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Funeral Crasher
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I went to Orlando last week with the family and spent three days at Universal. I'm not really a big Harry Potter fan, but seeing Diagon Alley in person is utterly breathtaking. It's amazing the amount of work and technology that went into making it a reality. All of this and the Gringotts Bank ride took the place of the old "Jaws" boat ride and the Amity Island streets in Universal. They moved all the carnival-type games of skill over to the Simpsons ride and Krustyland. The park has to control access to the alley to keep it from getting overcrowded, which is a good thing. We never had a problem getting in in the late afternoon and nighttime. I guess it's busiest in the morning. But even if you visit during the day, I highly recommend seeing it at night when it's all lit up.













This HUGE Dragon sits on top of the Gringotts Bank ride. About every ten minutes he growls and shoots a long flame out of his mouth. (I still have to get the video of it off my wife's phone.)





One of the shops is a money exchange, where you can exchange real money into Diagon Alley Gringotts money. Then you could keep it as a souvenir or use it as cash anywhere in the park.
This animatronic goblin sits high up on a desk in the shop, doing his work. He's kind of like an Ebenezer Scrooge goblin. But he cool thing is you can ask him questions and he will look up and give you and answer, in a stern way like you are bugging him. Amazing!



The streets have a lot of interactive displays in the shop windows, but they require the purchase of a special wand to make them work. We got one for my daughter and I think it was around $40. I don't know how it works and it doesn't use any batteries. You'll find brass plates in the sidewalks in front of the interactive displays pointing to them and showing what kind of motion to make with the wand to activate them. I think there are 20 or more of them and even a few hidden ones. The wand comes with a map to the known ones.
Here's some kid with a witch doing one:


 

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Funeral Crasher
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Discussion Starter #2
This is the entrance to the "Leaky Cauldron" restaurant. My wife and daughter ate dinner there and liked it a lot. That dark alley to the right is the entrance to "Knockturn Alley". Unlike Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley has a roof over it, so it's very dark inside. Especially at night.



I think there are three entrances to this alley and a witch stands at each entrance. They never smile. I guess they're not supposed to.


















 

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The Cackling Cauldron
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I'm so excited to see this! Our family will be there early October this year and from all the visitor reviews I've seen the attention to details is phenomenal.
 

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Very Cool DaveintheGrave! And your photos are fabulous. I would so like to visit. Glad you had a fun time vacation there and thanks for the photo tour.

I believe the $40 wand might be the same one discounted that I bought and posted photos of under the prop section. If so it does have batteries, which I would imagine the park would want included in the ones sold there so people could activate displays, you might not have noticed the battery compartment. It is pretty well concealed on my wand. Take a look at the end of the wand handle and see if you see a hidden battery area. It would have a slot you open with a tool key included in the box. If it doesn't have a battery (and the price is lower that the one I bought at $49) then there must be some other way they are activating the displays...maybe motion sensor or light sensor (does the wand tip light)? What was your take on the wand displays? What kind of things did the wand activate?
 

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Funeral Crasher
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Here's a link to my Photobucket page. It has a few more pics that I didn't post here if anyone is interested.

http://smg.photobucket.com/user/DaveNTracy/library/Harry Potter Diagon Alley?sort=3&page=1

My wife and daughter were able to ride the new Gringotts Bank ride and thought it was pretty good. My wife did say she thought the older Harry Potter ride (over in Islands of Adventure) was a lot better. They got in line at 7:00 in the morning and finally got on at around 10:00 am. My son and I got in the same line around 7:45, but beware-you enter through the front of the bank but are led to the rear of the bank where there is an unbelievably LOOONG session of back-and-forth snaking type chain lines that take forever to get through. The lines were moving along pretty well, but all of a sudden stopped. Apparently the ride breaks down A LOT ! My son had run out of patience after a half hour of not moving, so we bailed out and went to ride the Mummy instead. My wife said it was about an hour breakdown total. I wasn't too disappointed. I'll ride it on the next trip in a few years.

Also, be sure to ride the train that takes you from Diagon Alley area over to Hogsmeade. (It drops you off near the older Harry Potter ride in Islands of Adventure and you need the Two-park ticket in order to ride.) It's a real train and the stations are very realistic. The station on the Diagon Alley side has the 9 and 3/4 gate like in the movies. There is a really neat effect where they have a large piece of glass (like a mirror) sitting with some luggage. As you look through it you can see the people ahead of you in line disappearing as they walk through a brick wall. I guess it's some kind of pepper's ghost effect, but I couldn't figure it out.
And the train ride itself is amazing. It's like a real train where you are in an actual compartment. Eight people to a compartment. What looks like a window is really a screen playing a video of the train leaving the station, going past city streets, into the forest with a thunder storm. While all that is going on you might see an owl flying by, dementors flying, Haggrid on his cycle, etc. But the wildest part is what happens outside the compartment, opposite the window. The door of it is closed and is made of frosted glass. As the ride progresses you see the moving shadows of Harry, Ron and Hermione walking by and talking. Then the shadow of a Dementor moves by and as it does, it's hand touches the glass and freezes it wherever it touched. That shadow effect really blew my mind and I can't figure out how they did that either. If you go, but don't ride the Gringotts ride, at least ride the train. The ride only last about five minutes, though.

