Diagon Alley at Universal Studios outdoes itself when it comes to immersive theming. The entrance to the land is situated across from the Night Bus and amongst a row of traditional English town homes. In fact, you’ll recognize it as Grimmauld Place - the same street where the Order of the Phoenix safe house is located. If you’re patient enough, you’ll see a face you recognize appear in the window of number 12 Grimmauld Place!
The entrance to Diagon Alley throws you off. The first time we went we thought: “Wait, is this it? This can’t be right!” That’s when we realized, just like the Diagon Alley we’ve come to love through the books and movies, the entrance to this Diagon Alley was hidden behind a secret brick passageway! When you round the corner, you can hear what sounds like bricks moving, magically opening your passage from the land of muggles to the land of wizards and witches. Once inside you will be amazed by the detail of each shop window and store. Be sure to not miss the fire breathing dragon who has just escaped from the Gringotts’ Vault!
Looking for more on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Be sure to also check out our review of Hogsmeade.
There are two attractions to be found in Diagon Alley: Escape From Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express. Escape from Gringotts is an innovative attraction that combines 3D technology with a roller coaster like experience. But the queue for this ride really takes the cake. The entrance for the ride takes you through the opulent lobby of Gringotts Bank. You’ll see several goblins along the way, who are less than thrilled having all these Muggles wander through their workday.
The premise of the ride is just as it sounds, you have broken into the most secure bank in the wizarding world and now must escape. You’ll run into some familiar foes along the way, but don’t worry, your favorite friends will be there to help save the day. From a ride perspective the 3D and car movements feel quite realistic and are some of the best in the park. The roller coaster sections add a little thrill to your standard Universal Orlando 3D attraction - making this our favorite 3D ride in the two parks!
Harry Potter fan or not, the Hogwarts Express is a very well done and well themed ride. While really just a cleverly disguised means of transport between the two parks (Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure), it's a fun adventure with numerous Harry Potter references throughout. The experience from Diagon Alley is definitely the better of the two as your train to Hogwarts boards at Kings Cross Station in London. You’ll enter platform 9 ¾ just as your favorite wizards and witches do, through an enchanted column! Once you walk through the column, you are instantly transported to platform 9 ¾. Be sure to check out some of the areas where luggage is stored in the queue, you might see Hedwig, and luggage that you recognize!
The storyline for traveling to Hogsmeade is also a little bit more exciting as well. But do make sure you ride it back as well to make sure you get the full experience. Be sure to note that you do need a park-to-park ticket to ride this ride, which we recommend regardless of your plans to ride Hogwarts Express.
As a note for any Disney regulars out there considering Universal for the first time, Universal requires all riders to put their bags in a locker prior to riding most rides. There are free options available, however, they are often quite small. Lockers big enough to fit a full backpack are available for a fee. Escape from Gringotts requires all riders to put their bags into lockers, while your bag remains with you on the Hogwarts Express.
Don’t Miss It!
While the attractions are a must do, the land itself is so detailed (did we say that enough times yet?!) and there’s so much to see and take in. You will definitely need to set aside some extra time to meander and explore this area. There are such incredible details from the movie, that you’ll want to ensure that you didn’t miss anything. A great example is a performance of The Tales of the Beedle Bard. Which can be enjoyed with a frozen Butterbeer of course!
Just as in Hogsmeade, you will find Olivanders where you can have a magically immersive wand choosing experience, where the wand chooses the witch or wizard! Or you can choose one for yourself in the shop or at the nearby Wands by Gregorovic. We do recommend getting the “magical” version so that you can perform spells throughout the land at designated spots. This “magical” wand will cost you $48+, so be mindful of the fee before jumping in. You can also purchase souvenir wands of characters from the movies, without the spell casting ability, for about $25. As the line for the Olivanders interactive experience can get long, we do recommend going early to mid morning after riding Escape from Gringotts.
At the front of the land you will find Weazley’s Wizard Wheezes. Fred and George’s shop is filled with magic tricks and magical toys. And of course the theming lives up to what we’d expect from these lovable pranksters. Attached to this shop you will also find Quality Quidditch Supplies and Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop, where you can grab some Harry Potter merchandise as well as an assortment of magical themed candy. Just as in the books and movies, they offer chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jelly Beans (they mean every flavor!), mint toads, lemon sherbets, souvenir jars of taffy, and so much more.
One of the coolest places in the land (both literally and figuratively) is Knockturn Alley, where you will find Borgin and Burkes. This sinister shop is full of dark magic items and spooky objects. Be sure to not miss listening for a little bird inside the vanishing cabinet; a detail from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince!
Throughout the rest of the land you will find numerous more shops, with everything from costumes at Madam Malkin’s to luggage tags at Globus Mundi. There are 13 uniquely themed shops here. We counted!
When it comes to food, Diagon Alley is limited to one main dining option: Leaky Cauldron. As it’s the primary spot for food, it gets extremely crowded at peak times. We recommend going at 11AM, anytime after that you’ll be waiting in a long line! The food however at this quick service option is really good and comes in large portions. Themed after basic English dishes, the Cottage Pie is delicious, hearty, and a great lunch to carry you through to the rest of your adventure.
Diagon Alley is also home to our favorite ice cream and soft serve stop in all of Universal, Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. This brightly colored charming spot really adds to the uniqueness of the experience and flavors offered such as Strawberry and Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Raspberry, and Butterbeer. But don’t worry if you have a picky palate in your crew, they have flavors that everyone will enjoy!
Finally, a trip to any Harry Potter land isn’t complete without Butterbeer! Whether frozen or on ice, this treat is a great afternoon thirst quencher. For the adventurous, you can get an alcoholic version at The Hopping Pot. Our favorite thing to do is to enjoy Diagon Alley, then get a frozen Butterbeer to take on the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade - great way to escape the heat and have time to sit!
Harry Potter fan or not, Diagon Alley is a can’t miss land for everyone. Whether you enjoyed the magic from reading the books, have come to love the story through the movies or just enjoy a very well done theme park, Diagon Alley does not disappoint.