Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby robbalvey » Mon Aug 11, 2014 3:38 pm

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:


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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!
Last edited by robbalvey on Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:01 am.

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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby Philrad71 » Mon Aug 11, 2014 3:47 pm

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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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby chargersmichael » Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:42 pm

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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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby Erik Johnson » Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:43 pm

One think that I really like about Daigon Alley is much of the new area is covered. It certainly is a good way to get out from under the hot Florida sun...especially in Knockturn Alley.
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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby robbalvey » Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:53 pm

chargersmichael wrote: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."
Last edited by robbalvey on Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:54 pm.

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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby ernierocker » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:01 pm

^Wow. Kind of makes you wonder if Universal is scrambling a little if they are lifting local and annual pass block out dates during peak summer season. I think we can end all of the "Disney Killer" talk now.
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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby robbalvey » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:05 pm

^ 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.
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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby ernierocker » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:26 pm

^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.
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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby robbalvey » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:28 pm

ernierocker wrote:^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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Re: Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

Postby BlahBlahson » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:32 pm

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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