Visiting Diagon Alley for the First Time

Visiting Diagon Alley for the First Time

Visiting Diagon Alley for the First Time

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It has been over a half a year since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley’s enchanted brick wall first opened for the world to experience. I often find myself craving a weekend visit as I muddle through the work week. So when the last-minute opportunity to visit with someone who hadn’t been to either Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade popped up, I had to jump at the chance.

As someone who has now clocked a countless amount of journeys to Diagon Alley since its soft opening days, it was magical to see this immersive, encapsulating land through the eyes of an unspoiled, first-time visitor.

We began our day just after park opening at 9:00am, without the aid of the coveted Early Park Admission. The rest of Universal Studios Florida was relatively busy, but – alas – as we approached the London waterfront area, the real crowds presented themselves. It was around 9:30am as we entered the London area, and we were directed through the Diagon Alley entrance queue, which wrapped around toward Fear Factor Live.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

My first-time companion, Liz, couldn’t resist the chance to get a photo of herself turning the doorknob of Number 12 Grimmauld Place as Kreacher peered down below.

When we finally arrived there, the unassuming brick wall underneath the Leicester Square facade welcomed a steady stream of Muggles, and I insisted we proceed through the transition slowly, observing the sounds of the bricks making way to welcome us to Diagon Alley.

There, the ever-impressive vista of Diagon Alley stretched out before us. The street’s rickety, twisty, towering shops, with their deep colored storefronts, framed the soaring entrance to Gringotts Bank. The imposing, awe-inspiring Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon leering down at the hundreds of park guests is a sight that continues to leave me breathless, and, as I looked over at Liz, her reaction the same, I giggled with excitement.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

The line to enter Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts interfered with our complete enthrallment as it weaved through Diagon Alley and up to the entrance of Leaky Cauldron. With the wait time well over two hours, we opted to go into Ollivander’s instead.

The innumerable wands that lined the shop’s walls inspired many “ooohs” and “ahs” from Liz and the rest of my travel party. I am not sure I can say enough just how much of an improvement the Diagon Alley Ollivander’s is over the Hogsmeade version. There is absolutely no reason to visit the original location when compared to the amount of space, detail, and sheer volume of guests that the new store can accommodate, but I digress.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

We were led to the second wand master room and filed in along the walls. When I noticed we were in the presence of a female wand master – or should I say mistress? – I positively gleamed, and Liz chuckled with delight. As the wand mistress began to welcome us, I couldn’t wipe the grin off of my happy little Hufflepuff face. She stated she sensed some strong magic here and asked me – yes, me! – to come into the light. It finally happened – after more visits than I can count, I was finally chosen at Ollivander’s! Liz couldn’t believe it, either.

(Sadly, with the lighting being so dim inside, and with me being way too excited to think to hand over my camera, we didn’t get any good shots.)

Though I already own an interactive wand, I couldn’t say no to the wand that chose me. What a wonderful way to start out our visit!

With new wand in hand, we continued up Diagon Alley and stood in the shadow of the impressive dragon, admiring the enchanted signs, window displays, and building-side advertisements that stretched out behind us. Liz couldn’t help remarking “what a cool place!”


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

We decided to round the bend toward Carkitt Market, and we entered the Gringotts Money Exchange. While we briefly waited for our turn to exchange our Muggle money for wizard notes, a member of our party asked the goblin his age, to which he replied “I am old enough!” Next we asked the Goblin’s name, and – well, to learn the answer, you’ll just have to ask him yourself.

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees were about to take the stage, so we waited for the show to begin. However, Liz expressed her desire to try Butterbeer, so we grabbed a quick, frosty cup of the magical drink. Liz and her boyfriend each tried the regular cold and the ever-popular frozen varieties, and, of course, frozen Butterbeer was their favorite.

Celestina, when we finally got back to her, put on yet another dazzling performance, leaving our travel party to comment on how much the show entertained them.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

After a quick visit to Weasley’s Wizarding Weezes, we ventured to Florean Fortescue’s. This is another part of Diagon Alley to which I often find myself craving a visit. Liz at first couldn’t resist the chance to try Butterbeer ice cream, but having just drank the real deal, she opted for the Salted Caramel Blondie, a favorite among the hard-packed ice cream options. I finally gave into my weakness for peanut butter and went with Strawberry and Peanut Butter, and added meringue pieces as a topping. I loved that they added a light crunch but were still also fluffy.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

With an extra burst of energy thanks to the sugary goodness of the ice cream, we decided it was time to tackle some spell-casting. We struggled a little with the Metelojinx spell, but after a few tries – and the helpful Diagon Alley witches and wizards on hand to help with a few pointers – the rain and lighting effects poured down. I would have wished to save the magnificent Incendio spell of FlimFlam’s Lanterns for last, but with it being nearby, we couldn’t resist. This is my favorite spell effect, especially at night.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

Inside the dark and sinister Knockturn Alley, we enjoyed casting a spell on the chimney sweep sign – again, another favorite of mine – and, of course, we then had to take turns at making the skeleton dance. The Incendio spell at Tallow and Hemp Toxic Tapers and the Alohomora spell at Tackleshank’s Locksmith are pretty easy to cast, thanks to the target’s proximity. Of course, I felt really bad for the effected canary and inspired some giggles when I kept apologizing (I am a Hufflepuff, indeed).


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

After flexing our spell-casting muscles for quite some time, we finished off our round of Diagon Alley magic by quenching our thirst with the Aquamenti spell at the Mermaid Fountain, and then decided to hop aboard the Hogwarts Express to journey to the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Liz was thrilled to journey through platforms 9 and 10 to the fabled Platform 9 3/4. I snapped multiple pictures of this now-classic photo opportunity, much to my party’s delight.

As the beloved train pulled into the station, steam billowing all around it, Liz and I were grinning from ear to ear. The journey to Hogsmeade was magical, and I struggled to point out everything I wanted Liz to see.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

As we departed Hogsmeade Station, we paused to admire the Thestral-drawn carriage. It was at this time that I, unfortunately, received a call that made me cut my visit short, but I still had enough time for just a few more spells.

In Hogsmeade Village, the spells were a little more difficult to cast when using the first interactive wand that I bought just about three weeks ago now. It seems the tip has become a little damaged, perhaps from me placing it in my tote bag without any sort of protective covering. So I recommend taking great care of your wand to avoid the same frustration!

Additionally, a few of the spells – such as Aresto Momentum at McHavelock’s and Rovelio at Honeydukes – seem to be under an anti-jinx or curse, for it appears that no witch or wizard could be successful with casting these spells. We both quite enjoyed performing Acendio and Decendio at Gladrags Wizardwear, however, and, of course, Locomotor Snowman results in a cute effect that is super fun to say.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.


Visiting Diagon Alley for the first time again.

 

I was sad to have to cut our time together short, but I loved seeing Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, and the magic of using the interactive wands with an excited first-timer. I really think the spell-casting of the interactive wands is a great way for friends and families to actively do something together – an activity that involves the challenge of mastering a spell, resulting in the pure enjoyment and feeling of achievement when it is finally cast correctly.

The look of happiness on Liz’s face – and on so many other guests’ – that remained throughout our time in Diagon Alley is proof of the spellbinding magic of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Learn all there is to do at both of the Wizarding Worlds by visiting our insider’s guide. Or you can engage in all sorts of magic shop talk in the OI Community Forums.

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Dani Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani has always had a passion for tourism and hospitality. She is a proud Orlando Native who loves sharing her hometown with others. With work experience in six of Orlando's theme parks, she now works in the world of hotels. Follow her adventures on Twitter @thisfloridalife

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