It’s Real To Us: Diagon Alley Preview

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It’s been a busy and emotional week for members of the Central Florida Slug Club.  Many of our members have been apart of the much talked about #POTTERWATCH movement, patiently (and not so patiently) waiting for a chance to preview the new Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Since opening July 3rd in preview mode, 44 of the Slug Club members have already visited numerous times, getting familiarized with the new area and taking in all that it has to offer before the muggles invade by the thousands on grand opening day, July 8th!

The general consensus of the group is complete adoration!  We applaud the folks at Universal for staying true to the magical and cozy feeling of the Wizarding World as depicted in the book and the movies.  We were all truly moved with emotions when we first laid eyes on Diagon Alley.

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Here are the things we absolutely love:

1.  Total immersion – Once you pass into London and beyond the brick wall entry way you are truly transported into another realm.  There were times we forgot we were actually inside Universal Studios and exiting to London was a bit of a shock.  We got the feeling that perhaps we should put away our wands or else the ‘Muggles’ (non-wizarding folk) will find out.   It became just that real for us.
2.  Butter Beer soft serve – It’s divine. We also really appreciated the variety of other ice cream flavors offered just as they were described in the book.
3.  Knockturn Alley – This area was loved by all, not just the Slytherins in the club.  It’s covered, it’s air-conditioned, and it’s just freakin’ cool to walk around in the dark.
4.  Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees – WOW! This show is amazing.  None of us were expecting it to take the direction of a jazzy/speakeasy  vibe and we were enamored after the very first show. (Soundtrack please!!!)
5.  Interactive Wands – We’re grown-ups with wands that actually work.  We couldn’t be happier!
6.  Booze on the Hogwarts Express – The train is just perfect! We appreciate being able to journey as Hogwarts alum on the Hogwarts Express with our adult beverages.  We appreciate being able to buy them in line even more!
7.  Interactive Gringott’s Goblin – Such a cool feature to have the Goblin answer your questions.
8.  Potions Elixers – It’s such fun and they really do taste good.
9.  Gringott’s Dragon – She’s just marvelous.   The roar is the absolute best.  We never tire of watching it or taking pictures of it.
10.  Architecture – The detail of every little nook and cranny didn’t go unnoticed by our group!  We are devoted fans who have seen the movies more times than anyone could count.  Nailed it!
11.  Fwooper and the kneazle in Menagerie – Kudos for really bringing the Fantastical Beasts to life.
12.  Sirius’ motor bike – Very cool and one of the elements we actually hadn’t seen any spoilers about.  It really was a surprise to most of us.
13.  Butter Beer Bar – We just want to stand inside and inhale that celestial smell all day.
14.  Sticky Toffee Pudding – This dessert at the Leaky Cauldron is amazeballs!
15.  The look and feel of the Leaky Cauldron – It’s great for large groups like ours or for a cozy meal by yourself.  It just feels right.

We loved many things, but there are a few things that the club would love to see addressed.   With the grand opening looming just hours away, we know they won’t be in place for tomorrow. Hopefully Universal will take heed to some of them in order to make for an even more enjoyable experience for their guests.

1.  More seating throughout Diagon Alley – There are a few benches and the tables in front of the Hopping Pot, but it would be nice to see more seating in the Carkitt Market area where it’s covered to enjoy the show or sip on your elixir or eat your ice cream from Florean’s.

2.  Covered seating for Hopping Pot – The bar area has a good number of tables but they are exposed to the elements.  It’s no good enjoying a beer when it’s raining on your head or when the sun is beating down on you.  We love the covered seating behind the Three Broomsticks.  Take a page out of that book and perhaps add some umbrellas.
3.  Seedy bar in Knockturn Alley – We think Knockturn Alley needs a bar, perhaps serving Firewhisky or some other more naughty concoctions.  We’ve even got a name suggestion, The Spiny Serpent.
4.  Specialty diet options- Many of our club members are vegetarians, vegans,or have health related conditions. It was very difficult for some to find options  at The Leaky Cauldron that they too could enjoy.  There were a few, but not nearly enough.   It would be nice to note the gluten free menu items as well to make it esier for guests to decipher.
5.  Covered waiting area for ice cream – We just can’t see the line for Florean Fortescue’s ever being short enough to not extend outside.  It’s so good!  It’s no fun to be rained on while waiting in line.   We wish that there could be awning extended there to cover the line.
6.  Wand customization – We think it would be very cool to be able to select the core and the material for the wand and perhaps allow some sort of customization, something like Build-a-Bear.
7.  It rained for several days during the soft opening period and the slick stones of the alley did not bode well in the rain.  Even London was extra slick.  We hope Universal can sand the surfaces to help prevent some of the slip and falls we’ve already seen.  Warning signs about the slippery conditions would also be really helpful so guests will take extra caution.
8.  Last but definitely not least, more merchandise!  We know it sounds crazy because the bulk of Diagon Alley is already comprised of stores.   However, we didn’t find the selection of merchandise in several of the stores to be that much different than what can be found in other areas of the park.

We want to give Universal even more of our money, so here’s how they can get it:

  • Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees soundtrack for purchase and posters for sale
  • More witchy merchandise in Madam Malkins, witch hats other than McGonagalls. Many things were on display that we inquired about and were told it was only for display but true fans would love to be able to purchase them.
  • The quidditch store needs more quidditch gear, i.e. quidditch robes, HolyHead Harpies t-shirt, and more house representation other than Gryffindor.   We understand Gryffindor is the most common house, but perhaps having the option to order merchandise right there on site for a different house would be a great feature to offer.
  • Star charts for sale in Wiseacres

Many members of the Slug Club are fortunate enough to live locally and have annual passes so we will continue to be frequent inhabitants of both wizarding worlds.  The last few days have truly been magical.  Now off to rest, before the big grand opening tomorrow!

Submitted by Slug Club member Lauren Gay, http://www.outdoorsydiva.com

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