A tale of opening day at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter

in Islands of Adventure, Movies, Special Events, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando

harry-potter-opening-day

The grand opening of Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter on June 18, 2010 drew thousands of guests from around the world. The overwhelming popularity of the new theme park attraction created a line reported to be longer than 9 hours just to enter the new area within Islands of Adventure.

Amidst the thousands of excited guests that morning was Kevin Cantor (@FLallday), a devoted theme park fan and Orlando local who had already visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter previously, during a soft opening/preview, but wanted to have the experience of being there on opening day.

Here Kevin recounts his time spent braving the crowds to catch a glimpse of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as it officially opened. (It should be noted that Kevin’s actions and opinions are entirely his own and do not represent Inside the Magic.)

So begins Kevin’s tale…

I knew it was going to a madhouse, which is partly the reason why I went. I went with no expectations of seeing any celebrities, just to assess the crowds and to be able to say, “I was there on June 18th.” It was nothing like I could of imagined.

I got to the parking garage around 6:30 a.m. and ate breakfast at CityWalk, which was open earlier than usual due to Islands of Adventure opening early. Crowds were POURING into CityWalk and Islands of Adventure at this point. I heard Islands of Adventure had opened early and that guests were already queuing for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter inside the park. My girlfriend wanted to come see the big hustle, so I had to leave CityWalk and come back, this time around 8:30 a.m.

I was on I-4 eastbound and this is where it all started. Many cars full of Harry Potter fans were on the road, with many tourists getting off on the Universal Orlando exit. I-4’s right hand lanes were slow for around half a mile due to so many cars getting off at the same exit. The roads to Universal’s parking garages were stop-and-go. There were lots of police officers and media on the main road and at the parking garage gate. It took about 20 minutes to get past the parking ticket booths.



We parked on the roof of the garage. Many people were excited, but I’m sure no one had any idea just how many people were at Universal that day, including me. I arrived at the end of the moving walkway and into CityWalk where I see a HUGE crowd blocking the pathways. I thought security had stopped people from going any further, but I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I realized that’s where the line started just to enter Islands of Adventure. I couldn’t believe it. In my opinion, Universal didn’t do the best job at handling the crowds. Many people didn’t know what was going on, there were many line skippers, it was extremely hot with no shade sprays or extra water carts, and the line was backed up all the way to CityWalk’s moving walkway. I later heard from a couple of team members (Universal employees) that the moving walkways had to be shut down because the line stretched even further through them.

At around 8:50 a.m., the line just to get into Islands of Adventure began at the moving walkway, curved right toward the Universal Studios theme park, and rounded the whole lagoon toward Islands of Adventure. Ten minutes later they also opened up the bridge to Islands of Adventure so there were two HUGE lines heading for the park. Now picture this – it’s like something from a movie – the line is spread all the way across the entire pathway filled with back-to-back people. It was a huge cluster. It was also hot and stinky from rubbing against so many strangers on the packed pathway heading to the gates.

At that point I heard from some team members that just to reach the Islands of Adventure gates would be a 4-hour wait as of 9 a.m. Ridiculous. The lines took very long to move. My girlfriend left at this point because it looked ridiculous – too ridiculous. Fortunately, I knew a couple of team members who helped me get to the gates so I didn’t have to wait 4 hours. (Editor’s note: Obviously most visitors to the Wizarding World’s opening day did not have the luxury of having friends at Universal Orlando who could help. The initial wait just to get into the park was long and, in some cases, unbearable for guests who did not arrive prepared for Florida’s heat.)

Finally reaching the entrance to Islands of Adventure, the lines to buy tickets and to get in the gates were low, because team members managing the huge line from CityWalk only let in groups of people around 30 at a time. The whole park by 9:30 a.m. was very crowded. The line for the Wizarding World of Harry potter began at Port of Entry.

I couldn’t believe it – the line starting at Port of Entry then snaked from Marvel Superhero Island all the way around the long way around the park to the Wizarding World. There were no single-file lines, but rather a huge 10-people-across line taking up the pathways. Team members at the end of the line were telling guests at that point it would take five more hours to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Four hours outside the park plus five hours inside – that’s 9 hours just to get into the Wizarding World. I had never seen anything like this before in my life. Who would wait up to 9 hours to get in? Obviously, thousands would.

