My Life, Travel

Universal Studios – Diagon Alley

fter waiting and waiting, I struggled to contain my excitement as we journeyed to Diagon Ally, the brand-new Harry Potter theme park.

I had heard such good things about it from friends and family that I was literally bouncing up and down in my seat with excitement.

Reaching the entrance to Diagon Ally, we knew were at the right place; there was a life size model of Grimauld Place, the headquarters of the Order of Phoenix, with Kreacher (the house elf) hiding behind the curtains, occasionally peering out at anyone who is passing. 

Beside this is a model of the Knight Bus, featured in Prisoner of Azkaban. There was even a man dressed in as Knight Bus conductor standing on the front steps. 

We could have photographs taken with him and we could also ask or test him on Harry Potter trivia and in return he would quiz us on Harry Potter trivia, which I was very good at, while mom was not. I am a true Harry Potter nerd.

Turning towards the entrance of Diagon Ally, we saw sign posts symbolising that Diagon Ally was steps away. The entrance also mirrored that of the films which Diagon Ally is hidden to all muggles. 

Excited, we stepped through the entrance onto the cobbled street. For a moment, we couldn’t help but stop and just stand there soaking up the brilliant atmosphere.

 As I stared around, one of the quotes from Harry Potter and The Philosopher Stone came into my head ‘Harry wishes he had eight more eyes

I  knew exactly why, there was a set of every shop featured in Diagon Ally in the films, it was incredible. Before doing anything, we took a few walks around just to soak up the atmosphere and still I couldn’t believe it.

Positioned around the theme park were animatronic characters, made to resemble the characters from the films, particularly the goblins. 

There was a small shop in which we could go into and speak to an animatronic goblin and they reacted and responded to our voices and questions. The things they said didn’t quite make sense or were timed right but that’s what made it more funny.

Around the back of this mini set was a pathway which led into Knockturn Ally, the street dedicated to the dark arts. Getting closer, we saw Borgin & Burkes, the main shop featured in Knockturn Ally. 

Universal Studios had created the shop and the street which visitors can venture through and visit. People can go into the shop and take a look around. 

The interior and exterior is so rich in detail and it included all the props that is featured in the shop in the film, from spooky skulls to disembodied hands and eyeballs, it was creepy but it was brilliant.

Venturing back into the main part of the street, I found the atmosphere change smuttily as we stepped out of Knockturn Ally into Diagon Alley, though that may of just been my imagination.

The cobbles under my wheels would usually annoy me, but I was so giddy and excited, I didn’t care, if anything I felt it added to the experience and it showed that the creators were true to the fans and built it admiring every last detail, down to the single cobbles beneath our feet. 

My eyes grew wide at the shops on both sides of the street, I started to bounce with excitement again. There was Quality Quidditch Supplies, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Eyelops Owl Emporium, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, Flourish & Blotts and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. 

All shops were positioned exactly where they were in the films and they were designed to the last detail to much accuracy. It was clear that architects and designers studied the sets carefully and precisely before they were built, which they were then built accurately.

Stepping inside each of the shops, I couldn’t help but stop dead again. The interior of each shop was incredible. They were designed with the colours and drawings and paintings that were featured in the films.

The items on show, we’re on shelves and in cabinets like in the films. Just like on set, ready for a scene. I actually felt like a camera was going to appear and ask us to participate in a scene. There were props within the sets, placed on high shelves or in locked cabinets which we were not allowed to touch. 

However, there were items in which we could touch and pick up and even buy. The access around the shops were indeed very difficult as shelves, cupboards, railings and cabinets were very close together, so I had to carefully weave through the gaps, careful not to hit or knock anything over. 

This was made somewhat more difficult by the amount of people in the shops, trying to get closer looks at everything. Again, I didn’t mind because it just added to the atmosphere. 

When I did struggle, there were very nice assistants or people who helped me. I tried to ignore the difficulties and plough through. I was determined to do everything I could gain, I didn’t mind because it just added to the atmosphere.

The items and merchandise that was for sale in the shops were linked to the name of the shop. Quality Quidditch Supplies sold everything a quidditch player needs. It even sold quaffles, bludgers and the infinite golden snitch. They also sold keeper helmets and gloves. 

There were also mini models of broomsticks featured in the Harry Potter films such as the nimbus 2000, nimbus 2001 and the firebolt which we could purchase. Beside these, there were quidditch robes which belonged to each of the four Hogwarts quidditch teams. 

