Alright muggles, it doesn't get any more #awesummer than this! Universal Orlando Resort is putting the finishing touches on their newest expansion, Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, opening July 8, 2014.
For the first time ever, you can enter the mysterious cobbled alley and shopping area where the famed stories began and relive Harry's first steps into the world of wizardry and magic. This is a fully immersive journey where every scene imagined in the books and then visualized on the big screen is now brought to life in mind-blowing detail.
We were able to get a preview of this amazing new world and have listed our top experiences not to be missed.
Meet the Gringotts Goblins in the headline attraction for Diagon Alley - Escape from Gringotts Bank. Your journey begins in the lobby of the bank where you meet the goblins who operate the bank. You'll also come face-to-face with Bogrod - the head teller. Let us emphasize the fact that you are walking into the actual Gringotts bank. The creative design and attention to detail is uncanny. The lobby is complete with marble floors, grand columns, breathtaking chandeliers and, oh yes, realistic goblins, working and scribbling away on their forms.
The Escape from Gringotts Bank ride takes you deep into the vaults of Gringotts Bank and that's where it gets intense. Although, this experience claims to be tamer than the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey located at Universal's Islands of Adventure. The Diagon Alley attraction combines a rollercoaster ride, which speeds up and slows down based on the story scene, with motion simulator technology that allows your car to rumble and tilt back and forth. The overall affair immerses you like never before into the world of goblins and is a thrilling adventure not to be missed. (Please note that the ride was not operating at the time of our visit. Our review of the ride is based on interviews of a select few who had the good fortune of enjoying the full experience.)
Ride aboard the Hogwarts Express and travel through the Scottish countryside between London, King's Cross Station Platform 9¾ and Hogsmeade Station. Universal has brought that experience to life in a way that leaves you dazzled with amazement. No detail has been missed in turning this train ride into an unforgettable adventure that previously only existed in our imaginations. The train is the official mode of transportation between the two lands for guests who have purchased the park-to-park pass starting at $136.00 or an annual pass.
Explore the shops along Diagon Alley. For Harry Potter fans, shopping along the streets of Diagon Alley will be a heavenly experience. You can find your wand, or let your wand find you, at a new Ollivanders, explore a cornucopia of novelty magic and joke items at the full-scale Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and find all of your wizarding wares and supplies inside Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment.
Bonus must-do: Why shop with a credit card when you can shop with "Wizarding Bank Notes?" Exchange your currency at Gringotts Money Exchange for special issued "Wizarding Bank Notes" that you can use as money inside the Wizarding World, as well as elsewhere in the Universal Orlando Resort.
Cast spells with an interactive wand throughout the Wizarding World. In both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, you can test your wizarding skills using a purchased interactive wand. Included with your wand is a map of where to cast spells. With wand ready, locate and stand at a medallion marking the location to cast your spell. Raise your wand, make the correct gesture and recite the spell and the rest is well, magic. The interactive spell casting is a terrific activity for young wizards in training and is a great way to explore both of the Wizarding Worlds. An interactive wand will cost you $44.95.
Enjoy game-changing treats at Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour. This is the same ice-cream shop where Hagrid bought Harry a chocolate and raspberry ice-cream with chopped nuts in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Inside this whimsical shop are tasty treats and more than 20 unique ice-cream flavors. Our favorites included Chocolate Chili, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Salted Caramel Blondie, Apple Crumble and the game-changing, drop everything and hold onto your hat, soft-serve ice-cream flavor of Butterbeer!
Dine in the Leaky Cauldron, the popular wizarding pub and inn, at the entrance to Diagon Alley. Here you'll find traditional British dishes with some tasty twists inspired by the Harry Potter books and films. Some of our favorites include the Bangers and Mash (traditional roasted sausages with creamy mashed potatoes), Fisherman's Pie (salmon, shrimp and cod baked together under a potato crust), Fish and Chips and the Ploughman's Platter for two (English cheese, crusty bread, cornichon pickles, apple beet salad, Branston pickle and a Scotch egg). You can also try two new draught beers created exclusively for the land - Wizard's Brew and Dragon Scale.
Have an #awesummer vacation in Orlando.
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