Universal Orlando trip report – June 2014 (Hogsmeade spell markers, Diagon Alley dragon, Kong-struction & more)

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While I am impatiently waiting for possible soft openings of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, I decided to report on the most recent updates at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida from my visit last weekend.

 

Islands of Adventure

In Seuss Landing, the Cat in the Hat vehicle is spinning again but only turns around approximately three different times during the ride. It is a gentler spin and nothing like past experiences on this attraction. For those guests like me, who prefer the old way, it doesn’t look promising that the spin will increase in intensity any time soon.

Also since my last report, the McElligot’s Pond refurbishment is now complete and open to the public.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

[wptouch target=”non-mobile”]Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen. And don’t miss the complete photo gallery with 30 new full-screen images at the bottom of the post.
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In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, the construction walls surrounding the new Hogsmeade Station are down! The area looks great, with landscaping and pathways that draw your eye toward the train station. Since this isn’t open to the public yet, there are still barriers blocking guests from walking into the station.

For a huge Harry Potter fan like me, the fact that I will be riding the Hogwarts Express from London to Hogsmeade in the next few weeks is exhilarating!

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

I decided to go on a scavenger hunt in Hogsmeade and search for the newly-installed interactive wand medallions. In case you didn’t know, guests will be able to purchase interactive wands and cast spells at various locations in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley to make something “magical” happen.

In Hogsmeade, I found ten medallions in eight locations (two locations had two spells). I also found a ninth location but could not find the medallion that marks the spell.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

You may be interested in knowing that the new interactive wands don’t work quite yet in Hogsmeade, so don’t feel to0 upset that you can’t buy one yet.

In Jurassic Park, a large section of land located between the Thunder Falls Terrace restaurant and the entry to Toon Lagoon is being cleared and rumored to be the new King Kong attraction. As a result, the T-Rex photo opportunity moved from this area to a new location next to the The Burger Digs restaurant. Unfortunately, the automatic Photo Connect feature of this photo op still remains at the old location.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

The wait times at IOA were typical for early summer, with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at 30 minutes; Jurassic Park River Adventure, 45 minutes; Dudley Do-Right’s Rip Saw Falls, 75 minutes; the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, 45 minutes; and the Incredible Hulk Coaster, 25 minutes.

It was a very hot, sunny day, and many guests were taking advantage of the water rides, which made maneuvering from one end of Toon Lagoon to the other difficult.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

 

Universal Studios Florida

The following day, my family and I visited Universal Studios Florida. Since my last trip report, the Mardi Gras celebration has ended and, subsequently, the decorations have been removed.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

Posted wait times at USF also seemed to be typical for early summer, with Despicable Me Minion Mayhem at 60 minutes; Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers: The Ride 3D, 45 minutes; and Revenge of the Mummy, 20 minutes. The temperature was very warm, with partly cloudy skies. It rained for about 25 minutes that afternoon, but not heavily.

The Starbucks located in the New York backlot is open after being refurbished, but now portions of the locker area of MEN IN BLACK are being refurbished. Another noticeable change was during the E.T. Adventure queue: Team Members were not entering names into the system to be spoken by E.T. at the end of the ride. All other aspects of the attraction seemed to be running normally, however.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

Over at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, as you know, the tall construction fences have been removed, fully revealing the London facade. Since my last trip report, the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon has also been mounted on top of Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

The best view of the dragon that the general public can access currently is either from the Animal Actors stadium or on Sunset Street, near Mel’s Diner. I have yet to see the dragon breathe fire in person, but I am looking forward to this unique and thrilling feature.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

Now that the construction walls have been removed, walking up to the London waterfront is also a breathtaking experience for any park guest, even those who may not be Harry Potter fans.

Seeing the Knight Bus parked next to the Eros fountain in front of Wyndham’s is a sight to behold. And I absolutely love the animatronic Kreacher periodically peaking out the window of 12 Grimmauld Place and thoroughly enjoy the reaction of park guests who see him for the first time.

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

I have been re-reading the Harry Potter series and am comparing the descriptions by J.K. Rowling of London and Diagon Alley with photos I’ve taken. My favorite comparison so far has been from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where Ms. Rowling writes about the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron from the London streets:

The people hurrying by didn’t glance at it. Their eyes slid from the big bookshop on one side to the record shop on the other, as if they couldn’t see the Leaky Cauldron at all.”

