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The Day After the grand opening of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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Published: June 19, 2010 at 7:45 AM

ORLANDO - It's the Day After the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and reports say that the crowds remain beyond huge.

People again are joining the queue near the front of the Islands of Adventure theme park for a six-hour (or more) wait just to gain entry into the new Harry Potter land. Once inside, as I predicted yesterday, the longest wait is not for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, but for the Ollivander's wand-selection show. Visitors are queuing three hours for the show, which admits just 20 guests at a time. (Ollivander's capacity makes Disney's Dumbo look like Pirates of the Caribbean.)

It steams me, though, to read comments from visitors complaining the Universal didn't prepare for the crowds. Are these folks so thick as to expect that they would be the only ones interested in visiting an attraction that people have been writing about for three years?

Obviously, crowds were going to be massive, and visitors should have expected that. Frankly, I think Universal's done a wonderful job so far. It's protecting the experience within the land by restricting access, and it is running the access queue the long way around the park, through Jurassic Park to Marvel Super Hero Island, to encourage people to experience alternate attractions first.

The only thing that Universal could have done that would have minimized the wait for the huge crowds that want to experience this delightful attraction was to have gone to the system I described in a vote of the week last week: Employ Universal Studios Singapore's system of making people buy tickets for a specific day. That way, Universal could have limited the number of people holding tickets valid on June 18 (and June 19, etc.), so that the area would not be overrun by visitors.

Even with that system though, Universal would have had to implement a FastPass-style timed entry system for the Wizarding World on top of that to avoid the six-hour waits as all the day's ticket-holders arrived early and rushed to do Harry Potter first.

Some visitors figured out how to make yesterday's crush of visitors work out for the best, though. Lines at neighboring Universal Studios Florida were short all day. Check out this comment from a Theme Park Insider reader:

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 [wizarding] world... 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.

The team members along the wait and inside wwohp really [made] 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.)

"Hermione"'s system might be the best plan going for experiencing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, should you have plans to visit Universal's Islands of Adventure in the next few weeks. Your other option would be to book a room in one of Universal's three on-site hotels, to get guaranteed early access into the land. (Rooms are sold out for many days in the summer, however.)

Remember, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be here a month from now, as well as six months from now and a year from now. I think it's a great attraction and well worth the wait, whether you wait in a long queue this week at Universal, or wait instead at home to book your trip.

Finally, thank you to all who've left such warm and appreciative comments on the articles we've posted from Orlando this week. I've had such fun covering this, obviously, and only wish that I'd had the chance to meet more Theme Park Insider readers in person while here this week. (Though I am completely exhausted by now!) Thank you, as always, for reading the site.

Readers' Opinions

From Pyra Dong on June 19, 2010 at 8:01 AM
OH no... you're right!!! I finally could've met the great Robert Niles while you were on this side of the country!!! Forget Harry Potter, he'll still be there 1 year from now. (None of this is sarcasm btw... i need to somehow learn your trade secrets to be the best theme park insider of the future... now i will be quiet and just observe)
From Amanda Jenkins on June 19, 2010 at 8:07 AM
I never understand the people who complain about having to wait in line at a theme park. Not only is there a brand new attraction, but a brand new area. If you do not have the patience to wait then do not come. I remember waiting over two hours to ride Expedition Everest when it first opened. I was so excited and just enjoyed the anticipation of the ride. Granted there were those in line complaining that they had to wait. No, you don't have to. You can leave and do something else and come back in a year or two when the newness has worn off.

I'm sure it is difficult to tell that this is a pet peeve of mine. My family's motto has always been, "If you can't have fun on a vacation, then give us the money and we'll be sure to find a way to" :)

Thanks Robert for doing an amazing job of reporting the opening. It helps those of us who are unable to be there feel a part of it.

