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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley opens officially at Universal Studios Florida

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Published: July 8, 2014 at 5:13 AM

Thousands of fans gathered before dawn this morning to queue for the official opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.

Predawn crowd
Photo by Derrick

Though Universal publicized no grand opening event for the new land's debut, Universal did roll out a red carpet for the scheduled 8am opening.

At the red carpet
Photo by Jared Collins

The line of fans didn't match that for the opening of the original Wizarding World in 2010, but it did extend back around the Universal Studios Florida lagoon and through the park.

Looking back into the park
Photo by Jared Collins

Universal provided months of advance notice of the official opening date in 2010, but only about three weeks' notice this time. In addition, the land has been available to all on a soft-open basis for the past several days, where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade was closed to most of the public for a media event for the days leading up to its opening, which featured Daniel Radcliffe and several other Harry Potter stars for a widely publicized ceremony.

This time, Universal offered a blast of pyro and confetti as a receiving line of "witch and wizard" team members welcomed the first guests...

On the red carpet
Photo by Tom Schroder, Universal Orlando Resort

...Who poured into the land at 8 am.

Opening crowd
Photo by Tom Schroder, Universal Orlando Resort

And yes, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was running at the opening, soon building a two-hour-plus queue with three trains running.

With Diagon Alley officially opening, we invite you to submit your ratings and reviews for its attractions and restaurant:

Anyone can rate locations listed on Theme Park Insider, and we invite you to register with the site to post reviews and share photos, too.

Update: If you haven't had enough Harry Potter yet, here's the link to today's new Harry Potter short story from J.K. Rowling, on Pottermore.

Previously:

Readers' Opinions

From Melanie Howe on July 8, 2014 at 7:09 AM
Yay!! I'm actually heading down to Orlando today to attend a conference and I intentionally left my Universal AP at home so I wouldn't be tempted to skiv off from the conference for Diagon Alley :-). Plus, I know I'll enjoy it more when I'm down in September for HHN when the crowds (and the heat...) have died back a bit.

Looking forward to hearing more reports from folks who were there!

From Robert Niles on July 8, 2014 at 9:07 AM
Today's industry lesson, as always: Tell great stories that engage the imagination and spare no needed expense in executing that vision.
From TROY DAVIDSON on July 8, 2014 at 9:30 AM
I was there on Sunday for softs. Awesome, just awesome. Kudos to Universal creative, JK, and Warner Brothers. This is the best theme park land in the United States and possible even better then Disney Sea's. I was very impressed. I smiled for hours and hours and every Universal employee was so friendly and helpful. I am so happy to be a local!
From 71.46.49.251 on July 8, 2014 at 10:05 AM
So how long is the wait to actually get in to the land?
From 70.182.139.210 on July 8, 2014 at 10:13 AM
Robert-- Great photos of the opening. I can't wait to visit later this year!

You mention Gringott's had 3 trains running. Is this the maximum the ride can support or can it handle more?

If everything is running as planned, whats the anticipated hourly ride capacity of Gringotts? What's the ride/hour capacity for HPATFJ?

From Robert Niles on July 8, 2014 at 10:13 AM
Reporters from the Orlando Sentinel were reporting a two-hour wait to get into the land and a six-hour wait for Gringotts as of noon today. As of now (1:15 pm ET), Universal is posting a seven-and-a-half hour wait for Gringotts, but the ride appears to be going up and down frequently, so capacity is minimal.
From Brent Moody on July 8, 2014 at 11:23 AM
@Robert.. I have heard that they are running only 3 carts on Gingotts for a ride capacity of about 720 people per hour. I am assuming this is just because all the bugs are not worked out and that they will have a higher capacity later on. Do you know what the ride capacity is supposed to be when it is fully operational?

Also I got to go into DA last night and it is absolutely amazing. The level of detail is off the charts and there is much more space inside DA than in Hogsmeade which is really nice. Of course Gringotts wasn't open but I could spend hours just walking around DA.

