Universal Orlando Resort held a live webcast this morning, complete with 3 stars of the Harry Potter films, to share details, concept art and a peek into the newest section of Universal Studios Florida: Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I am beyond excited to experience this new area first hand, and after seeing today’s webcast, I do not think I will be disappointed.
Seeing inside the Hogwarts Express and hearing that it will pass by modern day London, with a view of the Knight Bus before passing through the brick wall to Diagon Alley was a treat. The list of shops and places to eat inside Diagon Alley is perfect and they even brought Knockturn Alley over to stay true to the films. I’m just thrilled about all of these details and cannot wait for summer 2014 to travel to Diagon Alley in person! It was also fun to have my submitted question asked and answered on the webcast. I asked how they decided which iconic elements of Diagon Alley to recreate in the park and they said with so many amazing iconic themes to work with, they listened to fans and what they wanted and made sure to stay true to the films – and it definitely looks like they did. Here is the full webcast, recorded live by my friend and YouTuber The Big Fat Panda: (my question is at around the 20:00 mark, but Mark messed up and said iconographic my mistake 😉 )
“Never before has a theme park created a guest experience like this: you climb aboard the Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade and moments later arrive at King’s Cross Station – where the wonders of London and Diagon Alley unfold before you. And it is all real.
With this summer’s opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment will bring even more of Harry Potter’s adventures to life inside a new, magnificently themed area that includes a revolutionary attraction experience, as well as all-new themed shops and dining.
The two companies today revealed first-ever details about the new area and the one-of-a-kind adventures it will offer the whole family. The spectacularly themed environment will double the size of the sweeping area already dedicated to Harry Potter’s adventures at Universal Orlando, expanding it across both Universal theme parks.
And – just like in the books and films – guests will be able to travel between the two areas aboard the iconic Hogwarts Express.
Universal Orlando launched a global phenomenon when it opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at its Islands of Adventure theme park in 2010. That area includes the iconic Hogwarts castle – which houses the groundbreaking Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction – and the village of Hogsmeade. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be located within Universal Orlando’s second theme park, Universal Studios, and will create new experiences based on the signature areas of London, Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley.
Universal’s creative team has been working closely with Stuart Craig and the production team from the Harry Potter films to make the new area as authentic and spectacular as possible – just as it did with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
The vision for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is unprecedented, with Universal Orlando creating the world’s first centrally themed, multi-park experience.
After arriving at King’s Cross Station aboard the Hogwarts Express, guests will pass through London and the iconic brick wall archway from the films into Diagon Alley – a bustling, wizarding hub within a Muggle city. There will be shops, dining experiences, and a new ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey that will take theme park attractions to a new level.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will give visitors the exciting opportunity to:
- Board the Hogwarts Express and journey between London’s King’s Cross Station (located in Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade Station (located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The journey will be filled with views of London and the British countryside – as well as a few surprises. Park-to-park admission is required.
- Experience a groundbreaking new, multi-dimensional thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts,which will place riders in the middle of an incredible adventure as they navigate their way through the perils of the Gringotts vaults
- Witness the magical experience of a wand choosing a wizard at Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, one of the wizarding world’s premier wand shops
- Discover the darker side of magic in Knockturn Alley, the darkest of dark places that features Borgin and Burkes – a shop specializing in the Dark Arts that will offer a wide variety of Dark objects, such as Death Eater masks, skulls, and other sinister items
- Explore some of Diagon Alley’s famous shops, including:
- Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a vibrant shop featuring novelty items, magical jokes, and toys inspired by the books and films that will amaze the mischievous child in everyone
- Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, where guests will find a variety of wizardwear from Hogwarts school uniform ties, scarves and jumpers, to authentic wizard’s robes and character costumes
- Magical Menagerie, which features a collection of plush animals, such as owls and Hippogriffs
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, where guests can grab wizarding essentials such as telescopes, binoculars, armillary spheres, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses
- Quality Quidditch Supplies, offering a wide assortment of apparel and equipment including Quidditch sweaters, brooms, Golden Snitches, Bludgers, Bludger bats, Quaffles and more
- Scribbulus, featuring authentic writing implements and products such as feather quills, ink and inkwells, bookmarks, journals, parchment paper, seals, stationery sets and postcards
- Enjoy traditional British fare that includes favorite dishes such as fish and chips, bangers and mash and more at the Leaky Cauldron
- Visit Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for frozen treats in a variety of tantalizing and unique flavors such as strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice-cream and many others
- And more!
More details about the unique experiences that can be found in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be released over time. For more information about the area, visit www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter.
What do you think? What are you most looking forward to at Diagon Alley? I think it’s wandering the shops for me, dining at the Leaky Cauldron, and of course, escaping from Gringotts! (okay, so everything!)
Universal Studios once again brings favorites back for the Christmas season – the Grinch, the Macy’s Holiday Parade and Mannheim Steamroller round out their holiday offerings, all included in a regular ticket for Universal Studios Florida (Macy’s parade and Mannheim Steamroller) or Islands of Adventure (Grinchmas).
The Grinchmas show is always a family favorite, and fits right in to the Suess Landing area of Islands of Adventure. Now through January 1, Guests can watch the heartwarming live show, “Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular,” featuring The Grinch and the Whos from Who-ville accompanied by an original musical score by Mannheim Steamroller. Guests can also meet The Grinch and the Whos and on select dates, purchase and enjoy a special breakfast with the characters.
