Posts Tagged ‘Hogwarts Express’

New Universal Orlando Wizarding World Two-Park Touring Plans

by on July 23, 2014

Gringotts Queue

Learn everything you’ve always wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about visiting both Gringotts and Hogwarts with our new Wizarding World two-park touring plans! (photos by Seth Kubersky)

A few days ago, we published our newly updated Universal Studios Florida touring plans, which provide step-by-step instructions for tackling Diagon Alley and the crowds at the Gringotts bank ride with maximum efficiency. Those guides are now available as premium touring plans that can be copied and edited in Lines, with versions for Early Entry guests and for those staying off-site.

Today, we’re following up with the first installment of our most frequently requested touring plan: one-day/two-park plans covering both sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These new plans cover both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. They feature all Harry Potter attractions (including rides on the Hogwarts Express in both directions) in a single day, and assume you have a Park-To-Park (Universal lingo for “parkhopper”) ticket.

[Note: If you caught the early edition of this post, you may notice that the touring plans have changed slightly. Using the latest data crunched overnight, we’ve tweaked the morning attraction order to squeeze in one extra attraction! Similar upgrades have already been made to the premium one day USF/Diagon Alley plans we’ve previously published. You’re welcome!]

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal’s Hogwarts Express

by on July 12, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Surprises of Universal’s Hogwarts Express. With the opening of Diagon Alley this week, most of the headlines have been focused on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Whether it’s the incredible animatronics inside the queue, the amazing ride itself, the seemingly never-ending outdoor portion of the extended queue, or the oft-reported downtime, much of the week’s conversation has been spent on the newest E-Ticket attraction at Universal Studios Florida. However, right next door to Diagon Alley another ride opened on the same day with almost no issues, but has received much less fanfare. Maybe it’s a case of the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but for our money the Hogwarts Express was one of the most wonderful additions to the Wizarding World expansion.

The Hogwarts Express is the first attraction in theme park history to go from one park to another. With all the details in the King’s Cross and Hogsmeade stations along with the ride itself, this edition of the SATURDAY SIX is going to look at six of our favorite surprises of this newest attraction, starting with…

# 6 – Live Musicians in King’s Cross Station


A saxophone player that would make Bleeding Gums Murphy and Lisa Simpson proud (photo by Brandon Glover)

The word you are going to see in pretty much every review of anything related to the Wizarding World at Universal is authenticity, and one small touch that adds so much depth to the experience of King’s Cross is the live musicians that play as you walk into the queue. You can hear men and women playing violins, guitars, and saxophones as you enter the cavernous building. All that’s missing is a hat to leave tips in.

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PotterWatch: Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley Soft Openings

by on July 6, 2014

Diagon alley soft opening

Regular guests get their first look at the Universal’s newest Wizarding World during the first day of Diagon Alley soft openings (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Nearly a month after construction walls came down around Universal Studios Florida‘s London waterfront, PotterWatch finally paid off this past week, as regular guests were finally allowed to experience Universal Orlando‘s new Harry Potter attractions in advance of the expansion’s July 8 official opening. Hogwarts Express began “technical rehearsals” on July 1, and the first Diagon Alley soft openings started on July 3.

While the Gringotts ride is not available during these previews, all shops, restaurants, and shows in Diagon Alley should be open to guests on a daily basis until the grand opening on July 8.

As congested as these photos may appear, this is nothing compared to how busy Diagon Alley will be once opening day officially arrives. With minimal queues to enter the area, and posted standby waits at Hogwarts Express of 30 minutes or less, this is an ideal time to experience Diagon Alley without the crushing crowds that are surely coming right around the corner.

Check out these front-line photos from July 3, documenting the first few hours after ordinary visitors were first allowed to experience the new Wizarding World:

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Hogwarts Express REVIEW [Minor Spoilers]

by on July 2, 2014

Hogwarts Express review

All aboard the Hogwarts Express at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth review of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida, and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Hogwarts Express review, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction, and is subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

Hogwarts Express

4 1/2 STARS



  • PRESCHOOL 4 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 5 stars
  • TEENS 4 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 4 1/2 stars
  • OVER 30 4 1/2 stars
  • SENIORS 4 stars


What it is Transportation attraction with special effects.
Scope and scale Super-headliner.
When to go Immediately after park opening.
Special comments Expect lengthy waits in line. A park-to-park pass is required to ride.
Authors’ rating A moving experience; Not to be missed; 4 1/2 stars
Duration of ride 4 minutes.
Probable wait­ing time per 100 people ahead of you 7 minutes.
Loading speed Moderate.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Photo Ops at Universal

by on June 28, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Top Six Photo Ops at Universal. Previously we have covered our favorite Photo Connect experiences at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, but this week we are going to look at the six must-get photos when we walk around the parks. For first time visitors, these are the locations that are going to make you stop in your tracks and get out the camera. Some are iconic, others are breathtaking, but all are memorable and should be considered for your vacation scrapbook. Let’s start off by heading into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village….

