Monday’s soft opening
We’ve had many days of steady soft openings for Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express. Today is the first day that might be bit of a gamble again because we’re just not sure if Universal will break the current pattern and possibly close Diagon Alley early to guests, as they prep it for the official opening tomorrow.
We hope they don’t, and the fact that we continue to get confirmation that Universal doesn’t have any significant formal activities planned for tomorrow’s opening supports the hope Diagon Alley will be open most of today for guests.
So, what we know is that vacation package guests have access from 8:00 to 10:00 this morning, and if the pattern established over the past few days holds true, all guests will be let in after that point. Keep in mind that Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is not expected to be open to anyone today.
Also, if the pattern of softs holds true, the Hogwarts Express is expected to open at 9:00am to anyone who has park-to-park admission.
UPDATE: The Hogwarts Express soft opened at 9:00 this morning, and Diagon Alley soft opened around 10:00 this morning.
I can visit any day this week. When should I go to Diagon Alley?
For the purpose of experiencing the area with the least amount of crowds, I definitely recommend going today… assuming the pattern of softs continues and Diagon Alley opens around 10:00am for all guests (follow us on Twitter for the latest updates!). Just be aware that previews (or “soft openings”) are not guaranteed, and, perhaps most importantly, Escape from Gringotts is not expected to be available to anyone today.
If you want a guarantee that Diagon Alley will be open, including Gringotts (which still could break down anytime), then go Wednesday or later.
No matter what, I definitely don’t recommend going Tuesday. Let’s discuss that in detail right now…
Tuesday’s Diagon Alley grand opening
What do we know for sure about July 8?
We know that, in terms of attendance, it will be one of the busiest days in Universal’s history.
We now know that there will be some sort of ceremony between 8:00 and 8:30am per an informational sheet that has been given to guests checking into Universal’s on-site hotels. It reads:
The Grand Opening for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida will be Tuesday, July 8th between 8:00 and 8:30am. Be sure to bring your theme park admission tickets.
That is all the details provided regarding the ceremony – you can see the full informational sheet by clicking here (thanks to @StormyWx for the info!). The bottom line is there won’t be an elaborate ceremony; no Potter cast members will be around. As those who have been following these developments know already, the media event three weeks ago essentially was the “real” grand opening event.
We know that the parking garages and valet will open at 5:00am. We also know that all on-site transportation (water taxis and shuttle buses) are scheduled to start at 5:00am.
We know that guests arriving early will be queued first in CityWalk, starting at the Universal globe and moving back toward Islands of Adventure. Then, between 6:00am and 7:00am, the turnstiles at Universal Studios Florida will open, and guests will be allowed to get inside the park and queue for Diagon Alley, presumably starting near Fear Factor Live, where the preview queue has been located.
Finally, per Guest Services, we know that Islands of Adventure will offer Early Park Admission on Tuesday, from 8:00am to 9:00am. (Then, starting July 9, both parks will offer Early Park Admission from 7:00am to 8:00am – more on that in a bit.)
What don’t we know?
The biggest thing we don’t know is exactly how Universal will implement its Diagon Alley return ticket system, and if they’ll also use a standby line after the park officially opens at 9am.
To get an idea of what the return ticket system will look like, check out our guide to the system used in Hogsmeade.
What advice can you offer?
First, and in all seriousness, don’t go on Tuesday, July 8.
Knowing that whatever ceremony that happens will be at most on 30 minutes long, we just don’t see this as enough justification for battling the crowd. In our estimation, basically any day other than Tuesday, July 8 will be a better day to visit, including Wednesday, July 9.
If you absolutely want to go Tuesday, get there as early as you can – 5:00am if possible. Here’s why: we believe that Universal is going to very tightly control the number of guests allowed to enter Diagon Alley. Once they finally start letting guests in between, say, 8:00am and 9:00am, the area will fill up very quickly. From that point forward, everyone else is going to be asked to queue in standby or get a return ticket. And guess what will happen with the folks who make the first cut inside? Yep, they’re not going to go anywhere. This means that everyone who isn’t part of the first cut will likely be waiting a long, long time. If you don’t show up until mid-morning, you probably won’t get a chance to enter Diagon Alley until the late afternoon or evening.
So, if you really want to do this, you’re going to have to be on-site early and try to be part of that “first cut” before Diagon Alley crowd control measures kick in.
Doesn’t sound like fun, does it? That’s why our first suggestion was not to go on Tuesday at all.
If you’re lucky enough to get inside Diagon Alley first thing in the morning, run directly to Gringotts, which – fingers crossed – will be up and running for guests.
When I get on-site, where do I go to get into Diagon Alley?
Hopefully there will be dozens of Team Members stationed from CityWalk to Diagon Alley to help with this, but in case you don’t see anyone, Universal has been admitting guests into Diagon Alley through the London waterfront “gateway” that’s located on the far end by the Amity restrooms and the Fear Factor amphitheater.
The quickest route is to enter through the USF turnstiles, take a right through the Hollywood backlot, and walk straight past Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, and on through Springfield USA. By that point, you should definitely be seeing Team Members with Diagon Alley signs.
On Tuesday, do I need to arrive earlier than 5:00am?
I don’t think this will be necessary. But if you’re serious about attending Tuesday’s official opening, I definitely recommend arriving at 5:00am.
If I’m not interested in Diagon Alley, should I avoid going to Universal on Tuesday, too?
This is a tough call for Universal Studios Florida, and here’s why: if Universal heavily implements the return ticket system for Diagon Alley, then folks who would otherwise be in the enormous standby queue for Diagon Alley will be free to roam the park. Should this happen, naturally lines will go up at USF’s other attractions. However, if the return ticket system is used sparingly, and most of the guests trying to get into Diagon Alley have to queue, then that will bring down the lines at USF’s other attractions. So, like I said, it’s a tough call.
However, what isn’t a tough call is going to Islands of Adventure. That park will likely be slower than usual for a summer day, so if you’re not interested in Diagon Alley, that would be a good call. Just keep in mind that Hogsmeade may still be busy, but you should be used to that by now!
How will you be covering the opening day?
I’m staying on-site Monday and Tuesday night, so expect intense coverage on Twitter. We also invite you to discuss everything related to Diagon Alley in the OI Forums: the new land or vacation planning.
Once Diagon Alley is officially opened, expect months and months of coverage and vacation-planning advice all over our site!
Early Park Admission starting Wednesday
Universal Guest Services has confirmed that, starting July 9, both parks and their turnstiles will be open for Early Park Admission at 7:00am (general public gets in at 8:00am). This will include Diagon Alley (USF), Hogsmeade (IOA), and the Hogwarts Express (park-to-park admission required), and possibly one or two additional attractions, like Despicable Me and Cat in the Hat.
To the best of our knowledge, all guests with Early Park Admission will have equal access to both parks. No distinction will be made between guests staying at a particular on-site hotel or guests staying off-site as part of a Universal vacation package.
Finally, these plans will run through mid-August. When the summer season slows down, Early Park Admission may be cut down to just one park – we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
What about up to and including July 8?
Early Park Admission will work the same as it has been through July 8 (access to Hogsmeade).
To learn more, visit our Early Park Admission page in the OI Universal Center.
That’s what we’ve got for you at the moment. For the latest updates, follow us on Twitter, or discuss everything related to Diagon Alley in the OI Forums: the new land or vacation planning. To start back at the beginning, visit our spoiler-free guide to Diagon Alley.
Last but not least, if you’ve enjoyed our coverage of Diagon Alley, please help us stay in first place by voting daily in the 10Best Theme Park Blogger awards!