Published: December 22, 2013 at 11:48 PMHow long before the official opening do rides have soft openings? I know that there's no hard rule, but if you could give me some examples (Transformers and Despicable Me in Florida) that'd be great.
Published: December 23, 2013 at 10:49 AMSoft opens are pretty unpredictable, especially more than 6 months prior to the project opening. If you have a trip already planned for April, I'd say, you're probably out of luck for the three new Central Florida attractions (Harry Potter, Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster, and Falcon's Fury/Pantopia). You might have a chance if you already have a trip planned in May or June. If you don't have a trip planned already this summer, I'd highly recommend waiting until late summer (August) or the fall when it's guaranteed that everything will be open, and likely less crowded as well. If the opening of Hogsmeade was any indication, you can expect HUGE crowds this summer at Universal and lines up the wazoo to get on the new attractions, and just entering the new areas of USF.
Me personally, I'm planning my trip next year in October to avoid the crowds and virtually guarantee that everything will be open and operational with few interuptions/glitches. We did the same thing when the original WWoHP opened, and it was far easier to enjoy the area in October than the horror stories about the lines and delays in late May/early June.
We missed New Fantasyland's opening last fall by just a couple of days. They were conducting soft openings the week before we arrived, but transitioned to cast member and VIP previews the week we were there, and had to look at the new area from afar. We had no expectation of getting into the area, so it wasn't so disappointing, but I was a bit bummed that we missed it by just a few days. With something as big as Harry Potter and the new Disney coaster, I would not even go within a month, give or take, of the projected openings early next summer.
I would never plan a trip over 200 miles around a projected attraction opening. Now if I lived in Florida, and had annual passes to all of the parks, I would stop by every day through the months of April, May, and June to try to get in during the soft openings, but since I don't I'm not planning my trip until I'm pretty sure all of the major new attractions will be open.
Published: December 23, 2013 at 12:16 PMAs for Universal Studios Hollywood, Transformers had about a month of soft opening before the press event and the official open. The facade for Minion Mayhem appears to be nearly done, though we have no idea how construction's going inside. And there's much left to be done on Super Silly Fun Land. Given where they appear to be at now, I think a March soft-open sounds aggressive for the Despicable Me land.
Ditto all of Russell's advice, of course.