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.