Since opening earlier this year, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure has received much media attention for the morning crowds it draws daily to Islands of Adventure, but it isn’t the only Harry Potter attraction at Universal Orlando worth waking up early for. The early wizard gets the Gringotts gold, so we’ve got an exclusive video demonstrating how to rope drop Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida using tips from The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2020.
For the uninitiated, “rope dropping” refers to being present at a theme park before it begins operating for the day, so that you can be among the very first guests to enter and enjoy the attractions. This is the single most important key to efficient touring and avoiding long lines. First thing in the morning, there are no lines and fewer people. The same four rides you experience in 1 hour in early morning can take as long as 3 hours after 10:30 a.m.
To see this early morning effect in action, watch this POV video of our experience earlier this year, rope dropping Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida:
As you can see, USF team members select a “first family” from the early risers at the turnstiles each morning and usher them in a few minutes early to open the park with an old-fashioned movie clapboard. It’s no Magic Kingdom character welcome, but it’s a cute moment that’s worth catching if you can.
Once the gates open, there is no mad dash for Diagon Alley, nor is a literal rope dropped. When USF’s turnstiles open for EPA, resort guests walk straight toward Revenge of the Mummy and are escorted to The Wizarding World via San Francisco. Day guests are restricted to the front of the park, where Despicable Me Minion Mayhem often opens to all guests 10–15 minutes before the official opening.
Because most of the Unofficial Guide’s touring plans are based on being present when the theme park opens, you need to know about opening procedures. Universal Orlando’s on-site resort transportation to the parks via buses and water taxis begins 2 hours before official opening, or 1 hour before Early Park Admission. Guests staying on-site during peak periods will want to catch the first ride of the morning (or start walking around the time it leaves) to be the first into The Wizarding World during the early-entry period. Off-season visitors should arrive at the gates 10–20 minutes before Early Park Admission (EPA) begins.
If you are driving to the resort and aren’t eligible for EPA, plan to arrive at the Universal parking garage 45–60 minutes prior to official opening. If you need to purchase park admission, add another 15 minutes to that. It takes approximately 10–15 minutes to walk from the parking garage to the parks’ entrance turnstiles, so you should arrive at the turnstiles 30–45 minutes before the park opens.
On days when USF does not officially offer EPA, the gates may still open 15 minutes (or more) before opening, with Despicable Me typically running for all early guests. Guests can enter the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts queue before official opening, but the ride may not begin running until park opening (or a few minutes before) on non-EPA mornings.
Most of the crowd will head for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Gringotts ride, which usually sees its longest waits between opening and early afternoon. Despicable Me, located a short distance past the entrance, also attracts large crowds, as do Transformers: The Ride 3-D and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. A smaller number of visitors will head for The Simpsons Ride or Revenge of the Mummy, but these attractions usually don’t get crowded until an hour or two after the park has opened.
If you follow our advice and stay at the head of the pack, you’ll be rewarded with the rare sight of an empty queue and vacant ride vehicles ahead of you as you navigate the depths of the Gringotts vaults.
While rope droppers will virtually walk onto the attraction, by the time they exit the wait time will be starting to climb as crowds arrive.
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, get The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.