Ella and I just returned back from our second family trip to Universal Studios Florida where we spent the majority of our time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I want to help your family make the most of your days at the park, so today I’m going to tell you EVERYTHING You Need to Know about Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Diagon Alley Orlando
Universal Orlando is divided into three parks: Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is divided as well, with Diagon Alley located at Universal Studios Florida, and Hogsmeade located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Diagon Alley is a cobblestoned wizarding shopping area set in London, England mentioned in nearly every installation of the Harry Potter books. And just like in the books, Diagon Alley is dedicated to shopping for magical supplies, dining like wizards and witches, and catching some entertainment.
How to Get to Diagon Alley
Part of Universal Studios Florida is dedicated to being miniature versions of famous cities – NYC, San Francisco, Hollywood… and London! It’s in London where you first get an indication that something magical may be afoot, with the presence of the Night Bus from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
While the traditional entrance to Diagon Alley (at least in the books) is through the Leaky Cauldron, Universal has decided to have you enter a different way (probably best for people trying to enjoy their meals at the pub).
Diagon Alley is tucked away, and I kind of think part of the experience should be wandering around trying to find it – but I will tell you in the paragraph below where to find it (skip over it if you want to keep it a surprise).
Just to the right of the entrance to King’s Cross Station (where you enter to ride the Hogwarts Express), is a nondescript bricked area that looks like it has a dead end. Walk towards that and you’ll soon realize that there are two small passageways to either side that allow you to “pass the wall” and enter Diagon Alley.
Once you enter Diagon Alley, you will be greeted by a scene plucked right from the movie! Universal Studios worked alongside the movie set designers to recreate their Diagon Alley, complete with fire-breathing dragon perched on top of Gringott’s Bank!
Note: the dragon gives out a small rumble before breathing fire, so keep your ears open! It lets out fire every 15 minutes.
Diagon Alley Rides
Escape from Gringotts is a 4D dark coaster set deep inside Gringott’s bank. Even the line for this ride is part of the experience – but if you want to skip the line, head for the ride after suppertime when you can practically walk straight on the ride.
Escape from Gringotts is hands down the best roller coaster I have ever been on – and I’m not a huge fan of roller coasters! This dark coaster plays mind tricks on you at every turn and is just an amazing experience. I wouldn’t recommend it for sensitive children, but there is a child swap option if you are travelling with more than one adult.
You will need to place your items in a locker (free for 2 hours) while on the ride.
With only two rides in Diagon Alley (one of which is the Hogwarts Express that takes you between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade), the majority of your time at Diagon Alley is going to be spent exploring, eating, and shopping.
Diagon Alley Experiences
Interactive Wands at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
One big decision you need to make before you hit the parks is whether or not you will be buying a wand, and if so, will it be an interactive wand?
A standard, non-interactive wand starts around $25, while interactive wands (which can unlock surprises around the parks) are around $45-50. Speaking to staff, I also found out that if your wand ever stops working, they will replace it at no charge.
I think if you’re going to buy a wand anyways, spend the extra bit of money and get the interactive version (for a big family, just get one – there is no need to get separate wands for each child). It’s basically an interactive “treasure map” experience of seeking out the little spots around the two Wizarding parks and unlocking little surprises.
Most of the spells unlock small changes (in shop windows or displays) like opening a giant box of chocolate to reveal a large croaking (chocolate) frog or a magical message appearing on parchment paper. My daughter’s favorite spell is getting the mermaid fountain to sprout water on an unsuspecting guest behind the fountain – she got me once! Be prepared that your child will probably want to check off every spell on their map (which comes with the wand) which is easily an hour at each park.
Wands can be purchased at Olliverander’s or Wands by Gregorovictch. Olliverander’s is where “the wand experience” takes place, but please note that only one child per group of about 20 guests will be selected.
Many people don’t realize that Knockturn Alley even exists – it looks like a dead end just past the bathrooms, but keep going and you’ll soon find yourself immersed in night with all sorts of creepy discoveries.
There are FIVE places to cast spells with your interactive wand in this area, a shop catering to the dark arts (Borgin and Burkes), and some fun displays (including singing shrunken heads and a shop display that “x-rays” you).
If you buy an interactive wand, be sure to pull out the map included in your wand’s box while in Knockturn Alley. There are some surprises that only reveal themselves under the black lights in the alley.
There are two live performances that take place during the day at Diagon Alley:
Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, surprisingly not styled after Dionne Warwick and the Spinners but rather Shirley Bassey (“Diamonds are Forever“), is a flirtatious 70’s style soul group and my favorite of the two performances at Diagon Alley. Grab a drink from the Hopping Pot and enjoy the show.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a puppetry performance of two famous tales of “Beedle the Bard, a 15th-century author of wizarding fairytales.” (The stories are mentioned in The Deathly Hallows, and J.K. Rowling went on to write a separate book completely dedicated to them.) Ella enjoyed this performance, but many of the kids around us got bored quickly and left.
Riding the Hogwarts Express
You must have a 2-Park ticket to be able to ride Hogwarts Express. Exit Diagon Alley and enter King’s Cross station to have your ticket checked and line up to board the train! The experience changes based on whether you are going to or from Hogwarts.
However, if 2-Park Tickets are not in your budget, don’t worry – you’re not missing a whole ton. It’s a fun way to transfer in between the parks and there is some entertainment via embedded screens in your train compartment, but it’s not a make-or-break experience.
