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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

P. 602: Universal Holidays & Velocicoaster photo report posted!

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^If you search around, the list of houses has been quasi-leaked for a while now, This year is pretty IP heavy, if I remember.

 

IIRC Dracula and Michael Myers are both getting houses as well. I think I remember a "thanksgiving gone wrong" house too. Either way I'll be there with my frequent fear.

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I like how they build a roller coaster in the same time it took them to built new lockers for Harry Potter.   

On Sunday I ventured out to the Universal Orlando Resort for a chance to see the new holiday offerings at the two parks. This year is a little different thanks to COVID-19, but Universal has still man

^Agreed. I think the newer Intamin lapbars are actually the best steel coaster restraint currently being produced. When comparing overhead lapbars on Taron and Blue Fire, I found the Intamin ones to b

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^If you search around, the list of houses has been quasi-leaked for a while now, This year is pretty IP heavy, if I remember.

 

Ya, I've seen that leaked list and what not, but it just seems like Hollywood and Orlando are going to be a little more similar this year around using many of the same IP's. Normally you'll only see one or two IP's at both parks simultaneously.

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Dracula Untold officially announced!

 

 

If you thought that Dracula had been banished for good, think again.

 

I’m excited to bring you the fourth house reveal for Halloween Horror Nights 24—an all-new house that is inspired by Universal Pictures’ upcoming epic action-adventure, Dracula Untold. The film comes out October 17, but you can experience a living preview of it at Halloween Horror Nights, starting September 19.

 

This house takes you through the terrifying origin of the man who became Dracula. Each room contains gothic scenes that highlight Vlad the Impaler’s transition into the bloodthirsty creature.

 

As you enter the house, you’ll see firsthand the frightening cave that Dracula first emerged from on his path to damnation. The house becomes especially eerie as you progress through a destroyed village and into the woods on the way to Dracula’s foreboding castle. In the final scene, you’ll come face-to-face with Dracula’s victims: those who were impaled and who begged to be saved before he took their last breath.

 

Each turn in this new house presents a horrifying experience straight out of the movie, including the war between Dracula and the attacking Turks. Dracula is here, and his thirst for blood is never-ending.

 

No prisoners will be spared this year at Halloween Horror Nights 24. Will you be able to make it out alive? Grab your tickets and find out.

 

Source: http://blog.universalorlando.com/whats-new/dracula-untold-hhn24/

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A million riders... YUP!

 

Today, Universal Orlando Resort celebrated its one millionth rider on the Hogwarts Express – the iconic steam locomotive found at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We celebrated this major milestone with nearly two hundred park guests, and we thought you’d be interested in the photos resulting from this moment.

 

2103371323_HogwartsExpressMillionthRiderCelebration.thumb.jpg.3f72d3c8ab87c3b36d6a7dd574e47dc4.jpgCheers from guests filled the air at Hogsmeade Station today as Universal Orlando Resort celebrated its one millionth rider on the Hogwarts Express – the iconic train that transported Harry Potter and his friends between Hogsmeade Station and King’s Cross Station in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series. To celebrate this magical milestone, nearly two hundred guests were given complimentary Butterbeer ice-cream.

 

In early July, guests began boarding the Hogwarts Express to travel between The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. The incredible journey, which requires a park-to-park ticket, combines powerful storytelling, live special effects, lifelike animation and state-of-the-art technology to take riders on the journey of a lifetime.

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^If you search around, the list of houses has been quasi-leaked for a while now, This year is pretty IP heavy, if I remember.

 

Ya, I've seen that leaked list and what not, but it just seems like Hollywood and Orlando are going to be a little more similar this year around using many of the same IP's. Normally you'll only see one or two IP's at both parks simultaneously.

 

Even though the IP's are the same, the mazes are completely different.

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For sure. I kind of like seeing the similarity from park to park and still offering unique attractions as well.

 

I am one of the fans of the IP houses and am excited for this event.

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Anyone who's a fan of theme parks should be a fan of Haunts.

 

At Universal it's literally like they come up with 8 new park attractions and a new show every single year. Every house is at least as fun as Twister or Disaster, just so impressive what they put on with the budget. I can't freaking wait and now universal is now a half mile from my apartment.

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Finally got to see and experience Diagon Alley today and thought I'd leave a little TR. To be honest, I was planning on waiting until crowds died down before seeing this thing but after hearing crowds were low and the quality was high, I became a little more anxious to see it. This morning at the gym (literally down the street from the resort), a guy I was spotting happened to work at Universal and told me that crowds were a lot lower than expected and it would be worth checking out. So I finished up my workout, called a buddy of mine, and at around 3 o'clock we made it over to the parks to finally see what the hype was about.

