Harry Potter and the Tempting Merchandise: What to Buy at Diagon Alley
Universal Orlando's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Diagon Alley is hailed as a triumph of immersive theme park design, but it's also a triumph in ancillary souvenir sales. Here, Harry Potter is as insidious as Voldemort when it comes to diabolically coming up with ways to separate visitors from their money. Even after parting with more than $100 to get into Universal Studios, the enticements for spending aren't remotely finished. Nearly everything there is to do and taste there comes with a price tag, and it’s extraordinarily easy to get swept along in the merchandising mesmerization. Some of the best bespoke purchasing potential includes these Potterized twists.
Let's start with the original blockbuster Harry Potter food souvenir: Butterbeer. It tastes like a butterscotch Life Saver and comes in either frozen or liquid. Then you choose whether you want to pay extra for a souvenir mug. Pretty much everyone who comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter orders at least one serving. You can only get it there or at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour where the movies were shot, outside of London. That's it. By the way, this non-alcoholic treat tastes insanely sweet, but it was tested by an independent lab and it contains no more sugar than a can of Coke. It does, however have 200 calories and 46 grams of carbs per cup.
At Ollivanders, groups are admitted to a wand showroom where the wizened clerk selects a child and asks them to try out various wands until one of them works proper magic. At the end of that, a second clerk takes that successful wand in hand and leads the child to the main floor where they are inclined to purchase it. These standard Famous Witches and Wizards Replical Wands look exactly like the ones used by the movies' biggest characters.
The second kind of wand for sale has a special tip that interacts with hidden tricks located all over The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Wherever you find a medallion embedded in the ground, stand on it, emulate the gesture traced on it, and something in your surroundings will come alive, whether is flushing a toilet, animating a suit of armor, or making a fountain squirt. For the park's first summer, interactive wands cost $50, though the price has been upped a bit since then.
Gringotts Money Exchange
A supercilious animatronic goblin oversees this money exchange, where visitors are encouraged to trade in their "muggle money" for Gringotts Bank Rune Credit that can be spent in the park or, Universal hopes, be taken home as a souvenir. Tens and twenties only, please. How about $20 worth of fun paper?
Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour
It's pretty difficult to resist funky flavors such as Chocolate Chilli (it has a kick), Earl Gray and Lavender, and Clotted Cream. You could go through the line ten times and still not try every bespoke flavor.
Butterbeer soft serve ice cream
This stuff may be more addictive than Butterbeer by the cup. It's very much like a creamy butterscotch embedded with streaks of caramel. In the Florida heat, it doesn't seem excessive to eat three.
The Hopping Pot
The Hopping Pot, in Carkitt Market, is devoted to beverages. Sip sweet concoctions by the cup: Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice, Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, Peachtree Fizzing Tea, and the tried-and-true Pumpkin Juice (a Christmasy apple juice).
Beers sold only in The Wizarding World
The Fountain of Fair Fortune is a handsome Victorian-style pub, all etched glass and wood, that serves not only a few real-world British beers but also three that are brewed especially for the Harry Potter lands: Dragon Scale (a chocolately stout), Wizards Brew (a light lager), and Hog's Head (a hoppy ale).
Fishy Green Ale
The breakout beverage at Diagon Alley is Fishy Green Ale, which isn't actually fishy-tasting or even alcoholic—it's a creamy mint-cinnamon. It is, however, served with a fat straw through which you suck the giant "popping blueberry fish eggs" that splatter blueberry syrup in your mouth. They're actually boba, but it's fun.
Security photos on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
To make sure everyone has their photo taken for potential purchase, having your picture taken is worked into the plotline of the marquee ride, which starts out as a route visit to Gringotts Bank. Your family is pulled aside during the queue for "identification." At the end of this technologically groundbreaking ride, you exit through the imitation vault where those photos are turned into 8-by-10 glossies, lanyards, and other souvenirs.
Eternelle's Elixir of Refreshment
Mix your choice of $4 “elxirs” (Draught of Peace, Fire Protection Potion, etc.) with $4 “Gillywater” (water) and something magical happens (Universal just made $8 on sugar water).
Via a green screen, put your family in the middle of 3–4 minute DVD ($70), like a moving postcard exploring the Potter universe. It's a Potterized version of the old Wild West costume souvenir photo.
Stuffed animals at Magical Menagerie
Here, you can buy versions of Hermione's half-Kneazle cat Crookshanks, your very own Pygmy Puff (in the toy shop, each "adoption" is announced with the gong of a large bell), or these adorable ferret puppets.
Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes
Diagon Alley's toy store also sells some expensive sweets. You can buy the candy Ron would eat to get out of school: Puking Pastilles, Fainting Fancies, Fever Fudge, and Nosebleed Nougat. All four can be bundled together in a folding box known as The Skiving Snackbox.
Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions
What primary-color jumpsuits are to Trekkies, Hogwarts robes are to Potterheads. Here, at this Diagon Alley shop, they pay well over $100 for a facsimile.
Borgin and Burkes
Some of the few souvenirs that were not expressly created for the Wizarding World can be found here, in this occult-leaning shop in the darkness of Knockturn Alley. The (fake) human skulls come in clear, black, and natural. (History lesson: The "Burkes" in the store's name likely comes from Burke and Hare, two notorious nineteenth-century serial killers who sold their victims to doctors for dissection in J.K. Rowling's hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland.)
The Hogwarts Express
Perhaps the most brilliant upsell at Diagon Alley is the fact that it splits The Wizarding World of Harry Potter between two separate theme parks. If you want to visit both, you have to purchase two park tickets. You can do that at the train station beside each Wizarding World; those blue kiosks among the "prams" (strollers) are where you hand over your plastic to buy them. The upside is the train is technologically marvelous, giving the impression of traveling through the countryside even though there's not a single window into the real world. You also get to travel through this pitch-perfect re-creation of London.
At last—something that isn't for sale! It's a frivolous take on a meal you can actually order in the real London, but at Diagon Alley, it's just one more whimsical piece of set dressing in a richly detailed theme park streetscape of store and stalls that wants everyone to keep on spending. If you were to purchase one of everything mentioned in this slideshow, you'd have laid out more than $600 in addition to park admission and parking. You may not believe in magic, but Universal's shareholders do.