# 6 – Hogwarts Express and Conductor (Islands of Adventure)

Muggles stepping foot into Hogsmeade Village for the first time are going to love the great photo op with the Hogwarts Express and interacting with the train’s conductor. Holding his enchanted pocket watch, the conductor is the go-to person with any question on Hogsmeade as he is always well versed on Potter-lore and everything within this magical land.


Hogwarts Express (photo by Brandon Glover)

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Interactive Entertainment Confirmed & Photo Update

by on June 8, 2014

Our PotterWatch updates are coming fast and furious, as the finishing touches are put on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley prior to its media unveiling in under two weeks. For this edition, we have the usual photo updates of progress along the London Waterfront in Universal Studios Florida, and Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure. Plus, there’s finally official confirmation on some Diagon Alley interactive entertainment experiences that we’ve previously shared rumors of. Finally, we’re sharing some fantastic new footage of some Harry Potter film stars exploring the new attractions, showing off our best sneak peak so far of this spectacular expansion

London Waterfront Photo Update

Here’s a quick look at the latest progress along the London Waterfront, which serves as the facade in front of Diagon Alley:

Potterwatch Diagon Alley Interactive Entertainment Confirmed

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PotterWatch: Preliminary Diagon Alley Touring Plans

by on June 6, 2014

Wizarding World of Harry Potter preliminary Diagon Alley touring plans

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is nearly ready — but are you? (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

With only two weeks to go before the worldwide media descends upon Universal Orlando for its unveiling of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, we already know plenty of things about the experience that awaits behind Universal Studios Florida‘s imposing new London Waterfront. We know about the E-ticket “multi-sensory thrill ride” inside the dragon-topped Gringotts bank; we know about the Hogwarts Express train that will transport guests to the original Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure; we know the names of that will line this magical shopping mall; we even know the varieties of pie (Seafood! Steak and Guinness!) and ice cream (Chocolate chili! Butterbeer!) you’ll be able to eat. So it’s no wonder that many of our subscribers have requested Diagon Alley touring plans to prepare them for their upcoming vacations. Unfortunately, we still lack two pieces of data vital to providing our usual expert advice: when we can get inside, and how long we’ll wait once we get there.

Through a combination of inside information, experience observing Universal’s operations since Potter arrived, and some educated guesses, we’ve devised the following preliminary Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley touring plans, along with a summary of our surmises about how the area will operate. Be aware that much of this is based on unofficial intel, and is subject to change before, during, and after the grand opening of the attraction.

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PotterWatch: London Waterfront Lighting, Diagon Alley Return Tickets, Hogsmeade Transition, & Leaky Cauldron Food Preview

by on June 2, 2014

PotterWatch London Waterfront lighting Diagon Alley return ticket kiosks Hogsmeade transition

Welcome to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where time has turned purple… (photos by Seth Kubersky)

We’ve passed an important PotterWatch milestone this week: we’re most likely less than one month away from the public premiere of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. This update will examine some new lighting along the London Waterfront, the newly revealed Hogsmeade transition area outside the original Wizarding World, and some recently revealed Leaky Cauldron food and beverage details.


London Waterfront Lighting

I took a stroll along the London Waterfront outside Diagon Alley at “magic hour” to capture some of the lighting features throughout the area. Let’s start with a panoramic overview of the construction area:


This purple illumination on the King’s Cross clock tower confuses me. Perhaps it is some sort of magical effect, or an unfinished test? Time will tell…

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Update, Hogsmeade Stones, and Gringotts Details

by on May 14, 2014

Welcome back to the ever-widening Wizarding World! In today’s edition PotterWatch, we’ve got frest photos from earlier this week of progress on Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront, the newly installed Hogsmeade stones outside the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and breaking news direct from Universal Orlando with eagerly awaited Gringotts details.

Diagon Alley Update

Let’s begin with a stroll along the Diagon Alley London Waterfront construction zone.

PotterWatch Universal Orlando Wizarding World Diagon Alley Hogsmeade Stones Gringotts Details


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PotterWatch: Knight Bus, Madam Puddifoot, and Interactive Wand Rumors

by on April 23, 2014

Universal Potter Knight Bus Interactive wand

Harry Potter’s Knight Bus has arrived at Diagon Alley, along with tales of a new interactive wand experience in the Wizarding World.

What a difference a week makes in the Wizarding World! When last we PotterWatched, visible exterior progress on Universal Orlando‘s Harry Potter expansions seemed to have slowed. But Easter is all about rebirth, and in recent days several important new elements of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade have sprung to life. Plus, we have some tantalizing new information on the interactive wand experience that has internet rumor mills buzzing.


Knight Bus

The big news was the arrival of the iconic Knight Bus in front of Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront on April 11.

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