|Welcome to Diagon Alley - |
Check out Gringotts!
Shortly after arriving at the MCO airport, we went directly to the park. We got in quickly and went straight to the Diagon Alley section. From the outside, it is setup like a street in London with the Night Bus sitting proudly on the street. Between some row homes and the King's Cross station is a small alley way that opens into J.K. Rowling's imagination.
There were some definite improvements to how extensive and abundant the shops were in comparison to the other park. There were also more pubs, kiosks, and kitschy ways to spend your money - including exchanging your money in Gringotts for something that could only be spent in HP world. After waiting for hours to ride the Hogwarts castle ride a few years back, I changed my outlook on life and started using the single rider line as much as possible. The line for the Gringotts ride was out of control even for single riders. After lots of waiting, I finally found myself seated and ready to go.
|Cool new drink options|
The ride is setup similar to the Hogwarts ride in the other park with 3D screens and seats that jump around as you venture through the bank. About half way through the ride, the audio became out of sync with what was happening around me and I was very sad. After speaking with the workers, they told me this was a fairly normal occurrence since they were still working out some glitches in the ride. The good news is that we got to go again without having to wait in line: the second time around was much better. I’m very glad we got to ride twice since the line (even single riders) was way too long the rest of the trip and I never got back on.
The only other new ride that was part of the second park opening was the Hogwarts Express train that runs between the two parks. You must have a park hopper pass to get on the train – this is a very clever marketing tactic in my opinion to make sure everyone visits both parks even if they have been there before. Even though the line looked long, a lot of people can fit on the train in one go (I’m guessing about 100 people). It is a quick ~10 minute ride to the next park where you can relax in a quaint passenger car and enjoy a “virtual” tour through the outward looking window. There are some fun surprises as well with flickering lights, dementors, etc. This really shouldn’t be missed as it is a fun way to go between parks. Watching the Hogwarts Express pull up to the station is an incredible sight.
|All aboard the Hogwarts Express|
In addition to the 4 glasses of butterbeer I consumed throughout my 2 days at the park, I also ate at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade Village. My Cornish pasties are on par with what I had last time around being good but not excellent. I actually had a similar style dish in Dublin a few years ago and it was insanely good. I should not compare authentic food to amusement park food, but I can’t help it.
On a side note – This is not related to HP or Universal Studios, but I stayed at an incredible hotel! The Hilton Bonnett Creek is right in the Disney theme park area and there are free shuttles that take you to the parks and to Downtown Disney. The hotel pool is more of a giant lazy river with cabanas and fun activities throughout the day. I highly recommend this hotel! The breakfast buffet was pricey, but incredible.
I am very glad I made it back down there this year, but my next trip to Orlando will most likely be to Disney or SeaWorld.
|Hogsmeade Village with Hogwarts in the Background|