Secrets of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando

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Wait for the Dragon on top of Gringott's Bank to breathe fire! It's a neat experience!
Wait for the Dragon on top of Gringott’s Bank to breathe fire! It’s a neat experience! Photo: Sarah Gilliland

Having grown up with the Harry Potter books and movies, I couldn’t wait to share Diagon Alley with my girls for the first time this year. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so special to me and my family. Diagon Alley is a magical area that brings wonder and excitement to Potterheads of all ages. My girls’ expressions and exclamations at their first viewing of Diagon Alley were 100% worth the wait. Now you too can know the wonder and secrets of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando.

Secrets of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando

If you’ve come to this post to hear all about the Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios, I hate to disappoint you. While “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” is awesome, I will not be focusing on it today. Instead, I’m sharing some hidden gems for making the most of your visit to Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

See House Elf Kreacher at 12 Grimmauld Place

First, don’t overlook the London cityscape outside Diagon Alley. Number 12 Grimmauld Place is home to the Black family (as in Sirius Black) and is also the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Grimmauld Place can be seen outside of Diagon Alley in the London area, across the lake from Krustyland. It might look like another façade or apartment building, but you’ll notice the Black Family house-elf, Kreacher, occasionally peeking out from behind the curtains on the second-floor window.

Chat with the Knight Bus Crew

Also, outside Diagon Alley, and across from Kings Cross Station, is the tall purple Knight Bus. Chat with its driver (occasionally Stan Shunpike, but more than likely one of his other friends) outside the bus, and its shrunken head inside bus. You can banter with both the conductor and hilarious shrunken head, plus pose for photos.

Chat with the crew of the Knight Bus outside Diagon Alley.
Chat with the crew of the Knight Bus outside Diagon Alley. Photo: Sarah Gilliland

Discover the Secret of the Ministry of Magic

Between Kings Cross Station and the entrance to Diagon Alley is an iconic, red London phone booth. It’s not there simply as decoration but as the secret entrance to the Ministry of Magic seen in the films and discussed in the books. You can actually go inside it and follow the instructions to dial the Ministry of Magic.

A secret of Diagon Alley is being able to call the Ministry of Magic.
Call the Ministry of Magic right outside Diagon Alley! Photo: Lisa O’Driscoll

See a Fire Breathing Dragon

When walking into the “secret” entrance to Diagon Alley through the bricks, you’ll immediately notice the enormous dragon atop the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. By all means, stop and take a photo, but also wait for a few moments, and you’ll be rewarded. Fire erupts from its mouth every fifteen minutes or so, and it’s fun to try to capture it on video or in a photo. You’ll know it’s about to happen when it emits a low, gurgling noise right before it erupts.

Wait for the Dragon on top of Gringott's Bank to breathe fire! It's a neat experience!
Wait for the Dragon on top of Gringotts Bank to breathe fire! It’s a neat experience! Photo: Sarah Gilliland

Meet a Gringotts Goblin

Next, go inside the smaller Gringotts Money Exchange building and ask the goblin banker questions. This is a fun, unique experience that doesn’t require guests to ride the adjacent ride. Guests can ask the goblin anything, and he will answer accordingly. Be careful what you ask or you may not like his answer!

Visit Knockturn Alley

There is so much to see in Diagon Alley, it might be easy to miss Knockturn Alley. Look for a small, wooden arrow near Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions pointing the way. At first, you might think you made the wrong turn, but keep walking down the dark passageway and you’re there. Borgin and Burkes, the dark wizard shop, it just as creepy in person as it seemed in the books and movies!

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Ride the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade

Once you’ve had your fun exploring London and Diagon Alley, it’s time to enter Kings Cross Station. Find platform 9 ¾ and make your way to Hogwarts. This was my favorite experience yet. They actually simulate walking through the brick wall and out onto platform 9 ¾. You can easily miss this while running through line eager to board the train, but take your time and you’ll notice the people in front of you disappear (unbeknownst to them)!

