Universal Studios Prepares to Open New Harry Potter-Themed Expansion

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Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios
Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios

The literary and cinematic adventures of Harry Potter may be over, but that doesn’t mean fans of the young wizard can’t continue to visit the magical world that was brought to life by author J.K. Rowling in her best selling series of books. In 2010, Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter  – Hogsmeade to both critical and commercial success. And in just a few weeks, they’ll introduce a new Harry Potter-themed expansion, bringing the iconic Diagon Alley spectacularly to life. 

The new expansion is set to open to visitors on July 8, and will feature a host of locations from the books and movies. Guests at the theme park will think that they’ve stepped directly into Harry’s world as they walk the cobblestone streets of Diagon Alley, passing familiar shops, restaurants, and costumed characters. They’ll even be able to hop aboard the famous Hogwarts Express for a train ride filled with adventure as well.

Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios
Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios

Of course, this being a Universal Studios theme park, this expansion wouldn’t be complete with out a few thrill rides. One of the top attractions on Diagon Alley will no doubt be a ride dubbed “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.” Fans of the series probably already know that Gringotts is the name of bank that played a role in Harry’s story from time to time. Its great vaults were located underground, and a mine cart was needed to access them, sometimes at harrowing, breakneck speeds. The new ride is a roller coaster that simulates that same experience, using 3D effects and high tech animatronics to bring familiar settings to life. The experience begins in the Gringotts lobby, but elevators carry passengers into the caverns below, where a 12-person vehicle awaits to whisk them through their subterranean adventure.

After a thrilling ride such as that one, guests can head over to the Leaky Caldron to grab some fish and chips, or other tasty British fare. Then they can stroll through Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour for a bit of butterbeer ice cream, before proceeding on to shops such as Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions or Inside Wiseacres. The Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes is sure to be popular with fans, since they’ll be able to purches their own Skiving Snackboxes, complete with Fainting Fancies, Nosebleed Nougats, and the always popular Puking Pastilles.

Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios
Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios

Once visitors have finished exploring Diagon Alley, they can board the Hogwarts Express, which serves as a shuttle of sorts between the new expansion, and the existing Hogsmeade, which is located on one of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The four-minute ride has a few highlights of its own, including Hagrid chasing the train on a flying motorcycle, and the Weasley twins in hot pursuit on their magical brooms. Harry, Ron, and Hermione even put in an appearance, but beware the evil Dementors that lurk nearby as well.

Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios
Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios

CNN reports that Rowling and the production designer for the Harry Potter films served as consultants on the design process for the new Diagon Alley expansion. As a result, even the tiniest details have been painstakingly recreated, and brought to life. This is sure to delight fans of the stories, giving them yet another reason to return to the Harry Potter world yet once again. This time though, they’ll actually be walking through that world themselves.

About the Author: Kraig Becker

Kraig Becker is a freelance outdoor and adventure travel writer who covers extreme sports, mountaineering and active travel. Based out of Austin, TX he writes about his own travels while encouraging others to seek their own opportunities for adventure where ever they go.

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