 

Now, I'm not a Harry Potter fan by any means. I've seen a couple movies a longggg time ago and flipped through a few of the books but overall, most references to Harry Potter go right over my head. Therefore, my experience is going to be a lot different than that of a super fan. That being said, I was blown away upon walking into Diagon Alley. There is absolutely nothing inside that suggests you are in a theme park, or even Central Florida for that matter. Bar none, the most immersive theme park area I have ever stepped into. Walking from Universal into Diagon is like stepping into a whole other world, and vice versa…it's hard to believe Production Central and Diagon Alley are in the same park. It's incredible, the level of detail is amazing.

 

That being said, my lack of Potter knowledge made it so that most references were lost on me. While the initial impact of the land was cool, after about 15 minutes of exploring the luster had worn off. Here's the thing about Diagon…it's practically all shops. When people say they could spend a full day in Diagon, they mean shopping (and maybe doing that interactive wand game). If you're not one of Harry Potter's bigger fans, or don't have millions to blow on unique merchandise (which is admittedly cool), then you're at a disadvantage so to speak. Still, simply as a theme park fan, you can appreciate the level of detail and immersion that went into this place.

 

 

 

But we were there for rides. The Hogwarts Express (from King's Cross to Hogsmeade) has a phenomenal queue line…authenticity is brought to a whole new level here. I've been in very few actual train stations, but from what I do know, this one knocks it out of the park. Even the ads are realistic.

 

As for the actual ride…well, it left a lot to be desired. I had heard things like this would be the best themed ride experience ever, and that the in-cabin effects were amazing, etc. etc. Overall, I was not impressed. Not a whole lot goes on, and the only "effects" (SPOILER) are a few flickering lights and some outlines of dementors on the windows (END SPOILER). And it's over in about two seconds. Not enough happens to classify this as a true "attraction" to me. While I thought this would be a legitimate destination attraction, it's nothing more than a transport with a movie playing in the windows. I really wish there would be more going on, but I understand that to keep the illusion, there's only so much they could do. While I still do think the effects could've been more impressive, I can't fault a simple train ride for getting my expectations too high.

 

 

 

Gringott's is a COMPLETELY different story. I wasn't sure what to expect from this bad boy. While the pre-opening hype was obviously insane, reviews I had heard since opening seemed underwhelmed. That said, I avoided all spoilers and had absolutely no idea what to expect when strapping in after a little less than two hours of waiting in one of the most elaborate, fantastic, attraction-worthy queues I've ever been in.

 

All I can say is wow. I laughed. I jumped. I yelled. This ride is just balls-to-the-wall fun. I was blown away by the technology behind this thing. While it's definitely not a roller coaster, it does have (SPOILERS) surprising moments of acceleration/speed and a funky tilt section followed by a pretty butterfly-inducing drop (END SPOILERS), and they make for such a fun experience that really sets it apart from similar 3-D experiences. Speaking of 3-D, I was pleasantly surprised by its implementation here. It wasn't overbearing like some of Universal's latest additions. There were several full-fledged, awe-inspiring physical sets throughout the ride, with screens not only being seamless, but only used when absolutely necessary to add to the experience. I mean, this is literally everything you can ask for in a ride…some speed, some amazing effects, 3-D, physical sets, and a boatload of fun. If there's one negative thing I had to say, it's that the story/progression of events is a little unclear, but I'm sure one more spin on it where I'm not in complete awe over the sheer aesthetics of the ride would clear that up. Seriously, this is one amazing ride.

 

 

 

Now, the place isn't perfect. Aside from the train, I was underwhelmed by the theming of Diagon Alley itself. While it is by all means highly detailed and immersive, it doesn't do too much for those who aren't fans of the series. I'm not a mega-fan of the Cars franchise, but I could spend such a long time admiring the rock work of Cars Land in DCA. In Diagon on the other hand, there's no big general theme to enjoy…almost everything is Potter-specific. The dragon is cool to look at, and the architecture is wonderfully wonky, but most of the stuff that really makes the place pop is stuff people who don't know Harry Potter can't appreciate as much. At least, that's how I felt. Also, the queue line for Gringott's is a mess after the elevator portion….that's a TERRIBLE cluster**** of people that needs to be fixed and controlled better as soon as possible. Other than that, I can't complain.

