Weird and Wonderful Diagon Alley and the Ride That Could Not Be Named

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Hogwarts Express travels between London’s King Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station

Hogwarts Express travels between London’s King Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station

Universal Orlando Resort is buzzing with anticipation for the Diagon Alley expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, set to double the size of the area this summer. Universal Orlando is still working out the details of how Diagon Alley will be incorporated into meetings and events, but the overall group experience is expected to be off the charts, following in the footsteps of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade is already a popular event location where planners can arrange an experience along the cobblestoned streets of Hogsmeade,” says communications strategist Julie Hall of Curley & Pynn, Universal Orlando Resort’s PR firm.

Groups will pass through platform 9 ¾, board the Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade and arrive at King’s Cross Station moments later. From there, options abound—whether watching a wand choose a wizard at Ollivanders or dining in the Leaky Cauldron. A number of themed shops and dining venues will serve as incredible backdrops for group meetings.

The new multi-dimensional/multi-sensory Gringotts bank ride is the main attraction, however. Groups will race through a labyrinth of underground vaults brought to life with 360-degree themed sets, 4K digital high-definition animation, state-of-the-art 3-D Infitec projection systems and live special effects to encounter the villainous Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The joyride is purportedly so different from existing theme-park rides, that finding the perfect name was as challenging as building it. After a debate as long as the backstories of J.K. Rowling’s beloved characters, “Escape From Gringotts” finally took the title.

The ride will also introduce new elements that were not originally part of the books or the movies. Groups will see a series of vaults with intricate locks, including Harry’s, before passing through a hallway flanked by bank offices containing hard at work goblins. Here, says Thierry Coup, Universal Creative’s senior vice president, they will realize that they are in the middle of the second book. “You think you are here to open an account, but you are actually part of the story.”

The Hogwarts Express travels between London’s King Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station with views of London, the British countryside and a few surprises along the way. Of course, the area would not be complete without the darker magic of Knockturn Alley, featuring the sinister items of Borgin and Burkes.

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