This post is part 3 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Without Kids series. All photos in this post were taken by me on a Samsung Galaxy S6.
Universal Studios Florida hosts the Diagon Alley half of Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It is the more recently-built part, debuting in 2014, and has one ride: Escape from Gringotts. It focuses a lot more on shops, though the Kings Cross station of the Hogwarts Express gives you the chance to walk through the barrier between Platforms 9 and 10 on the way to Hogsmeade.
We thought we’d go to Universal Studios right at 8 am because our reservation for breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron was for 8:45. This was NOT THE CASE. Only Islands of Adventure opened early, so we had to go through there and then take the Hogwarts Express once it opened. We got to Diagon Alley at about 9, but they happily honored the reservation.
Check this page about early park admission to see which parks will open early during your stay. Had I known to do that, I would see that Universal Studios will do early opening but only from June 17 to 30. D’oh.
This is the traditional English breakfast, available at both the Leaky Cauldron and Three Broomsticks. It features (clockwise) a croissant, sauteed mushrooms and potatoes, scrambled eggs, baked beans, bacon, sausages, black pudding and a tomato. I’ve had this kind of meal before in Ireland and it fills you up real good with loads of protein. However, I don’t like tomatoes, so I set that aside, and gave the black pudding a no thank you bite. It tasted really dry and wheat-y, if that makes sense. The sausage and sauteed veggies were my favorite, followed by the warm croissant and eggs. I prefer my baked beans sweeter than they were on this plate. This costs about $17 plus the cost of a drink for an adult, but that was covered by our vouchers, thus saving us about $40 and filling us up until way past the typical lunch time of 12-1 pm.
Here’s how it looks inside the Leaky Cauldron. I loved the vaulted ceiling, the lighting and the decor (including a Sirius Black wanted poster). The tables are almost but not communal, so you’re sitting close enough to others that you might even make a new friend. Instrumentals from the Harry Potter movies play. I had fun trying to identify which movie each song is from–the waltz from the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire seems to play a lot for whatever reason.
When we finished eating, we had some time before our free moving photo session at Shutterbutton’s, so we explored. Like I said, there are many more shops here than in Hogsmeade, so bring your favorite credit card and prepare to spend! You can relieve yourself of your money at Madam Malkin’s (clothes), Magical Menagerie (stuffed animals), Ollivander’s (wands; we didn’t do the wand choosing ceremony because the lines were always long), Quality Quidditch Supplies (sports-themed clothes), Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment (lots of cool stuff), Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes (honestly mostly candy lol and it connects to a different candy shop whose name I forget) or Borgin and Burkes (dark/evil themed stuff) located down the very dark Knockturn Alley. It was literally hard to see, it was that dark in there, but it is also kept comfortably chilled in terms of temperature. Please don’t buy anything with the Dark Mark on it, at least not in my opinion: it’s basically an allegory for the swastika or other immediately recognizable signs of hate. We don’t need that kind of stuff in these trying times.
I bought my handy-dandy Hufflepuff lanyard at Madam Malkin’s, where you can also buy robes and even a replica of Hermione’s Yule Ball dress. Check out the talking mirror, too, though it said I was wearing weird robes. 🙁 Madam Malkin’s connects to Shutterbutton’s.
I tried to resist buying a wand at Ollivander’s, but couldn’t. The shop offers replicas of various characters’ wands, but we chose to go the other route of buying wands in different woods. Display cases explain the personality traits best suited to each wood: I picked ash and Charlie chose birch. The wands cost about $53, but are interactive–you get a map with places where you can ‘do spells’ and then gold plaques in the ground tell you what movements to make so that various things in shop windows will react. We had trouble doing the spells at first. I seemed to do better when I held the wand in my left hand and made the movements a little tighter. The reactions aren’t instantaneous, either. Employees often wander around and can provide assistance in doing spells, too.
Hey, can I get that wand up on the top shelf?
It was pretty much Shutterbutton’s time after that (I reserved for 10:45, we got there at like 10:30 and only had to wait for one group to finish–I really just needed to sit down, which I had to do a lot throughout the trip because I have bad feet), and let me tell you, it was probably corny to an outsider but so much fun for us. You are given house robes and stand in front of a green screen, so the photographer coaches you on what is happening and how you should react. There are 12 scenes total, including ones where you get to Hogwarts, plus a few still photos are taken too. Our package included the DVD and digital copy of our scenes. You can buy stills separately. They will hold your items until the end of the day, too, so you don’t need to worry about bending any still photos in your backpack.
That reminds me: bring a backpack! You are allowed to do so and to carry nonperishable food and water. The backpack is also a great place to stash stuff you buy, the park map, your wands, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hats (I am for real about sun protection), money, phone chargers and whatever else you need to schlep. For some rides, you can carry your backpack, but for others, you’ll need to stow items in free lockers while you ride. This did not apply in Diagon Alley, so I’ll cover that later. That backpack was basically Hermione’s beaded bag throughout the trip. It carried everything and was super important. I couldn’t stash it in my sock, though.
To cool down a bit, we got soft-serve butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s, located near the Gringotts ride, and ate it on the steps next to the ride. It was delicious and subtly flavored. I highly recommend it. I gobbled it up so quickly I didn’t take a photo!
Oh, there’s also a handy way to kind of tell time in Diagon Alley. About every 15 minutes or so, you’ll hear the dragon atop Gringotts start to growl. That’s your signal to get into position near Madam Malkin’s and prepare your phone because a few moments later, the dragon emits a huge fireball from its mouth. Don’t worry, it’s perched up so high that no one runs the risk of getting burned, but if you’re standing nearby, you might feel heat like when you open the oven door.
Pretty much all of us were parked there with our phones up for, like, at least 2 or 3 minutes before the growling.
Here are some more photos of Diagon Alley shops and sights:
We visited Diagon Alley on 2 out of 3 park days: the first and the last. We wanted to ride some rides again on our last day and board the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross, plus buy souvenirs. Though we tried to ride the Gringotts ride on our last day, something was wrong with it–a voice announced it was out of normal operation, then a while later said it was back online, but the line never moved after that point and we just said forget it. We did get to see the bank lobby, though, with the massive chandeliers and goblin staffers. I didn’t have my phone because I stashed it in the ride lockers.
The Hogwarts Express was also having technical issues when we wanted to ride it, but we refused to just say forget it. Instead, I downloaded the Universal app and told it to alert me when the ride reopened. It took about an hour, which we spent hiding from the sun on a bench just inside Knockturn Alley, but the reopen notification worked! The app is also key for riding Race Through New York, so definitely download it.
We never caught any of the little shows that happen in Diagon Alley–the Tales of Beedle the Bard puppet shows or the Celestina Warbeck performances–but I think there are schedules available for those if you are interested.
Next up: let’s explore the rest of Universal Studios Florida!
Are you also a Harry Potter loving millennial thinking of visiting Wizarding World? Do you have any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask!