After what may have been the highlight of my nerdom, I’m bringing you the Fairytale Traveler report and guide to Universal Studios Diagon Alley. This is an easy-to-read resource of shoppes, attractions, Harry Potter spells list, tips, and the inside local scoop on the best time of year to visit and avoid the crowds.
From my Butterbeered lips to your spells of magic, here’s all the wizardry that Universal Studios Orlando and the Harry Potter books have brought to life.
Guide to Universal Studios Diagon Alley
I made my way past King’s Cross Station, the Knight Bus, the Eros Fountain from Piccadilly Square, and to the hidden entrance behind Leicester Square to Diagon Alley. As I entered the brick hole in the wall my eyes scrolled along a cobblestone street laid between towering shoppes. My eyes widened with every inch, every window, and every sign as they led to a fire-breathing dragon perched upon Gringotts Bank.
There was no question after the unveiling of Universal’s Islands of Adventures Hogsmeade in 2010, that Diagon Alley was going to be amazing. The question was, could they actually outdo themselves? The answer is yes.
Having collaborated with J.K. Rowling and film production designers, Universal Studios recreated a near mirror of Diagon Alley from the famed Harry Potter books and movies.
Universal’s London is the all-new facade of Diagon Alley with a near-exact replica of King’s Cross Station, Leicester Square, Wyndham’s Theater, and the Eros Fountain from Piccadilly Circus. Inch by inch, it will blow your mind if you’ve been to London as I have, to see this elaborate recreation — it’s just like being in London. What makes it muggle London?
- Knight Bus — see the interactive shrunken head here
- 12 Grimmauld Place — The Black Home
- The Hogwart’s Express (enter through King’s Cross Station) — Takes you to Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade
- Hidden entrance to Diagon Alley — Behind Leicester Square
One of the two main attractions at Universal’s Diagon Alley is the Hogwarts Express. The life-sized movie replica train takes you from Diagon Alley at Universal Studios to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and back again.
There’s something especially remarkable about this attraction. Not only are the details perfected (as if we were surprised) complete with your own compartment and bench seating, but there is a digital screen where the windows are which displays your journey as if you were riding the train in the movie.
It’s downright flipping awesome! For added awesomeness, it’s a different journey on the way back to Diagon Alley.
Note: You will need dual park passes to get on this ride. Sorry, no dual park passes, no dice. You’ll be tacking on an extra $40 for this unless you’re an annual pass holder then you’re in like Flynn.
Universal Studios Diagon Alley
From fire-breathing dragon to the inlaid spell medallions in the cobblestone, Universal Studios Diagon Alley is more remarkable than we ever imagined it to be. With specialty shoppes, eateries, and of course the feature attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, there is no shortage of wizarding magic and adventure. Here’s the skinny on everything you need to know about shopping, dining, and spell casting at Universal’s Diagon Alley.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
The main attraction of Universal Studios Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This dark, thrill-ride coaster with 3D elements is suitable for younger children, but still fun for adults!
It’s a soft coaster with a smooth ride and features cast footage as well. The line is a million miles long, but that’s to be expected for a while. The cool thing is, the portion of your line in Gringotts Bank is pretty sweet with lavish chandeliers and goblins that look at you when you ring their bell.
The main goblin will even say something to you when you get near him. These interactive animatronics have mind-blowing, state-of-the-art technology that will enchant you.
Dining and Refreshments at Diagon Alley
- Leaky Cauldron — A replica of the pub from the books serving British pub food, fish and chips, Guinness stew, bangers, and mash — that sort of thing. You can also grab a cold beer (at $8.50 a pop) but hey, beer on a hot day in Florida is always a win.
There’s a line, but you’ll enjoy the scenery as you let your eyes wander the old English fabrication of this enchanted nook.
- Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour — If your lips have met the famed Butterbeer, you’re going to go ape over the new Butterbeer flavored ice cream.
- The Hopping Pot — Wizarding beers and non-alcoholic brews.
- The Fountain of Fair Fortune — Another watering hole like the Hopping Pot.
- Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshments — This is a super cool spot to mix your own drinkable potions!
Diagon Alley Shoppes
Now it is pretty obvious that with only two rides (one of which requires a dual park pass), Diagon Alley is largely made up of shoppes that will pull the money from your pockets like a magnet. I’m still not complaining and here’s why. Universal Studios has the largest collection of Harry Potter fandom merchandise than anywhere in the world.
