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Why You May See Gringotts' Famous Dragon In The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Huff And Puff But Sometimes Skip The Fire-Breathing Part

The Gringotts Dragon not going off at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
(Image credit: Dirk Libbey)

One of the highlights of any trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is… OK you may have been about to say "partaking in a butterbeer," but what I was going to say was seeing the fire-breathing dragon on top of Gringotts Bank. It’s a thrilling experience to walk in and see the dragon front and center and it adds a particular punch when that dragon is putting on a show.

It’s common knowledge that the dragon breathes fire in Diagon Alley and some who are really in the know may even know the dragon is of the Ukrainian Ironbelly variety. You may even know that the Gringotts dragon is a fairly consistent dragon, who usually has to work out some fire every 10 minutes or so. One thing I’ve always been curious about, however, is why the dragon doesn’t always seem to stick to a consistent schedule, but there is a reason for that. While it’s not what I would have guessed, the logistics make sense. 

Thanks to Universal’s excellent VIP tour crew, which I was able to get a snapshot experience of during a recent trip to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, I learned the Ukrainian Ironbelly is a “polite dragon,” as our tour guide, Paul, put it. What that actually means is that the dragon breathes fire in a fairly narrow space and the park needs to be careful the wind doesn't catch and shift the fire someplace the parks wouldn't want it. It's one of the many challenges the Wizarding World has faced as it has continued growing and expanding.

Florida may be sunny most of the time, but it isn’t always exactly known for its perfect weather, either, and it’s totally reasonable that given the space Diagon Alley is in, some safety precautions were taken by the parks. If these precautions weren’t in place, the Ukrainian Firebelly’s blast of actual fire might end up catching adjacent buildings alight. The parks are obviously not trying to catch any other must-see attractions on fire. 

So if you ever do see the dragon huffing and puffing and then settling down without throwing fire at you, you may simply be in the middle of a windier day than normal. There’s absolutely nothing to be concerned or upset about. 

The good news is that the dragon is also out all day, every day. So, if you happen to be in Diagon Alley and miss a fiery moment, or happen to be nearby when one is delayed, there will hopefully be an opportunity to catch the “show”  later in the day. In the meanwhile, I guess just go ahead and grab that aforementioned Tom Felton favorite, butterbeer or hop on the centrally-located Escape From Gringotts Wizarding World ride, which reunites the Harry Pottter movie cast, while you wait. Because when the fire-breathing dragon is rolling, it’s one of the more impressive sights in the park. 

That’s one of the many tidbits one might catch if you’re hanging out with Paul or one of the lovely tour guides who are part of Universal’s VIP Tours as well. They’re pretty easy to book and you can always check ‘em out over at Universalorlando.com. Both regular VIP experiences and private tours are available and include Priority Front-of-the-Line access at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and more. Though, to note, access to the Gringotts dragon can be seen with just a regular Universal Studios Florida park ticket, as well.

Jessica Rawden
Jessica Rawden

Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.