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Monday, September 8, 2014

{ Your Ultimate Guide to Diagon Alley }

I am back from my travels to Wizarding London.

Ok, fine, it was Universal Orlando, whatever, you dream crusher!

If you are a regular reader, you know I posted about my Hogsmeade trip a couple years ago. Follow this link to read more... Our Holiday to Hogsmeade.

See all of my Harry Potter posts here. Food, crafts, and 2 massive parties.

I was very, very excited to go back and explore the newly opened (July 2014) Diagon Alley! This post is what we (my son, his girlfriend, and my fabby friend, Darla (Bakingdom) thought.

First, let me say, finally getting to meet one of my best friends on planet earth was amazing! Getting to spend a whole week with her spoiled me for life. The fact that she's 1/2 a world away is even more evident now :(

Please note, this year I decided to go without my big girl camera and actually enjoy myself. The big, bulky cameras are a total buzzkill at times. All of these photos are taken with my iPhone 4s.

The Muggle London waterfront is super pretty, but, it's just a facade. You can go in King's Cross of course. That is where you will board the Hogwart's Express after walking through the barrier at Platform 9 3/4.

In front of Muggle London you will see the purple triple decker Knight Bus. Stop by and see Stan and banter with the shrunken head.

Diagon Alley is a LOT bigger when compared to Hogsmeade, but it still isn't a huge part of the park
You can see no part of Diagon Alley from London. Very cool. You'll see Hagrid has already been by to magic the bricks down for you.

As soon as you walk through, bam! You see the whole alley with Gringott's at the end.

Just to the left you'll find The Leaky Cauldron

We lunched in there and it was well done, but I definitely prefer the vibe at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. For lunch I got the fish and chips. The fish was really excellent. The chips were ok. Darla got the Banger Sandwich and said it was delicious. We both had Lemon Squash (lemonade) to drink. It was good. Entrees are $9 to $15 per. There is a Ploughman's Platter for $19.99, but it serves two. Remember this is all traditional English fare. My picky Bean had to go over to The Three Broomsticks for lunch.

Entrees to choose from at The Leaky Cauldron are: Fish & Chips (13.99), Ploughman's- serves two (19.99), Bangers and Mash (11.99), Toad in the Hole (8.99), Beef, Lamb, and Guiness Stew (12.99), Cottage Pie ( 11.99), Fisherman's Pie (14.99), Mini Pie Combo (12.99), Soup and Salad (8.99), Banger Pub Style Sandwich (11.99), Specialty Chicken Sandwich (10.99). Kid's Menu includes Mac and Cheese, Fish & Chips, or Mini Pie (all 6.99). Desserts are Sticky Toffee Pudding (6.99), Cranachan (5.99), and Potted Chocolate Cream (4.49).

Across the way you'll see Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes and Quality Quidditch Supplies.

Photo by Darla
WWW is full of quirky fun items. Most of it seems to be recycled Zonko's products with some Honeydukes thrown in. (Zonko's is now closed at Hogsmeade with Honeydukes being expanded. This is a GREAT thing. Honeydukes was far too crowded before) products. There are fun new things like WWW shirts and skiving snackboxes though.

Be sure to look up and watch for Umbridge. Every once in a while she will shout out "I will have order!".

Here's Darla in the very cool rounded doorway

Quality Quidditch Supplies is just as it sounds, quidditch related merch.

Down the alley a bit you'll find the Magical Menagerie which is full of stuffed animals and such.

It was a fun shop with lots of details around.

We got Butterbeer at Fountain of Fair Fortune

The souvenir mug is different there, so you might want to check it out for that alone! I didn't get one, but wish I had now.

Photo by Darla
Butterbeer staches!

Butterbeer is $3.99 (on tap) – $4.99 (frozen). $12.99 for the filled souvenir mug.

Close by is Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour.

Photo by  Darla
The ice cream is really delicious and I'm not even a huge ice cream fan. I got Sticky Toffee Pudding, Darla got Salted Caramel Brownie, Bean got Strawberry and Peanut Butter, and the girl got Chocolate and Raspberry. We ALL loved ours. It's $4.99 served in a cup or $5.99 in a waffle cone. The scoops are HUGE though.

I tried to share with Gilderoy. He wanted it all. I said no. He's so salty.

For more info on food pricing, check out Orlando Informer. He is great!