Ride the Hogwarts Express and disappear through platform 9 3/4 in Diagon Alley.
Ride the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Station to Hogsmeade! Photo: Sarah Gilliland

Once on board, the train go right into one of the compartments, just like the students do on their way to Hogwarts. Be sure and ride the train in both directions because each way is a different experience. Not only is it fun, it also makes it more convenient to go to each park.

SheBuysTravel Tip: You can only ride the train if you have a Park-to-Park admission ticket or an Annual Pass. The train takes you to Island of Adventure, and that requires a separate ticket or park-to-park pass.

Try Some Butterbeer (in More Ways than One)

Just when you think Butterbeer can’t possibly get any better, the park now offers HOT Butterbeer and Butterbeer ice cream. Go to Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley for the Butterbeer ice cream treat along with other unique ice cream flavors (Chocolate Chili, anyone?). I also tried Butterbeer flavored fudge but was a little disappointed in it. It just didn’t have enough of that Butterbeer flavor for my liking.

Read More: How to Make Butterbeer at Home

Cast a Spell Like a Real Wizard

Interactive wands can be purchased at wand shops around the Harry Potter areas and at certain Universal Orlando stores. These wands have RFID chips that interact with various props in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. They also come with a map that shows you locations throughout the parks where you can cast spells.

Going to Southern California doesn't have to mean Disney! Find out how Universal Studios Hollywood is a theme park contender especially for teenagers, thrill seekers, adults and of course, Harry Potter fans. Read how Universal Studios Hollywood is better than Disneyland in many ways and how to get discount tickets for this classic Los Angeles amusement park. #UniversalStudios #Hollywood #CaliforniaVacation #TravelwithKids | Family Travel | California Travel | Universal Hollywood
Guests can choose a wand that matches their favorite Harry Potter character. Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy

The wands cost $45 plus tax, only $10 more than the old wands that were not interactive. Wand experts are available around the park to help you cast these spells should you need it.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Smaller movements register better and will get the “spells” to work right away.

Where to Buy Discounted Universal Tickets

SheBuysTravel recommends purchasing discounted Universal tickets through Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. If you call to make your purchase be sure to mention SheBuysTravel!


What other Diagon Alley “must dos” are on your list? Let us know what you love to do when you visit Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

9 responses

  1. 4.5

  2. 3.5

  3. Just returned from our third time in 4 years to Orlando. Have to let you know that the red phone box at Universal Studios was made in my home town of Falkirk in Scotland. If you visit the studios look at the outside of the box at the rear bottom. The inscription says CARRON COMPANY, STIRLINGSHIRE. These boxes were made by other iron firms also but this one is Scottish. The same company Carron, also made cannon called Carronades and one was used at the Battle of the Alamo and also cannon made in Scotland were in the American Civil war. Just some trivia for the readers of this website. So if anyone tells you this is an iconic London phone booth tell them different. There is an identical booth still being used in Falkirk only 2 miles from my home. Brian.

  4. Could you compare what the differences are between the Harry Potter world in Orlando and Hollywood? Thanks!

    1. Great question! Unfortunately, the last time I was at Universal in Hollywood it pre-dated their Harry Potter addition, so I couldn’t tell you. I’ll kick this question over to the other SheBuysTravels though.

    2. Ive been to both parks. Orlando about 2 yrs ago and hollywood at the end of March of this year. Hollywood has only half the space and half the rides. Theres only Hogsmead. It wasnt nearly as cool as orlando with both parks and the train ride in my opinion. But both have interactive wands with areas to cast spells, a fair amount of store fronts to explore and of course the Harry Potter and the forbidden journey ride.
      I personally enjoyed the gringots ride more tho and the queue for both are absolutely amazing.
      They’re both worth seeing in my opinion but if you could only do it once in a lifetime i would spring for Orlando.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  5. 2.5

  6. This was wonderful! Thank you for all the tips!

  7. 5

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