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Universal Orlando opens its Harry Potter land to the public

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Published: June 18, 2010 at 7:23 AM

ORLANDO - Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened officially to the public this morning, as the stars of the Harry Potter film series greeted elementary school children and ushered them through the gate to Hogsmeade.

Overnight, Universal wrapped the entrance to the land with a giant Hogwarts admission letter, as thousands of theme park fans gathered in the park and television news helicopters hovered overhead.

Curtain

At about 20 minutes after 9, the curtain dropped, and the stars of Harry Potter emerged from the Hogwarts Express.

Daniel Radcliffe and co-stars

They then came down from the stage to greet a prize-winning class of first-graders from San Antonio, Texas.

Bonnie Wright, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton and Michael Gambon
Bonnie Wright, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton and Michael Gambon

Tom Felton, Daniel Radcliffe, Oliver Phelps and Rupert Grint
Tom Felton, Daniel Radcliffe, Oliver Phelps and Rupert Grint

To "christen" the new land, the Weasley brothers tried to fire a rocket. And, predictably, failed.

The Weasley's rocket

Yet daytime fireworks soon screamed across the sky over Hogsmead anyway.

Daytime fireworks

And with a flurry of confetti "snow," the land was opened to guests

Hogsmeade gate

At least, it opened to a few thousand early-arriving and hotel guests who'd been allowed to queue in Lost Continent and Seuss Landing during the ceremony. Tens of thousands more guests were held on the other side of the park, lining up from Jurassic Park all the way back to the Incredible Hulk Coaster. They'd have to wait for folks from the first group to exit the land before being allowed entry, as park watchers expected the Wizarding World to be packed to capacity all day.

Update: Domenik just uploaded a video:

Update 2: The size of the crowds in and around the park is insane. (Check the comments for photos.) Clearly, if you were planning to come to the park today and haven't yet, don't bother. Save it for another day, one on which you arrive early. Universal opened the parking garages at 5:30 this morning, and there were people queued on the Interstate overpass leading into the park long before then.

Readers' Opinions

From 72.156.229.158 on June 18, 2010 at 7:44 AM
Hope you will offer up a strategy for those planning to visit Potter in the next few weeks.
From steve lee on June 18, 2010 at 7:52 AM
I hope someone is getting some crowd pics. I can't even imagine Islands that packed.
From Brian Emery on June 18, 2010 at 8:18 AM
I am truly jealous……

Looks great so far… Go get a Butterbeer..

From Robert Niles on June 18, 2010 at 8:00 AM
Sorry, I high-tailed it back to the media center after the ceremony. I'm looking for a good aerial shot of the crowd. But there's no way that I wanted any part of being in it! Not in this heat! :-)
From Robert Niles on June 18, 2010 at 8:02 AM
Here's my only strategy tip: Do Ollivander's first. It's the worst wait in the park, to get into the wand-selection show. (FWIW, you actually buy wands next door at the Owl Post.)

I suspect that the long-term strategy will be to do Ollivanders, then Hippogriff, then Dragon Challenge, and to leave Forbidden Journey until later, when the initial rush passes.

For now, I'd try to get into Ollivanders, then do FJ. If Ollivander's isn't open immediately, go to FJ.

From steve lee on June 18, 2010 at 8:18 AM
So is the bottom line basically that right now the entire Islands of Adventure theme park is nothing but a line for Harry Potter?
From Robert Niles on June 18, 2010 at 8:40 AM
Aerial shots: here and here.

Wow!

So, Steve, from those photos, the whole of IOA and CityWalk is the queue for Potter.

Here's what I tweeted earlier: "The huge crowd at #wwohp this AM is a message to theme park industry: Don't go cheap. Spend $ on new attractions. Public will reward you."

From Domenik Jost on June 18, 2010 at 9:36 AM
Just overheard chit chatter behind me at the Media Center that the kids in those classes that won the trip to the Grand Opening came out of the Forbidden Journey having the biggest smiles on their little faces. Today show did a great job bringing all four classes here to UO.
From duncan henny on June 18, 2010 at 9:46 AM
i am sooooo jealous wont make it to orlando till sept 2012 maybe the queue will be shorter then maybe not i think this will be popular for years
From Robert Niles on June 18, 2010 at 9:57 AM
Based on the size of the queue today, you might see some of those folks lined up now when you get here in 2012! /wickedchuckle
From 216.64.80.82 on June 18, 2010 at 10:18 AM
I heard that people who work over in Jurassic Park were asked to come in extra early this morning to have that land ready for guest overflow.