They do sell something I would avoid. It seems like SO much fun, but the price is crazy! Elixirs from Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment. While, like I said, this seems fun, it is flavoring for water that costs over $4. Add that to your $4 Gillywater and you are looking at over $8 for flavored water. What? No.

There were a few stores/shops I didn't photograph, sadly. I think I was just overwhelmed by it all.

Those were:

Madam Malkin's Robes For All Occasions
: Robes, of course

Scribbulus: parchement, journals, quills, postcards, and other writing supplies

Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment
Misc wizarding equipment

Speaking of Ollivander's, when we were in Hogsmeade 2 years ago, Bean got chosen at the show, which was super fun. I was hoping his girl would get chosen this time, but she didn't. There were only about 6 other people in with us, and no line behind. As we went to leave, Mr. Ollivander stopped her and started talking to her. He asked if she had a wand already, she did. He asked to examine it, chatting with her the whole time. She is very shy, so this was even better than being chosen for her! She said she did NOT want to be chosen, but very much enjoyed talking to him. He also examined Bean's wand. Here is a very grainy photo (it's very dark in Ollivander's). I loved that he did this. It was something not at all required of him and I thought it was awesome.

Photo by Darla
Speaking of wands, we bought the interactive wands. There are several spots among the two parks where you can make 'magic' happen. I had read these were amazing and a lot of fun. I shelled out the cash for them, and ... whomp whomp whomp... Total disappointment, a $50 (!!!) disappointment. They were very tricky to work and after a while we just gave up. The wands are very beautiful, but are $10 less for the exact same wand without the interactive element. I very much wish we'd gone that way now. Universal has a lot of work to do in this department. Don't think it was just me either. there were four of us, and none of us (or the people we saw) could make much happen without trying over and over and over.

In the Carkitt Market portion of Diagon Alley there was The Hopping Pot, which is a drink stand. In front of The Hopping Pot is some of the very few places to sit in Diagon Alley. There are a few picnic tables scattered there. People were also sitting on the stage, when it was not in use of course. There were many, many places where benches would have been great, but there were so few of them around. There were some in front of the restrooms as well. Also in Carkitt Market is the Gringott's Money Exchange. You can go in, see an audio animatronic goblin and have money exchanged for what is basically Universal Orlando/Islands of Adventure gift certificates that you can use around the park. Shutterbutton's Photography Studio  is a little store where you can have your photo taken on a flying broomstick or purchase a moving photo (DVD).  Wands by Gregorovitch sells a lot of the same wands that Ollivander's does, but it's just a little stall, not as busy and no show.

There are 2 shows on the Carkitt Market Stage. Celestina Warbeck who sings and the Tale of Three Brothers puppet show/play. Celestina sounded good, but we didn't actually watch her. The Tale of Three Brothers was so very beautiful and I recommend taking time out to watch it.

This is the end of the Tale of Three Brothers, when the third brother comes to Death. The big, blurry object is Death. ;) I wish we'd gotten better photos of it, but we were both entranced by it.

Photo by Darla

Something to note:
Diagon Alley is a good 10 degrees cooler than Hogsmeade. This is due to the tall buildings that shade the entire area. However, if it's still BAKING HOT like it was when we were there last week, sneak off to Knockturn Alley.

It's very, very cool, and very dark. You can tell the difference in the alley alone by my photo of the sign, the bright to the dark.

The photo of Borgin and Burke's was taken in the middle of the afternoon.

While I'm definitely no Death Eater and purchased nothing, I did enjoy browsing Borgin and Burke's. They had more unique items than most of Diagon Alley. If you are a Death Eater or Slytherin, you will probably love this shop.

It was so cool, we found a set of steps to sit and eat our ice cream on. This is another area where Universal should have thought to install some benches or tables. There were wide open areas that would be perfect.

Now to the main show. Gringott's Bank and The Escape From Gringott's ride.

Gringott's is beautiful. Very impressive.

The dragon does breathe real fire. I didn't get a photo on my phone, only with my instax camera.

The kiddos queuing for the ride.

Bogrog at the front desk. Very fun animatronic goblins!

Awkward selfie with Darla

We only had to wait 40 minutes for the ride and it was excellent! Part coaster, part 4D ride. Loved it a lot! The 3D was great, and there were many unexpected happenings! Wee! I'd heard mixed reviews, but it was amazing. I still love The Forbidden Journey more, but it was really great.

