Vote of the Week: When will you visit Diagon Alley?
Things seem to be settling down at the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
at Universal Studios Florida. After an initial crush of visitors, coupled with capacity and reliability issues on the land's main new attraction, pushed wait times to over eight hours, visitors are reporting much shorter waits these days.
Universal hasn't cut access to Diagon Alley in weeks. The machines Universal installed to assign return wait time cards have sat unused as the new land's higher capacity than the original Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure so far has handled the current level of demand. Hourly capacity on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts has improved, too, as operations crews now run seven trains on a somewhat regular basis, up from the two or three trains that ran when the ride first opened to the public last month. That's helped raised the effective hourly capacity of the ride to around 1,400 visitors, according to what we've heard from insiders. Most reports we've heard put the typical wait for Gringotts now around one to three hours, depending on downtimes. Yes, downtimes still are happening, but they're more brief delays these days than afternoon-killers. Still, Universal's been closing the ride around 7pm most nights for extended maintenance time, so don't count on enjoying a shorter wait time late in the evening as the park clears out, as you can typically on most other theme park rides.
You might still encounter brief waits to enter other Diagon Alley establishments, including the shops and dining areas. But the additional theaters in the Ollivander's wand shop in Diagon Alley mean that visitors to the new land will wait a fraction of the time for the "wand chooses the wizard" show over here than in the Islands of Adventure original.
Still, it appears that crowd levels in Diagon Alley are not up to the "worst case scenario" for which Universal Orlando planned. Everyone learned from the opening of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010. Universal learned to build a land with higher capacity and to create a standby return system that would be ready to go from day one. Yet the public learned, too. Many theme park fans, including Theme Park Insider readers, decided to delay their visit to Diagon Alley to later in the summer, or beyond, in order to avoid the anticipated crush of early visitors as well as anticipated reliability problems, given what plagued Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in its first weeks. Universal probably helped encourage delayed visits by its reticence in announcing an official opening date for Diagon Alley — not declaring that date until mid-June, just three weeks before the official opening on July 8. In contrast, Universal announced the June 18, 2010 opening of Hogsmeade in March of that year.
Which brings us to our Vote of the Week. When will you be visiting Diagon Alley? Were you among the "early adopters" who've already been, or did you decide to visit later? Or are you not planning to visit Diagon Alley at all?
If you have visited Diagon Alley, please share your observations and advice to other visitors, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for being a part of the Theme Park Insider community!
My mother, sister, and I will be going the first week in December. We were originally going just for Disney, but I have convinced them to tack on a day in the name of Harry Potter!
The goal is early next May for a return to WDW, USO, SWO, and a first time visit to BGT. We'll see how it all works out financially.
Saw it at the soft open over the 4th of July. Heading back tomorrow to stay at Cabana Bay and get on the Gringotts ride. An interactive wand is a must!
I just got back from Universal yesterday and they did a much better job with Diagon alley to allow for more visitors without it feeling as crowded as the original. Gringotts line was usually between 120 ~ 180 minutes, although if you got there at 7 AM it was much shorter. (You have to stay on property to get into the park at 7.) I was able to ride it first thing in only about 20 minutes, but once the park was open to everyone at 8, the line got long very quickly.
My family and friends were just there on July 24th and 25th, and our experience wasn't so great.. We had to wait 3 hours in line to get on Gringott's during which there were two shutdowns. Fortunately, we weren't too irritated as it was raining REALLY hard (think Noah's Ark), and we were under cover the entire time. The ride itself seemed short in comparison to the Hogwart's castle ride in Islands, but it was still an excellent ride. Diagon Alley was very crowded, so it was difficult to check out all the shops. Hogwart's train ride was also excellent! I will definitely return when the crowds die down some. We have a lot of shopping left to accomplish!
I'm gonna shoot for February of 2016, I got some stuff I want to take care of first.
We'll be there for two weeks in September. I hate long lines and overflow crowds, and since Gringotts, Hogwarts & Forbidden Journey aren't included in Hotel Express Pass, by September the lines should be OK. .....James: That's quite an ambitious itinerary. You'll need three weeks in Florida to enjoy all of that.
I plan to visit Universal Orlando in mid-October and at the same time check out Halloween Horror Nights. I'm a bit bummed that Diagon Alley won't be open during HHN. I wanted to get a few extra rides on Gringotts.
I'll be there in late September for our annual HHN trip. Can't wait to check out all the detail in Diagon Alley!
Our trip to Universal was on the 25th & 26th. We arrived at Diagon Alley around 7:15am and went directly to Escape from Gringotts and the wait was already over 2 hours, we waited 3 hours. There were a couple of delays with the trains when we got to the loading area, but what's a few minutes when you've already waited 3 hours?
We were there last weekend. It was crowded, but doable. It would be tricky in a wheelchair or with a stroller, especially in the shops.
We are going Thanksgiving thru the first week of December. We plan our trips to be several months after a new attractions expected opening. I would much rather have things running smoothly and lower crowd levels than seeing an attraction as soon as it opens.
Heading down in two weeks. The idea was to avoid the summer crowds by going the second half of August, but given the difficulty we had getting hotel rooms, I'm anticipating it to be more crowded than usual that week. Maybe all us northeasterners who had our normal vacation times truncated to make up for snow days are heading down there at the same time.
Not going 'til next February. Just booked a place to stay (Staying off property for the first time in a long while...kids are getting older, so we're going to explore Florida a bit more. Didn't seem financially prudent to stay on property the whole time).
I will wait until airfares become more accessible from Australia to Orlando.
