When we went to Universal Orlando last year for the Family Forward conference, I was a tiny bit nervous about what I was going to do with my little ones. The two oldest (ages 10 and 8 at the time) had read most of the Harry Potter books and had a Harry Potter movie marathon before we left. I knew they would geek out as much as I was going to. But the smaller ones?
My 7-year-old had seen a movie or two, but my 3-year-old and 5-year-old had not. I looked up to see that there was only one attraction to ride in all of Diagon Alley, and they weren’t tall enough to ride. What were we going to do?
Well let me tell you, we were going to have the time of our lives!
I turned the corner, and it’s like the angels started singing. Man, all those details. It’s like I was part of the movie. I love me some Hogsmeade, but Diagon Alley is my favorite. While there is much to do to entertain yourself, these are my 5 favorite must-dos at Diagon Alley!
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
This is the one attraction in Diagon Alley, and I loved it! Walking through Gringotts itself is an attraction. You walk through the bank’s lobby all while keeping an eye on goblins working (or maybe they were keeping an eye on you), go through passageways, into Bill Weasley’s office, up an elevator and a winding staircase to board the attraction. My eyes were already wide from excitement, but then the multi-dimensional adventure through the vaults of Gringotts was thrilling and amazing.
Side note: I love Universal’s Child Swap service. Your children who do not meet the height requirement or who don’t wish to ride can walk with you through the line and then wait in a room close to the boarding area for the ride. They show clips of Harry Potter and you’re out of the heat and rain while you wait. Then when the rest of your party is finished, they meet you in that room, you switch, and you get right on the ride. It’s so easy!
Wands at Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC
It’s really fun to watch a wand choosing at Ollivanders. The wand chooses the wizard or witch. We went right before the store was about to close and our family was the only family in there. What were the chances one of my children would be chosen? 😉 Luckily my oldest was chosen, and she was very excited and old enough to understand the meaning and the importance of having a wand choose her. My other girls were thrilled to be able to go shopping and choose the wands of famous wizards in Harry Potter. They chose the wands of Hermione, Ginny Weasley, and Professor McGonagall. My youngest chose a toy wand that lit up, and she was in heaven.
The wands are a little pricey, but for $8 more (which make them almost $50), you can buy an interactive wand. No brainer and worth every penny, because you get a map with the purchase of your wand, and my daughters had a ball finding all the interactive activities.
Classic spells. Make the eyeballs move. Make the umbrella rain with a flip of your wand. You actually have a marked spot to stand on and must move your wand in a certain pattern. Some were easier than others to master. We made it rain at least 30 times. It was that funny every time. So while the kids ran around Diagon Alley with their wands, I did this…
Watch Gringotts Dragon
No lie, watching the Dragon on Gringotts was hypnotizing. Every 10 minutes the dragon breathes fire, and every single time I would cheer like a school girl. I watched it from different angles, in the morning, afternoon, and night. I was addicted. There I said it, and admitting it is always the first step. But you know what they say, never tickle a sleeping dragon.
Gringotts Money Exchange
Gringotts Money Exchange is a separate building from the ride. You can bring in your dollars and exchange them for Gringotts Bank Notes. They are available in $10 and $20 increments and can be used to purchase merchandise around Universal Studios. They are a fun souvenir, but my daughters opted to spend theirs. The goblin at the desk speaks and interacts with you, too. So awesome.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
Eat all the ice cream! Drink all the Butterbeer! I like ice cream, but I can’t say it’s my jam. The ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour is my jam. First of all, hello Butterbeer ice cream! Yes, I’m going to have to say it’s more amazing than Frozen Butterbeer. I’m sorry. #SorryNotSorry You’ll have to be the judge though.
But not only is the Butterbeer flavor outstanding, I found other favorites, too. I’m looking at you pistachio, salted caramel blondie, and sticky toffee pudding. These are the benefits of having a large family, plenty of people to share with, so I had to try many flavors. I won’t mention how many times we went back. But seriously, go. Try a flavor you wouldn’t normally try. You won’t regret it.
As an extra bonus, you can have a photo op outside of Diagon Alley with the Knight Bus. Squee! The conductor was pretty chill, so we tried to play it cool, too. Even though on the inside, I’m screaming, “This is so cool!”
Diagon Alley for us was an every day thing. We kept coming back over and over and nobody got bored or asked to leave. We waited until they kicked us out. Yes, you need Park-to-Park admission, because I can’t even begin to describe the awesome that is King’s Cross Station and the Hogwarts Express. All my children are now full-fledged Harry Potter fans and have come home wanting to read and watch Harry Potter everything. Something I can fully support, except when they start trying to cast spells on me.