 

Overall, I was very impressed with Diagon Alley. While I don't see the need to wait in line for the Hogwarts Express ever again, and I feel that maximum enjoyment of the area comes with a large knowledge of Potter (unfortunately), the Gringott's ride and level of detail in the area more than make up for its over reliance on super fan geekdom. The level of immersion is unprecedented and the Gringott's experience delivered everything I could've ever hoped for in a ride of its scale. I can't recommend this enough, but I'm still hesitant to because I'm very much hoping for low-crowd days in about a month Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures, but the place has my glowing testimony. If anyone has any specific questions, please feel free to ask, I really scoured the place!

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Hi,

 

I can't recommend this enough, but I'm still hesitant to because I'm very much hoping for low-crowd days in about a month

 

We are flying to Orlando exactly ......1 month from now.

So believe me: we are hoping the same thing

 

Really looking forward to Gringott's.....

 

Paul

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Since it's just a little over one month after the opening of Diagon Alley, I thought I'd go down to Universal for a couple of hours today and check out what the area looked like. We've been on our tours for the past few weeks so I haven't really heard much about what was happening over there, other than people have said Diagon wasn't nearly as busy as the first summer of the original Wizarding World. No idea if this is on par with expectations or not, but here were my observations from being at the park around 2pm for a couple of hours today:

 

- The entrance to Diagon was wide open, no need to wait in line or anything to get into the area like it was on opening week.

 

- There were still plenty of people in Diagon Alley. It was "busy", but not "packed."

 

- Line for Gringotts was down to 105 minutes. Single rider line (which I waited in) was 35 minutes.

 

- From what I could tell they were running either 4 or 5 trains on Gringotts (2 cars per train) and the single rider line was moving really quickly!

 

- Now that I've been on Gringotts a couple of times, I have to say (and credit whores you aren't going to want to hear this), but I just can't count it as a "roller coaster." It has one drop about the size of Pirates of the Caribbean, a small S-curve after the drop, then the rest is all dark ride powered by drive tires. Obviously there will be some people that will count it, and I wouldn't argue it that much, but when 90% of a ride is not a roller coaster, I just cannot count it as one.

 

- Line for everything but the ride were non-existent. Lots of people in the shops, taking pictures of the details, but there didn't seem to be a lot of people buying stuff. It was interesting that looking around, you didn't see a lot of people carrying bags full of merchandise. (Maybe a lot of people are just getting stuff sent to their hotel or to the front of the park?)

 

- If you wanted a Butterbeer, you could pretty much walk right up and get one. Which is a huge change from the original Wizarding World where I remember lines were HUGE for this. I guess it's a good thing they've solved those capacity issues?

 

- Street entertainment and the Dragon Fire drew a huge crowd! People seem to love these touches!

 

- Overall, it does seem like the "craziness" is over and you can actually walk around the area pretty well and the wait time for Gringotts was at least reasonable for a brand new, major attraction. If you're a local, or just waiting for things to die down a bit before you visit, now seems like a great time to check it out!

 

Here's some photos....

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Walking towards Diagon Alley, I spotted this sign. I can't believe how many times I've walked around Universal and never spotted this blatant typo!!!

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Fixed!!!

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First thing I noticed walking up to Diagon Alley is that the entrance to the area seemed pretty light on people. I think this is a good thing as at least it seems more manageable now to visit. It was also around 2pm so I also assume that many people probably came here first thing in the morning?

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The streets inside Diagon still had plenty of people, but it was nice to be able to walk around now and not have it be wall-to-wall people.

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There was virtually no line for a Butterbeer if you wanted one. Nice to see they fixed the capacity issues from the opening season of the original Wizarding World.

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Entertainment still drawing quite a crowd! The street acts they have in the area are quite good!

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You could walk right up and get an elixir!

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It was interesting that the shops didn't seem very crowded today.

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And this was another one of the food locations, no waiting.

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Even the wand shop didn't have much of a line. Again, I'm not sure if it's because people have seen it before from the original Wizarding World or they've just done a very good job with capacity in this new area. Either way, if you want a want, go get one!

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What a contrast from our opening week report! You couldn't even see the street at all!

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I still think that Knockturn Alley might be a little "too hidden" as every time I go back here, there has not been anyone there. Even during the busy days, most guests seem to have missed it. But I guess that's kind of the idea?

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Again, another shop with not may people in them. I'm not a "Potter Person" so I'm not sure if maybe the merchandise isn't what people want? I'm not sure. Potter people! What are your thoughts?

