Universal Orlando to open new Harry Potter ride in July

By Barbara Liston
Actors James (L) and Oliver Phelps toast with "butterbeer" following an announcement of the new "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" attraction to be built at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles December 6, 2011. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - The much-anticipated expansion of Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open on July 8, the theme park said on Wednesday ahead of a preview of the new attraction.

The attraction, Diagon Alley, is expected to provide a boost for the park's revenues and for tourism in central Florida.

Diagon Alley recreates the wizarding business district in London described in J. K. Rowling’s popular book and movie series. Universal said it would reveal more details on Wednesday evening at a red carpet event and media preview.

It expands the original Harry Potter attraction, opened in 2010 and modeled after Hogsmeade village, home of the Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry.

Diagon Alley will feature a new signature ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, the company announced in January. It is also geared toward eateries and souvenir shops, both of which drew bottleneck crowds at the initial Hogsmeade village attraction.

To visit both sections of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, guests will have to buy a more expensive two-park pass, which costs $136 plus tax, because Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley were built in separate Universal parks.

The two attractions are connected by a train called Hogwarts Express, which is also featured in the Harry Potter series.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Jim Loney)