From 24.168.63.49 on June 19, 2010 at 8:14 AM
People are stupid. Im waiting a good year before I even attempt to go.
From Tyler Bell on June 19, 2010 at 8:26 AM
I agree,people are complaining to wait for something that millons of people want to see,they're are not the ONLY ones who want to see it.
From 24.219.33.86 on June 19, 2010 at 8:48 AM
The problems we encountered were the lack of organization by management. A number of the food locations were closed which resulted in many of the open food carts to have huge lines, at one point I waited an hour at a hot dog stand, and then they ran out of food! We arrived at the park 2 hours before opening and waited 7 hours before entering Wizarding World. Why was there no additional carts with just say cups of water, or the odd umbrellas along the route. I must say that as soon as we did enter the Wizarding World you could see it was worth the wait, simply incredible building design.
From Melissa Donahue on June 19, 2010 at 8:52 AM
As always, Robert, thanks for all of the great tips & reporting updates! My husband & I will be there in a week, and it's been especially helpful to get the scoop on all of this in advance.
From 81.140.102.71 on June 19, 2010 at 9:08 AM
I would argue that it hasn't even been just a 3 year wait either, most ardent Harry fans have been waiting to visit his world since they first picked up Philosopher's Stone in '97! I certainly have been waiting a very long time for the chance to visit something like this, so a few hours queuing is definitely not going to put a damper on my excitement :) and if people are moaning about it, then why don't they enjoy the rest of the park and come back when WWOHP is not so new, as they obviously can't be all that excited about visiting it. Roll on my summer holiday!!
From Gail Lee on June 19, 2010 at 10:35 AM
We were able to get into Wizarding World during the "rehearsal" the park held earlier in the week. We went on Sat. 6/12 and the entire park wasn't that busy at all! The FJ ride was 30 mins. queue and dueling dragons only 5 mins. In comparison to the 6+ hour lines just to get into Hogsmead that you're listing now, it was practically empty the day we went. I'm SO happy we were part of the pre-opening!
From Nick Markham on June 19, 2010 at 11:08 AM
Robert, do you think the crowds will quiet down at all by the end of July, beginning of August as that would be when I would be going to Orlando.
From Will Chilcote on June 19, 2010 at 11:51 AM
People are insane. 3 hours to see some bad actor giving out a wand. And 6 hours just to get in the park? I'm waiting a couple of years to go. The lines will be shorter and all the bugs will be out of the ride system on forbidden journey.

BTW, sounds like Ollivander's Wand Shop show should be a attraction by itself if people are waiting 3 hours to see it... LOL

From Robert Niles on June 19, 2010 at 12:57 PM
Thanks, Will. Just enabled that attraction listing for Ollivander's. Your reasoning is spot on, I say.

I'm sympathetic to concerns about the availability of food and drink. But what did folks expect? Even without lines, you're looking at a day of brutal heat outside when visiting a central Florida theme park. Drink plenty of water in the days ahead of your visit, wear sunscreen and a hat (or bring an umbrella for shade.) As "Hermione" wrote, Universal's team members were allowing parties to split up in line so that some could take a break with a ride, get a drink or a have some time in the shade. Take advantage.

Or... stay at home until the crowds come down and watch our Wizarding World of Harry Potter video tour again in the meantime. ;-)

From Will Chilcote on June 19, 2010 at 1:19 PM
What is left of the "lost continent" section of the park? Are Poseidon's Fury and The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad still open? Also, I had heard rumors of a wizard's duel attraction, does it exist?
From 97.100.86.125 on June 19, 2010 at 1:55 PM
Robert, do you have any information as to the EARLIEST POSSIBLE TIME guests can start to line up (at the parking toll plaza)?
From M. Ryan Traylor on June 19, 2010 at 3:04 PM
The complaints about long waits and bad service sound like they are coming from Harry Potter fans and not Theme Park fans. Not that the return of Captain EO is big as this opening, but the Tuesday they re-opened that attraction, Tomorrowland was packed. Two days later, empty.

This attraction is a destination vacation now. I'm sure the waits are going to be less within a week, but they will still be long.

