Photos: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Grand Opening
After years of speculation and weeks of soft openings, Universal Orlando celebrated the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley grand opening this morning. Hundreds of fans lined up outside Universal Studios Florida from 5 a.m., and they were joined by thousands more by the time the grand opening was held inside the park’s new London Waterfront area at 8 a.m.
Folowing a brief speech from Universal president Bill Davis, and a flurry of fireworks and confetti, the first tearful guests flooded into Diagon Alley to greet cheering employees.
The Potter-hungry crowd quickly occupied the Gringotts bank, home to the new land’s signature “multi-dimension” thrill ride. While the ride operated regularly throughout the day with intermittent interruptions, the standby queue quickly hit 300 minutes and eventually exceeded 7 hours, with the shorter single rider line reaching 2 hours.
Elsewhere in the land, guests enjoyed the food and shopping opportunities with minimal waits, and the line to take the Hogwarts Express between Universal’s two parks hovered at 45 minutes or less.
Outside the Wizarding World, the queue of guests who didn’t arrive before dawn stretched behind the Men in Black attraction to the Simpsons ride, and was estimated to be over three hours at its peak. By early afternoon, Universal began distributing “return time tickets” from kiosks located near Fear Factor Live, allowing guests to enter Diagon Alley in as little as an hour.
While the new Potter land drew the majority of guest attention on opening day, other major attractions like Transformers and Despicable Me posted waits in excess of an hour. However, thanks to careful planning by Universal’s operations team, crowds flowed fairly smoothly around the resort, with no sign of the massive queue stretching through CityWalk that was seen when the original Wizarding World opened at Islands of Adventure in 2010.
Following the grand opening festivities, the parks will operate from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. beginning July 9, with all on-site hotel guests granted early admission to the Harry Potter attractions at 7 a.m. Expect Universal to remain exceptionally busy for the remainder of the summer, with Diagon Alley reaching maximum capacity on a daily basis. Muggles who aren’t Potter-mad may want to wait until fall for a less stressful touring experience.