There were Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff quidditch robes which we could also purchase, perfect for fans who sorted into each of the Hogwarts houses. Next was Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions; this shop had different robes on show as well as robes which we could buy. 

There were normal black robes, dress robs, original Hogwarts robs and robes for all four houses. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Belonging to Gryffindor house, I brought Gryffindor robes which I still wear. 

Next, we walked into Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment where all of the Hogwarts students brought all of the equipment needed for the intervening year, which we could too. 

We wondered into Eyelops Owl Emporium next and my eyes grew wide. There were little perches which models of each owl featured in the films including Hedwig. It was crazy to see all the owls, sat in their cages with straw beneath their feet I actually felt I was on set again. I decided to buy a toy model of Hedwig which is still up in my room.

Heading into Flourish & Blotts, I kept looking around and around at the different books on display. Similar to the other shops I went into, some were in locked cabinets and cases, just for show, there were ones we could buy. 

There were all the original Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, we could also buy each of the books as a special edition with extra content, which I brought one copy of each. There were all the school books which were brought by students each year, it was crazy how we could see each of the school books in print, in such detail; one of which has been made into a film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”. 

The last shop we walked into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. To say that it mirrored Fred and George’s personality is an understatement, it was crazy. 

All of the models and designs included in the shop in the film were all there and fans could purchase all of Fred & George’s merchandise which I brought a lot of, so much so, my parents had to stop me.

Taking a small break from shopping, we wondered into Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, another shop in Diagon Ally, where we had the most amazing ice cream sundaes. A well needed treat in such hot weather.

We had three and we all shared them as we couldn’t decide which one to have and they were all so delicious. We were so full, but it was worth it. Strolling around for a while, waiting for it to go down, we soaked up the atmosphere and wondered into the shops and brought even more merchandise.

Feeling thirsty, we wondered into The Leaky Cauldron. Set up like in the films, fans queued up to get food and drinks to have lunch in The Leaky Cauldron. It was a chance for fans to try food and drinks featured in the Harry Potter films.

Already have had ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, we didn’t want food and joined the queue for Butter Beer, a delicacy of the Harry Potter world. 

Upon ordering, we had the choice between normal and frozen Butter Beer. We decided to try a normal Butter Beer and a frozen one. Trying them both, I wasn’t keen on the new one, but surprisingly I enjoyed the frozen Butter Beer.

Next, we wondered into Olivander’s wand shop. In this shop, were all the wands used in the Harry Potter films. By each wand was the name of its owner. I couldn’t help but notice how each wand reflected elements of their owner’s personality. There was also shop assistants who knew everything about each of the wands in front of us.

There were two types of each wand on sale, one which was similar to the original one and one which was made to interact with other shops around Diagon Ally. Fans could cast spells, speaking the incantations and a number of the shops around Diagon Ally, reacted to the wand actions and movements.

In the distance, we saw Gringotts Bank, with a model of a fire breathing dragon. The dragon breathed fire at regular times. I suspect it is to imitate the dragon featured in Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2, where Harry, Ron and Hermione are escaping from Gringotts Bank after infiltrating Bellatrix Lestrange’s volt to retrieve a horcrux and they climb on a dragon’s back to escape. I swear as we got closer, we could feel the heat of the fire, it was incredible.

Journeying into Gringotts Bank, I admired the magnitude and detail of the inside too. When I saw this, I admired the time and effort that went into each and every part of the interior and exterior of the bank, including the replacer of the fire breathing dragon on the inside. 

Glancing around we saw animatronic goblins, positioned behind each desk in the bank. Then at the center of the bank, behind the slightly bigger desk, there was a bigger goblin, which moved its head and spoke in response to people’s voices and actions.

Following the passage around and venturing lower in the bank, we found a set of vaults, similar to Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault and found a themed ride, connected to Gringotts Bank and Harry, Ron and Hermione’s attempt to secure the horcrux. ‘Escape From Gringotts’ is based on the sequence of scenes featured in Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2. 

There were really nice assistants who helped us through the bank and onto the roller-coaster. Getting onto a roller-coaster, we were sent deeper into the vaults and accompanied Harry, Ron and Hermione on their quest. 

The roller-coaster zigged and zagged in different ways and tilted backwards in response to what was happening on the screen in front of us.

Coming to a stop, we caught our breath and found our way back into the fresh air and decided to walk around Diagon Ally one last time. 

We couldn’t resist wondering into each shop again and again, soaking up the tremendous atmosphere and of course buying more souvenirs from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. 

Once the park was closed, I returned to the car with my purse considerably empty and my pockets and bags full of merchandise, which any true fan would love.

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