Diagon Alley, the latest addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal Orlando Resort, will open on July 8 to the public, four years to the day after the original attraction was unveiled.
Centerpieced by a replica of Gringotts Bank topped with an actual fire breathing dragon, Diagon Alley faithfully represents the location from the books and movies. Escape from Gringotts is the premiere ride in Diagon Alley, which is part roller coaster and part motion simulator. According to Variety, the illusion of overwhelming space is given to visitors, making them feel like they’re actually in the immense goblin bank. A virtual elevator takes everyone deep below the surface to the bank vaults and then visitors enter a wild ride to retrieve the magical Horcrux. Riders will see goblins, trolls, and even come face to face with He Who Must Not Be Named, Lord Voldemort. Of course, Harry and his friends are there to make sure everyone comes out safe and sound.
It’s true that the majority of Diagon Alley is shopping. Of course, Diagon Alley was the shopping district in Harry Potter’s magical world, so it only makes sense. The stores in Diagon Alley are well done reproductions of the shops in the books and films. Olivander’s Wand Shop sells enchanted wands in three different designs. The Leaky Cauldron restaurant offers off-beat but tasty drinks like Fishy Green Ale, a mix of green apple and pineapple juices featuring bursts of blueberry flavor. Butterbeer, made so popular by J.K. Rowling’s books, is also available in Diagon Alley in the form of soft-serve butterbeer ice cream. British fare like fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and pints of brew made especially for Diagon Alley are also available.
The final approach to the public opening of Diagon Alley hasn’t gone without its glitches, however. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Escape from Gringotts ride in Diagon Alley malfunctioned on media day, stranding several reporters and guests in the middle of the goblin bank, and requiring them to be rescued by staff.
According to Universal Spokesman, Tom Schroder, glitches are all part of the process. “This is a preview, and we use previews to refine and perfect the experience,” he said, adding that the Diagon Alley ride will be operating smoothly for guests on opening day.
Universal won’t say how much it cost to build Diagon Alley, but some experts put the price tag for the new attraction at $400 million. However, considering that Harry Potter fans have increased Universal’s profit in the park by 50 percent since 2009, few could argue the investment.
According to the experts and the media, the new attraction seems to be a hit. However, the true experts — J.K. Rowling fans of all ages — will make the final assessment of Diagon Alley on July 8.