I think that's about it. I highly recommend going to Universal and seeing this if you get the chance. Also, bring plenty of money because you'll be tempted to buy everything you see.
I can't imagine what they'll do with it for Halloween Horror Nights.
 

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Funeral Crasher
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Very Cool DaveintheGrave! And your photos are fabulous. I would so like to visit. Glad you had a fun time vacation there and thanks for the photo tour.

I believe the $40 wand might be the same one discounted that I bought and posted photos of under the prop section. If so it does have batteries, which I would imagine the park would want included in the ones sold there so people could activate displays, you might not have noticed the battery compartment. It is pretty well concealed on my wand. Take a look at the end of the wand handle and see if you see a hidden battery area. It would have a slot you open with a tool key included in the box. If it doesn't have a battery (and the price is lower that the one I bought at $49) then there must be some other way they are activating the displays...maybe motion sensor or light sensor (does the wand tip light)? What was your take on the wand displays? What kind of things did the wand activate?
Thanks, Spookie! We didn't bring our best camera on the trip with the chance of rain and all. But I did the best I could with a point-and-shoot camera.

Well, my wife bought the wand and specifically asked the sales guy if it took batteries and he said no. I will look at it again and check to see. There was not a key in the box.
I think all of the things that the wand activates are behind storefront windows. Some of the displays it activates are over in Hogsmeade, near the older Harry Potter ride. It usually took a few tries to get each item to activate, but Universal has one it's workers/characters stationed nearby to help at each one and give you tips. That's really a good thing, because it's mostly kids trying the wands.
Ummm......a spinning fireworks display went off in one window, a large chocolate frog would hop, a small cauldron above one shop would tip, showing a small fairy (sprite) inside, a huge display of lights would turn on in an upper shop window. One in Knockturn Alley would make a canary in a cage either grow a lot of yellow hair on him, make his feet huge or make ugly pimples appear all over him and then pop. Near the bird, a lock in a door would unlock, then when you try the knob it honks a horn and blows air at you. A quill pen would levitate in another. Oh, and the large drawing of a skeleton that would match whatever moves you made.
That's all I can remember. I think my daughter did all of them, but I wasn't with her all the time.
 

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Funeral Crasher
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Yes. It sits on the road near a grassy area in front of the train station and the entrance to Diagon Alley.

I couldn't see your youtube link, but it was a three level purple bus with the shrunken head hanging above the driver's seat.
 

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Funeral Crasher
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You're welcome! Yea, those wands can be a lot of fun. Takes a little bit of practice, though.

Also remember you don't have to go to the wand shop to buy the wand. My wife bought one in the Universal store in Citywalk, outside the park.
 

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Thanks for sharing, Dave! Sounds like an awesome visit! My husband and I are hoping to plan a trip next year to Disney and Universal. We are huge Disney fans and Harry Potter fans! So far we are planning 3 days at Disney and 1 day at Universal. The Harry Potter exhibits are the only thing that really interests us at Universal, but we haven't looked much into other things. I am not much for big, noisy rides, just exploring different things and visiting exhibits. The train ride sounds like a lot of fun :) If you have any suggestions for Disney/Universal, I'm all ears!
 

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Funeral Crasher
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Thanks for the compliments, everyone. I wish I had taken more time on the pictures. But when you have that express pass, you can ride the attractions all day until you're sick of them. We spent most of our time doing that. Plus, they also sell Duff beer over at the Simpsons ride. :)

DayTek-- Well, I haven't been to a Disney park in so long, I can't really recommend anything to you on those. My wife and daughter went to Animal Kingdom this trip, but my son and I went to Aquatica instead (the Sea World water park). I'm more of a Disney Hollywood and Magic Kingdom kind of guy, myself.
As far as Universal---you might consider staying one night in one of the on-site hotels. It is expensive, but included with the hotel is the unlimited Express pass, which gives you front of the line privileges for most of the attractions at Universal. The great thing is that the pass is good for the whole day you check in AND the whole day you check out. So you actually get two days of express passes for one nights stay. The pass won't do you any good for any of the Harry Potter rides, though. But staying on property does allow you into the park and hour ahead of regular opening hours. So if the park opens at 8 AM, you can get in at 7 AM. (I've done some research since getting home and read that they sometimes let the early birds in as early as 6:30.). So if you really want to ride the new Harry Potter Gringotts Bank ride, I'd be at the turnstile at 6 AM. Oh, you'll also need the Park-to-Park ticket in order to be allowed on the train.
Like I said before, the crowds to get into Diagon Alley seem to be smaller in the late afternoons and evenings.
One good thing about the new ride opening is that the older Harry Potter ride is not as crowded as it used to be. In the evenings it sometimes only has a 15 minute wait time. I think it's called "The Forbidden Journey" and it's really cool.

Be sure the ride the "Mummy's Revenge" ride. I'd say that's my favorite.

Feel free to PM me if you want more information. I hope you have a good trip when you go!
 

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It sounds (and looks) amazing! My wife and I have gone to WDW several times, but we always stay on Disney property only. Next time we go (when our son is a little older) we are definitely going to check out Universal and all the Harry Potter stuff. The train ride sounds really neat.
 
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