6 things you may not know about 'Diagon Alley'
Here are a half dozen things you may not know about Universal Studios second land of "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," and what led up to it.
1. Universal is literally printing money. Similar to Disney Dollars, near the Gringotts bank attraction itself, for the first time, you can exchange your old muggle money for Wizarding Bank Notes. And to do that -- you have to interact with a sometimes grumpy goblin. The Bank Notes are accepted for purchasing food and souvenirs throughout both lands of the Wizarding World and most other shops and restaurants in the two theme parks. (Of course, Universal hopes the Bank Notes will be a souvenir you will want to keep, instead of exchanging back into dollars at the end of your day).
2. The Magic of the Magic Wands. Tuesday, Universal confirmed what we have been reporting for quite a while: that both parts of the WWOHP will now feature Magic Wands. The old wands you bought before are nice. But they won't make things happen in Diagon Alley & Hogsmeade. The new wands are expected to be priced around $45. If you have one, look for medallions on the ground (kind of like the "magic portals" of the Magic Kingdom's Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom attraction) of both lands. Speak the spell that's on the medallion and wave your wand in the pattern pictured. If you have done it right, you will make magic as well as any wizard. (SPOILER!!! The wands have RFID chips in them. Sensors in the area detect your wand, and technology similar to Microsoft's Kinect is used to make sure you cast the spells right).
3. Diagon Alley is only one part of the new land. The Wizarding shopping district of Diagon is just the beginning. The dark magic area "Knockturn Alley" is also there, along with several connected areas we have never seen in the books and movies. They include Carkitt Market (home of much of the entertainment in the new land) and Horizont Alley (read it fast)
4.The Dragon atop Gringotts. You've probably heard it will breathe fire. What you probably don't know is that it will happen randomly. Both how much fire and when it will breathe are up to the dragon.
5. London is your entryway. The designers and JK Rowling are trying to top the original Wizarding World. And they insist muggles play by the rules. You can't see Diagon Alley from anywhere in the park until you pass through the portal at the Leaky Cauldron that takes you from muggle London to the Magic. You also have to leave Diagon and go back into London if you want to ride the Hogwarts Express.
6. Hogwarts Express. Like "Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts," this ride features a lot of new technology. Expect more than a cozy train ride to and from London and Hogsmeade. You'll meet many famous Potter peeps and creatures. And the ride is different each way (to and from London).