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Arts & Culture

Universal’s Celebration of Harry Potter preps fans for park expansion

Expansion details, guest appearances and more help generate excitement for Diagon Alley opening this summer

Photo: Photo by Seth Kubersky, License: N/A

Photo by Seth Kubersky

Kings Cross station serves as home to the Hogwarts Express locomotive, which will ferry guests to the other park and vice versa. After stepping through the wall at Platform 9 3/4, riders will board immaculately detailed carriages and watch virtual “windows” which display one of 400-plus combinations of Potter creatures and characters along the way. The catch: You’ll have to have a “park-to-park” ticket or annual pass to climb aboard.

Knockturn Alley, an indoor arcade devoted to the dark arts, will house Borgin & Burkes’ emporium of interactive evil artifacts. Carkitt Market will feature street vendors and live entertainment under a glass canopy. Together, they should give some much-needed shelter from the summer sun and storms. Other shops in the area include Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Quality Quiddich Supplies, Magical Menagerie (plush toys), Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, which will absorb Zonko’s toy inventory when that shop shutters soon. The Leaky Cauldron will serve Brit pub fare like fish and chips and bangers and mash, and Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour will serve fantasy flavors like strawberry peanut butter and Butterbeer.

Speaking of Butterbeer, I was among the few guests to test warm Butterbeer, a brand-new beverage that resembles a sweet vanilla chai tea latte with marshmallow foam. Look for it to be another blockbuster moneymaker when formally introduced in the upcoming months.

I wasn’t among the lucky few journalists invited on last week’s hard-hat tour of the construction zone. But Huffington Post reporter (and former OW columnist) Jim Hill was, and he’s impressed. “It’s one thing to see the concept art; it’s quite another thing to stand down in the depths of it and look up and realize that they committed, they didn’t stint,” he told me. “They realized that when you do super-quality detailed [work], people lust after it.” His only worry is where all the guests are going to fit: “When you stand on the street and look up Diagon Alley, it’s tight, but it has to be tight because that’s how the movie was. There’s a slightly claustrophobic feel … There’s going to be a learning curve.” However they work it out, “It’s going to be a fascinating summer!”

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