The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is made up of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. It is so large that it stretches between the two parks that make up Universal Orlando! Diagon Alley is in the Universal Studios side and Hogsmeade is in the Islands of Adventure side. You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to have fun in this land, but it definitely helps! Which land is better? Diagon Alley vs Hogsmeade? Let’s take a look at what each of them have to offer.
In Diagon Alley, you can find Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This ride is not only amazing, but also incredibly themed and immersive. The queue for the line takes place in Gringotts Bank and looks exactly as it did in the movies. This ride is a fun 3D simulator with a lot of twists, turns and drops. It is very thrilling and, in my opinion, a must do. This is the only ride in Diagon Alley.
In Hogsmeade, there are three very fun and different rides. First, located in a stunning replica of Hogwarts Castle, is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The ride’s queue takes you through Hogwarts Castle where you will see the famous Sorting Hat, Dumbeldore’s Office and much more! The actual ride is a roller coaster/3D simulator hybrid and is very thrilling. The best ride in Hogsmeade (maybe even the whole world…) is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. This is unlike any roller coaster you have ever been on before. The track is one mile long making it the longest roller coaster in Florida! With seven launches and many other surprises throughout, it will leave you wanting to ride it over and over.
Pro tip- if it’s your first-time riding this, I highly recommend riding on the motorbike rather than the sidecar. For the little ones in your party or ones that prefer a smaller thrill, there is the kiddie coaster, Flight of the Hippogriff. You will see some of Hagrid’s magical creatures so keep your eyes open. This ride also is pretty high, and it offers some amazing views of Hogwarts Castle.
If rides are an important factor in your decision on which park to choose, then Hogsmeade would be the best place to go. There are three rides here as opposed to Diagon Alley’s one ride. Both parks do have the Hogwarts Express, which is a fun train ride that takes you from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley and vice versa, but I wouldn’t exactly count it as a thrill ride. Also, you should get here as soon as the park opens if you don’t want to wait in a long line to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. This tends to have the longest wait time of all the rides in Universal Orlando- and it is totally worth it!
In Diagon Alley, you can grab a bite to eat at The Leaky Cauldron. Harry Potter fans may know that Harry stayed at The Leaky Cauldron for a few weeks prior to starting his third year at Hogwarts in The Prisoner of Azkaban. It can best be described as a popular wizard pub and inn that offers traditional British food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered here and include such favorites as Bangers and Mash, Fisherman’s Pie, Toad in the Hole and Ploughman’s Platter.
Also, in Diagon Alley, is Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. The ice cream here is so delicious, that sometimes I come all the way to Universal Orlando just to get it. With so many great flavors to choose from like Butterbeer, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Granny Smith, Chocolate Chili, Caramel Blondie and more, it is hard to go wrong. They also have Harry Potter’s favorite flavor, strawberry and peanut butter! On busier days, the wait time just to get into the ice cream parlour can stretch upwards of 45 minutes or more!
In Hogsmeade, there is Three Broomsticks. Harry Potter had his first sip of Butterbeer here and so can you! They also offer similar food to The Leaky Cauldron over in Diagon Alley. Offerings include: ‘The Great Feast’, Fish and Chips, Shepherd’s Pie, Beef Pasties, Fresh Vegetables and more. There is also Hog’s Head (right in the back of Three Broomsticks), which is a popular spot to go if you want to get a Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice or even an adult beverage.
Both places are great if you are looking for some good food. However, the ice cream is so fantastic at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley, that I would choose to go here solely based on that.
In Diagon Alley, a few times throughout the day, there are a couple different stage shows that you can watch. First, the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts tells the stories of Beedle the Bard. Beedle the Bard includes The Fountain of Fair Fortune and The Tale of the Three Brothers– which is featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There is also another stage show which features Celestina Warbeck and her Banshees. In the books, Celestina Warbeck is Molly Weasley’s favorite singer, and she is very famous throughout the wizarding world. She performs her top hits and even some Christmas favorites (if you are visiting around the holidays).
The famous fire breathing dragon isn’t quite a show, but it does draw a large crowd. Every 10 minutes on the 10, (12:00, 12:10, 12:20, etc), the enormous dragon atop Gringotts bank shoots flame from its mouth. It is very cool to see and will even startle you if you aren’t expecting it.
