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Vote of the Week: When will you visit Diagon Alley?

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: August 1, 2014 at 10:50 AM

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.

Diagon Alley's dragon

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!


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The challenge of loading rides, for visitors with disabilities

Daniel Etcheberry

By Daniel Etcheberry
Published: August 1, 2014 at 9:41 AM

Theme parks try to get as many guests as possible into their rides on a daily basis. This means that they rush everyone; it’s not a problem for body-abled people, but it can be challenging for disabled people who needs more time to get in and out of the ride’s vehicles. Cast members always tell the disabled that there is no rush, but when there are so many eyes looking at you, the situation becomes stressful.

One example of a fast-paced loading ride is Soarin'; guests enter the ride when the previous ones are getting out of their seats. Someone in my party has to get my wheelchair and come back for me. Once I’m seated in my wheelchair, all the new guests are seated and waiting for me to get out and start their ride. That’s stressful.

Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean is more relaxing for me – or anyone disabled – than Disneyland’s version; the former has the unloading area in another location, so the only person looking at you is the operator.

I take my hat off every time a theme park builds an alternate loading area; it solves this problem. Disneyland’s Space Mountain has this option, and it gives the disabled guest a stress-free experience.

Space Mountain's alternate loading area
The alternate loading area for wheelchair guests at Disneyland's Space Mountain, at top. A track platform can slide left and right at this point just beyond the traditional load area, allowing a train with wheelchair guests to move off the main circuit to an alternate load area where they can take as much time as they need to get in or out, without slowing other trains.

What are your picks for the most stressful, and stress-free, load and unload situations for theme park guests using wheelchairs? Please tell us in the comments.

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Disney taps Paris' Gas to run Shanghai Disneyland

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: August 1, 2014 at 9:31 AM

The Walt Disney Company has appointed Disneyland Paris Resort chief Philippe Glass to run the new Shanghai Disney Resort. Gas will be replaced in Paris by Tom Wolber, who will move back to Europe from Walt Disney World, where he's been the head of WDW's Resort and Transportation Operations, overseeing all the resort's hotels and its transportation network.

Wolber also oversaw the launch of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy for the Disney Cruise Line and was part of the opening management team for Euro Disney in 1992. Gas has experience in Asia, where he was in charge of human resources for the Walt Disney Company, overseeing Disney's strategy for 13 countries in Asia. Most recently in Paris, Gas has been overseeing the refurbishment and expansion of the resort, including changes to many of the resort's hotels and the expansion of the Walt Disney Studios Park, including the new Ratatouille ride and mini-land.

Both changes take effect next month.

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Coaster Tech: An Insider's look at flying roller coasters

Russell Meyer

By Russell Meyer
Published: July 31, 2014 at 4:19 PM

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Halloween News: Of icons and IP — the differences among Universal's Halloween Horror Nights events

Jacob Sundstrom

By Jacob Sundstrom
Published: July 31, 2014 at 10:25 AM

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Disney World brings return time cards to Epcot's Soarin'

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: July 30, 2014 at 1:33 PM

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Game Review: Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile

Jacob Sundstrom

By Jacob Sundstrom
Published: July 29, 2014 at 1:35 PM

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Universal announces a new 'Puss in Boots' family coaster for Singapore

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: July 29, 2014 at 10:44 AM

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What are Orlando's best theme park hotels?

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: July 28, 2014 at 10:01 AM

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King Kong is coming back to theaters, as it comes back to Universal Orlando

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: July 27, 2014 at 9:26 PM

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The Week Ahead: Disney and Universal schedules for July 28-August 3, 2014

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: July 27, 2014 at 2:37 PM

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Insider's Update: Setting sail from Pirate Island.. and a new freebie at Universal Orlando

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: July 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM

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