Our family just returned from a magical week at the Family Forward Blogging retreat in Universal Studios Orlando and the highlight of our trip was our after-hours event in Diagon Alley. Diagon Alley is a must-see for all Harry Potter fans so I’ve put together our top 10 things to do in Diagon Alley that you won’t want to miss.
If you are a Harry Potter fan and raising little “Potterheads” then a trip to Universal Studios Orlando is definitely in order. Every square inch of Diagon Alley will make you feel as though you had been transported right into the magical wizardry world. From the staff, to the buildings, goblins, treats and more, everything seemed authentic as can be.
As we walked into Diagon Alley, I looked down at my boys and became a little teary-eyed at the complete awe and excitement I could see on their faces. The atmosphere is a magical as the wizards themselves.
Here are some of my favorite memories from our time in Diagon Alley and things you will not want to miss.
10 Things to do in Diagon Alley
1. Ollivander’s Wand Shop
One of the first stops you should make is Ollivander’s wand shop. Once there, you will be taken into the shop where one chosen wizard will be brought forward and go through the experience of having their wand choose them. Truly magical! My 8-year-old son was the wizard chosen in our group and it is an experience he will never forget. I still smile just thinking about it. I won’t give away all of the details, because sometimes it is best to let people experience things for themselves without expectation, but after the wand chooses the wizard, the group is escorted into the wand shop where wands can be purchased. Make sure that if you purchase a wand that you get an interactive one. You’ll see why below.
2. Interactive Wand Stations
All throughout Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley and Hogsmeade (in Universal’s Island of Adventures) there are places where “wizards-in-training” can make magic happen. All throughout the area there are plaques on the ground with a spell and instructions on how to wave the wand to make the magic appear. Wizards are able to turn on water fountains, make things float, repair damage, make things come alive and much more. This was one of my boys’ favorite parts of our entire trip and something that cannot be missed.
Even for the best of wizards, a walk through Knockturn Alley is a must. There are 5 different interactive wand stations within Knockturn Alley and of course Borgin and Burkes where you will find all things sinister. You won’t be able to purchase a lot of those items at any of the other shops throughout the park. For those muggles who don’t know, Knockturn Alley is the dark area of town where a lot of the dark wizards can be found.
4. Weasleys Wizard Wheezes Joke Shop
In complete contrast to Knockturn Alley is Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Joke Shop where you can find everything from Fainting Fancies to Puking Pastilles and Extendable Ears. You will even see Professor Umbridge riding a unicycle and shouting out “I will have order!”
5. Butterbeer Ice Cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor
Seriously, if it has “ButterBeer” in it’s name, you have to try it and this ButterBeer Ice Cream made me very happy. 🙂 Seriously SO good! But, if you aren’t sure that ButterBeer is the flavor for you, they have several other unique choices such as Strawberry and Peanut Butter which is what Harry had in the books.
6.Visit Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions
I almost walked right past Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions shop but thankfully my husband saw it and called me back. The picture above was one of my favorite moments of my trip. My boys had so much fun becoming wizards! Unfortunately the robes were out of our budget to purchase at that time but the witches who welcomed us to the shop knew that and wanted to give them the entire experience anyways. Everything in Diagon Alley was geared towards making our time there magical. So, stop in, get dressed up and take a few pictures. Be sure to get Dumbledore’s robes in the background as well. Who knows, Santa might just leave a robe or two at our house on Christmas Eve. 😉
7.Talk to the Shrunken Head on the Knight Bus
The Knight Bus is a triple-decker bus that picks up stranded witches and wizards. Just inside is the talking Shrunken Head which you can talk to and listen to its commentary with the conductor. If you are a Harry Potter fan, then you will love visiting the Knight Bus.
8. The Gringott’s Money Exchange
Did you know that you can exchange your Muggle currency for Gringotts Bank Notes? These bank notes can be used for purchases within both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (and throughout the rest of Universal Studios Orlando Theme parks and hotels). But, I would definitely recommend using them within the wizardry world just for the experience. While you are exchanging currency, make sure to talk to the bank goblin and ask him questions. You will have a great time hearing his responses to just about every question you can think of.
9- Eat at the Leaky Cauldron
Eating at the Leaky Cauldron is one of the things to do in Diagon Alley that you really shouldn’t miss. The atmosphere is perfect and the traditional English food was delicious. And of course don’t forget to get a Butterbeer with your food. We actually ate breakfast there and I loved that there were choices that both adults and kids would like. And don’t forget to get a picture by the Leaky Cauldron. 🙂
10. Escape from Gringotts and Dragon
This is probably a given but you absolutely MUST ride the Escape from Gringotts ride and watch the Dragon breathe fire. If you get a chance to go through Diagon Alley at night, that is the best time to get a picture of the dragon breathing fire. We were really fortunate to not have to wait in line for Escape from Gringotts but for those who do, the atmosphere of the bank is perfect. The Goblins are busy working all around you and every step of the pathway into the vault is spot-on. You really feel like you are there in the bank with Harry, Hermoine and Ron. Lines to get into the ride have been really long throughout the summer months but from what I have been hearing, the wait is only around 30 minutes now. Not bad considering it has been on average 2-3 hours. For shortest lines, try to go first thing in the morning or right before close at night. We could have gone on the ride all night long but wanted to see the rest of what Diagon Alley had to offer. Amazing!
Our night in Diagon Alley is one we will never forget and we hope to be back next year.
Those are our top 10 things to do in Diagon Alley. What would you add to the list?