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Another empty street leading into Knockturn Alley. I think they need to let more people know this area exists! lol

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I was just looking back at our photos from the opening week, and it's crazy to think that only a month ago, this place was JAM PACKED!!! So nice to see the crowds have lightened up so you can actually enjoy it!

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Wait time for Gringotts is much more manageable now! I hear it's still getting up to 200 - 240 on the weekends, but today (Monday afternoon), it seemed very reasonable for a brand new, major attractions!

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Another look at the streets of Diagon. Such an amazing looking area!

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It's kind of funny to see that everyone is just wandering around, but then the moment you hear the dragon about to go off...

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people flock to it!!! Get your cameras ready! =)

 

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But then seconds later after the dragon fire, the streets looks like this again!

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I will say that there was a lot of extra queue set up that wasn't being used today. Saw this a few places.

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And again, interesting to see that people don't seem to be buying much stuff. The wand shop was really the only store I saw people at the register.

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There were lots of people in the shops taking photos of all the gorgeous details...

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...but empty cashiers.

They did have people on the streets letting people know that lines inside the shops were short and telling them they should go in:

[vine]

[/vine]

 

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Leaky Cauldron was busy, but not packed. (it was also around 2:30pm by this time so not a peak time for lunch.)

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And I can't help but to notice that the one observation that stood out during my visit today is that you don't see people with merchandise bags. Maybe a lot of people are just getting stuff sent to their hotel or to the front of the park?

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I thought I remembered at the original Wizarding World that people were buying LOTS of stuff in the shops...

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...and in Diagon Alley, I feel they've done an even better job with the stores (we've even bought more stuff here than we did in the original Wizarding World) but is the merchandise not resonating with people? Potter people! What are your thoughts on this?

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Single rider line for Gringotts opened up and absolutely I got in it!

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Here was a look at the regular queue. I still haven't stood in it yet. At some point, though, I will!

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Single rider line went pretty quickly. 35 minutes and it started a little before you picked up the glasses.

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Was nice to see them loading BOTH stations today!

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From what I can tell they were running at least 4 trains (2 cars each), possibly 5.

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It's a *GREAT* dark ride! I'm not even that into Harry Potter and I like it much more than Forbidden Journey mainly because I can at least follow the story better. I still don't know who all the characters are, but there is at least a story. I have to admit, though, I don't consider this ride a "roller coaster" enough to count it as a "credit" or anything. It's got some fast parts in it, and one small drop (think Pirates of the Caribbean), but it's mostly a dark ride, and a good one at that!

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Again, it was really nice to see the craziness of Diagon Alley has settled down a bit, and if you're thinking about going to check it out, now is probably a good time! Especially during the week.

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As for the rest of the park, it most certainly wasn't a dead day. Transformers was still posted at a 60 minute wait.

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Despicable Me was at 80. Things should continue to slow down over the next few weeks as more schools go back into session. Thanks for reading!

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Edited by robbalvey
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I hadn't really paid too much attention to this around the time it first opened...that is some amazing theming!

 

If my Labor Day plans fall through due to a business trip, I might just think about going down to Orlando for their Halloween event in October...and of course, the food and wine festival at Epcot.

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Here is my thoughts on the crowds at Diagon Alley.

 

First off, FL Residents and Power Passholders were blocked this past month. They weren't when Hogsmeade opened back in 2010.

Also, it seems that Universal hyped Hogsmeade more than they did for Diagon Alley. Some people are confused on the whole Hogwarts Express thing. Some people don't even know that Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are at 2 separate parks!

 

As for merchandise, I personally think everything in Diagon Alley is overpriced. A lot of things people want but everything is really expensive. I believe that Universal also did a great job on making purchases easier and crowd-prepared. The Butterbeer area is a lot more efficient than the station in Hogsmeade. In Diagon Alley, there are many places/stands/machines with Butterbeer. In Hogsmeade, the big jug of Butterbeer has only one machine to work with.

 

As for popularity, I feel people want to experience Diagon Alley...but they feel like they just experienced Hogsmeade a few years ago. They will take their time coming back to experience Diagon Alley.

 

Finally, HARRY POTTER'S LAST MOVIE WAS IN 2011! The series is losing its popularity!! It is 2014...3 years after the last movie. While in 2010, the Deathly Hallows didn't even come out yet until late 2010. People were excited for the last movies which built excitement for the land. 3 years after the movies, the popularity has dropped in the franchise.

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First off, FL Residents and Power Passholders were blocked this past month. They weren't when Hogsmeade opened back in 2010.