There was a row of team members blocking the path to Seuss Landing. They would let you into that area and were asking people to ride some rides in that land, but for opening day the usual path to access the Wizarding World was not available from there.

I learned that later in the day, some security team members were not notified of how people were supposed to be let into the Wizarding World and started to form a line at the Seuss Landing entrance. This line ended up being an hour long and led people nowhere, only to find out that they were not allowed access into the Wizarding World and told to wait in the much longer line that snaked clear around Islands of Adventure. Many people were disappointed. At 9 a.m., the line at Islands of Adventure Guest Services was already huge. A team member at that line said it was a 45 minute wait for Guest Services.

So I started to walk around the park, beginning at Marvel Superhero Island. I have never seen a line like this in my life and I’ve been to many grand openings before including when Islands of Adventure itself first opened. But this was just ridiculous. The line snaked through every open space in Islands of Adventure: Spider-Man’s extra outdoor queue, behind the stage show stadium near Toon Lagoon, behind Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges. It was a long, long, very long line. I can’t emphasize this enough.

I spoke with guests waiting in line. Many people had been in line since 5 a.m. It was mind-boggling. The rest of Islands of Adventure’s attractions were open and from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. i seemed like every ride was a walk-on despite the fact that the entire park was filled with people. They were all waiting in line for the Wizarding World. Team Members were literally begging people to ride their rides while the rest of their group waited in line. So I rode Dr. Doom’s Fearfall so I could see the line from the top of the tower.

Finally making my way into the Jurassic Park area, I found couple buddies who were already in the line across from the opening to the Jurassic Park River Adventure queue. From that point ride on, pathways were filled with security blocking off anyone not in line for the Wizarding World, as there are no more attractions beyond there. By this point, many people were frustrated, hot, angry, upset, annoyed, and some decided to take their frustrations out.

There didn’t appear to be enough security to handle the crowd and many problems were let unresolved. I didn’t see any fans or water carts to keep guests cool. Not even added shade. And I saw one man collapse – yes, literally collapse from the heat while in line. A medical team was called in to help him out. I also witnessed two adults fist fighting – yes, over Harry Potter, and line skipping. It was like humanity went crazy over this attraction. Many kids were crying. I have to applaud the dedicated parents and kids who waited in that long, intense line with the heat. The line barely ever moved and when it did, it only moved inches.

It looked to me like everyone was not going to be able to get into the Wizarding World. Most team members were uninformed as to how they were going to operate and bring in the masses and it was amazing to see how unprepared some team members were about crowd control in genearl. But despite all of these problems, I believe it all worked out in the end.

I finally stepped foot into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at around 11:30 a.m. (with more assistance from my team member friends). I’m a guy, but I’m not gonna lie, I cried. After standing in the long line for hours, seeing the faces of guests light up as they entered was a sight worth seeing. People were very excited when walking in, like they just won the lottery.

The area inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was MOBBED.

By noon, there was approximately a 30-minute wait to get Butterbeer, 20-minute to enter the Hog’s Head Pub, 55-minute wait to eat at the Three Broomsticks, a 10-minute wait for all of the shops, a 75-minute to enter the Ollivander’s Wand Shop and see the show, 10-minute waits for the Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge roller coasters, and a 120-minute wait for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Once inside, I was amazed at how well the operations team was handling crowds. People were coming in and out of rides very quickly. Dragon Challenge was a big people eater, having 3 trains running on both coasters (a total of 6 trains) with a train leaving a station every 45 seconds. It was very efficient. Forbidden Journey was also running fairly smoothly, shutting down for technical difficulties only 3 times during the day, I heard.

All in all, the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was an amazing and interesting day. At around 8 p.m., when I left the Wizarding World, the line still stretched all the way back to Popeye’s. It was still that long. Ridiculous.

