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Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley

© 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved Author: Canadian Living Credits: © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved

Travel

Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley

The problem with being invited to a sneak peek of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley in May was that I was under a media embargo, meaning I couldn't talk about it. The two massive Harry Potter fans in my office had to make do with shrugs to every question they asked about what I had seen. After a few soft openings (when parks work out all the kinks), Diagon Alley has finally opened.

Here's a list of five things to do, see and eat (and even a place to stay) during your visit.

1. Step back to take it all in

Now this might be difficult seeing as throngs of Potterheads will be streaming in behind you, anxious to see the famous alley come to life, but step to the side for a moment to see it from a distance. The way the alley is constructed, the buildings appear to bend in slightly, creating a truly immersive experience.

You won't see the tops of any roller coasters or hear music from the rest of the park (the most you might see is an airplane overhead, but hey this is Orlando).  What you will hear is a "rumble" above as a Muggle train passes by, what you will see is the detailed shop windows for everything from Quality Quiddich Supplies to a larger Ollivander's Wand Shop and delightful little clues where to turn next (be sure to look for the small sign pointing to Knockturn Alley and its Dark Arts-related shops).

Those who know little about the books or movies will be impressed with Diagon Alley, those who love them might actually get a little misty-eyed.

2. Try the fare at The Leaky Cauldron

I was a little worried at first that the food would be, well, dumbed down to appeal to a North American palate, but the bangers and mash, scotch eggs, steak and ale pie and ploughman's lunch were all traditional British pub fare, both hearty and delicious (my English ancestors would approve). It also has three kids options -- a mini pie platter, macaroni and cheese and fish and chips -- there's not a burger or hot dog to be found. Since it is a pub, it also offers two exclusive beers, Wizard's Brew and Dragon Scales.

3. Indulge in the ice cream at Florean Fortescue's
This ice cream shop is where Harry tried his first Strawberry and Peanut butter ice cream cone. That flavour is available along with 10 others including Earl Grey and Lavender, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Chili and my favourite, Salted Caramel Blondie. Of course there is also a Butterbeer soft-serve that rivals the park's most popular beverage (more than 7.5 million sold) in taste.

4. Spot Kreacher
If you start your visit in Muggle London, walk to the very end, past the Knight Bus (be sure to have a chat with the interactive Shrunken Head (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), past Eros Fountain to 12 Grimmauld Place. Look up the windows of the ancestral home of the Black family and headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, where you'll spot Kreacher the treacherous house-elf.

5. Finally, ride the rides!
Sadly, I did not get a chance to ride the Hogwarts Express or Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts next generation thrill ride. What I did see was the incredible detail of King's Cross Station where the Hogwarts Express leaves Universal Studios Florida to take visitors to Hogsmeade located at Islands of Adventure (all while giving the illusion of passing through the Scottish highlands). And Gringotts Bank is simply jaw-dropping. From the marble hall with its massive chandeliers and animatronic goblins hard at work to the bank office's and the labyrinth of the underground vaults, it is exactly what Potter fans would expect.

So of course I am going to have to schedule another visit. And here's a tip I learned from our tour guide: The least busy day at the theme park is Super Bowl Sunday. Good to know.

Note: Where to stay
Universal Orlando recently opened their first moderate and value priced property. The retro-themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort offers family suites with kitchenettes or standard rooms. Just a complimentary shuttle bus ride away from the Universal Parks, it also features two huge pools, lazy river and bowling alley.

Slideshow

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley

The Hogwarts Express

Ride aboard the Hogwarts Express, which leaves Universal Studios Florida to take visitors to Hogsmeade, located at Islands of Adventure (all while giving the illusion of passing through the Scottish highlands).

By: Robin Stevenson Source: © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. Credits: Canadian Living

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley

The way the alley is constructed, the buildings appear to bend in slightly, creating a truly immersive experience. You won’t see the tops of any roller coasters or hear music from the rest of the park (the most you might see is an airplane overhead, but hey, this is Orlando). What you will hear is a “rumble” above, as a Muggle train passes by. What you will see is the detailed shop windows for everything from Quality Quiddich Supplies to a larger Ollivander’s Wand Shop and delightful little clues about where to turn next (be sure to look for the small sign pointing to Knockturn Alley and its Dark Arts-related shops). Those who know little about the books or movies will be impressed with Diagon Alley, those who love them might actually get a little misty-eyed.

By: Robin Stevenson Source: © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. Credits: Canadian Living

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Gringotts Bank is simply jaw-dropping. From the marble hall with its massive chandeliers and animatronic goblins hard at work to the bank offices and the labyrinth of the underground vaults, it is exactly what Potter fans would expect.

By: Robin Stevenson Source: © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. Credits: Canadian Living

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley

The Knight Bus

If you start your visit in Muggle London, walk to the very end, past the Knight Bus, past Eros Fountain, to 12 Grimmauld Place. Look up the windows of the ancestral home of the Black family and headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, where you’ll spot Kreacher the treacherous house-elf.

By: Robin Stevenson Source: © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. Credits: Canadian Living

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley

Lazy River Courtyard

A view of the Lazy River Courtyard, at the retro-themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which offers family suites with kitchenettes or standard rooms. Just a complimentary shuttle bus ride away from the Universal Parks, it also features two huge pools, lazy river and bowling alley.

By: Robin Stevenson Source: © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. Credits: Canadian Living


Are you a thrill seeker? Check out the 8 best amusement parks in Canada.
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Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley

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