My wife and I are headed down to Florida for a cruise to the Bahamas in October. After the cruise we have planned one day at EPCOT for the Food and Wine Festival and then two days at UNIVERSAL for Potter, Minions, Horror Nights, et al. Its funny that of all the trips we've made from the West coast to Florida this is the first time we're spending more time at Universal than with the Mouse. Steve Burke and his team MUST be doing something right.
@Rob Two full weeks is what I am planning. One week for Universal, Sea World, and Busch Gardens, and one week at Disney. Three weeks would be nice, but too expensive, and since we've visited all the parks except BGT several times previously, our vacation does not need to be comprehensive. It will be more of a "Best Of" trip!
I'm here right now waiting for the ride to be operational.
@ James Rao@
@David I'm thinking 4 days at Universal (two at each park, no hopper passes for this up-charge protester), 1 day at SeaWorld (just give me Kraken and Manta all day, please!), 1 day at BGT (just coasters, again, and Falcon's Fury if it is open by then), 6.5 days at Disney (2 days at MK, 2.5 days at Epcot, 1 day each at DAK and DHS), no water parks, and 1.5 rest/swim days somewhere in between all the fun!
James: Enjoy. Sounds like you'll have a great time. Two weeks is a nice time for a vacation, not too long & not two short. I did a week in May, but that was too short. I did three weeks a couple of years ago and that was a little too long to stay in hotel rooms. Two weeks is just right.
All it really takes to do it in the shorter amount of time is to be in decent health. I don't mean a health nut just capable of standing an walking all day. And to be somewhat calculated, I don't mean planning your day to a T but having a good idea of what your doing that day.
I will be there the last week of March for my class trip
Just left Universal this morning.... I am going to wait until I get home to write an unbiased trip report.
Looking forward to your report, N B. But based on what you posted here, navigating Gringotts at this time appears to be the antithesis of what I like about paying the big bucks to stay onsite at a Universal hotel (relaxing, worry-free, leisurely touring). It is for that reason, I am giving Universal until next May to get their house in order. Hopefully by then, I won't have to be at the park by 6 AM just to ride one ride.
These comments have set me thinking.
NB here, posting from the beach in Ft Myers.... The "loophole" I mentioned has to do with them not checking for room keys near the Lucy Tribute checkpoint. This may have only been due to the initial rush of guests at gate opening... There are so many people rushing towards Diagon Alley in a mad sprint, they just wave everyone through, regardless of whether you show your key or not. They may crack down after the first wall of people make it through.
NB: You did exactly what I planned to do with Diagon Alley, namely wait till sunset for our first encounter. Glad that you confirmed what I anticipated to be a wow moment. I'm not a Harry Potter fan of the books or movies but I love what Universal has done to create believable lands with great attractions, shows, restaurants & shows. Hopefully, come September, the crowd flow for Gringotts will be a bit more customer friendly, and the down times will be less. It's kind of significant that both new summer of 2014 major attractions, Gringotts & 7 Dwarfs, continue to be plagued with daily breakdowns. Guess that's the price of new untested technology.
James Rao, you are staying 2 weeks and going 4 days to UOR, Seaworld and Busch Gardens but say you aren't getting the UOR park-to-park tickets? There is a 14-day Orlando Flex ticket for all the non-Disney parks that is less expensive than individually purchased tickets and the UOR portion is park-to-park. Did you check that out?
@Tony I will check out all ticket options when the time comes and select the best value. If the Orlando Flex ticket turns out to be a better value than the other options, it will definitely be what I get.
It's true Rob, Potter fan or not, that first glimpse is a stunner. When you start exploring, you will see how much work went into that area.
@Tony, Anon Poster 188.8.131.52 is me... sorry I forgot to log in!
NB: I've been reading that Hogwart's Express gets busiest during the middle of the day when people are moving between parks. Did you notice if that was the case when you were there?
Making my visit to Orlando this October for Wedding Anniversary with my wife for visits to USO and IoA on 2 days and visits to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on another 2 days. So looking forward to visiting UO and Walt Disney World. Its been 20 years since my last visit to Disney and 10 years since my last visit to UO. No doubt anticipating tasting Butterbeer for the 1st time (both fozen and non-frozen) and experiencing both Wizarding Worlds at UO (not a huge HP fan tho but just a huge theme park/amusement park fan in general). Also Springfield and the foods there. Last but not least, Dole Whips at MK. I wish October will hurry up and get here. Cant wait. Hope lines from EFG aren't too bad (under 3 hour wait). I will have to see when we get there. Nevertheless, come on October!!!!!!
I just commented via FaceBook but wanted to make just a couple more having recently returned from both Universal parks. The walk from the standard parking lot to the Universal Globe which is essentially the main entrance after you've walked through restaurant-land, oh I mean City Walk, is .57 miles. Not so bad going in but after a long day the feet start complaining. I prefer a shuttle any day.
60 seconds? Both Gringotts & Hogwarts Express are 4 minutes, which is kind of a standard length for attractions of that sort. Much longer than a 90 second coaster ride, or the 2 minutes and a few seconds of the 7 Dwarfs. Forbidden Journey, Spiderman, Simpsons, Transformers all top world attractions and all 4 to 5 minutes long. I can understand the disgust with the heat, but that goes part & parcel with traveling to Florida in the middle of summer. Sorry, but I just don't understand this anonymous post. In the middle of busy season summer with new attractions opening best to stay on site and get Express passes for short stays in line for most of the attractions. What did you expect for lines at this time of year? They're long everywhere, even the coaster parks.
Going first week in September. Can't wait.
There are only a handful of rides less than a minute.... and only one of them is at Universal. Dr Doom's Fear Fall is the only one that falls into that category.
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