Sunday, July 22, 2018
Events

Large crowds pour into opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

As expected, crowds were massive and visitors arrived early for opening day of Diagon Alley, the new Harry Potter-themed expansion at Universal Studios in Orlando. The mood was upbeat as confetti rained down on visitors, many of whom dressed up in Hogwarts uniforms.

And to make a Potter fan's day even better, author J.K. Rowling posted a short story on her Pottermore website Tuesday morning in which the beloved boy wizard, now in his 30s, reunites with his school friends at the Quiddich World Cup and we catch up on their adult lives. The story is written in the voice of gossip columnist Rita Skeeter, the journalist from the Potter series.

At the Orlando theme park, movie designers have again created an authentic feel in Diagon Alley, with shops and the Leaky Cauldron pub featured in Rowling's books and new "enchanted" wands that make things move or light up on command.

Visitors started lining up as early as 5 a.m. Tuesday when the parking garage opened and within an hour of the 8 a.m. park opening, there was a two-hour wait to get into Diagon Alley. By midday, there were social media reports that the wait for the signature ride, Escape From Gringotts, was more than six hours.

"It was just like a whole new experience," Lauren Gay of Tampa told the Orlando Sentinel. An avid theme-park visitor, Gay, 33, described it as "nothing like anything we've ridden."

Her friend, Nikida Vaughn of St. Petersburg, quoted on orlandosentinel.com, said "If we could give it a standing ovation, we would."

The ride had technical problems during previews and there were sporadic reports of it being down briefly on Tuesday. Visitors literally ran to the ride when the gates finally opened to line up at Gringott's Bank with a fire-breathing perched on top. The ambitious ride is a novel 3D attraction, with newly invented spins on the roller coaster experienced with a car that tilts and weaves in tandem with the action on screen.

The Potter theme is now set across both Universal parks, with a Hogwarts Express train taking guests (with a two-park ticket) from London's wizard shopping district, where Harry Potter buys his school supplies, to his school in Hogsmeade that opened in 2010 in the Islands of Adventure park.

Information from Tampa Bay Times wires used in this report.

Comments
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Saturday, July 21

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Saturday, July 21

Chicago & Reo Speedwagon: Two of the most successful, legendary and critically acclaimed rock bands perform some of their greatest hits and more. 7:30 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $29.50-$129.50. (813) 740-2...
Published: 07/21/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay on Sunday July 22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay on Sunday July 22

Safety Last!: Tampa Theatre’s Summer Classic Movie Series throws in a true classic this week with the iconic silent film Safety Last! (1923) accompanied by music performed on the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. 3 p.m., Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin St....
Published: 07/20/18
Review: Kent Wascom's 'New Inheritors' a novel of love, power on the gulf coast

Review: Kent Wascom's 'New Inheritors' a novel of love, power on the gulf coast

When a woman looks at the hands of the toddler who will become the main character of The New Inheritors, she sees "written in the lines of his palms a bird’s vision of the rivers and creeks that fanned across the region of his birth, the upper ...
Published: 07/20/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of July 23-29

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of July 23-29

Smashing Pumpkins: Billy Corgan got most of the original Grammy-winning, alt-rock band back together and hit the road. They’ll stop at Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Wednesday, likely performing favorites from Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinit...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/21/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay on July 20

Top things to do in Tampa Bay on July 20

Rascal Flatts: American country band will perform with special guests Dan +Shay and Carly Pearce. 7:30 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $21-$85.75. (813) 740-2446. Classic Albums Live: Pink Floyd: The concert serie...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Bar review: Sip and smoke at Blue Torch

Bar review: Sip and smoke at Blue Torch

Well, the bad news is that Blue Torch Cigars & Winery is not actually a winery. That combination seemed too ambitious to fly under my radar, as Blue Torch had since its opening this year, and that ended up being true.While it’s a curious name for wha...
Published: 07/19/18

Hernando Events for July 27

Events28 SaturdayWalking Sticks Club: Perry Oldenburg: The club will meet at Perry Oldenberg Wildlife and Environmental Area located off Deer Run Road, north of Brooksville. Registration is required. Those attending will learn about the history of Pe...
Published: 07/19/18
Paul Reiser, coming to Clearwater, talks about returning to standup and never winning an Emmy

Paul Reiser, coming to Clearwater, talks about returning to standup and never winning an Emmy

When Paul Reiser returned to standup comedy a few years ago, younger comics couldn’t figure him out. "All the younger comics would say, ‘Are you doing a special?’ I’d go no," said Reiser, 62. "‘What, are you getting rea...
Published: 07/19/18
Top events this weekend: Rascal Flatts, #MomTruths comedy, Metrocon, swimsuit bar crawl

Top events this weekend: Rascal Flatts, #MomTruths comedy, Metrocon, swimsuit bar crawl

MusicConcerts: Country band Rascal Flatts boot scoots through Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday ($21-$85.75). Saturday, rock-reggae-hip-hop fusion band Slightly Stoopid perform at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg ($25-$40.98), while ...
Published: 07/19/18
Local craft beer of the week: Good For Life gluten-reduced Kölsch, Pair O’ Dice Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Good For Life gluten-reduced Kölsch, Pair O’ Dice Brewing

For many sufferers of celiac disease, going out for a pint typically means ordering a cider. But brewers have worked hard to provide a reasonable analog for gluten-free drinkers, offering a range of brews produced from grains like sorghum and rice.Mo...
Published: 07/19/18