The bottom line here is, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you’re going to be packing some mula because this is your candy store kids. That said, BRAVO! Diagon Alley shops and Hogsmeade shops are attractions in themselves! With props and window fronts that will make your wizarding heart patter.
- Ollivanders — Wands for all wizards and witches. Click here for a special magical experience.
- Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes — Practical jokes and gag gifts.
- Borgin and Burkes — Death eater masks, fandom merch, and super sweet dark Gothic elements like skulls and such.
- Magical Menagerie — Magical stuffed creatures.
- Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions — Wizard robes, of course.
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment — A cool place for wizardly supplies with steam punk flare.
- Quality Quiddich Supplies — Sports clothing and equipment.
- Scribbulus Writing Implements — where you can get pens, quills, and such.
Oh those Harry Potter Wands
Most every Harry Potter fan knows about Hogmeads Ollivanders Wand Shop, where you can buy movie replica wands for yourself or your little wizard. What most don’t know is Diagon Alley also has an Ollivander’s, and they are selling the all-new Harry Potter interactive wands which allow you to cast your own magic spells!
Click here for our guide on the new Harry Potter interactive wands, spells of magic, Harry Potter spells list information, and getting “chosen” at Ollivander’s Wand Shop for a special magic wand of your own!
Can I get an OMG! This was one of my favorite parts of the entire attraction, then again I have a thing for dark Victorian and Gothic flare. Here you can cool off (a much-needed bonus) as the alley is dark and cold.
There are plenty of creepy embellishments to dance your eyes around. It is also where you will find Borgin and Burkes, a killer dark Gothic and fandom store where you can find skulls and Death Eater masks.
Gringotts Money Exchange
Your head will be on a swivel at Diagon Alley, there is so much magic to take it! One thing you won’t want to miss is the Gringotts Money Exchange. Here you will meet the most realistic interactive animatronic Goblins you’ve ever seen! Ask them ANYTHING, and they will answer you.
Where’s Harry Potter? How do I slay a dragon? There are countless things for Potterheads to ask, and there’s no doubt you will love all the answers. The room fits about 25 people and you can pop in and out at your leisure. There’s no line to get inside, it’s very chill and laid back and a great way to get some air conditioning!
Check out what the Goblin had to say when I asked him, “Where’s Harry Potter?”:
And a Fire-Breathing Dragon You Will Love
Perched upon Gringotts Bank is a giant dragon that blasts out fire every 15 minutes. This thing looks so real, it will totally trip you out. I couldn’t take my eyes off this fierce beast!
The Best Tips and Tricks for Your Diagon Alley Trip
- Budget — As if visiting Universal Studios Orlando isn’t expensive enough (although I’ll be the first to say they are the most budget-friendly when comparing them to Disney) you need to be mindful of spending limits. The bottom line is you are going to love this place. Your kids are going to go ape.
If you’re not a Florida resident and getting to Universal Studios Orlando is an act of God for you, plan way ahead with regard to budget. There is a lot of eye candy and merchandise you will not find anywhere else in the world.
You’re going to want to come off some bank for this one but put your money on things you can actually keep. You can save a good deal of money with the meal passes and by bringing your own water.
- Ride Anyway — Universal Studios is the only theme park that has a “child swap.” Here you can leave one parent with any children who aren’t old enough to ride while the other enjoys the adventure. Then you guessed it, tag you’re it! One parent in and the other out while they enjoy the ride. Pretty sweet!
- Best Times to Visit — Take it from me, a Florida resident, you don’t want to sell the farm to go to Universal only to wait in 3 hours lines in the sweltering heat. You’re gonna be wicked pissed. The secret to visiting any Florida theme park is more obvious than you think, go when everyone else isn’t going!
Take your kids out of school and go during the week (they will still go to college), go immediately AFTER a holiday break has ended, and be VERY mindful of the UK school holidays as well as they are a huge demographic of the Orlando tourism audience.
The beginning of September is an AWESOME time to go. All the kids are back to school, and it’s just before the Halloween events gear up so everyone is holding out. It’s like an UH-MAZING!
- Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Property — With the all-new Cabana Bay Beach Resort by the luxury hotel brand Loews Hotels, you get swank and family budget-friendly in this new budget concept property. That’s right, the same service and swagger design, without all the frills that make for a super expensive hotel bill.
They offer early admission to all guests getting your first dibs access to the Diagon Alley magic. STRESS-FREE NO BRAINER HERE. Check out their rates here.
A special thank you to Universal Orlando for touring us around Diagon Alley. While we worked with Universal Orlando on this story, it in no way shaped our review of the attraction.