From Marc Ricketts on June 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM
With such waits to get into the land, are they somehow limiting repeat rides, which in this case I would actually support although part of my brain is desperately trying to keep me from voicing that sentiment?
From Robert Niles on June 19, 2010 at 6:01 PM
Universal opened the garage at 5:30 am on Friday, but I heard that people were getting in as early as 4 am today. (I have not confirmed that, though - that's second-hand information.)

I wish that Universal was a bit more proactive in getting information like this out. But I haven't seen an answer on its website, Twitter feed or Facebook page.

From 69.22.109.54 on June 19, 2010 at 6:14 PM
I was able to get to IOA today and experience HP first-hand. I arrived at 8:30AM and was cued in Marvel-town. They gave everyone in line a ticket to gain entry into Potterverse. Unfortunately, I thought the ticket was just for the HP&TFJ ride, so I neglected to get a ticket for my wife and son who weren't riding. Over the next two hours, the line slowly moved through the other islands. When we reached the entrance to Potterverse and realized that EVERYONE needed a ticket to get in, we explained the situation to the staff and they let us in. Our experience was that all of the staff and security were well prepared for the mega crowds and did everything they could to make a potentially miserable experience as good as they could. By the time I got off of HP&TFJ, it was 11:30AM. So, three hours, start to finish. Not bad for opening weekend.

On another note, R3 nearly vallied later in the day, right after the non-inverting loop. That thing is cursed!

From 72.50.104.95 on June 19, 2010 at 6:51 PM
So I' trying to go late august. How about it Robert, do you think it would be manageable by then? Two hours? Maybe 3? I said 2 hours cause i agree with Amanda. I also rode Expedition when it was new, Summer 06. No fast past. The ETA was an exact 2 hours. I remember there was a family in front of us and the (father about 40, but fit) kept getting a little nap on between the line moving. No joke! They had to wake him up and sometimes they would laugh and don't wake him up until he woke on his own, like 10 people back.

Good work Robert! Also the other people reporting. You know the funny thing for me is that it feels live. (I mean the report) It almost feels as it was a play by play.

If the wand line is that big for the show? Why didn't they build what they have now, like the entrance, and made a little 50 or 100 people stage or something with seating so that the line could have move that much quicker. A 50 people place could have made that 3 hour wait a more manageable hour and a half. They could have use the store when crowds where little. You know, in 2015! Lol. I mean I get that (it seams) they went for the exact same look. Replica like. But they could have use the little stadium type thing for when thing where crazy. Like now...

From Robert Niles on June 19, 2010 at 7:19 PM
I'm coming back in August with my family, so I certainly hope that the lines are shorter by then! I'm hoping that Universal won't be needing to restrict access to the land by then, though I am planning for an up-to 90-120 minute wait for Forbidden Journey, still.

On another note: The shuttle bus from the soundstage Universal was using as a media center dropped us off on a path between Hogsmeade and the Sindbad theater. That kept me wondering at what point Universal might be tempted to convert that theater to a Harry Potter show. Universal easily could build an entrance to the theater from behind the Hogwarts Express, without having to move the Hogsmeade gate. Place well a couple of themed walls around the theater and, boom, it's part of the Wizarding World.

That would leave the already-reduced Lost Continent with only one remaining attraction. But a huge theater show would do wonders for the Wizarding World's capacity.

Every now and then I entertain thoughts of making some money on the side as a bookie taking bets on whether theme parks would do things like this or not. :-)

From 72.50.104.95 on June 19, 2010 at 8:56 PM
Hey Robert gladly appreciated the reply! See play by play! Lol.

Hey, maybe I see you on line in August. You know, It's funny that you said that about the theater cause actually the first thing that came to mind when I was about to type, was that place. That was the reason I avoided the word (Stadium/Theater) as long as I could. Je,je! See great minds think a like! Lol. I wouldn't take that bet, it seems logical something like that at some point.

