The multimedia roller coaster experience in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter allows guests to experience the thrill from the films when Harry, Ron and Hermione broke into Gringotts Bank
By Paula Conway
Originally posted on NYDailyNews.com
Hang onto your Sorting Hat!
You’re going to need to on Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts — a thrill ride at Diagon Alley — the newest section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando in Florida.
The ride is part roller coaster, part 3D projection, part live special effects, and part high-definition animation. It takes guests deep inside the Gringotts Wizarding Bank on a hair-bending journey to find the Horcrux, which boy wizard Harry Potter tried to destroy in the film franchise based on J. K. Rowling’s seven-book series.
Named for a fictional street in London in the books and movies, Diagon Alley officially opens on July 8. But the Daily News got an early look inside.
Muggles — nonmagical people, that is — entering Diagon Alley see an authentic-looking London from the perspective of a tourist entering the West End theater district. You’ll spot the Piccadilly Circus statue of Eros and Wyndham’s Theatre.
Potter fans will regognize the Knight Bus parked, and will pass re-creations of residential townhouses with 3D animated figures peering through the windows. Walk through the jagged brick walls and you’ve arrived at this hidden town teeming with witches and wizards (actors in character costumes).
Escape From Gringotts is the main attraction at Diagon Alley, but there are plenty of other new attractions to please Muggles.
The park is rich with shops and dining that mimic everything in Harry’s world.
If you want to look like you’re one of Harry’s classmates, stop at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions where you will find a nice selection of wizard’s robes, ties and cardigans. Here, you can also get fitted for formal wear like Hogwarts students did in anticipation for Yule Ball following the Triwizard Tournament.
At the Magical Menagerie, select among an assortment of soft and stuffed furry, feathered or scaly creatures from Harry Potter’s world, including Hippogriffs, Cornish Pixies and unicorns.
No witch or wizard can make his or her way through Diagon Alley without the right wand. So stop at Ollivanders, one of the wizarding world’s premier wand shops. Some of the wands allow guests to cast spells at specific locations within the Wizarding World (identifiable by medallions on the ground in the park.) It’s called “the interactive wand experience,” and a double-sided map is given out when you enter the park, and illustrating the sites where spells may be performed.
If you buy one of the special wands ($44.95, and powered by electronic chips), and deliver the spell properly, “magic” happens. Some spells shoot water out of statues, light fires, flush toilets, unlock doors and even cause rainstorms.
If you’re feeling up to no good, stop in at Weasleys’ Wizards Wheezes for a wide selection of gag gifts, tricks and snacks. This store doubles the size of and replaces the previous location in Hogsmeade — the original part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened in 2010.
At Weasleys’, gift options include the Bombastic Bomb (which ticks like a bomb but doesn’t explode), Chinese Fortune Sticks, and U-No-Poo (candy-coated chocolates).
At Quality Quidditch Supplies, pick up a Golden Snitch, the small winged ball used in the fictional game of Quidditch, along with replicas of flying broomsticks and the Hogwarts sweaters worn by Harry and his friends.
Step into another store, Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, for other Hogwarts equipment and Muggle souvenirs like cauldron mugs for potion mixing.
At Gringotts Money Exchange, guests can interact with a Gringotts bank goblin and exchange their Muggle currency for Wizarding Bank Notes. These bank notes can be used within both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (and throughout the rest of Universal’s two theme parks) to purchase snacks and items from shops. Fun souvenirs sold here include a Gringotts backpack, coin purse and chocolate coins.
Knockturn Alley, located off Diagon Alley and enclosed with a roof so it stays dark, has Borgin and Burkes, which carries “dark objects” like masks worn by the evil Death Eaters, skulls and T-shirts, if you’re a fan of Potter’s arch-enemy, Lord Voldemort.
Right across from Borgin and Burkes is Dystyl Phaelanges, where you can watch guests who bought interative wands cast a spell on a digital skeleton that will then mirror the Muggles’ exact movements.
After all that shopping and waiting on lines for rides, you’ll need to recharge. Fortunately, there are plenty of tasty new spots.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, one of Harry Potter’s favorites, sells generous scoops of Sticky Toffee Pudding and Chocolate Chili, as well as a soft serve Butterbeer ice cream, among other Potter-inspired flavors.
At the Leaky Cauldron, pub grub like fish and chips is served, along with bangers and mash and Scotch eggs. Wash it all down with Wizard’s Brew and Dragon Scale, new draught beers created exclusively for Diagon Alley.
Or step into the Fountain of Fair Fortune for the nonalcoholic Fishy Green Ale — a green soda with liquid blueberry balls at the bottom that burst in your mouth when you slurp them up through a straw.
Diagon Alley is part of Phase 2 of the Wizarding World, and is located in Universal Studios theme park. Phase 1 — which features a re-creation of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the magical shopping village, Hogsmeade — is housed in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
That means visitors hoping to see both sections of the Wizarding World on one trip must have a two-park pass to both Universal Orlando theme parks.
The Hogwarts Express — the train that transports Harry from his drab London life to his magical existence at Hogwarts school — is re-created in Diagon Alley as a working train that puffs with steam.
The train ride is available to those with a park-to-park pass to both Universal parks, and takes you from Kings Cross Station in London’s Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
During the journey from London to Hogwarts in Hogsmeade, Harry and friends Ron and Hermione can be seen (in shadows) and heard outside the cabin door. Scenery outside the window shows the outskirts of London, pastoral English countryside and dark clouds. Hogwarts Express commuters will be greeted at the station by friendly half-giant Hagrid.
On the train ride back toward London, Hogwarts Express riders see a different adventure — the Weasley brothers flying outside (promoting their store in London, of course), and Buckbeak the Hippogriff swooping across the lake.
From start to finish, the train ride — and the rest of Diagon Alley — is a magical experience.
IF YOU GO
For more info: Visit UniversalOrlando.com/WizardingWorld.
Park admission: All theme park attractions and experiences at Diagon Alley are included in the price of the daily admission tickets ($96 for adults, $90 for kids) to Universal Studios. Fans who want to see both parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and ride the Hogwarts Express, have to purchase a two-park ticket ($136 per day for adults, $130 for kids.) For multiple day pass prices, check the site.
Stay: The newest hotel in the Universal Orlando Resort family is the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, an affordable family-style resort with a 1950s theme. There are 1,800 rooms with family suites that also have kitchenettes. Two huge pools, a lazy river ride, a bowling alley and multiple dining options make it an ideal hotel for families. Rates start at $99 per night. Visit universalorlando.com.