I thought they removed that block two weeks early? Or did I read something wrong?

 

EDIT - Found it!

 

https://www.universalorlando.com/Theme-Park-Tickets/Annual-Passes/2014-Power-Blockout-Dates.aspx

"UPDATE:

August 1- August 14 blockout dates have been lifted."

Edited by robbalvey
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^ To be fair, I've never thought that Disney and Universal are really competition for each other. I think each resort, while there is some crossover, pulls a very different demographic. The same way that in Las Vegas, Excalibur and Bellagio pull a very different demographic. Sure, they are both resorts in the same town, but the people that go to each are there for different reasons, and while there is some crossover, I doubt your average Excalibur guest is spending much time at Bellagio, or vice versa.

Edited by robbalvey
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^These are great comparisons, which is also why I thought it was ridiculous that people were trying to say that this new Potter expansion (or anything that Universal does for that matter) was going to have a major impact on Disney's attendance.

Edited by ernierocker
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^These are great comparisons, which is also why I thought it was ridiculous that people were trying to say that this new Potter expansion (or anything that Universal does for that matter) was going to have a major impact on Disney's attendance.

Exactly. If anything, the new Potter expansion should have a major impact on UNIVERSAL'S attendance, which is the goal.

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The lines for Gringotts are still 200+ minutes on weekends. Are we really being so quick to judge that it's not crowded there? That's 3 hours for a pretty efficient ride system!

 

Hogwarts Express has been eating people...well...it has a capacity of 3000+ per hour! What's to be expected?

 

The wait time for Ollivanders (to pick a shop) has decreased...well...there are now 4 showrooms, instead of the single 1 available at Hogsmeade opening.

 

And about Butterbeer...The number of resort-wide outdoor registers selling a product which is no longer brand new has risen from 2 in June 2010 to 7 including hogsmeade. And that leaves out the Fountain of Fair Fortune or the restaurants. So yes, even with steady demand (unlikely) the wait times should decrease dramatically.

 

I think that any sentence judging the crowds or merchandise sales for Brand New Diagon Alley+Hogsmeade vs Brand New Hogsmeade need to be taken with a big grain of salt. I'm sure if Minion Mayhem added a second showroom the waits would probably become half as big overnight! And Diagon Alley not only doubles the capacity of Harry Potter, in many ways it triples it.

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Finally, HARRY POTTER'S LAST MOVIE WAS IN 2011! The series is losing its popularity!! It is 2014...3 years after the last movie. While in 2010, the Deathly Hallows didn't even come out yet until late 2010. People were excited for the last movies which built excitement for the land. 3 years after the movies, the popularity has dropped in the franchise.

 

It just seems like Universal overestimated the popularity/demand. It probably didn't help anything that they jacked up prices AND forced people to buy the park-to-park tickets to experience HE. I think the lack of substantial lines for HE even right after opening is proof enough of that.

 

I know for me personally, most of Universal's attractions don't really appeal to me (much more into coasters than 3D rides). So that being said, knowing that Gringott's isn't really a coaster means that I really have no reason to head back to Universal anytime soon. Transformers to me was a bitter disappointment (Spider-Man is a much better ride IMHO), and none of the coasters are really *that* great to justify the absurd ticket prices. I'm not a HP nut, and honestly even if I was, I don't know that there's enough to do besides just walk around & look at the scenery to make me want to visit Universal again anytime soon.

 

I'll go back at some point, but it'll probably take a few years (and new attractions) before I'll schedule the trip.

 

 

 

On the other hand, maybe people are just waiting till next summer because they didn't want to get stuck in the ridiculous opening summer crowds like when Hogsmeade opened?

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Thanks for the report, Robb. Glad to see crowds are easing up a bit, heading there later in the year so hopefully the queues stay manageable.

 

I have heard that mid-afternoon is when Diagon Alley starts to slow down a bit - I guess everyone rushes there first and they're mostly done by about lunchtime.

 

On the merchandise, maybe there's just too much of it, and the films aren't as fresh in people's minds anymore? It looks like a lot of the product is targeted at the Harry Potter superfans, possibly a little too niche or expensive for a GP's souvenir budget.

 

I kind of like that Knockturn Alley isn't all that busy - seems like somewhere you might "accidentally" come across if you didn't know it was there, which is consistent with the story. This whole part of the park seems like a giant walkthrough attraction in itself.

 

Did you see anyone using the RFID-enabled wands? I'm curious to know how popular that has been.

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