So thanks!
-Francisco from Puerto Rico...

From Will Chilcote on June 19, 2010 at 10:34 PM
I agree with 72.50.104.95. It makes no sense the way they built the Ollivander's Wand Shop. It should be in a large theater with the actual shop, where u can buy the wands, at the exit.
From Melissa Donahue on June 19, 2010 at 11:24 PM
In my opinion, Universal Creative would never go for the wand shop theater experience at Ollivander's because it simply isn't true to the novels & films. It's clear that Universal planned out the entire design of the land down to the smallest of details, and they weren't going to stray from the authenticity of JK Rowling's world. Ollivander's as a large theater/show experience just isn't realistic in Harry Potter's world -- hence the cramped but authentic shop size.

Of course it's going to be ridiculously crowded & stuffed to capacity right now, but after the initial newness wears off, the shop will be manageable. I just don't think Universal would jeopardize the realism of the space for a larger traffic flow.

From 72.50.104.95 on June 20, 2010 at 12:43 AM
So I posted something but it didn't appear. So if it does later, well I'm sorry for the redundancy.

Great work Robert!

I had actually replied that, see play by play cause you answered so fast! (Now it seems a bid odd. Lol) Anyway, that's good that you're going on August maybe I see you on line. I also wouldn't take that bet. You know cause it seams kind of logical to do something like that. I actually thought of that theater, (I'm not kidding)that is the reason I didn't want to use the word Stadium/Theater till later, because it would lead to that site. See man great minds think a like! Lol. Also didn't want to infuriate the avid Harry Potter fans. (Like Melissa) I do think they should have stay as pure to the idea as possible. So Melissa don't be mad. Cause I like preciseness. But with that said let us not forget that after all it is a business. Even making something for 50 people or little more than twice what I hear they're letting in, would have made it half the wait. Half!! I mean I could be wrong here but I think even the most vivid Harry fans wouldn't mind something less accurate for half the wait. My vision was something Spidey like. You know you see the offices you get the story but on crowded days you do the queue outside first. I think they could tried to do something in which you could get the store in all it's glory and still incorporate more people to see the demonstration/show. Then on days with a lot less people you could get the same experience people are getting now.

Will Chilcote -"72.50.104.95." that's funny! I didn't had a name. I totally agree with you agreeing with me! Ja,ja!
I'm just guessing here, but I would tend to think that Universal couldn't had foresee the Wand shop to have a larger queue/line than the Forbidden Journey. I had to think no one had. Cause I actually think if they would have they would had come up with some type of queue more elaborated or longer or something. Cause I don't see Universal saying Ok lets make it so the FJ have an elaborated wait of 60 minutes and the Wand Shop of 3 hours. I'm sorry but authenticity or not, that doesn't make any sense.

Thanks for the reply Robert! It's appreciated! Also for the spot on coverage. Again I'm not trying to make Harry's fans upset by saying they should make it cheaper, or anything just more practical.

-As Will said "72.50.104.95" or Francisco: from Puerto Rico.

From 184.91.253.93 on June 20, 2010 at 4:29 AM
We made it to Harry Potter during a soft opening the week before it officially opened. I'm glad we did, because I don't much like the idea of 6 hour waits. :-) That being said, the area was incredible and it exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to put up with the crowds.
From Robert Niles on June 20, 2010 at 6:10 AM
It just occurred to me that the perfect retheme for the theater would not be Ollivander's (I totally agree that wouldn't be true to the films), but the Forbidden Forest. It's just outside Hogsmeade. And it's a large area where much dramatic action happened in the books and movies.
From Matt Roseboom on June 20, 2010 at 7:03 AM
It was nice to meet you Robert. I hope your camera and tripod survived.
From Robert Niles on June 20, 2010 at 7:18 AM
Thanks, Matt. It was nice to see so many people from the theme park blogosphere this week.

