In the Shadow of the Mouse

Secrets of a theme park obsessed local who lives next door to Mickey, with annual passes to every Central Florida park

Top 3 reasons I’m excited about Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida

The moment of truth is almost here. The media event for Diagon Alley is less than two weeks away, and vacation packages start on June 29. Soon I, and millions of other Harry Potter fans, will be able to walk the streets of London, see famous wizarding sites, and hop aboard the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade (just be sure you have a two park ticket since Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios Florida and Hogwarts is in Islands of Adventure next door).

Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, I truly believe you’ll love Diagon Alley just as much as even the most clueless muggle admires Hogsmeade and stands in awe of Hogwarts Castle. For those who are uber fans of the books and movies, it will be like s

I’m excited about the train ride, seeing the Knight Bus in person, shopping at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and dining at the Leaky Cauldron, but three things in particular have me counting down the days until I experience Diagon Alley in person. Here they are:

1) Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour

Yes, I’m an ice cream fanatic. After all, ice cream is one of the four basic food groups…isn’t it? I also have a penchant for odd flavors, like green tea, and I was in Heaven during the one year that Universal had beer-flavored ice cream during Halloween Horror Nights.

With flavors like orange marmalade, Earl Grey and lavender, and of course butterbeer, I’m all about Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. I’ve already had strawberry and peanut butter over in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Three Broomsticks, so I have high expectations for the new flavors.

Sure, I’m excited about the other new food offerings, but none are quite as unique. Finnigan’s already has wonderful fish and chips, Scottish eggs, cottage pie, and similar dishes, and I’m pretty partial to the fish at the Frying Dutchman, too, so the food will be an enhancement to the Universal Studios dining options rather than something radically different. However, I don’t think I’ll find chocolate chili ice ice cream over at the Ben & Jerry’s in the park any time soon.

b122) The fire-breathing dragon

I’m a sucker for dragons, and I know how Universal loves the pyro (roof inside Revenge of the Mummy anyone?). Those two things make for eager anticipation of seeing the dragon on top of Gringotts.

I already saw a pretty darned impressive dragon this year, in the form of steampunk Maleficent in the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy parade. She shoots out a massive plume of flame several times along the parade route.

Of course, Maleficent is nothing compared to the flying dragon that took to the skies at Disney for the New Fantasyland grand opening back in 2012. You can see it winging its way around the park and shooting out balls of flame in the video below:

I have high hopes that the Gringotts dragon will at least match Maleficent, even if it can’t beat an actual airborne fire-breather. And who knows, maybe it will kick things up a notch for mythical creatures in the Orlando theme park arena.

3) Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Out of everything in Diagon Alley, this is what I’m most excited about, and every time I get another glimpse via Universal’s promotional materials, my expectations grow. I’m a huge fan of the original Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, as it’s a feat that hasn’t been matched in all the time since it was opened. It makes use of a unique Kuka robot arm ride system that combines with animatronics and movie screens to immerse riders in an amazing way.

Granted, there’s a down side for some riders. I’m steel stomached on most rides, other than spin ‘n’ pukes, so I can ride Forbidden Journey as many times as I wish back to back with no problem. Unfortunately, I know people who toss their cookies after just one time. I don’t think they’ll have as much of a problem on the Gringotts ride, since it appears to be a completely different ride system. If I had to bet, I’d say it will be like Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers had a mudblood child. The ride trains look like Mummy, but it will take screens to pull off the effects.

I also expect to be impressed by the interior of the Gringotts building itself. Check out the video below in which the actors who played the Weasley twins and Ginny get a sneak peek inside:

Did you see that decor and those lifelike goblins? If they’re representative of the level of detail throughout all of Diagon Alley, Universal has another winner on its hands.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to

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