I was over near Universal guest relations this morning at 8am, picking up tickets for friends and the line there at 8am was over 200 people long. And that wasn't even Islands. I also saw people racing past me, some all dressed up in robes, heading for IOA and this was nonstop, not like the usual dribs and drabs of crowds.

From 166.137.8.167 on June 18, 2010 at 10:37 AM
Send a reporter to guest services!
From Robert Niles on June 18, 2010 at 10:45 AM
Domenik is posting updates on Twitter.
From Melissa Donahue on June 18, 2010 at 11:27 AM
I really can't imagine being a Universal employee today -- it must be sheer madness in both parks! Thanks for all of the posts/updates everyone!
From 74.197.143.36 on June 18, 2010 at 11:40 AM
Where was Hermione?
From Brian Emery on June 18, 2010 at 11:44 AM
Imagine if you did not know about HP and just went IOA park today…
From Robert Niles on June 18, 2010 at 11:46 AM
Emma Watson, I'm told, had a filming commitment, though she did visit earlier in the month.
From 208.92.40.133 on June 18, 2010 at 1:11 PM
Robert,

Nice story. I was at the same event yesterday (actually we were in the same tour group with Channing) when they let the flood of guests. I was caught off-guard by that, but it ended up being a great opportunity to get some of those fans rushing in.

The Forbidden Journey ride was awesome. One of the coolest attractions I've been on in a LONG time. Spider-Man had been my favorite due to the tech and my love for Marvel, but I'd be lying if I said Forbidden Journey isn't No. 1, in my opinion.

Great article keep up the work!

- Rich in Orlando

From Deidre Dennis on June 18, 2010 at 6:16 PM
Yea, after seeing those crowd pictures, I'm glad we decided not to go this year. Will definitely keep an eye on it in the coming year because if it stays this crazy, there's no way I'm going to get caught up in that madness!

I wonder how long the wait times were?

What about capacity for the park and safety? It actually looks pretty scary, all those people crammed in together like that, just waiting for something to pop off.

From 97.102.13.234 on June 18, 2010 at 8:32 PM
Hey, it's Hermione but I can't remember my login right now.
I got to Universal at 8:30 this morning and ended up in line starting at BUBBA GUMPS to enter IOA. The line wrapped around past studios and nba city. At 9 am we started to move as they let in groups at a time and some lady in a big hurry to go nowhere actually stepped on an broke my toe. Ouch! Also, 3 different people passed out from the heat and had to be rescued by the medics before we even got in.

But I am a dedicated potter fan so I limped on all day. I got into IOA at about 10, saw how insane the line was, left for studios, and rode everything in studios AND ate lunch in citywalk to be back in IOA by 1:45. (studios was absolutely dead, it was great!) My group decided to try and wait again because we heard it was only 4 hours to be let into the wizarin world (plus 2 hours for forbidden journey and about an hour each for each individual shop.)

It turned out to be a 6 hour wait but we finally got in. We did single rider on FJ and got in within 20 minutes...but halfway through it shut down (right by the dementors! Dementors in the absolute darkness is waaay scarier than the actual intended ride.) The ride started up again after about 10 minutes and it was great as always (yes, I've been in WWoHP 5 times before today and came anyway. Like I said, dedicated potter fan!)

We managed to eat at 3B (yum!) and ride dueling dragons and hippogriff just before they cut the lines at 10pm. The lines for the shops were still going strong but you could clearly see that everything had been picked over and not much was really left so we agreed to come back another (quieter!) time.

The team members along the wait and inside wwohp really mad everything run as smoothly as possible when all things were considered and I have to say they were very understanding about one person holding the place in line while the others hopped on a ride along the wait route. (It was only harry potter people were lined up for - the rest of the park had 5-10 min waits all day and we just did essentially our own version of child swap as we came to each ride in the line.)