— Kevin Cantor

In the end, we’ve been told that everyone who waited through the immense line to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on opening day was, indeed, let into the area, even if only for a couple hours at the end of the day. Since then, the lines to enter the Wizarding World continue to gather each morning at Islands of Adventure, though none have come anywhere near the size of the crowd that showed up for opening day. Guests arriving to Islands of Adventure after noon can likely now find that entrance into the Wizarding World is no longer a problem, with each morning’s initial rush of visitors having already disbursed. Problems and frustrations aside, the grand opening day of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will certainly be noted in theme park history books as one of the most highly-anticipated and highly-attended of all time.

If you’d like to explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from home, don’t miss our extensive coverage of the new addition to Universal Orlando featuring videos, photos, reviews, and special events.

15 Comments

  1. Wild Ol' Dan

    Howdy Pards,

    “…the grand opening day of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will certainly be noted in theme park history books as one of the most highly-anticipated and highly-attended of all time.” Very well said.

    One could also say that the year ahead will see more Magic Wands sold
    than any other year since Ollivander’s first opened in 372BC!

    The popularity of Harry Potter is not about to die…instead it is about to grow…and grow…and grow. More people will watch the movies, more people will read the books as a result of their experiences inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Once they do that, they will be hooked on the wonderful imagination of J.K. Rowling…for life.

    Tis magic…pure and simple.

    Adios for now. Talk to ya on down the trail.

    Wild Ol’ Dan

  2. Court. L.

    Hey all. Wow,! Its amazing how people were being affected from different areas of the line. I knew it would get crazy, but I didn’t expect fist fighting CRAZY!! LOL. Well,my story is probably not as co-cohesive as Kevin’s but if you don’t mind me being 6 days late, I’d like to share. Also,I might have been part of that group that he’s talking about….:) Both me and my bf flew out from California for 5 days of Universal/Florida fun on the 17th. I’m the HP fan and knew that it was going to be crowded and crazy, but as a “Potter geek”, I was willing to deal. Plus,I showed my bf some pics and video and I sensed a bit of doubt. But as we got closer, I could feel his excitement increase. Anyways, I had read that the garage would be open early, so I expected somewhat of a large group to already be waiting. Our hotel was only a 10 min walk, so for some reason I assumed that it would be smart to come at 7.Pretty stupid, especially because we didn’t get there until 8. Even as a hardcore HP fan, I still wasn’t coming earlier than 7. When we reached the strip towards the parks, everyone was being directed to the right. There were groups of about a thousand people already ahead of us and shortly after, hundreds and maybe thousands more filing in behind us. Slowly the line moved, then it stopped for over an hr. No one really had a clue as to how long we would wait because no info was given to us other than what we already knew. Leaving the east coast heat only 3yrs ago, we should have been prepared because that damn sun was hot, and we both struggled to be optimistic :).To add to our brewing insanity,we started to see people running on the City Walk side(left entrance?) and realized that they were allowing people to line up over there as well. It almost turned into a riot when we noticed they had people following closer to the entrance of IOA behind a rope. Then BOOING erupted (from our side)! I must admit, I was a bit furious. I’m sure there were people that were there longer than we were, but I’m just thinking that its been nearly 2hours and there’s no way that they were going to let a newly formed line in!! That just wouldn’t be right. Not too long after the “mini riot” a group of us were allowed to enter IOA. Even after getting in and going around to Seuss’s Landing the line was ridiculous! We were told the wait was estimated at a discouraging 8-9hrs,lol. Yea, I’m crazy, but not stupid! The sun was unbearable so we made the ultimate decision to take advantage of the 10-20min waits around the rest of the park, which we had never experienced. The only reason why we ended up back on the line (at around 2pm)was because we thought it was going to poor down raining and we had emergency ponchos,haha. When it started to drizzle, we ran from the Studios back to IOA..the clouds hung around, then disappeared,lol! So we gave in and stood on the line, which by this time was no longer around Seuss’s on the right, but was now from the left near Hulk, through marvel and Jurassic park. Honestly, towards the back of the line you feel like the neglected step child (Harry at the Dursleys), but we mustered up the energy to stick it out when others gave up or continued to haunt you with the constant reminder that the ill-informed team members said “7 hour wait”. Even though Universal seemed a little unprepared, they figured out a way to place people with earpieces at certain locations, stop us @ one point to keep lines separate and urged us to make friends and know the people in front and in back of us. During our 41/2hr wait, we managed to make 2 friends which made time pass. Once near Jurassic, we steadily moved and as we turned the corner we all went into shock. We walked straight into Hogsmeade. It was a tad cramped (thanks to this site and others, I was already prepared for that)and everyone was definitely sweated out, but well worth the wait. The coasters only had 5 min waits, Ollivanders and Owl Post were around 2hrs n forbidden journey had 120 min, but walk ons on the single riders. Another thing: My bf tested the seats up front and the team member shook his head no. I insisted on going in anyway! I figured it was worth a try since he did lose 20lbs since I told him about the restrictions. Actually 3 from my group were not big, but chubby and they got “the head shake” outside and got a “well, get off and try again” from a rude and puny cast member who seemed already over the HP craziness (or bigger people who really couldn’t fit on the ride). There was a guy near the test seats inside that just pushed and it clicked. I understand the safety concern, and my bf was safely locked in the seat with no problem. I mean as long as you’re not seriously trying to injure yourself to squeeze in the seat. If the seats do turn out to be too small, the walk through of the castle is an experience of its own. Overall, it surpassed my expectations. To top it all off, while waiting for our flight to L.A on Monday I noticed Mark Woodbury waiting for the same flight. I geeked out so bad I had to force my bf to say something to him first! After remembering my name and shaking his hand continuously, I learned that he was actually on his way out to check on the final touches of King Kong! Oh Em Gee!…Well, thanks for letting me share and go out there and enjoy 😀 -QueenofTheme

