Harry Potter Expands His Playground at Universal Orlando

01/24/2014 at 02:55 PM EST

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Expands in Orlando
Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with Daniel Radcliffe (inset) as Harry Potter
Universal Studios; Inset: Warner Bros.
Since Universal Orlando Resort's Wizarding World of Harry Potter first opened in June 2010, its two rides, shops, restaurant and pub have been jam-packed with visitors – making the overcrowded acreage seem ripe for expansion.

That very notion came to pass this week, with Thursday's media announcement that several additional Potter-related attractions – estimated to cost $400 million – will arrive at the Orlando destination this summer.

"We'll bring even more Harry Potter adventures to life," said Universal Creative president Mark Woodbury, who promised "a whole new level of storytelling."

Plans call for a new area called Diagon Alley, as in the J.K. Rowling books (the billionaire author oversees every detail of Universal's Hogwarts), to be located where Universal's former Jaws ride used to be.



Also in the works: two major rides, eight stores, including an additional Ollivanders "Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C." – the original store within Universal is barely able to meet crowd demands – and a Leaky Cauldron restaurant offering fish-and-chips and such fare.

Linking Jolly Olde London Town with Harry's school town will be an operational Hogwarts Express (instead of the current stationary prop) that will actually connect Universal's two separate parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. The ride will require visitors to buy tickets to both parks, which can run $136.32 for a single day for anyone older than 10.

Also on the books for this summer is a new adventure called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which is designed to take riders through the vaults of the Goblin Bank.

Meanwhile, across Orlando at rival Walt Disney World, ground was broken earlier this month in Disney's Animal Kingdom for a new land based on the movie Avatar, which is expected to open in 2017.

Much sooner, the steel roller-coaster Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is due to be launched in the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland. Latest word from the Mouse is, the opening will be this May.

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