Ever since news first broke that Universal would be bringing Harry Potter to life, I’ve looked forward to visiting. I followed all the construction and news of the opening, then the first articles an reviews. While I was dying to head down to Orlando and check it out, I decided to wait for the crowds to die down first. I already can’t stand waiting in normal lines, and the lines at Islands of Adventure to experience Harry Potter have been, by all reports, EPIC.
How epic, you ask? Try waiting 2 to 3 hours just to enter the Harry Potter section of the park! Apparently, this place is so good that people are willing to withstand the hot Florida sun for hours just to get inside. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ve actually made it into any of the attractions yet. Once you’ve made it inside, expect to wait another couple of hours to ride the headliner “Forbidden Journey” ride. Many of the reviews are even describing waits of 30 minutes or more at beverage carts, or even to enter the gift shops!
With these stories in mind, I’ve managed to holdout until now to plan my trip to Islands of Adventure. I’ve decided to go this May because it’s a slower time of the year, in general, as most kids are still in school. It’s also a good time of year weather-wise, as you can avoid some of the heat and humidity of the peak summer season. As I plan my trip, I’m looking into every strategy I can find to see as much of Harry Potter with as little queueing up as possible. Some of the best suggestions I’ve found have come from The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012 (Unofficial Guides) .
If you’ve never tried these guidebooks, they are some of the best, most-detailed books out there to help you plan a trip to Disney. Like me, the authors of these books seem pretty intent on seeing as much as possible without standing in line for hours. They even give detailed touring plans that show you how to hit all the big attractions with minimal wait and hassle. I’ve followed them on my trips to Disney in the past and always had great luck.
If you’re looking to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without waiting in line, the very best thing you can do is go during the off-season. Think February through May (but not the week of Easter or any other holiday weekends) or September, when kids are in school.During these slow times of year, you can often enter the park at the regular time and walk right into the Wizarding World with no wait. Of course, you’ll still hit lines for attractions, but at least half the battle has been won.
If you have kids, or simply can’t make it to Universal during the off season, expect to find the entrances to the Harry Potter section of the park blocked off with huge baricades. To get around them, you can either wait in a (looonnnnggg) standby line, or take a free pass from the staff at the entrance. The pass works similar to Disney’s fastpasses, and features a pre-printed time when you can come back and enter this area of the park. On the very busiest days, these passes will be gone by noon, so plan accordingly.
To ensure you actually make it into the Wizarding World and get enough time to experiene everything, the real secret is to arrive early. How early? During the busy summer months, it’s not unusual for Universal to allow guests to enter the park an hour before the posted opening time. If you hit the turnstiles at 10 am on a day when the park opens at 10, you’ll likely find yourself at the back of the long line for Harry Potter. Plan to get to the park an hour before opening, and buy tickets ahead of time online to cut your wait times even more so you can head straight or the Wizarding World.
Still too much waiting around for you? Your only other option is to book a room at one of Universal’s three onsite hotels. Guests at onsite properties get some special perks, including early entry to the parks. By staying at one of these hotels, you’ll enter the park at least an hour earlier than all other guests, which is a big deal at anytime of year, but can save you tons of time during the busy season. Keep in mind, however, that the front-of-the-line priveleges given to onsite hotel guests don’t apply to the biggest Wizarding World attraction, “Forbidden Journey.”
Now that you know how to make it into the hottest section of the park with less waiting around, check back tomorrow for tips on how to experience all the attractions without the wait.