D dark ride. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before. Sorry, little fans…you must be 42 inches to ride. If you want to check it out but you’re accompanied by a child who can’t or won’t ride, make sure you take advantage of the child swap option. One member of your party stays with the little ones and then gets their chance to ride once everyone is back without waiting in line again.
It’s completely possible that I loved my trip to Universal Studios and Diagon Alley so much that I’ve started planning my next trip already. At least in my head. Anyone heading there soon? Need a tour guide? I know someone who might be able to help…