Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter is going to be getting much bigger — and more magical. The theme park has announced more details of its Diagon Alley expansion, which was confirmed in May 2013.
It was previously revealed that the new area of the park would have a Hogwarts Express ride connecting it to the previously built Hogsmeade area, and that it would have a ride based on Gringotts bank. There will also be a Leaky Cauldron restaurant and new shops.
Now fans can have more information to obsess over before the new area is opened. Universal Orlando reveals on Jan. 23 additional key details about the new elements of the park.
The Hogwarts Express
With Diagon Alley in the Universal Studios section of Universal Orlando and Hosgmeade in the other park Islands of Adventure, “Harry Potter” fans will be able to ride the Hogwarts Express train from one area to the other. Previously there was a non-working Hogwarts Express station in the Hogsmeade area, and now a new station will replace it.
“We’re actually expanding Hogsmeade Village and putting the station more like it was in the films, a little further away from the village,” Universal Creative Senior VP Thierry Coup tells Zap2it. “There are some transformations going on as well, so you’ll be able to board in the Hogsmeade Station and take the ride all the way to London, to King’s Cross, and go the other way if you want. But yeah, new station there.”
Since using the Hogwarts Express will require a park-to-park pass, visitors will be able to upgrade their Universal Orlando passes at the train station if needed. And the Hogwarts Express will be more than just a quick shuttle from one side of Universal Orlando to the other. Based on what Coup tells us, the Hogwarts Express will be a ride unto itself.
“The Hogwarts Express is going to take you places you don’t expect at all and you will feel like you’ve been going from London to Scotland, I can guarantee that,” he teases, not revealing how long the ride will take. “There are so many surprises along the way. It’s going to be great.”
After arriving at the Diagon Alley stop, visitors will pass through London and the brick wall needed to enter Diagon Alley before entering the new location. As this is the only way to enter Diagon Alley in the books, it will be the same entrance visitors in Universal Studios will use as well.
Once in the area, visitors will feel like they’re in the wizarding quarter of London, and Hogwarts Castle (logistically nearby in the theme park) will not be able to be seen.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
The new Gringotts attraction finally has a name. Following in the footsteps of the Hogwarts castle-based ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts will be Universal Orlando’s latest and greatest ride. Set inside Gringotts Bank, visitors can expect some of the moments in the experience to be reminiscent of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s own escape from Gringotts in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1.”
“When we saw the first film, it was like a natural. We thought this was going to be a theme park ride for sure,” Coup says. “We took from all the best parts of what we could imagine it would be like to ride at Gringotts and do all the stuff Harry did in the escape and all that stuff. … You’re going to feel totally like you’re there, in the middle of the moment in the movies and in the Gringotts bank.”
Just don’t expect this to be a copycat ride of the Forbidden Journey experience. While that attraction melded CGI and real sets with robotic arm technology to make visitors feel like they were flying alongside Harry, Coup says Escape from Gringotts will use completely new innovations.
“It is going to be just as enveloping and immersive, taking you totally through the stories. The ride system is going to be completely different, with different adventures and even more surprises. But certainly we’re raising the bar even to Forbidden Journey; we’re taking this to a whole new level,” he says.
The Leaky Cauldron
Universal Orlando reveals that the Leaky Cauldron will provide visitors with “traditional British fare” like fish and chips and bangers and mash. Expect to find a completely different menu from what Hogsmeade’s Three Broomsticks restaurant serves.
“We’re doing a lot of new items; pretty much a whole new menu at the Leaky Cauldron,” Coup says. “Very tied to the fiction as well, and there will be a lot of fun items on the menu.”
Diagon Alley will also have Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, which will serve flavors like strawberry and peanut butter ice cream (which is already served at the Three Broomsticks).
Diagon Alley will include seven shops: Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Magical Menagerie, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Quality Quidditch Supplies and Scribbulus.
There visitors can buy (respectively) wands, novelty and joke items, “wizard wear,” plush animals from the “Harry Potter” universe, wizarding “essentials” like hourglasses and armillary spheres, Quidditch apparel and equipment, and “Harry Potter”-inspired writing equipment.
For context, the Hogsmeade section of the park already has shops that sell what sounds like a lot of similar merchandise. Dervish and Banges offers Quidditch and wizarding equipment, Zonkos Joke Shop has a lot of Weasley products and there is an Ollivanders outpost set up in the village near Hogwarts Castle. Then there’s Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and the Owl Post, as well as the sweets shop Honeydukes.
According to Coup, the joy of visiting the new shops in Diagon Alley will be in the details. He says that Diagon Alley (and Knockturn Alley, where Borgin and Burkes will sell Dark objects and Dark Arts material) will feel much more urban than Hogsmeade, and that the Universal Creative team ramped up the amount of details and nods to the “Harry Potter” franchise for visitors to discover in this new area.
“My most favorite is going to be the Magical Menagerie. There’s amazing theming inside the place. It’s going to be fantastic,” Coup says, adding of Diagon Alley, “It’s going to be very charming, very delightful.”
He continues, “I think it’s going to deliver one of the best experiences in any theme park. I mean, it just expands this whole adventure up to a whole new level.”
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley expansion opens in summer 2014.