The Macy’s Holiday Parade over at Universal Studios Florida features classic balloons, straight from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, including several stationed throughout the park for photo opportunities. Santa Claus ends the parade with a colorful tree lighting.
Also in Universal Studios Florida are select performances by Mannheim Steamroller, featuring composer Chip Davis. Mannheim Steamroller performs their holiday classics along with selections from the Grinchmas show, composed by Davis. Performance nights are Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23.
All the holiday offerings are included for guests as part of any holiday pass, two-park or multi-day admission to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
For more information on the Holidays at Universal Orlando, vacation packages and ticket offers, visit UniversalOrlando.com/holidays.
Disclosure: my family was provided a complimentary viewing of the events mentioned above. All opinions are my own.
Tuesday night saw the official premiere of Universal Studios Florida’s newest nighttime lagoon show, the Universal Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories. Being relatively new to the Universal Orlando Resort parks, I had not seen past nighttime shows, but when I first heard about Cinematic Spectacular, I was excited to see it.
After two years of planning and executing, the Universal team, led by Show Director and writer Mike Aiello, have brought the movies to life. They found a new technology in Aqua Graphic Curtains, which provide a crystal clear backdrop for the movie projections. The images are viewable the same on both sides of the curtain – not in reverse. There are several of these curtains spread across the lagoon, flanked by fountains, which provide an additional canvas in some scenes, and color accents in others. Top it all off with Morgan Freeman narration, original movie soundtracks, and fireworks, and you’ve got a pretty good movie show. In fact, fans of Disney parks will probably feel like this the ending of the Great Movie Ride, on steroids. It was fun to spot favorite movies in the mix, and the scenes are up to date, with Battleship and Snow White and the Hunstman clips included. This is definitely a show you can see over and over and see something new each time. I love how you can stand at various points across the edge of the lagoon and see virtually the same show; you aren’t missing anything.
Let’s hear a bit more from Mike Aiello and see the Cinematic Spectacular from the Battery Park area of Universal Studios Florida:
So many people rush to compare Disney Parks to Universal, and as someone that’s grown up going to Walt Disney World, I understand. However, after having visited the Universal Orlando Resort several times over the past months, I realize that there really is no comparison. Sure, they are competing for our tourist dollars and guest revenue, but Universal is a completely different experience, and stands on its own, with no “but Disney…” needed. Since all of my visits to the parks have been as invited media, I haven’t even gotten to experience all the attractions the parks have to offer, but I do know that I love looking at the authentic architecture in the New York and Hollywood sections of Universal Studios Florida, and the theming in Islands of Adventure is wonderful too. I look forward to when I can experience the rest of the parks but until then, I love the entertainment options I’ve seen so far. They are completely different than what Disney does daily – and that’s okay.
Be sure to check out the Cinematic Spectacular on your next visit and check out video from the new Superstar Parade before you visit too. Thanks to Universal for providing dinner and exclusive viewing of both shows for my family and me. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own – we loved both shows!
Last night, Universal Orlando Resort premiered its two newest entertainment offerings. These shows have been in sneak peek mode for a few weeks now, but media (myself included) and special guests were invited to experience their grand opening, and given the red carpet treatment too. While the central Florida rain put a slight delay on festivities, we were still able to see both shows and they were worth the wait.
Universal Orlando continues to impress me with their new offerings and they are living up to their “Year to Be Here” motto for 2012. The Superstar Parade has taken two years to get to fruition and the result is something for everyone. Parade Show Director Lora Wallace explained that this was no accident. If your child loves Dora and Diego, they will be thrilled at the float containing the familiar pair, along with Boots the monkey and baby jaguar. If they have outgrown Dora, there are tumbling monkeys on the float which will impress any age group. The same goes for SpongeBob SquarePants; if you aren’t a fan, they’ve added aerial silk performers on the back of his float to entertain and wow audiences. One of my favorite parts was the HOP float, where E.B. plays a drum set on the float, as a drum corps follows along behind him. Lora is a former snare drum player from her high school marching band, so this was a personal addition she was pleased to add as it tied in with HOP perfectly. As a mom of a school band drummer, I loved it too!
In addition to these fun visual elements, this new parade makes two stops along its route – in the Hollywood and New York areas. These stops showcase dance numbers and tons of guest interaction. No matter where you watch the parade, you’ll get a slightly different experience, or you can choose to stand in a specific spot to see your favorite characters. The Despicable Me characters which lead the parade are a great park addition and will tie in perfectly to the new Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction opening this summer. I can’t wait!
The Superstar Parade runs daily at 5pm. Plans have not yet been finalized for the presentation of this parade during the Macy’s Holiday and Mardi Gras parade seasons, but it will all be worked out according to Senior Vice President for Entertainment at Universal Orlando, Jim Timon. Our viewing was shown at night due to the rain delay, so the video below will reflect that. However, for a parade created to show in the daytime, it’s still quite vibrant and beautiful at night! Check out the video below for a preview with some Superstar Parade highlights:
You can find out more about Universal Orlando Resort at UniversalOrlando.com. Special thanks to the UOR team for providing my family with dinner, desserts and entertainment so I could review these events for you. Opinions and reviews are 100% my own. Also check out the Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Universal Memories, the amazing new nighttime lagoon show.