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7 Things You Might Overlook at Wizarding World of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley (But Definitely Shouldn't)

Be sure to catch these sites in Diagon Alley that you might accidentally skip through, pass over or slide by
by Drew Taylor Posted Jul 8th 2014 1:14p.m.
A features editor, critic and columnist for The Playlist/Indiewire, Drew's also a contributor to Moviefone, NBC Universal and MTV. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter.

What's more is the fact that it was designed, at least partially, by Hollywood production designers and not theme park drones who want to maximize every square inch of space for selling t-shirts and Every Flavour Beans. This is a land that lives. And as such, there are plenty of things that you might overlook.

Well, we're here to keep you on the path to true mastery of the dark arts (or whatever wimpy form of magic you want to practice). Here are the seven things in Universal Orlando's Diagon Alley that you might accidentally skip through, pass over or slide by. (This is particularly true in a land that only has one true ride, if you discount the amazing Hogwarts Express.) There are so many darkened corners of Diagon Alley—and so many experiences in those darkened corner—that we might have even forgotten to include a few. Still, without further ado… abra cadabra! (You get it.)

A Magical Photo Memory

Tucked behind the joke shop and candy store, there is another series of ramps that resembles yet another of the artfully concealed lines that snake through Diagon Alley like invisible veins. But this area is another, very silly, opportunity to unleash your inner wizard.

It’s Shuttlebutton's, which provides you with the own opportunity to create and own one of the living photographs that populate the world of Harry Potter. For around $70 you get a DVD of the photographs, which is kind of counterintuitive given how obsolete the technology is fast becoming. (For $70, ten bucks more if you want the commemorative tin, you'd think they would have figured out a way to give you one of those electronic photo albums/frames.)

But it's still pretty awesome: you stand in a room and act out a series of scenes (12 in total) against a green backdrop. In a few minutes, they will then hand you a DVD, which inserts you into a number of iconic Harry Potter moments: trying to haggle with the painting of the Fat Lady to let you in, being on the Hogwarts Express and, of course, having your ugly mug slapped onto a wanted poster like Sirius Black.

Ollivander's Wand Shop

The Ollivander's Wand Shop experience over in Hogsmeade is nifty but often overcrowded, with a line that winds through the punishingly hot Florida sun. The new Ollivander's in Diagon Alley has two rooms and a more intimate feel (also, the guys who play the wand experts are priceless). There are all new effects and a sense of awe, wonder and discovery—even if you've been through the same routine in the other park. This feeling is what makes choosing a wand for your youngin' worth the nearly $50.

Gringotts Money Exchange

One of the bigger buildings in Diagon Alley, it’s yet one of the easiest to overlook, mostly because of its nondescript building (fitting, for a money exchange). When you go into the offshoot of the bank (which houses the big attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts), you are greeted with a fully articulate animatronic goblin. But what's even more impressive about this figure is that he responds to your questions. Things like "How old are you?" and "What's this I hear about a dragon?" will get responded to in short, gruff bursts just like the goblins in the novels and movies. And the creature is absolutely gorgeous, with fluid movements and an articulate mouth.

Look at your feet for the metallic stamp that shows you just what kind of enchantment to do, and what kind of magical flourish will ensue.

While inside the money exchange, you also can exchange money—turn your Muggle dollar bills into Gringotts bills. which can be used anywhere in the parks. It's nifty and fun, harkening back to the Disney dollars of yore.

Secret Spells

We've already talked a little bit about how amazing the spells that are located throughout Diagon Alley are in “Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley: What You Can Expect.” (Reminder: really, really amazing.) But what we didn't realize was that there are secret spells littered throughout the land as well.

These are not located on your helpful map, but rather discreetly scattered. Look at your feet for the metallic stamp that shows you just what kind of enchantment to do, and what kind of magical flourish will ensue.

Here's a tip: in Knockturn Alley, they're really hard to spot. But trust us, they're there. And while we're at it, here's another thing you might not notice: that back in Hogsmeade, just a train ride away on the Hogwarts Express, there are nine new interactive spells. That's right: you can take your new wand back to the old land and have an entire fresh set of adventures. This is why the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so enchanting.

Nagini

One of the stores in Diagon Alley sells magical creatures (even the small cat monster that only Luna Lovegood can see). But if you happen to find yourself in line for the menagerie, look up at the oversized windows. There you'll find Nagini, the leathery pet snake of He Who Shall Not Be Named. The best part about spotting Nagini?  The glass that separates you from this mighty (and, once again, gorgeously rendered in animatronic glory) serpent has been enchanted with parseltongue,  so you'll hear the snake talk to you. As a muggle, that's pretty special—and utterly terrifying.

Talking Mirror

Something else that you'll find is undeniably chatty is a mirror located in the store that sells you your school robes. Approach this unassuming mirror and you'll get a pithy critique of your fashion sense (and, no, it's not always polite). That this interactive feature is nestled away in a shop that you could very easily passing by is part of what makes this place so special while serving as a great example of why it's essential to root around to experience everything.

Phone Booth

Outside of Diagon Alley, between the Kings Cross station (where you exit or enter the Hogwarts Express), is a lone red phone booth, just like you'd see scattered across actual London. Of course, this phone booth has a secret. Step inside and dial M-A-G-I-C and you'll be greeted by a pre-recorded message from the Ministry of Magic.

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