Universal Studios Florida
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
Hogwarts Express - King's Cross Station
(July 8, 2014 - present)
History and photos of Hogwarts Express - King's Cross Station in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley section of Universal Studios Florida at Universal Orlando.
Located in the London, England, section of Diagon Alley is the King's Cross Station. It looks like any modern day train station that you'll find throughout London. The catch is that this is part of Diagon Alley, and King's Cross Station is not simply an ordinary train station.
Just like in the Harry Potter books and movies, the King's Cross Station is where you'll find the Hogwarts Express train, a steam train that carries passengers (in the books and movies, the passengers were students traveling to and from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) to the magical village of Hogsmeade. Here at Universal Orlando, the Hogwarts Express is a train that transports park guests between Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, and Hogsmeade in Universal's Islands of Adventure theme parks.
When The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in the summer of 2010, the new expansion was wildly successful. The addition of a heavily themed land inspired by the Harry Potter movies was a huge success in bringing new fans into the Universal Orlando theme parks. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter put Universal Orlando on the map as being a theme park destination. It was just a question of how Universal was going to capitalize on the popularity and add more Harry Potter-themed content to its theme parks.
That answer would ultimately take the shape of Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida.
The Diagon Alley expansion complimented the pre-existing Harry Potter content next door in Universal's Islands of Adventure. Now instead of there simply being a "Harry Potter Land" in one theme park, now you had two completely different but still magical and very entertaining Harry Potter-themed experiences between the two Universal Orlando theme parks. Formally connecting these two lands is the Hogwarts Express, a brief train ride that transports park guests between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
WARNING --- SPOILERS!
The experience for Hogwarts Express - King's Cross Station begins with approaching the entrance to the King's Cross Station in the London part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. The exterior and entrance area for the King's Cross Station looks just like a modern-day train station in London. Remember that this part of London is for muggles (unbelievers in magic, a.k.a. your average, everyday person), and this part of the train station reflects it. The entrance is brightly lit, there are regular announcements on the P.A. system, and there's a large board displaying destinations and train schedules.
Before proceeding any further into the train station, we must first scan our ticket and proceed through the turnstyles. You MUST have a park-to-park admission ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express train! This is no different than going out the park's exit and walking to the other Universal park. The Hogwarts Express is a shuttle that makes the park-hopping experience a lot more interesting.
After scanning the ticket and going through the turnstyle, the line queue goes through a tunnel and further into the train station. On the walls are advertisements for other destinations as well as some important tips and safety information. While walking through the line queue, we can hear the occasional train arriving and departing from the station.
The main part of the train station is a very large room complete with a small snack stand. The line queue actually passes through the small shop (you can purchase a snack or a drink, but it must be finished before you board the train). Along the far wall of this large room are lots of luggage belonging to other passengers. It all seems fairly ordinary, but that's because we're still in the part of the station that's used by muggles. That's about to change very soon.
This part of the line queue ends when we climb a large staircase (those with strollers and wheelchairs get to use a nearby elevator) and ascend to the second floor of the King's Cross Station. Just around a corner is where we pass through the magical barrier to reach Platform 9-3/4.
In reality, the magical barrier is just a short hallway. There are no magical effects in that exact spot. The catch is that only those people in line behind you will be the ones who see the magic happen. Just before passing through the barrier, there's a place in the line queue where you can look through a piece of glass and see what looks like the people ahead of you walking through a brick wall. It's pretty neat seeing the people ahead of you in line walking "through" the brick wall. The only problem is that this part of the line queue tends to get clogged as people take photos and shoot videos of their family and friends passing through the magical barrier.
What usually happens is that somebody in the group stays behind and then records everybody else as they pass through the barrier. That's fine except that some people can be extremely slow and they will hold up the line for everybody else. If you're going to take photos and videos, remember that there are a LOT of people waiting in line behind you.
Up ahead is our destination in King's Cross Station, Platform 9-3/4.
Just around the bend from the magical barrier is Platform 9-3/4. This is where we'll catch the Hogwarts Express steam train and ride it to Hogsmeade.
Platform 9-3/4 is an open and brightly lit room at the King's Cross Station. The line queue goes around more luggage and then next to the train tracks. This time around the luggage belongs to the students attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main focus is Harry Potter's luggage, complete with Hedwig, his pet owl, sitting in his cage.
While waiting in this final part of the line queue, you'll probably see the Hogwarts Express train arrive and depart a couple of times. Seeing the train in action heightens our excitement, and it's just a few more minutes before it's time for our journey. At the end of the line queue the riders are placed into groups of eight, and they're assigned a specific cabin on the train. Don't worry, each cabin offers the same exact ride experience. When the train arrives and is unloaded, a conductor escorts each group of riders into their assigned cabin. The cabins have two benches that face each other, with each bench seating for people. There's a "window" on the far side of the cabin, and that's where most of the action takes place. Just don't forget to keep an occasional eye on your door while on the trip. When the train is fully loaded and everybody is set, the journey begins.
HOGWARTS EXPRESS - RIDE
The journey from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade begins with leaving London, England, and passing through the English countryside. The mood on the train and outside of the "window" becomes dark and sinister, and our train is visited by Dementors. The Dementors are inside of the train, and we can see the silhouettes of Harry Potter and his friends as they have a brief encounter with the dark spirits. After the Dementors are sacred away, the Hogwarts Express passes through the Forbidden Forest and then arrives at the Hogsmeade train station. We can see Hagrid waiting for us at the train station just as the ride comes to an end.
The train ride itself is very short and has extremely gentle motion effects. The effects are so tame that it's a little bit surprising that Universal even mentions "Motion Sickness or Dizziness" on the ride's warning sign. That's the same generic statement that's used for thrilling rides such as TRANSFORMERS: The Ride - 3D, something that's a LOT more intense than the Hogwarts Express.
END OF SPOILERS!
The Hogwarts Express is an interesting way of traveling between the two Universal Orlando theme parks. The ride does a great job of linking both of the Harry Potter areas and creating one giant "magical" experience. You can visit Diagon Alley, step back into London, ride the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade, and then experience all of the fun over there, all while staying within the Harry Potter Universe. Of course, you can do all of that in reverse as well, starting in Hogsmeade and then completing your experience in Diagon Alley.
There's no question that Universal Orlando did a fantastic job with the Hogwarts Express ride. The theming is great and the experience on the ride is a lot of fun, especially for first-time riders.
But this is also a very short ride. It's just a quick hop between the two theme parks. At times it feels like it takes longer just to load and unload the train than it does to complete the ride itself. And of course, there may be a long wait in line before it's your turn to ride the train.
The Hogswart Express is best for those people who want to experience more of the Harry Potter Universe. The ride adds yet another heavily themed activity within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and it does a great job of linking Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
If you're just using the Hogswart Express as a method of traveling between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, you may be better off going out the exit and walking between the two theme parks. It's only about a five-minute walk from one theme park to the other. The journey on the Hogswart Express may take significantly longer depending on the wait time for the ride.
It's really too bad that Universal Orlando doesn't also have a Harry Potter-themed walking path between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. The train station looks impressive and the ride itself is fun, but the ride is also very short. It can be a bit of a hassle trying to use the train when traveling with strollers and wheelchairs. If Universal would make an alternate experience, such as a heavily-themed walking path, that would be perfect.
|HEIGHT REQUIREMENT||There is no height requirement to ride the Hogwarts Express train. However, children under 48" tall must be accompanied by an adult.|
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