PotterWatch: Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley Soft Openings

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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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Seth Kubersky

Author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. Co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and Beyond Disney. Contributor to Unofficial Guides to WDW and Las Vegas. Live Active Cultures columnist for the Orlando Weekly. Travel and arts journalist. Theatrical director and producer.

3 thoughts on “PotterWatch: Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley Soft Openings

  • July 6, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I’d be interested to see how the dragon handles the rain.
    It look like the rain on all of it’s left wing would funnel down to a point.
    I wonder what’s directly under that point?

  • July 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Love the pictures. Thanks for sharing. I am really looking forward to seeing it all in person.

  • July 8, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    8th July diagon alley opening. Had early entry as staying at Hard Rock. Arrived at Diagon Allley about 6.30 am. Queued till 8 am till opening then queued at escape from Gringotts till after 1 pm and still did not ride as it broke down! Universal deny it breaks down if you ask the attendants, of which there are few. But when we were only 50 people from the ride they announced it had stopped, then announced it again, then finally…that people were to wait in their cars to be helped off! We’ve come from Scotland so had holiday arranged for about a year and did not intend to arrive on opening day, just our luck or otherwise. Worst thing was they were letting lots of VIPs on and we witnessed the lift which takes you to the ride filling up with about 80% VIP s before they let the public on so no wonder it was sooooo slow. Particularly annoying was seeing one young teenage lady VIP skipping down the VIP entry route passed all the goblins in the banking hall…oh yes and the public who had already been waiting 4 or 5 hours…a bit unreasonable surely given Universal has already had many VIP openings. We did get so called fast passes for another day…yet to see how they will work the team leader at the ride thought maybe an hour wait with them. Diagon Alley itself is amazing


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