With reports of guests lining up as early as midnight last night, today’s grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was sure to be one for the theme park history books. But after months of Universal Orlando actively advertising June 18 as the opening date for their new “theme park within a theme park,” many wonder if they were truly prepared for the immense turnout.
Responding to Universal’s announced opening day plans, thousands arrived to the Universal Orlando Resort today, hoping to not only enter the Wizarding World, but also catch a glimpse of the “public grand opening.” Harry Potter film stars were in attendance for the grand opening ceremony, but only a handful of park guests who arrived today were actually allowed in to see it. The rest of the watching crowd was comprised of invited members of the press and a couple elementary school class contest winners. Thousands of fans instead either watched on nearby screens or missed the event entirely as a result of waiting in line.
The opening moment took place at around 9:15 a.m., lasting around 10 minutes. Those watching from home found Universal’s promised live video stream going dark just as the ceremony began, missing most of the excitement. Fortunately, Universal has been replaying the event for those who didn’t see it live.
Those who have been in attendance for today’s opening were certainly in for a bit of a shock, finding out that they potentially could be waiting up to 8 hours just to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter area of Islands of Adventure. Small crowds have been let into Hogsmeade Village periodically and reports suggest crowd control within these small groups is fantastic. Lines for two of the area’s most talked about attractions, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the Ollivander’s Wand Shop, have been reported as only reaching up to 90 minutes, with the Wizarding World’s other rides having little to no wait at all.
But beyond the somewhat calm confines of the Wizarding World still reside thousands of fans eager to get in. With only small numbers (relatively, compared to the rest of the waiting crowd) being allowed into the area at a time, many of these dedicated fans waiting in lines that stretch clear around the park have realized this wasn’t the grand opening excitement they had shown up for. While large crowds are to be expected at any attraction grand opening, Universal’s widespread publicizing of today, June 18, as *the* date to come was essentially an open invitation for the entire world to arrive today. And it seems like they all did.
(Photo by the Orlando Sentinel depicts line of people waiting to enter the Islands of Adventure theme park wrapping clear around Universal CityWalk. The entrance to the Universal Studios park is on the right of the image.)
As can be expected, many of those who made the trek to Islands of Adventure are not pleased with the result of their journey. This morning on Twitter, @jgat wrote, “the line at guest services is huge, full of people wanting their money back.” And the complaints are likely to continue as guests continue to wait in near-record Florida heat throughout the day.
Meanwhile some technical difficulties continue at the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. One report indicates that the ride shut down briefly once this morning, forcing guests to leave temporarily.
It was only two days ago that Universal Orlando president Bill Davis told the media, “We’ve done this before. We’ll get through it.” But was Universal truly ready to handle the thousands of fans who showed up today based on Universal’s own advertisements to come see the Wizarding World? Given that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is only one section of a much larger theme park, thousands of guests can certainly not all fit comfortably into the area at once. But no one told them that in advance.
Many of those who showed up expecting a grand opening celebration and a “theme park within a theme park” have instead been met with a seemingly endless line that might not place them into the Wizarding World until much later tonight – or perhaps not even at all today.
Some might scoff and say that Universal has done everything they can with crowd control and that they can only safely allow so many guests into the Wizarding World at once. But crowd control is not the issue. The real question is could today’s oversized crowd have been avoided? Perhaps Universal should not have publicized a single day as *the* day to be here to see the Wizarding World. Perhaps Universal should not have announced there would be a “public grand opening” this morning, only to make it viewable for a select few individuals.
Or… perhaps this is simply what should be expected from the grand opening of one of the most highly-anticipated theme park additions in history. While lines are long, and will likely continue to be long throughout the busy summer season, the wait for dedicated Harry Potter fans will most certainly be worth it, as Universal has created an immersive and detailed themed environment rivaled by few others.
So, for now, it will be up to each individual guest to decide whether it is worth waiting literally all day to spend a few hours in Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle. For some who have grown up reading Harry Potter books and watching the film series, it most certainly will. For the rest, waiting a few months to visit, after the initial crowds have subsided, is likely the better choice.
If you want to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter now without the long lines or crowds, don’t miss our ongoing coverage of the exciting new theme park addition, including:
(Top photo by @LilLauren99)