Hogwarts Express and London Photos at Universal Studios Florida

The London area at Universal Studios Florida, which serves as the precursor to the hidden Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is filled with all kinds of detailed touches. The carefully crafted architecture helps to place visitors in J.K. Rowling's fanciful world and sets the stage for the unfolding story. 

01 of 08

Love Is in the Air in London

© Arthur Levine.

The Eros statue, for example, is an exact replica of ones found in both London's Piccadilly Circus and Liverpool. Unlike the UK statues, however, the water fountains in Universal's model actually work.

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02 of 08

Who is That in the Window?

© Arthur Levine.

In addition to lavishly detailed architecture and other details, Universal's creative folks have hidden all kinds of secrets for Harry Potter fans to uncover. For example, visitors who head over to Grimmauld Place, stop at flat number 12, and gaze up at the window above the door will be rewarded with a glimpse of an interesting creature.

This isn't any creature, however. Those familiar with Potter mythology know that 12 Grimmauld Place is the home of the Sirius Black, Harry's uncle. The character peeking through the parted curtains is Kreacher, the Black family's house-elf. 

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03 of 08

Triple-Decker Bus Stop

© Arthur Levine.

Parked in the roundabout in the London square at Universal Studios Florida is the bright purple Knight Bus. Of course, anything is possible when it comes to theme parks, but looking at the unusually tall vehicle makes one wonder how it was transported to the site.

When you visit the park, don't just pass by the bus on your way to Diagon Alley. Head over to the driver's window, and peer in for a unique and delightful surprise. 

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04 of 08

Call the Ministry of Magic

© Arthur Levine.

If you think the phone boxes near the front entrance to King's Cross Station are just for decoration, think again. Pick up the phone, dial "MAGIC" (62442), and listen to a message from the Ministry of Magic. The phone booths, by the way, are actual London artifacts that were shipped over and retrofitted in the park.

While you are exploring this part of London, look in the window of the book and record shop. The Universal folks have displayed a collection of fictional album covers that allude to the Jaws attraction that previously occupied the spot on which The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley now sits.

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05 of 08

KIng's Cross is Open Day and Night

© Arthur Levine.

Adjacent to Diagon Alley in the London area in Universal Studios Florida is King's Cross Station. It is a note-perfect reproduction of the London train terminal -- with one critical distinction: It includes a secret passageway to Platform 9¾. There, muggles can board the Hogwarts Express train that will take them to the Hogsmeade station at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure.

King's Cross is enormous and has been designed to accommodate massive crowds. A waiting room on the ground floor of the station includes a working snack bar to keep passengers occupied while they wait to get on the train.

Note that a park-to-park ticket (not a single-park ticket) is required in order to enter King's Cross Station and board the train. Passengers are, after all, traveling from one park to another. Learn more about what type of ticket you need to ride the Hogwarts Express. Also, read my editorial, "Why the Hogwarts Express may change everything at Florida's theme parks."

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06 of 08

They Don't Make Brick Walls Like They Used To

© Arthur Levine.

Yup, that's my wife disappearing through the brick wall between Platforms 9 and 10 at KIng's Cross Station. Just as in the Harry Potter books and films, muggles can reach the Hogwarts Express train by going through the wall at the "hidden" Platform 9¾.

Unfortunately, the effect is really only visible to the people waiting in line behind those who are entering the platform. Not to give too much away, but it's fairly obvious that it is done with mirrors using an old magicians' trick known as "Pepper's Ghost." (It's the same illusion that Disney uses for its Grand Hall sequence of the Haunted Mansion).

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07 of 08

All Aboard the Hogwarts Express

© Arthur Levine.

After guests make their way through the Platform 9¾ entrance, they round a corner and enter the track to board the Hogwarts Express. It's quite a sight to see the train come chugging into the station. (Although it is a bit odd to see it enter with the engine facing backwards, one of the few continuity quirks of The Wizarding World.)

To discover what happens aboard the train (hint: it's pretty wonderful!), read my full review of the Hogwarts Express.

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08 of 08

Welcome to Hogsmeade from Hagrid

Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

Looking out the train compartment's "window" (which is actually a tricked-out high-def monitor), passengers see all kinds of curious events happening on the ride between London and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade (or vice-versa). Among the characters making an appearance is Hagrid, the friendly half giant.

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