Meet the Knight Bus Driver and Shrunken Head
A fun photo-op and you’re bound to hear a bad pun or two. This experience is located just outside of the entrance to Diagon Alley.
There are little surprises at every turn, so slow down and just enjoy Diagon Alley.
Enter the phone booth and dial MAGIC.
Check out shop windows not on the wand map to see if there is a hidden spell lurking.
Look up to see if there are hidden surprises in the windows.
Where to Eat in Diagon Alley
There are five places to eat and drink at Diagon Alley: Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment; Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour; the Leaky Cauldron; The Fountain of Fair Fortune; and, the Hopping Pot.
Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment sells one thing and one thing only: potions. Well, syrups that you mix into water to form a sugary juice.
Ella loves this kiosk. They have never had cups on hand whenever we’ve stopped there, so either bring a cup of water from another drink spot or buy the $4 Gilly Water to mix your potion into. The potions themselves are a great souvenir and the vials can be saved for making your own potions at home.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour sells the famous butterbeer ice cream, but we went crazy for the Granny Smith and Sticky Toffee Pudding flavors! Ice creams are available as hard and soft serve, and they also have ciders, teas, water, and in the morning they have some breakfast pastries.
(Note that they do not give samples, but if you or your child dislikes the flavor you buy, they will swap it out. I can understand that if they gave out samples, there would be giant lines and lots of sample requests.)
The Leaky Cauldron is the only place to eat a hearty meal in Diagon Alley, with offerings for breakfast, lunch and supper.
Of the six breakfast offerings, I highly recommend going for the “Traditional” AKA “A Full English” with scrambled eggs, sausage links, black pudding, English bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms and breakfast potatoes.
Lunch and supper share the same menu and the British classics continue with a Ploughman’s (kind of an old school charcuterie board), Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash (Sausages and Mashed Potatoes), Guiness Stew, etc. All of the non-alcoholic drink offerings are available, along with some scrumptious desserts.
The Fountain of Fair Fortune offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Most people just think the Hopping Pot offers drinks, but it also has Butterbeer ice cream and mini beef pasties. We tried most of our drinks from this cheerful spot as it’s perfect for watching the entertainment as you sit and enjoy your refreshments.
Diagon Alley Shopping
Diagon Alley is home to 10 shops (11 if you count a real-life Grinott’s Bank that you can withdraw money from and interact with a the goblin bank teller) which collectively have the largest selection of Harry Potter merchandise in the world! While you can find something to suit any budget, if there is something specific you are looking for, be prepared for theme shop pricing. (And honestly, I love Universal – the pricing of merchandise in their shops is my only complaint, and at least shopping is optional!)
My favorite part of the shops is the decor – don’t forget to look up while shopping or you’ll miss out on some magical details!
If you plan to do some shopping, hit up Gringott’s for some magical money which can be used as real currency within the park.
Every store is completely different, so I’ll provide a brief description so you can prioritize:
Borgin and Burkes – home to all things you’d expect to find in the only shop on Knockturn Alley. (Death eater masks, skulls, jewelry, etc.)
Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions – offers official Hogwarts uniforms, ties, scarves, sweaters, as well as jewellry.
Magical Menagerie – lots and lots of stuffed animals and replicas of fantastical creatures
Ollivanders – your spot to pick up a wand, or another magical souvenir
Quality Quidditch Supplies – everything you need to play (or cheer on) a game of Quidditch
Scribbulus – Ella’s favorite shop, full of writing supplies including ink and inkwells, feather quills, wax stamps, notebooks, journals, bookmarks and backpacks.
Sugarplum’s Sweetshop – pick up your wizarding candies and confections here
Wands by Gregorovitch – a smaller (and more overlooked) wand shop. Go here if the crowds at Olliveranders get to be too much
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes – this shop has way more than just practical jokes! Cute kids’ clothing, fun toys, and joke gifts like you’d expect to find from the Weasley twins
Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment – for the discerning wizard or witch, offers crystal balls, telescopes, hourglasses, and more.
One thing to know if you are shopping is that you can have your purchases sent to the park exit for you to easily pick them up on your way out – or, if you are staying on property, they can deliver it to a Universal Orlando hotel. (Just let the cashier know you’d like to take advantage of this free service when you’re making your purchase.)
The bathrooms (“Public Conveniences”) are located to the left of the Escape from Gringott’s ride (at the very back of the Alley) and there is a family/companion bathroom there as well.
As of this writing, no change tables are located in the men’s washroom.
Universal Studios has several ways that they accommodate guests which can be read more in depth here.
Strollers are welcome in every store except Olliverander’s, however you will find many stores to be a tight squeeze so you may want to just park the stroller at Ollivander’s. You can also rent a large locker at the entrance to the park if you decide that the stroller is just getting in the way.
Water fountains can be found in several areas – the Mermaid fountain is a working drinking fountain (two spots), there is a tap publicly accessible at the Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment drink stand, and all of the restaurants will allow you to fill up a cup of water or give you a cup of water.
If there are any additional questions about anything I covered (or didn’t cover) about Diagon Alley, please let me know and I will add it in!
For more great resources planning your family’s Universal Orlando vacation, check out our entire Universal Orlando section – or start with our Everything You Need to Know About Universal Studios with Young Kids.