Two Years Later, Potter Still Packs Them In

| October 29, 2012

The scene – An early fall Wednesday morning at the turnstiles of Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.  Truth be known Islands of Adventure is my second favorite theme park in Central Florida behind EPCOT.  I always try and pay a visit to IOA whenever I’m in town.  This visit I was curious to see how soon the crowds would build inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (an island or land inside Islands of Adventure).  Continue through the page break to come along with me as I made my way to the back of Islands of Adventure to witness Harry Potter’s continued popularity.

Approaching the turnstiles at IOA I noticed a rather large line of guests waiting for the 9:00AM park opening.  Looking at guests waiting in line I noticed Potter themed shirts, guests dressed in Potter robes, and even wizard hats.  I wasn’t surprised, but at the same time it’s safe to think these guests wouldn’t be in this line if the Wizarding World of Harry Potter wasn’t created.

At 9:00AM the gates at IOA opened and guests began making their way through the Port of Entry.  Stopping along the way was strictly prohibited.  As we reached the end of the Port of entry guests turned right towards Seuss Landing.  For me I had a tough decision to make.  I wanted to get back to Potter so going right seemed like the popular thing to do, but my favorite theme park attraction was to the left; The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman in Marvel Super Hero Island.  Knowing full-well the line at Spiderman would be non-existent I decided to take a few spins on the attraction, especially since it was just refurbished with the new 4K-HD technology.  I just had to go left.

After taking a few spins on Spiderman and getting my fix (my premonition was right, it was a walk-on 3 times in a row) I quickly walked back to Harry Potter.  Surprisingly, my walk into the land via Jurassic Park wasn’t too crowded.  However, what became clear to me as I entered the land was most guests were entering via the Lost Continent.  It makes sense since that is a shorter route from the entrance of the theme park.  It also became clear to me that the rest of the theme park was nothing more than a pathway to Harry Potter.  Guests were flocking into the land and ignoring the rest of the theme parks major attractions.

The view walking into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with its centerpiece Hogwarts Castle

The main pathway in Hogsmeade Village was already crowded.  Not quite shoulder to shoulder, but it was getting rather tight.  Long lines had already formed at both Butterbeer carts, a 90 minute wait had been announced by a Team Member at Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Flight of the Hippogriff had posted a legitimate 35 minute wait, and the land’s featured attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey had a 45 minute wait posted.  Walking through the shops there was some space, but it wasn’t what I would call clear sailing.

The line at Olivander’s Wand Shop wrapped around the building and was 90 minutes long

A bustling crowd gathers in the main pathway of Hogsmeade Village

Another observation was the amount of foreign accents I recognized.  Accents from the UK, Scandinavia, France, and even Australia were noticeable while I toured the land.  Additionally, more Potter themed costumes were worn by guests, and more Disney World shirts displayed than I could ever remember seeing at a Universal theme park.

As the morning progressed it became clear more guests were entering the land than leaving.  Crowds continued to build.  Cameras were out in full force and guests were snapping photos like they were photographers from the Orlando Sentinel.

After a frozen Butterbeer, breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, and a visit to Honeydukes for a chocolate frog to go I left the land via the Lost Continent.  As I made my way through the Lost Continent and Seuss Landing I couldn’t help but notice the short wait times at the parks other major attractions.  Guests were walking past me with only one mission in mind; get back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as quickly as possible.  There was no stopping at the Cat in the Hat or the High in the Sky Trolley Ride.  Green eggs and ham and the Grinch were an afterthought.  It was all about Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer, chocolate frogs, and wands.  It was as if Islands of Adventure was a complete walk-through or walkway to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

After two years Universal’s Harry Potter risk seems to have paid off and is still reaping dividends today.  Crowds are still forming in this heavily themed land early, often, and throughout the day.  It seems to be a big hit with European and worldly visitors who want to see Universal and J.K. Rowling’s recreation of the hit novels and movie series.  Even though the movie series is over guests can still get their taste of Potter and his world through this fantastic recreation.  Seeing Hogsmeade Village and Hogswarts Castle in the movies is one thing, but actually seeing it at Universal Orlando in person is something totally different.  Universal and J.K. Rowling have done such a great job recreating it guests are abuzz as they frolic from shop, to attraction, to Butterbeer cart.  If you haven’t seen it make it a point to go check it out, but do me a favor.  Make sure to enjoy the rest of Islands of Adventure too.  Some of their other attractions are just as good as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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