Harry Potter theme park's Diagon Alley opens for media preview

It will be the first look into the magical shopping district fictitiously hidden in central London.
By Aileen Graef  |  June 18, 2014 at 8:47 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla., June 18 (UPI) -- Harry Potter fans are going to get their first glimpse of the highly anticipated expansion to the theme park in Florida.

Universal Orlando began a multi-day press preview of the Diagon Alley expansion of their Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Wednesday.

The new signature roller coaster will be Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. It will feature "new projector technology" and an almost 360-degree screen. Wizarding World's flagship ride is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which uses similar technology.

Guests will also be able to use wands to "cast spells" in stores to levitate feather quills and light chandeliers. Along with the ride in Gringotts Bank, people will also be able to exchange their money for Wizarding Bank Notes which can be used throughout Universal parks.

The Wizarding World area now spans both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. One ride meant to boost two-park pass purchases is the Hogwarts Express shuttle running from King's Cross station in Universal Studios to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, with scenes of London and the British countryside visible through the window and characters from the books on board.

"Our standards are very high. We want to give our guests an incredible experience," Universal spokesman Universal spokesman Tom Schroder told the Orlando Sentinel. "That kind of pressure is always there. But we've created a very different environment from what we created in 2010 -- and we are sure our guests will love it."

The opening of Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure has given a much-needed boost to the park, which saw a double-digit dive in attendance during the recession. Since the first phase opened in 2010, attendance has increased year-over-year by 30 percent. Food and beverage sales for both parks increased 29 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Universal Studios has not yet announced when Diagon Alley will be open to the public, but it is expected to be in the near future.

Topics: Harry Potter
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