  3. C Schaefer

    We were there on opening day as well but we did not wait in line. We had been lucky enough to get in and see everything the weekend before. We arrived at IOA at 6:45 and got into the park at 9;00. The line already was 6hrs long. WE watched the ceremony on a big screen. My boys and I wore our robes and we walked around and looked at all the people in line and we still had a great time . It was worth just being there for the big day! I can not wait to go back again and again!!

  4. rodrigo

    so big question after one week. i will be there wednesday july 14th. i plan to be there at 7am. will this be a good plan? or a lot of people wil be there at that time?
    i dont want to wait in line 4 hours..but 3 is ok lol
    what do you think?

    maybe going later is a good option but i dont want to miss anything at the park..i prefer going first thing in the morning.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I really recommend showing up at noon or later. Or, get to the park in the morning, enjoy the rest of the attractions, and then visit the Wizarding World after you’ve been there for a few hours. There is no reason to wait in a giant line in the morning. You will have plenty of time to see everything.

    2. Tyler

      I just got back from the Wizarding World. We were lucky to get in early our first day there with less than 100 people in the park. The other days, people were lined up at 7:00am to get in. If you wait until about 3:00pm, then you will waltz right in. It is crowded, though. You will have to wait in a 20-30 minute line just to get into a shop. The Forbidden Jouney line is long, but there is plenty to look at. Good luck!

  5. Rachel

    They must have made millions with all those people. Wow that is the hugest line ever . I will never think I’m in a big line again after seeing this line o.o wowzers lol

  6. Court. L.

    I just thought about something…After our wonderful adventure on opening day, we managed to walk right in everyday thereafter. We surely didn’t expect to be able to come and go as we pleased for 3 days. I’m just trying to imagine Halloween or Christmas time. We’re definitely looking forward to taking advantage of those holidays at Hogsmeade.:) Hopefully Universal will get creative.- QueenofTheme

  7. Wand Question Dude

    Hey do you have or know any pictures that shows all the birthday wands I want to see which one looks best or what the October wand looks like. So if you can find one please tell me. Thank You

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Sorry, it’s been far too crowded in there for us to take pictures of all of those wands. Perhaps in the future…

      1. Wand Question Dude

        ok thanks anyway

  8. rodrigo

    so ater all this weeks, wih is the day that is least crowded of all….as i say before i plan to go on the 14th of july wednesday….and i reallly want to go early, make the line at 7 to be there as early as possible. probably the line is not going to be that hugeeeee. so wich day? is the best option

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Still hard to tell. This weekend was busy, as it was 4th of July weekend, but not overly busy. I’m sure it will remain busy for the rest of the summer every day. You will wait in lines for Ollivander’s and Forbidden Journey, but everything else should be easily accessible.

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