From James Trexen on July 8, 2014 at 11:25 AM
Three trains? Seems a little light. For reference's sake, how many trains does the Mummy hold?
From Brent Moody on July 8, 2014 at 11:43 AM
Seems light to me too. But after I heard about the 3 trains someone in the Gringotts line on twitter said that they were sending a cart about every 2 minutes. I think there are 24 people per cart which would be 720 riders per hour. So 3 trains seems about right I think if that's all the rides per hour they are getting.
From James Trexen on July 8, 2014 at 11:51 AM
I don't doubt the number Brent. I'm just wondering why there are so few trains running when the ride lasts somewhere around 5 minutes. Makes the dual loading station seem kinda pointless.
From Brent Moody on July 8, 2014 at 12:08 PM
You may be right but I heard that was all they were going to be able to run last night from my neighbor who has a relative that works at Universal. And I have seen a few different twitter post from people who have been pretty reliable in the past that they are only running 720 per hour. Just hearing pretty much the same thing from multiple people is what makes me think it may be true. But who knows.
From Rob Pastor on July 8, 2014 at 12:29 PM
I've read that max on Gringott's is seven cars. Reports are that they added one to the three and now have four running.
From Dan McNeely on July 8, 2014 at 1:51 PM
If max trains on Gringott's is 7, any guesses what the hourly ride capacity would be?

If this site is correct, HPATFJ can handle 2,000+ riders per hour.

http://parkpedia.cc/article/harry-potter-and-the-forbidden-journey/

From 172.254.39.234 on July 8, 2014 at 3:56 PM
I can't wait to be immersed in a storybook world that's a beloved part of popular culture!

@Robert: Or you could build a giant land on a movie that no one remembers.

From Sylvain Comeau on July 8, 2014 at 5:07 PM
Yeah, I heard that the ride was running at half capacity, resulting in 450 minute wait times. Uh, no thanks. We'll be there in October, when the heat and insanity has died down a bit.
From Brent Moody on July 8, 2014 at 6:52 PM
I think each bench on HPATFJ goes by about every 7 seconds and of course has 4 seats on each bench which comes out to about 2,050 riders per hour. Of course that is a perfect scenario with zero down time and every bench filled. If reports are correct and Gringotts was running about 720 per hour with 3 carts and has the capacity to run 7 carts then that is only 1,680 riders per hour or almost 400 less people per hour than HPATFJ. Of course they may be able to load and unload the carts a little faster as they get better at operating it but still sounds like it will be less ride capacity than FJ.
From James Rao on July 8, 2014 at 8:08 PM
I also read that Universal was not using both loading zones.

Do we know why Universal is running the attraction at reduced capacity? 450 minute waits can ruin a lot of good will....

IMHO, no ride is worth a 450 minute wait. Heck, I can't think of a time when I waited even 50 minutes for an attraction, let alone 450!!! Yikes. Who has that much excess time on their hands? Don't people understand that "this is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time"?

From 166.147.72.174 on July 8, 2014 at 9:26 PM
Robert,

I have ridden all the latest theme park rides around the world with the exception of Ratatouille and Escape From Gringott's. My favorites are Journey to the Center of the Earth (which I believe is or WAS your fave) and Mystic Manor. Does Escape From Gringott's reach those heights??

From Robert Niles on July 8, 2014 at 10:00 PM
Keeping in mind the disclaimer that I tend to fall in love with whatever's new and great, here's my current worldwide Top 10 best theme park rides:

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Journey to the Center of the Earth
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (after the 4K upgrade)
Transformers: The Ride 3D
Pirates of the Caribbean (any version but Orlando's)
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (would be higher if everything worked)
Splash Mountain
Phantom Manor
Tower of Terror (Tokyo)
Sindbad's Storybook Voyage

I haven't been on Mystic Manor, which I suspect would be in my top 5. And I'm likely forgetting something that I love here, which is why I hate doing these lists. ;^)

Update: Here's a breakdown of how many of my top 10 are in each market:

Japan - 6, about to be 7
Orlando - 5
SoCal - 3
Paris - 2
Singapore - 1

Gotta save more money for another trip to Japan!

From Brent Moody on July 9, 2014 at 5:01 AM
@James Rao.. I have no clue if this is the least bit true or not but I have heard that the reason for the reduced capacity is that they are have a derailing issue. Obliviously not the type of derailing issue where the cart comes off the track and everyone dies but something not lining up on the track switch or something. Which is probably why they are using only one loading dock so that they don't have to use the track switch required when using both loading platforms.
From James Rao on July 9, 2014 at 5:40 AM
Yikes! Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. However, I hear the more likely problem is timing and sync issues when more than three trains are running. They just need to get these issues all worked out before N B visits in 21 days! ;)
From Brent Moody on July 9, 2014 at 5:53 AM
Either way I think it is safe to say that no way Gringotts would be open yet if it was not for all the Hotel Packages they pre sold. If fact as much as I would love to go ride it they should probably only be letting the hotel package guests ride Gringotts right now anyways. Universal is blowing through the good will they built up like the Government blows through borrowed money. I saw today on twitter that it is up to a 450 minute wait and already broke down again. This is not going well for Universal right now.
From James Rao on July 9, 2014 at 6:27 AM
Can't disagree, but for those who wanted to be first, they had to know situations like the one with Gringotts could (and would occur). There is a price to being first when it comes to these new technologically advanced rides.