In Hogsmeade, there is the Triwizard Spirit Rally is a fun pep-rally type show that features students from the largest wizarding schools in Europe: Hogwarts, the Durmstrang Institute and the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. The Frog Choir is another show that features a small choir of Hogwarts students singing acapella accompanied by their frogs. Perhaps the most magical show in all of Hogsmeade is The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle. This amazing nighttime show is available on select nights and lights up Hogwarts Castle with a dazzling light and projection display. It is even more magical around the holidays with The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts. It is the most wonderful way to end your night at Universal Orlando.
Again, both lands have wonderful shows and plenty of entertainment. It is a close call, but Hogsmeade takes the win in this category because of how amazing and magical the light show display at Hogwarts Castle is.
Diagon Alley has the most shops out of the two sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As soon as you walk in, you will be greeted with a shop that you have most definitely read about in the books and seen in the movies, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The fun and colorful shop filled with novelty and joke items, is run by none other than Fred and George Weasley. You can buy everything here from prank gifts to the very popular Pygmy Puffs. There is also Borgin and Burkes, which is located in the dark and eerie Knockturn Alley section of Diagon Alley. You can find Death Eater masks, skulls, costume replicas from the Harry Potter films, jewelry and more here.
One of coolest things to do here is to go to Gringott’s Money Exchange and trade your muggle money in for Gringotts bank notes. Transactions can be done by cash or credit but only in $10 or $20 denominations. Another one of the most fun shops here is Ollivanders. Here, you can buy your own wand or purchase a replica of your favorite witch’s or wizard’s wands. A wand can also choose you! It is a very fun and unique experience. Other shops here include, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Magical Menagerie, Quality Qudditch Supplies, Scribbulus, Sugarplums Sweetshop, Wands by Gregorovitch and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment. All these shops include unique apparel and accessories from the books and the movies.
In Hogsmeade, there is the very famous Honeydukes. You can get delicious treats here such as Cauldron Cakes, Fizzing Whizzbees, Chocolate Frogs and much more! They even have the (in)famous Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans…if you dare. Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods has Hogwarts apparel, house crest banners, toys, stationary and more! Ollivanders also has a shop over on the Hogsmeade side. At the Owl Post, you can buy stationary, quills, pens, ink, stamps, etc. You can also mail out a letter from here with a special Hogsmeade postmark. One of the funniest things in this shop, is that you can record your very own Howler and send it out. Dervish and Banges sells magical items such as Sneakoscopes, Spectrespecs and Omnioculars. There is also Quidditch apparel and equipment sold here along with Hogwarts uniforms.
For this category, Diagon Alley is the clear winner. Not only do they have the most shops, but you can also get almost everything in Diagon Alley that you can at Hogsmeade…plus more! Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes also gives Diagon Alley the boost to win because it feels like you are in the actual shop from the books and movies. At any moment, I expected to see one of the Weasleys walk in.
Diagon Alley is completely immersive. In fact, if you didn’t know it was there, you would walk right past it. When you go to the London section of Universal Orlando, you will see a broken brick wall near Kings Cross Station. Many people think that it’s just an entrance for bathrooms or a rest area but once you walk through it, you are transported to Diagon Alley. They did this because Diagon Alley isn’t visible to a muggle eye. You must be a wizard or a witch to see it. You feel as if you are with Harry, Ron and Hermione about to go shopping for your next year at Hogwarts. It looks exactly like it did in the Harry Potter movies. It is simply amazing.
Hogsmeade is also very immersive. It has snow covered buildings and a charming, cozy small-town feel. The best thing in all of Hogsmeade is Hogwarts Castle. It is beautiful and looks just as it does in the movies. It is so surreal as a Harry Potter fan to see that castle for the first time in person. That in it of itself, makes the trip there worth it.
Even though Hogsmeade has Hogwarts Castle, and it is simply beautiful…nothing can compare to Diagon Alley. From walking through the broken brick wall, to the identical street structure from the films, it is the most immersive land that I’ve ever been to. Even just walking through the queue at Gringotts Bank makes you feel like you are in the actual movies. Diagon Alley wins the atmospheric category by a landslide.
Both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade have many fun things to do and see. It is hard to declare a real winner here because they are both amazing and gorgeously designed lands. It all depends on what is important to you and what you would like to see or get from each land. They are both worth visiting and will leave you longing to return to experience the magic many more times.The Orlando Real on
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