The opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2010 led to five to six hour waits on lines that wound around Islands of Adventure and into the CityWalk area. Even after the first six months people were still waiting on long lines to get on the rides, in the shops and even into the land itself.
Diagon Alley is much bigger than Hogsmeade, but there is still a chance guests will find themselves waiting to enjoy the area. It’s important to be prepared. Here’s 9 things you should know before you go.
If you are coming in from out of town, your best bet may be to make reservations at an on-site hotel if you can afford it. Wizarding World guests get in one hour before the general public if they book a Universal vacation package.
If you’re not booking a Universal vacation package, be aware — there will be people in Diagon Alley before you.
Universal will open the parks at 8 a.m. from now until Aug. 9. That means you may want to set the alarm clocks early.
Remember that it costs $17 to park at Universal now, unless you have a preferred or premier annual pass. Since the parks will be busy, you may find yourself spending a lot of time walking from the parking garage to the parks themselves. If you want to cut down your walking time, going with valet parking may be an option. It’s $30 for regular visitors for all-day valet. It’s $15 if you have a preferred annual pass and it costs nothing if you have a premier park pass.
6Ride the train.
The Hogwarts Express is now boarding and taking guests on a magical ride between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. But you will not ride if you don’t have a park-to-park ticket. Attendants will be checking your pass as you enter either the Hogsmeade or King’s Cross Stations. Keep your pass handy.
5Beat the heat.
Forecast from Tuesday: A high of 93 degrees with 50 percent chance of rain. It will be hot. Some of Diagon Alley’s stores have indoor overflow areas, but not all of them do. Universal said misting machines will be available to help people cool down. They said they have other procedures in place to keep guests comfortable. However, be prepared by wearing comfortable, cool clothing (your Hogwarts cloak may not be the best idea), comfortable shoes and bring water to keep hydated.
Once you are inside Diagon Alley, if you need to get out of the heat, head for Knockturn Alley. The area is dark and cool, a good place if you feel like you might be getting heat exhaustion.
4Food and Drink.
Universal strived for a truly immersive experience with Diagon Alley. And Harry Potter creator JK Rowling had her influence throughout the park, ride down to the widths of the doors. That includes food and drink. Universal said Diagon Alley can accomodate people with special needs (gluten allergies, for instance), but what you won’t find is a single “Muggle” product inside Diagon Alley. For instance, Diagon Alley has loads of drinks on the menu, but many are sugary. There is no diet Butterbeer. They do serve unsweetened iced tea, but if you are looking for a Diet Coke, you won’t find one. Guests were allowed to bring items bought outside Diagon Alley inside during the soft opening. Diabetics, as of right now there are no “no sugar added” or “sugar free” options at Florean Fortescue’s Iceam Cream Parlour.
Also, much of the food at The Leaky Cauldron is quintessentially British. There is a children’s menu, but it is limited to three items: macaroni and cheese, fish and chips and a mini-pie (like a shepherd’s pie). So parents with young picky eaters may want to eat elsewhere.
3Where’s the butterbeer?
You know how sometimes you go to Hogsmeade and all the guests seem to be gathering around the same Butterbeer cart? There are three places to buy a Butterbeer in Diagon Alley:
– The Leaky Cauldron
– The Fountain of Fair Fortune in Horizont Alley
– The Hopping Pot in Carkitt Market
These places serve both regular and frozen Butterbeer, along with a host of other drinks. The Fountain of Fair Fortune has a new souvenir cup for the Butterbeer as well. As for Butterbeer ice cream: Florean Fortescue’s is officially the place to get the high-anticipated treat. However, during the soft opening The Fountain of Fair Fortune served Butterbeer ice cream. No word on whether this will happen once the park is officially open.
2Cast a spell.
New interactive wands are now for sale at wand shops around the Harry Potter lands and at certain Universal stores. These wands have RFID chips and come with a map that shows you locations throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade where you can cast spells. The wands cost $45 plus tax, only $10 more than the old wands. Wand experts are available around the park to help you cast those spells. Not every spell just involves a “swish and flick.” Here’s a tip: Make your wand movements small and be sure to point where the arrow says.
1The wait for Gringotts.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is the big centerpiece of Diagon Alley. It’s what everyone wants to go on. That means expect a long wait to get on the ride. There is no express pass for Gringotts right now, according to Universal. There is a lot to see inside the bank, so just try to enjoy that if you are deadset on riding. If you are not willing to wait hours, consider some of the many other activities.
- Go shopping.
- Catch a show in Carkitt Market.
- Buy a new “upgraded” wand and cast spells throughout the parks.
- Go to the Gringotts Money Exchange and ask the goblin banker questions. You don’t have to exchange Muggle money for a Gringotts bank note to talk to the goblin.
- Looks for “Jaws” ride easter eggs (Universal team members say they are eight, but they won’t say what they all are).
- Ride Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade.
- Banter with the Knight Bus conductor and the shrunken head.