Universal Orlando Updates Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure for 2022

Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure

Getting into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour before the general public is one of the top perks for guests staying at Universal Orlando Resort hotels, but recent changes to Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure may make this benefit a bit less valuable for Muggles eager to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure queue for Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Get ready to wait in line even longer for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, thanks to new changes in Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

As of January 3, 2022, Universal Orlando has adjusted the lineup of attractions that participate when Early Park Admission (EPA) is offered to on-site hotel guests at Islands of Adventure only, which is scheduled to be in effect through at least February 28. Under this new plan, Jurassic World VelociCoaster is open to guests as soon as Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure begins, but Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is advertised as not operating until regular park hours.

Obviously, a lot has changed since the last time we reported on Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure. We visited Universal Orlando on the second day of the new EPA at IOA, arriving shortly after 7:30 a.m. (for an 8 a.m. early opening) to find a substantial but not insurmountable crowd already waiting at the turnstiles.

The park gates opened at 7:45 a.m., and all guests were directed towards Seuss Landing where hotel keycards and annual passes are inspected.

Eligible guests can proceed past Green Eggs and Ham and into Lost Continent, while all others are held in the rest of Seuss Landing until park opening.

Upon reaching the bypass bridge to Jurassic Park, guests were again being advised that Hagrid’s was not operating, so we made a beeline for the VelociCoaster and were inside its queue before 8 a.m.

At that early hour, the actual wait was close to the 10 minutes advertised, but upon exiting the ride at 8:15 a.m., the posted wait had grown to 50 minutes, with the queue stretching throughout the plaza.

The rest of Jurassic Park is now off-limits during Early Park Admission, and guests are directed back across the bridge to the Wizarding World until official park opening at 9 a.m.

Our second stop was Hogwarts Castle, where the wait for Forbidden Journey was 10 minutes shorter than the 25 minutes posted.

By this time it was 8:40 a.m., and after passing by a full queue for the Ollivanders wand show, I noticed a steady stream of guests heading into Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. It turns out that, despite claims to the contrary, the uber-popular family coaster actually begins operating about 30 minutes before regular opening time.

During Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure, the Hagrid’s queue fills the defunct Sindbad stunt show stadium, snaking in and out of its lower and upper levels before heading into Hogsmeade.

Hagrid’s actual wait was about 70 minutes, which is better than the 100+ minutes that had been predicted. It might have been slightly shorter if the single rider line had been in use, but instead I observed several empty solo seats in most trains.

However, while Hagrid’s posted wait continued increasing after park opening to almost the 3-hour mark, wait times for Forbidden Journey and VelociCoaster held steady or dropped from their Early Park Admission peaks.

Elsewhere in the park, wait times remained low in the rest of Jurassic Park and Skull Island until an hour or so after official park opening. On the other hand, Marvel Super Hero Island—which admitted all guests starting at 8:45 a.m. —was packed long before 11 a.m. Unfortunately, the single rider queue at The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man will be unavailable for at least the next week, so there was no skipping the 45-minute wait for the the web-slinging wonder.

Unofficial Guide’s Updated Advice for Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure

To be frank, this new EPA attraction lineup at Islands of Adventure doesn’t seem to benefit either hotel guests or the general public, since now nobody can efficiently rope drop Hagrid’s. Before, the earliest arrivals had a shot at riding Hagrid’s within minutes of opening, but now everyone will wait at least a half hour or more. We’re hoping that feedback from guests and front-line employees inspires a swift correction, but in the meantime here are four Early Park Admission game plans to follow for different types of visitors:

Early Park Admission-Eligible Guests Determined to Ride Hagrid’s First: Arrive at the park gates 45-60 minutes before early entry begins. Head through Seuss Landing to the Lost Continent, and bear right towards the old Sindbad stadium. Join the designated queue for Hagrid’s as quickly as possible, and prepare to wait for the ride to begin running. Unless you are among the very first guests in line, riding Hagrid’s will probably consume most of your EPA hour; make sure to head out of Hogsmeade towards Skull Island by the time day guests begin to enter.

All Other EPA-Eligible Guests Willing to Experience Thrill Rides: Arrive at the park gates 30-45 minutes before early entry begins. Head through Seuss Landing to the Lost Continent, and bear left across the bridge to VelociCoaster. Exit the ride, bear left around the Discovery Center, and cross the other bridge from Jurassic Park into Hogsmeade. You should have plenty of time to experience Forbidden Journey once you’re through the full castle queue, and then again via single riders. Also hop on Flight of the Hippogriff if the line is short. Make sure to head out of Hogsmeade towards Skull Island by the time day guests begin to enter. Remember to return to the Wizarding World shortly before park closing to ride Hagrid’s, hopefully after sunset.

EPA-Eligible Guests with Small Children, Seniors, and the Thrill-Adverse: Arrive at the park gates 15-30 minutes before early entry begins. Head through Seuss Landing to the Lost Continent, and walk straight into Hogsmeade. Experience the show inside Olivanders wand shop; purchase a wand of your own (if you wish) and use it around the village while everyone else rushes to the rides. Explore the shops, ask for an “alumni tour” of Hogwarts Castle (or simply walk through Forbidden Journey’s standby queue and exit before boarding), and take a gentle ride with the Hippogriff. Make sure to head out of Hogsmeade into the rest of the park by the time day guests begin to enter.

All Others Not Eligible for Early Park Admission: Arrive at the park gates 45-60 minutes before regular park opening. Relax in Port of Entry or Seuss Landing, then enter Marvel Super Hero Island as soon as you’re allowed to (up to 15 minutes before official opening). Ride the attractions there, starting with the Incredible Hulk Coaster and Spider-Man; then move on through Toon Lagoon to Skull Island. Watch the app for VelociCoaster’s and Hagrid’s wait times to dip briefly around midday, or wait until they drop near the end of the night.

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1 Comment

  1. Momaw Nadon January 10, 2022Reply

    Too bad, I was looking forward to a low-wait ride on Hagrid’s later this month. I got one last time by pure happenstance when the ride got a late start due to cold weather and I was standing right there when the TMs opened the queue. (Embarrassed to admit that I “flunked” the Velocicoaster’s test seat so that’s out regardless of time of day.)

    Ah well, maybe I’ll try the Hagrid’s EPA strategy outlined above and see what happens. If nothing else, I can remember the good old days of fire stunts and “Shush, Kabob!”….

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