Universal Orlando Resort - June 2014.
Universal Orlando Resort – June 2014.

This past week, Universal Orlando fans have been flooded with media outlets covering Diagon Alley, including The Tonight Show, The Today Show, E! Network, local media, and many others. Finally knowing that the opening date for Diagon Alley is July 8, 2014 helped ease the uncertainty of when I will actually get to see this highly-anticipated addition to Universal Orlando. Seeing the photos and videos from Diagon Alley made public during the recent media previews and Universal webcasts has not tapered my excitement, and my eagerness continues to grow knowing I will be exploring this new section of the park in less than a month.

I look forward to reporting my future Universal adventures to OI readers and hope you will soon enjoy the thrills and excitement of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley and all the other attractions at Universal Orlando Resort.

You can read all of our trip reports in the OI Blog Archive, or you can chat about Universal CityWalk with like-minded vacationers in the OI Community Forums.


Universal Orlando Resort trip report – photo gallery

Click any image to view it full-screen. When the full-screen image is open, click to the right or use the right arrow on your keyboard to advance through the gallery.

 

Maureen Maureen is married with a teenage son who has autism. Since she and her family moved to Orlando in 2007, they have visited Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld almost every weekend. Maureen recently created AutismAtTheParks.com to help vacationers who have a family member with a developmental disability to better navigate and enjoy the theme parks.

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10 Comments on "Universal Orlando trip report – June 2014 (Hogsmeade spell markers, Diagon Alley dragon, Kong-struction & more)"

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iamdollie
Guest

GREAT photos and, as always, a report that really intices the reader to visit!

Melissa Will Donahue
Guest

Great write-up, Maureen! Just curious… Do any OI staffers know what’s being done with the IOA amphitheater located between Marvel & Toon Lagoon? (It used to house a BMX show.) Are they still using it, or will that area of the park be re-purposed? I always thought that space could be put to better use.

Maureen Rowe Deal
Guest

Thanks! That amphitheater is now only used for special occasions. It was used during the Harry Potter celebration in January.

julie y
Guest

Thank you for another great report and FAB photos! I have also starting reading all the Harry Potter books again,before our trip from the UK in December! Sooooo excited!!!!!!!

Jill Piechnik McKelvey
Guest
Jill Piechnik McKelvey

Hope to get to universal never been there

Leah
Guest
I have to be honest, I think the Cat in the Hat ride was changed because of a complaint we made back in December 2013. Prior to entering the queue, we asked the staff if it was a good ride to take our 1 year old on and, without hesitation, they said SURE! There was never any information listed on their website, or in front of the ride entrance, about the amount of twists and turns so you can imagine how a 1 year old took to the ride. Not so good. The worst part was that this was our… Read more »
Shannon Braden-Gould
Guest

I can not wait I am going tomorrow (team member preview)

Miroku
Guest
Hi. My son has Aspergers he will be 18 in July. We are from the UK & will be in Orlando from 29th June to 6th July. He is obsessed with Harry Potter and has his heart set on visiting Diagon Alley. I understand there are previews for Universal Guests but we couldn’t stay at Universal due to his needs. Does anyone know/think if I contact Universal and explain they would allow him to preview also. He won’t understand why he can’t visit if others can so if it’s a definite NO we will have to avoid the park altogether.… Read more »
iamdollie1
Guest
Miroku debi here from fhe Special Needs Are Universal forum. There has been an update today (6/27) on the Diagon Alley soft opens, and you can read the entire thread http://orlandoinformer.com/forum/forum-40/announcement-3-dans-final-thoughts-on-diagon-alley-soft-openings/. Unfortunately, calling Universal will most likely not help. They probably have already received hundreds (if not thousands) of similar requests. I have also contacted them, telling them that I write a blog for disabled guests to the park, and I’ve not had an invitation either. And my family has been AP holders for 16 years. I understand how you feel – you want to give your son the best… Read more »
iamdollie1
Guest

debi here from the SNAU forum. Will you please contact me via Messenger on the Forum? Could you please make some mental notes that would be helpful for those with cognitive disabilities and those in wheelchairs? It would be wonderful if we could relay this information to those guests before the opening! I’m getting all kinds of questions that I’m not able to yet answer and it sure would be helpful.  Thanks in advance!

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