Tripod's shot, but it was on its last legs anyway (pun maybe intentional, haven't decided yet...) And the camera's okay - I shot the Potter press conference the next morning with it. I do need to upgrade though.

Any readers have a recommendation on a good HD camera that's not too much of an expense, but that has a higher resolution than the HD Flip as well as the capacity to plug in an external mic?

From Melissa Donahue on June 20, 2010 at 8:17 AM
Francisco - Don't worry! I'm not mad at your posts! :) I can completely understand your desire for Universal to accommodate a greater number of guests in a shorter period of time, especially with the wand experience. I just didn't think Universal would ever go for that.

The funny thing is, I'm not that big of a Harry Potter fan. I've never read any of the novels, and I haven't even seen all of the films. (I'm really just an avid theme park fan!) My reasoning here primarily stems from ideas that I've discussed with my husband. He's a design director in the theme park industry.

Anyways, we were talking about the complaints from park guests concerning these wait times, and he explained a very interesting concept in the world of theme park design to me. He said that parks will build a new attraction (or even an entire park) for what is called "design day" -- basically means you're designing for what you think the AVERAGE capacity of the attraction will be -- not what the "peak" or opening day's capacity will actually be. That's probably why it's so cramped right now. Universal Creative is keeping this world true to JK Rowling's Harry Potter brand or franchise rather than straying from the actual environment simply to push more guests through in a shorter amount of time. The other thing to consider is the cost -- If a larger theater/show venue is used, what happens a year from now when numbers drop? It may not warrant that kind of capacity in the future, and then Universal is looking at more cost on wasted or unused space.

Using that theater for a Forbidden Forest attraction, like Robert mentioned, makes sense to me because that would be a realistic use of space to accommodate a large number of guests without losing any authenticity from the novels & films.

From Robert Niles on June 20, 2010 at 12:17 PM
I wasn't really thinking about capacity when suggesting the Forbidden Forest show so much as that the land really seems to be missing... a show. Now, there's just the little Ollivander's thing and the street performances (the frog choir and the students from the other Tri-Wizard schools whose names I don't wish to look up how to spell right now).

The attraction mix is too skewed toward thrill rides to be complete, to me. A show would balance that and be a relatively easy add two years down the road, when any new land could use some refreshment.

From 74.84.83.98 on June 21, 2010 at 8:20 AM
I am all for an HP stunt/special effects show (Sinbad has gotten tired anyway) but it was my understanding that one of JK Rowling's edicts was to not have walkarounds or show actors portraying any of the principle characters since it would diminish those characters appearances (in their film series form) in the rides and queues. So who would the characters IN a live show be? You can get away with street shows with random Hogwarts/Beauxbaton/Durmstrang students. But how can you have a live spectacle stunt/effects show in the WWoHP without an actor PLAYING Harry Potter?
From 173.162.58.74 on June 21, 2010 at 9:15 AM
We booked our package at the beginning of April.
When we booked it, you get the free breakfast at the 3 broomsticks. Basically they make reservations for you at a specific time, and the only day they had open for this for 3 people, was July 1st at 10am, so we have to go that day. This also happens to be our last day of vacation.
Even though you also get to enter the park 1 hour earlier, it won't matter for us to try and get to the forbidden journey early (based on all of the comments posted here), we'll have enough problems getting to the breakfast at 10am.
I'm hoping that they see your tickets and let you go, since you paid extra in the package for them.
We used to live in CF and know what to expect with the weather and all, but if the park only holds 30,000 people, they should only sell tickets for 30,000 people.
From Robert Niles on June 21, 2010 at 10:16 AM
I think that with a Forbidden Forest setting, you've got immense narrative potential for a show that wouldn't involve any of the main characters. You've got centaurs, spiders, unicorns and a whole cast of magical creatures that could engage in all sorts of dramatic conflicts.

If you needed main characters to set things up, the same technology used in Forbidden Journey might be employed here to allow Hagrid to appear, as well.

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