Good news, though, there's little wait for the other attractions in Diagon Alley right now... people should go get some Butterbeer Ice Cream instead!

From TH Creative on July 9, 2014 at 10:16 AM
To celebrate Gringott's extraordinary success, I have changed my TPI profile pic to an exclusive photo from this remarkable new queue ... er ... I mean attraction!
From N B on July 9, 2014 at 8:54 PM
I'll change mine to the Yeti....
From TH Creative on July 10, 2014 at 2:54 AM
Well, the Yeti will certainly hold still while you snap the pic.

(Chuckle)

But then the train you're on will be speeding passed him -- as the Everest attraction is still operating and doesn't break down after guests have stood for hours and hours and hours waiting in a queue and watching a row of Chuckie dolls cycling over and over and over and over again.

From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 6:16 AM
Gringotts is down again today. Actually, it has not even started operating yet despite a lengthy queue of frustrated muggles (someone should tell several people in the queue that their middle finger is NOT a good substitute for an interactive wand!). If I remember correctly, Forbidden Journey had some downtime issues as well, but I don't remember them being as bad as Gringotts. Anyone recall?

Mr. Moody's assertion that Gringotts is not ready for prime time is looking more and more likely. But I am still hopeful that the folks behind Universal Creative (who are, I am sure, frantically scrambling 24 hours a day to get this beast working) will figure out a solution soon....

From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 8:16 AM
As of 11:15 AM EDT, Gringotts is still down. :(
From TH Creative on July 10, 2014 at 8:20 AM
As if grumpy muggles were not bad enough, the Daily Prophet is quoting unidentified sources that the goblins themselves are getting frustrated. Specifically some of the Gringotts goblins have family who have traveled to Universal Orlando to see the new ride. Not only are these relatives angry that the attraction is not operating, they are furious to find out that they actually have to pay to park even though they are guests at Portofino Bay.

One group of goblin family members told Reeta Skeeter that they have decided to spend the rest of their holiday at Walt Disney World -- saying "The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train may not have all of that 3D stuff. But at least the damned thing works!"

From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 8:31 AM
Word on the street is that either Gringotts is now running (~11:30 EDT) or folks waiting in line are being taken to a special room and converted into Gillyweed. Either way, the line is moving!
From Rob Pastor on July 10, 2014 at 9:00 AM
James: The planned delay this morning was reportedly to get another vehicle hours certified for running. Yesterday they ran 6 cars(2 vehicles each car) and utilized both sides of the track. So it looks like they are just about at max capacity/loading now. I would still expect some breakdowns due to the "next gen" (play on words)" intricate ride system.
From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 9:01 AM
Interesting... if they were running near max yesterday, I wonder why the throughput was still about 750 riders an hour? So is the max capacity eight cars? Four trains total?

But to back you up, Rob, it is being reported by other onsite sources that Universal is running max today with both loading platforms. So hopefully the throughput will increase soon....

From Rob Pastor on July 10, 2014 at 9:19 AM
James: The 750 total, I believe, was grand opening Tuesday, based on an observers conjecture of three cars running and an estimated 2 minutes between both cars. That was from an observer and may or may not be the actual 3 car(train) capacity. I had read they used up to four cars later in the day on Tuesday and then used six cars and both sides of the track on Weds. This info came from insiders that are usually right on with their info, and like Robert Niles, don't usually jump the gun with inaccurate info. And today they seem to be close to capacity, which is either 7 or 8 cars(trains), I've seen both numbers mentioned. This is fairly good news since on Tuesday it was looking doubtful that both tracks would be running in the near future.... (Note: 7 cars (trains) (2 vehicles attached separately per car (train))would equal 14 separate vehicles for capacity purposes.)
From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 9:20 AM
Furthermore, the throughput is going to be "derailed" by any downtime the ride has, which I am reading on Twitter (not the most reliable source, I know) occurs about once an hour when the ride is operational.

