Friday, January 24, 2014

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter unveils Diagon Alley expansion

Details have finally surfaced on the long-rumored and long-awaited expansion to Universal Studio's saving grace, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

As predicted, the expansion in question will bring the amazing world of Diagon Alley to life in the actual theme park of Universal Studios.  The pre-existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter (y'know, the one with Hogwarts...) will remain open, and ridiculously crowded, over at The Islands of Adventure park.

The two areas will be joined by an interactive Hogwarts Express ride is billed as an adventure in itself, but no details have been provided there (*cough* Dementors *cough*).

Right, so - what can you expect to see in Diagon Alley?  Eight new shops, an ice cream parlor, and a gigantic Gringott's ride with a line to match.  Here's the rough list of what's coming this summer...
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott's - This is main attraction to Diagon Alley and is the counterpoint to the Hogwarts ride over at Hogsmeade.  Taking its inspiration from Deathly Hallows, there's a large, albino dragon outside of the bank, and the queue area is purported to be ever bit as lavish and detailed as the one for Hogwarts. In other words, you'll spend 3 hours waiting for a ride that lasts four minutes but at least there'll be plenty of cool stuff to look at.
  • Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment -  A new shop where you max out your credit card buying compasses, hourglasses and other wizard gear. 
  • Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes - Aka, Zonko's Joke Shop.  At three stories tall, this shop might rival Escape from Gringott's as an attraction.  It'll be packed to its rafters with toys and tricks from the Weasley Twins but it'll also be fun to wander around in - the tilted floors will also curve unexpectedly under guests' feet.  Bring on the lawsuits!
  • Borgin and Burkes - Now, this is cool.  Diagon Alley will also feature a Knockturn Alley area, which will be home to the “dark side of wizarding".  At Borgin and Burke, fans of Team Voldemort can pick up gear for the Dark Arts like as Death Eater masks and skulls. 
  • Quality Quidditch Supplies - Quidditch brooms, Golden Snitches, and wizardly athletic apparel are all on offer.  Good luck making it out of here without spending a mint.
  • Ollivander's wand shop - There's already an Olivander's at Hogsmeade, but this one will be much bigger. Those who've been down to the original one have likely faced an hour-long wait just to get in thanks to a small (but really nifty!) floor show where small children are asked to choose a wand.  Hopefully, this one will have multiple areas for several shows to go on simultaneously.
  • Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions - Part with your cash here to pick up wizards’ robes, Hogwarts uniforms, scarves and character costumes   
  • Scribbulus - A stationery store with feather quills, parchment, inkpots, and journals.  This will probably be the one store you can actually get into this summer.
  • The Leaky Cauldron - An insanely busy restaurant that'll offer traditional British fare like as fish and the like.   
  • Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour - Basically, a Harry Potter ice cream shop.  It'll offer a variety of pricey, frozen treats to help you beat the heat.
Unfortunately, the one big piece of information missing was the opening date for Diagon Alley - all Universal said on the matter is that it's scheduled to open "this summer"

Guests will need to buy a two-park pass to visit both Wizarding World of Harry Potter Locations, however, and the lines this summer will be insane... but I'll be damned if this isn't enough to convince me to go back and brave the madness all over again.