Sorry this is so long, I just thought people might be interested in the insanity. :)

From 12.237.82.194 on June 18, 2010 at 8:42 PM
Hi guys this is TPIer Manny B from Orlando. I spent Friday at IOA and the Wizarding World. I'm officially crazy. I waited 8 hours to ride that thing. It took an just to get into the park some people fainted during the wait. Got in line for the land at about the Hulk Coaster. It was brutal but hey i expected it to be like this and it was very rewarding to get into the land today. Truly an unforgettable day for many reasons. Forbidden Journey is beyond awesome.
From Caroline Davis on June 19, 2010 at 1:30 AM
I was planning on going in 16 days time. I am hoping it's not like this, my family will take one look at that and go the other way! I hope the Virgin package that gets us entry into the Three Broomsticks before the park opens makes the difference. We'll probably just do Forbidden Journey, buy some wands and I'll do Dragon Challenge on my own. They really should've made a seperate theme park just for Harry Potter. I wonder what the queues were like for other rides in the park. Are people even going to be let through to go on Hulk, Spiderman, Jurassic Park etc.?
From KJ Simpson on June 19, 2010 at 5:39 AM
Great report! The excitement is palpable, reading along and looking at the pics. Now, when to plan my trip...? (Oh, and a fun surprise this morning- reading an article on the opening in my Buffalo newspaper, and there's a quote from our own Robert Niles :)
From Courtney Lloyd on June 19, 2010 at 7:11 AM
Hey there everyone! Mind if I share our long story?...well,I am :) We're in Fl.for 5 days,and new that it was going to be crazy but as a "Potter geek", I was willing.I had read that the garage would b open early, so I expected somewhat of a large group to b here.Even still, our hotel was only a 10 min walk.So for some reason I assumed coming @ 7 would b smart...pretty stupid,yea but even as a fan, I just wasn't coming earlier. When we got to the park,everyone was being directed to the right. There were groups of about a thousand ppl already ahead of us and shortly after, hundreds more filing in behind us.Slowly the line moved, then it stopped for about 11/2hr. It was pretty hot out, but I was optimistic :). Then, we started seeing ppl running on the CityWalk side n realized that they were allowing ppl to line up over there as well. It almost turned into a riot when we noticed they had ppl following closer to the entrance of IOA behind a rope and then BOOING erupted (from our side of course)! There was no way that they were going to let a newly formed line in!! That just wouldn't be right.Soon enough (around 10)a group of us were allowed to enter IOA. Even after getting in and going around to Seuss's Landing the line was ridiculous and we were told the wait was est.at a discouraging 8-9hrs,lol. Yea, I'm crazy, but not stupid! The sun was unbearable so we made the ultimate decision to take advantge of the 10-20min waits around the rest of the park which we had never experienced. The only reason why we ended up back on the line (@ around 2)was because we thought it was going to poor down raining(we had emergency ponchos) and expected ppl to leave the line...the clouds hung around, then dissapeared.haha! So we gave in a stood on the line, which by this time was no longer around Seuss's on the right, but was now from the left near hulk, through marvel and jurassic park.Even though Universal seemed a little unprepared and stupid in the beginning, they figured out a way to place ppl with earpieces at certain locations,stop us @ one point to keep lines seperate and in total we only waited 41/2hrs. Once near Jurassic, we steadily moved n low n behold, we walked straight into Hogsmeade. It was a tad cramped and everyone was definitely sweated out, but well worth it. The coasters only had 5 min waits,Ollivanders and Owl Post were around 2hrs n forbidden journey had 120 min, but walk ons on the single riders. (Note:if u test the seats up front n they shake their heads no, go in anyway! 3 from my group were not big, but chubby and they got "the head shake outside n got a "well, get off and try again" from a rude and puny cast member not willing to push down when on the actual ride seats inside.But there was a guy near the test seats inside that just pushed and it clicked, no prob. Just ask for a guy when ure ready to ride.) Overall, it was worth it if u were willing to sacrifice some time. My bf is not a huge fan, but knew how bad I really wanted to experience it and as we got closer he "geeked out"lol. Alright, enough with my novel...just go and enjoy WWOHP! :D

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