And that 750 number was widely mentioned the past two days.... so either everyone just ran with it, or it has some validity. The slow-as-molasses pace of the line would seem to indicate that the number was at least close.

From Rob Pastor on July 10, 2014 at 9:41 AM
James; Yes, that 750 total came from Seth Kubersky(very reliable writer for Orlando Attractions & Touring Plans)based on 3 cars(trains) running and an apx. 2 minutes between each. and I think people just ran with that number. Tuesday was slow with 3 or 4 cars (trains) running and numerous breakdowns. Weds. capacity was probably double that 750 number but keep in mind there were some breakdowns which would have reduced actual riders. The capacity is only a theoretical number based on cars(trains) without any breakdowns. Capacity will probably be apx. 1800-2100 per hr. depending on the actual cars (trains) that we don't have an official number on yet. Capacity should be fine once all the kinks are out.
From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 10:20 AM
Thanks Rob... your boy Seth just commented as follows:

"Gringotts is loading both sides but only dispatching every ~90sec, estimate 1000 riders per hour."

But as you said, these things will get worked out in time.... Crowds will die down and technical issues will get fixed. It'll all be good by the time N B gets there in 20 days!

From Rob Pastor on July 10, 2014 at 10:20 AM
James: Yes, it looks like that dispatching time is a floating number (2 minutes one day and 90 seconds another) and the actual capacity will evolve once a set time is established. Seth has written the definitive Universal Orlando guide book. I used it extensively on my first trip to Universal & it was spot on for everything. So whenever i read Seth's postings on OU or Touring Plans, I give them a lot of credence.
From Sylvain Comeau on July 10, 2014 at 12:37 PM
Unlike FJ, it looks like Gringotts will never be a voracious people eater. It also seems to be joining the club of complex rides plagued by frequent breakdowns (Indy, RSR, FJ, Spider-Man, et. al.)
From Rob Pastor on July 10, 2014 at 1:00 PM
James: I'm sure NB is keeping his fingers crossed 24/7. We don't go till September and most bugs hopefully will be worked out by then. Sylvain is right though, in that the more complex an attraction is, the better chance for breakdowns. But, I'd rather them reach for the sky than settle for an ordinary ride. Heck, Spiderman still malfunctions often, but it still is a people eater. They'll work around the issues. I think this is a real win for Universal. Diagon Alley & London are outstanding. Hogwarts Express seems an excellent attraction and does not have the capacity issues people thought it would. Critics kept misunderstanding HE's concept and treated it like two separate rides. What it really is though, is one ride with two entrances, thus real capacity is huge and lines aren't bad. Gringott's is true state of the art,and it's building was rushed, so it's problems are understandable. It's capacity should be decent and waits won't be crazy long once all of the cars are on line and the programming syncs OK. Even with it's problems on day one, it's capacity was in the same area as Toy Story Mania normal (800 to 900 per hour).
From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 1:53 PM
I agree... they should push the envelope, but I would prefer they worked out more of the bugs BEFORE they presold vacation packages and were forced to open the attraction BEFORE it was ready.

There is a fair amount of negativity in the Twitterverse related to Gringotts right now which could have been avoided had Universal approached things a bit more conservatively. Rushing to complete something so advanced is admirable, but if the result is 300 - 400 minute waits because the attraction is down more often than it is up, then what have you gained?

But hey, it doesn't impact me, cause by the time I get back to WDW and USO, it'll be 2015 and both the crowds and bugs will be under control.

FYI - Several Gringotts evac tweets are being posted now. Seems to be the trend.... *Sigh*

As for the train... the waits have been minimal most of the time (15 - 20 mins). Same for Ollivander's (no wait), and pretty much everything else but the ice cream joint. I wonder if the waits would be longer if everyone wasn't trapped in the Gringotts queue?

From Rob Pastor on July 10, 2014 at 2:30 PM
Yes, I don't understand the reasoning behind the packages, especially when you're racing against time to open a huge state of the art expansion. Universal kind of got burned when they did the same during Hogsmeade opening. You would have thought they learned their lesson. Plus these people weren't paying all that more than if they would have booked a regular on site vacation, and many expected the moon for the few extra dollars they pay. Most of them would have come at some other time, so I doubt it had an effect on the year's end attendance. Bet they don't do that again for a new land, unless it's way "ahead" of schedule. Both Potter expansions were rushed at the end to get them open before the drop dead dates.
From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 2:36 PM
Just think of all the lost revenue due to folks standing in one line for the entire day....
From Anon Mouse on July 10, 2014 at 3:17 PM
On the selling of the packages, "why not?"