Now, what I was looking MOST forward to at Diagon Alley was this... Riding the Hogwarts Express!! We were actually in Orlando on Sept 1st and seriously considered going there, but decided it might be super packed because it was Labor Day. We were there Sept 2nd, just one day late for start of term ;)

Photo by Darla

Photo by Darla

We decided to go from King's Cross to Hogsmeade first. Be sure to ride both ways, the journey is different. I prefer the ride from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, but both are great!

Remember though, this is where you change parks, you MUST have your ticket to ride either way. I couldn't find mine for about 5 minutes and was panicked. It never occurred to us that we'd need them. I'd love to see this changed to a wrist band or something in the future. I finally found my ticket and got to ride, obviously. Keep your tickets HANDY but SAFE. Don't want to lose them for sure!

Remember you need a park to park ticket to ride The Hogwarts Express.

Overall, I very much loved Diagon Alley, but.. .yes, there is a but... It's mostly shopping.  Not only is it mostly shopping, but a lot of the stores carry the same items. There are only two new rides, the Hogwarts Express, which you need the park to park for, and Gringott's. I enjoyed my day immensely and definitely do NOT regret going... However, I don't see a need to visit until they expand again (which there are already whisperings of a Ministry of Magic coming). Of course you get full access to both Universal parks, but I was only interested in Harry. It is a very expensive set of parks to get in to at $136 to visit both in one day.

Oh, and I need to mention this. Universal employees often get a bad wrap when compared to Disney. Now, I've only bothered spending time in the Harry Potter parts of the Universals, but the workers there were AWESOME. Super, super friendly. At least as friend as Disney and in many cases more so.

A couple notes:

I ordered off the kid's menu with no issue. They run $4.99-6.99.  It is a very small portion, you'll get WAY more with an adult entree, but I wasn't that hungry. Florida water is kind of horrible. If you want to save money by filling a bottle at the drinking fountains, I recommend buying a Brita filtered bottle. I bought the kid's size because it is small and fits in a backpack well. There are no 'normal' drinks in the two pubs, so don't expect to buy a Coke. The drinks are all quite expensive too. You'll have to choose from Lemon Squash (4.79), Butterbeer (4.49), Frozen Butterbeer (4.99), Pumpkin Juice (3.99), Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice (4.79), Fishy Green Ale (4.99), Peachtree Fizzing Tea (4.79), Gillywater (4.00), or Draught Beers (8.25-8.50).

The day was good and the memories are magical.

Darla and I just before our 3rd time on Forbidden Journey!

If you have any questions about either Harry Potter section of Universal Orlando, don't hesitate to ask.

See all of my Harry Potter posts here. Food, crafts, and 2 massive parties.


*All prices accurate September 2014


  1. Nice recap and great photos, Tina. Thanks to you I found Orlando Informer and love it there. I liked Gringott's very much but still prefer Forbidden Journey. Diagon is much more immersive than Hogsmeade, though. My hubby said the same, DA is basically shops with a ride but I really enjoyed it. It definitely is cooler there and thus makes it a good spot to relax from the heat, too. The ice cream was very good. We ate at the Three Broomsticks as well because of a picky husband but I like the interior of the Leaky Cauldron better, it's brighter. Overall it's definitely a great place for Harry fans!

  2. Your posts are awesome!!! Thank you so much. This is all making me even more excited for my upcoming trip and the advice is very useful for planning!!! THANK YOU

  3. I've been twice and took my interactive wand back the second time. They aren't as hard as you think. You basically need to ruin some of the magic and realize that there are sensors picking up the movement of your wand. Look in the window for the sensor, it's a round camera lens with red lights. Then point your wand in the direction of the camera. You'll want to be about 2-4 feet away. Use small movements to create the movement shown on the plaque. There are also hidden ones to look out for too. But, if you want just a souvenir, then the slightly cheaper ones are great too. That's what my husband got and they feel a little more authentic. Great post and tips!

  4. My son's wand had issues at first and then one of the witches helped us and realized his sensor was crooked in his wand. That can be the issue as well. The one in Diagon Alley that lights up the upstairs store is awesome and was worth the extra 10 dollars alone to see him do that. Always ask one of the helpful witches to show you the tricks and after that it is easy to do

    1. When we were there, the wands were still quite new. DA opened in June 2014 and we were there the first week in Sept of the same year. It's possible ours were crooked. Good tip! Hopefully they have worked out many of the kinks though. It seems that they have from what I've heard from others :)


...because life should be sweet.


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