Crowds flock to opening day at Diagon Alley

Ticket to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter costs $136

People wait to ride "Escape from Gringotts."
People wait to ride "Escape from Gringotts." (Photo by Erik Sandoval, WKMG-TV)

ORLANDO, Fla. – On Tuesday, four years after Universal Orlando opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, the theme park giant revealed its counterpart -- the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.

Guests who buy a two-park ticket can travel to and from the two areas of the park via the Hogwarts Express train, which is based at King's Cross Station in "London" -- or Universal's version of it.

People began lining up at 5 a.m. Tuesday, when the parking garages opened.

"I don't care about the crowds. We're going," said Cristina Matos, who traveled from Columbus, Ohio, to experience opening day.

SLIDESHOW: Photos of Diagon Alley, red-carpet event

Matos went to scope out Diagon Alley on Monday as guests have been allowed to visit the shops and walk around for the past week.  But the main attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott's ride (pictured below), which had been out of service since the park's media and VIP preview last month, was running Tuesday morning.

Die-hard Harry Potter fans said even if it breaks down, they'll make the most of the experience.

"Just spend the whole day in Diagon Alley and then take the train to Hogsmeade and see what that's like," said Amanda Forbes, who is visiting from Jacksonville.

People wait to ride "Escape from Gringotts."
People wait to ride "Escape from Gringotts."

"We don't think we have any chance whatsoever of getting on the new ride because we've heard people in our hotel talking and trying to book it and it's a six, eight, 10-hour queue," said Adiran Hill, who is visiting from the United Kingdom.

Hogwarts Express, which takes people between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, ran pretty reliably during the soft opening, with an average 45-minute wait.

Last month, Universal hosted a star-studded media preview in which several stars from the movies got a taste of Gillywater, new dishes from the Leaky Cauldron restaurant and the signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. The ride introduces theme parkgoers to Bellatrix Lestrange, second in command to Lord Voldemort, or rather He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Helena Bonham Carter, who played Bellatrix in the movies, lent her voice as the "naughty-but-fun" character for the ride. A fire-breathing dragon sits atop Gringotts, which is run by well-dressed goblins whose suits were custom-made in Italy.

Like the books by J.K. Rowling, Diagon Alley is largely shops where Harry, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger bought wands, books and other supplies needed for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Universal introduces seven new shops in Diagon Alley, including the practical joke shop, Weasleys Wizard Wheezes.

With a new land comes new dishes. Available at the Leaky Cauldron are Bangers and Mash and Toad in the Hole. Guests can nosh on fish and chips at Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

Feeling thirsty? Sip on Potter favorites Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice, or try one of the latest drinks, like Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice, concocted by Universal's executive chef Steve Jayson.

The park is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Universal's website states. The park hours change to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 1-9.

If fans want to see both parks and ride the Hogwarts Express, a two-park ticket will be required. For adults, a two-park ticket for a single day is $136 and for children it is $130. Vacation packages start at $135 per adult per night.