Universal hosts Harry Potter webcast

Theme park to unveil new details about Diagon Alley expansion

Published On: Jan 23 2014 07:48:00 AM EST   Updated On: Jan 23 2014 07:28:22 PM EST
Diagon Alley
ORLANDO, Fla. -

Universal Orlando began a major Harry Potter-themed weekend on Thursday with a webcast surrounding the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

[WATCH LIVE:  Harry Potter expansion webcast]

The theme park hosted the webcast for registered guests at 10:30 a.m. Universal gave details on the Diagon Alley shops, where fans can gear up with wizarding swag, as well as the all-new, multidimensional ride "Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts."

"I'm a die-hard Harry Potter fan, kind of reluctant to admit that, but when we were choosing a vacation my family really likes Harry Potter. We came to Universal, this was an unbelievable surprise," said Frank Roland, who was visiting the park on Thursday.

Universal Orlando Resort released new details on what you will experience in "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley."

The new land will bring more of Harry Potter's adventures to life, with the breakthrough Gringotts thrill ride, unique shops and restaurants.

"After the huge success of the first Harry Potter land, it was a quick decision to say bye bye Jaws ride, hello Harry Potter and the second theme park," said Ken Pilcher, writer of the Local 6 Theme World blog.

Pilcher said though Universal is trying to attract millions of more muggles with Diagon Alley, the new land will also bring more money to the competition.

"People who come to universal to see Harry Potter are going to go down the road to see Mickey, they are going to see Shamu. It does help all of the attractions when something especially something of this scale -- that really is expected to draw so many more people to Universal it will help all of them," he said.

Diagon Alley undoubtedly means big bucks for Universal, in addition to wands, robes and quidditch gear.

Guests will have to pay to jump on the Hogwarts Express to get from Diagon Alley to the original Wizarding World: Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure.

To do that, they'll have to pay for a two-park pass, an extra $35, though universal promises it will be a unique experience with surprises.

Thursday's webcast came one day before the start of "A Celebration of Harry Potter," a three-day event at Universal Orlando.

The festival starts Friday night with a "wand master class." Guests will get wand combat training from choreographer Paul Harris and "a special guest."

The weekend also includes the Harry Potter Expo, which will have interactive activities like "The Sorting Hat Experience" and a vignette of movie costumes.

Fans can also participate in Q&A sessions with cast members from the Harry Potter films and panel discussions with graphics designers from the movie.

Cast members expected to attend include:

The Wizard World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley is expected to open in the summer of 2014. It will include a ride based on Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the Hogwarts Express train and new shops.