The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios is broken into three areas — there is a small slice of London, England (complete with Kings Cross Station and Platform 9 3/4s), then there are the shops of Diagon Alley (including Gringott’s and the Leaky Cauldron), and just off of Diagon Alley you’ll find the perpetually dark twists and turns of Knockturn Alley.
If you’re familiar with the books or films, you’ll remember Knockturn Alley is where some of the slightly less reputable wizards skulk about. It’s where Harry ends up by mistake the first time he uses floo powder, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s also home to Borgin & Burkes, purveyors to fine (dark) wizards since 1863.
There are a few things you should know when visiting Knockturn Alley within Universal Studios, Orlando:
- It’s dark, it’s a bit spooky and kids might be intimidated by the area.
- It is home to five spots where you can use your interactive wand to cast spells.
- It is delightfully dark and perpetually cool. They chill the area a bit. Which makes it a nice cool spot to duck into on a hot, hot, day. Or a nice dry spot to hide out in during a spat of rain. (We were visiting on an exceptionally hot day and I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t taking advantage of Knockturn Alley as a shady, cool, spot to rest.)
It is always nighttime in Knockturn Alley. Practically speaking there is a ceiling over the whole area, complete with fake nighttime sky, and projectors which cast moving clouds. It’s a compelling fake. It was a dark and rainy night the first time I set foot in Knockturn Alley and my daughter and I didn’t notice that we were under a fake sky.
The dark alley was a semi-spooky spot, and after taking a quick peek my nine year old timidly declared that she’d rather come back in the daylight. I agreed, but when we later came back the next day, I was amused to notice — there was no daylight to be had, only dark cool corridors.
My girl wasn’t impressed with the spooky blackness. However, she knew that the map that had come with her interactive wand would do “something special” if she looked at it in Knockturn Alley. Using the magic map as bait I was able to coax her into the darkness. She took one step in and then another, planning to go just as far as she needed to get her map to work and no further.
Once we were a few steps in we spotted an interactive wand spot. My daughter agreed to take just three steps more, just far enough to use that one spell.
That one spell didn’t look too creepy, actually it was pretty neat… so maybe three steps more to get over to where these other kids were lining up in front of a shop window to wait her turn to cast one of the coolest spells in the park, the one that would make the giant skeleton on the parchment dance and follow her every movement..
And then perhaps just around the corner to check out the shrunken head choir — and well, since we’re here let’s step into Borgin and Burkes (a delightfully darkly themed gift shop complete with chandeliers, cobwebs and dark wizard shopkeeps).
TIP: When visiting Borgin and Burkes keep an eye out for the Vanishing Cabinet. If you listen closely to the cabinet you’ll hear a soft chirping. If you’re feeling particularly brave, place your hand against the cabinet and feel the vibrations of the bird caught inside.
Once she edged her way further and further in, Knockturn Alley ended up being one of my daughter’s VERY FAVOURITE parts of our trip. She and I spent over an hour just hanging out under the fake nighttime sky, casting spells and exploring.
(It’s a small portion of the park — and you could easily see every part of it within ten minutes — but why rush? It’s fun to take your time and explore every nook and cranny — particularly when you’re watching a child and their wide eyed wonder.)
TIP: Keep an eye out for magical moving posters. There are animated wanted posters for various Death Eaters on the walls lining the alleyways within Knockturn Alley.
I was proud of my girl for being brave like a Gryffindor and overcoming her fear to step into the darker side of the wizarding world.
“Skulking around Knockturn Alley? Dodgy place. Don’t want no one to see you there. People will think you’re up to no good.”
—Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
While my one daughter enjoyed Knockturn Alley my other had ZERO interest in braving the dark. Once her older sister discovered just how much fun the area was, we went back and tried to convince her to join us — but no go. Knockturn Alley is a tiny bit spooky and my six year old wanted no part of it.
There are spooky elements. It’s dark. There are skeletons and shrunken heads. There is a canary that gets cursed and develops boils (but it’s more cute than creepy). The alohomora spell lets out a jet of wind, which can startle (we watched as more than one adult shrieked in surprise).
It is not TOO dark or TOO spooky. It’s all good fun. But some younger kids may be scared.
If you suspect that, like my timid nine year old, they may enjoy themselves after they take those first few steps, I suggest doing as I did and using the magic map as a lure.
Have any of you ever explored Knockturn Alley? What was your favourite part?