Pre-selling packages will ensure people are there for the opening, which is not always guaranteed. Plus, hotel rooms are filled and restaurants are full.

On the rides breaking down, that's par for the course. Nothing works perfectly. To assume that ANY park will get things right prior to a grand opening is not serious. Real world conditions is different than a testing phase. Even a soft opening is no assurance. Since we can be sure Universal is no spring chicken with grand openings, I assumed they knew what will happen and it did. Still, they are no more ready today than July 8th.

The people that visited now cannot wait for the inevitable break in period. That's the risk that take for being there first.

From Seth Kubersky on July 10, 2014 at 7:24 PM
Hi everyone. I based my capacity estimates on sitting in the child swap and timing dispatches. It was varying wildly, but on average they shaved at least 30 seconds off the dispatch time today (after the ride started running, and before it was evaced about 4 1/2 hours later) vs on 7/8.

I hear there are a total of 9 trains, but I don't know if they can all run at once or if one is a spare. Today they had 5 or 6 running (couldn't tell for sure), which I think is the most they've been able to do so far.

From what I'm told, the goal is a 40 second dispatch rate, which would equal a 2160 THRC. Even 45 sec dispatches would give them 1920.

For comparison, FJ's max hourly capacity is a little over 2000.

From Rob Pastor on July 10, 2014 at 4:04 PM
Seth: Great to see you posting here. Your insights & info are always appreciated...Mad Dog
From James Rao on July 10, 2014 at 4:31 PM
Thanks for the info, Mr. Kubersky, and thanks for all the up to the minute updates during your Diagon Alley adventures. Much appreciated!

You'll have to let us know how things are looking a month from now when things have simmered down a bit.

@Anon There is a huge difference between things working perfectly and things not working at all. One can expect that a top notch operation charging upwards of $140 to visit Diagon Alley (with the park-to-park up-charge) would at least be able to run their headliner attraction at full capacity on opening day. Obviously, Gringotts wasn't quite ready for prime time on July 8th...or 9th...or 10th. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

From James Rao on July 11, 2014 at 4:41 AM
Good morning! Waiting with great anticipation for the first reports of the day....SETH, WAKE UP!!! Get busy!! ;)

Update @7:40 EDT - Gringotts is rolling at open. Line is moving slow, but at least folks are getting on right now. No word on how many trains or how many loading platforms that I can find yet. And I gotta work today, so good luck all you folks in Orlando. Have fun!

From James Rao on July 11, 2014 at 7:13 AM
UPDATE: Wait time for Gringotts at 10:10 EDT is 300 minutes. Again, the question must be asked... would you wait in a five hour line for any ride? I would not, but apparently plenty of other people would. #LifeIsTooShort
From James Rao on July 11, 2014 at 10:50 AM
With technical difficulties abounding at Gringotts, some amusing photos of people sleeping on benches in Diagon Alley have been posted on Twitter. #Mugglemoments indeed!
From NANCY CAUDILL on July 12, 2014 at 9:58 PM
WENT TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JULY 9TH, Was disappointing to find out that in order to get into Diagon Alley, we had to stand in a line or get a return pass. At 5:00PM we went to check out ESCAPE FROM GRINGOTTS. At the door, I asked an employee if there was a single rider line. HE SAID IT WAS NOT AVAILABLE, he was misinformed. We decided to give the line a try, and after two hours, we got inside, finding out there was a single rider line, but the woman told us the wait was three hours. Turned out we were in the three hour line, worst yet the photo, causes you to lose your place in line, and it gave me an instant headache. After another fourty minutes we finally made it to the load area, and the single rider line only had a few people in it who told me they only waited an hour to get on the ride.

As for the ride it was a five second "ROLLERCOASTER", and the rest of the ride was a trolley ride that ocassionally turned, it was DISAPPOINTING CONSIDERING the time we waited, while hoping that it would be something equal to or better then the MUMMY. The ride designers really missed an opportunity to make a great ride when you go down that First drop. It could have been like the Munny with a track that sends riders down into the lower levels of the vault, complete with dragons, the illusion of a missing track and all the good and evil characters fighting each other as the train continued speeding up and down the twisting and turning track. The train could have stopped for a few moments to show riders the dragon being used against Valdamort, and with the wave of a wand riders are sent back to safety.

From 96.241.123.200 on July 14, 2014 at 6:41 PM
Where are all the lady goblins?

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