Diagon Alley grand opens at Universal Orlando as thousands of Harry Potter fans experience new level of theme park fantasy

in Entertainment, Movies, Theme Parks

More magic has made its way to Universal Orlando as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is now officially open. Completing a project that visibly began when the Jaws ride closed in early 2012, Diagon Alley is now widely regarded as the new gold standard of theme park design, completely immersing Universal Studios Florida guests in a formerly fantasy world, now made real.

Thousands of “Harry Potter” fans arrived to Universal Orlando this morning to experience the many highly detailed and intriguing elements of Diagon Alley – from shopping to dining to live entertainment to its groundbreaking rides.

Video: Diagon Alley grand opening at Universal Orlando of Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion

(Video and most grand opening photos by WDW Guided Tours)

A confetti-filled moment marked the official opening of Diagon Alley.

Passing through the brick wall and seeing Diagon Alley for the first time has had jaws dropping and brought tears to the eyes of longtime fans.

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

After much waiting and anticipation, Universal’s guests can now enjoy double the “Harry Potter” entertainment with all-new offerings in Diagon Alley, each explored in detail at the links below.

  • Real life Hogwarts Express train connecting two theme parks
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride
  • Shopping – Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and other unique stores
  • Dining – Leaky Cauldron, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, and more
  • Interactive magic wands
  • Live entertainment – Music and puppetry
  • Knockturn Alley – The perilous side of Harry Potter
  • London waterfront embankment – Knight Bus, Kreacher, and more
  • And one unmissable fire-breathing dragon:

    Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

    Plus so much more.

    Though the new area had already been open in technical rehearsals to guests for several days, its signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, remained largely closed until today, its first official day of operation.

    At opening, there was a posted wait time of 150 minutes, which quickly rose to 300, then 350, then 375 minutes. The ride went down for about 15 minutes but came back up quickly, much to fans’ delight.

    Video: Diagon Alley opening day line at Universal Orlando

    Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

    Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

    Because the ride’s queue can fit so many people, the streets of Diagon Alley became far less crowded, with most people waiting to get on the attraction.

    But outside, the line to enter Diagon Alley wraps well around the park into backstage areas, with an estimated 3-4 hour wait time to enter.

    Video screens are set up to entertain the waiting crowds, playing the recent NBC making-of special featuring Diagon Alley.

    To mark the occasion, Universal began selling exclusive opening day T-shirts:

    It’s been 14 months since Universal Orlando first announced Diagon Alley, though hints indicated what was coming as far back as December 2011.

    Universal’s designers are quick to note that they began brainstorming this next “Harry Potter” land as soon as the original opened four years ago. Opening day of Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle was one for the record books, with a line stretching all the way through Universal CityWalk. For Diagon Alley, fans showing up for opening day were able to spread out much more not only into the new area but also across two train stations located in neighboring theme parks.

    Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando

    In the last four years, the original Wizarding World hit many milestones – 1 million riders on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, 1 million Butterbeers sold, and a much-needed boost in Islands of Adventure attendance.

    Universal Studios Florida will surely receive the same benefits from the debut of Diagon Alley – and designers aren’t stopping there. Art director Alan Gilmore is already supervising the finishing touches on Universal Studios Japan‘s Wizarding World, set to open in just a week, followed by the construction of the Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood, scheduled for completion in 2016. But Gilmore says he’s willing and eager to add even more, should Universal call upon his talents again to develop another “Harry Potter” expansion – perhaps the Ministry of Magic or Malfoy Manor.

    Meanwhile outside Universal Studios parks, author JK Rowling published a new “Harry Potter” story today following Harry and his friends at the Quidditch World Cup Finals.

    For the moment, all eyes are fixed on Diagon Alley, the most detailed theme park land around, transporting everyday guests into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to experience Harry’s adventure on their own, learning what it is like to discover the magic that exists beyond the Muggle world. Tiny details and believable environments make Diagon Alley come to life in a way no other theme park area has, offering a rich feeling of being transported to another place and time, completely separate from the rest of the park. Through Diagon Alley, Universal has proved it’s possible to create an exciting new place that once existed only on film and in the imaginations of readers, a staggering achievement unmatched anywhere else.

    Much more from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion can be found in our special Diagon Alley section and YouTube playlist.

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