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Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Attraction Set to Open at Universal Studios Orlando Next Year

Travelers Today       By    Karen Fredrickson

Updated: May 09, 2013 11:26 AM EDT

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Hogsmeade
An early rendering of Hogsmeade, part of the new Harry Potter exhibit opening at Universal Studios.(Photo : Universal Studios)

Muggles of all kinds are welcome at the new Diagon Alley set to open at Universal Studios in Florida, according to NBC Today.

The exhibit, called the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley" will open in 2014. It will connect the original Wizarding World attraction at the Island of Adventure located nearby at the theme park, with a functioning Hogwarts Express train.

"Our vision is to create two amazing theme park experiences that combine into one complete magical journey," Alice Norsworthy, the executive vice president for marketing and sales for Universal Orlando, told NBC Today, in a written statement.

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The attraction will include tours of Gringotts Bank, the goblin-run bank that plays an important role in the series, as well as other retail outlets. Visitors will be able to board the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 ¾ and ride to Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts School at Universal Studios.

The new Diagon Alley makes the attraction "the world's first centrally themed, multi-park experience," according to Universal executives.

The attraction is estimated to have cost Universal Studios $265 million to build, though the company does not release official figures. The company expects the popularity of the series to continue, and have plans to expand further.

The original attraction opened in June 2010, and has been credited with increasing traffic in visitors to the resort, with a 36 percent increase in attendance in the third quarter of 2010, after the attraction had been added. In 2011, the increase jumped to 68 percent so there is a financial incentive for the company to emphasize Harry Potter.

The addition will be at the Universal Studios location in Hollywood, where a Wizarding World exhibit is being built with an expected opening date of 2015 or 2016.

"It's a very smart move on their part," Dennis Speigel, the president of International Theme Park Services, Inc., a Cincinnati-based theme park consulting company, said. "They've done so well within it so far that they're just going to ramp it up to the next level."

It is part of a larger trend of theme parks focusing less on individual attractions and more on "attract-areas," as Speigel calls them.

"It's not an attraction, it's a whole area with multiple rides, shows, retail and food and beverage," Speigel told NBC News. "We're also seeing it at Disney with the expanded Fantasyland in Orlando and Cars Land in Los Angeles."

"It's the most important intellectual property that's been introduced in the theme park industry in the last 25 to 30 years," Speigel adds. "There's probably enough in the Harry Potter works to give them ideas for another 15 or 20 years."

I'm sure author J.K. Rowling is pleased to hear that.

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