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Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Changes Starting September 2 [UPDATED 8/30/14]

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Early Park Admission Sign
Big changes are coming in September to Universal Orlando’s Early Park Admission perk (Photo by Seth Kubersky)

As the summer season comes to a close, we’ve gotten word of some upcoming changes to Universal Orlando Early Park Admission policies that are scheduled to go into effect early next month.

While no details have been officially announced, we’ve confirmed this information with guest service leads at both parks, and we believe the following modifications will be made to Universal Orlando’s early park admission perk (otherwise known as “early entry” or “early admission”) offered to guests at the resort’s four on-site hotels.

We will be on hand to report on the new procedures, and we will update the information on our Early Park Admission page as policy changes develop.

[Note: Universal Orlando has recently confirmed an update to the off-season early entry, see below for bolded changes]

Early Park Admission General Information

Universal Orlando offers admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas at Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade) and/or Universal Studios Florida (Diagon Alley) one hour before regular park opening. This perk is given for free to all guests staying at a Universal Resort Hotel. Guests with certain types of “vacation packages” (most commonly sold by Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations and involving both accommodations at a Universal partner hotel and theme park admission) are also allowed in early.

The turnstiles to the park(s) participating in early entry should open approximately 90 minutes before the official opening time. Both hotel and day guests will be admitted to the park, and each eligible guest will need to show his or her own room key to pass beyond the park’s entry plaza during the early admission hour. Guests not eligible for early admission will be held in an alternative area to await the official opening time.

During early park admission, all of the attractions, shops, and restaurants in the Wizarding World should be open, along with a couple of select attractions outside the Harry Potter areas. Early entry is by far the best time to ride Escape from Gringotts without waiting over an hour in the standby queue. However, if the attraction is not operational when early entry begins, skip Gringotts and try again late in the day; by the time it begins running in the morning, there will be a huge backlog of riders.

Peak Season Early Park Admission

During busier times of the year, Universal offers early park admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas at both Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade) and Universal Studios Florida (Diagon Alley) on every morning. Universal only guarantees early admission to one park per day, but both were open daily through Summer 2014.

The following attractions should be available when both parks are open for early entry:

Universal Studios Florida

Islands of Adventure

The Hogwarts Express is available during early entry for transport between the parks, and it requires a park-to-park ticket. When both parks open at the same time, the Hogwarts Express will begin running when early entry starts. When one park opens later than the other, the train will not begin operating until the front gate of the second park has opened, approximately 30 minutes before its early entry hour begins. Therefore, if USF opens second, the first wave of guests entering that park from the front gate will always arrive at Diagon Alley and Gringotts ahead of those traveling from IoA on the first train.


Off-Peak Early Park Admission

Effective Tuesday, September 2, 2014, only Universal Studios Florida (and not Islands of Adventure) will admit eligible guests for early park admission during the off season. Despicable Me and the Diagon Alley attractions will be open at USF during early entry.

The Hogwarts Express train from King’s Cross Station will not begin running to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure until both parks have officially opened for the day.

There is no announced date as to when the “off season” for early park admission will end, but it seems safe to assume that two-park early entry may return for the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

Annual Passholders

During certain times of year, Universal Orlando has historically allowed its Annual Passholders to enjoy some form of Early Park Admission. In September of 2014, Annual Passholders can enter Universal Studios Florida early on weekdays only. Check Universal’s Annual Passholder website for current promotions.

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Seth Kubersky

Author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. Co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and Beyond Disney. Contributor to Unofficial Guides to WDW and Las Vegas. Live Active Cultures columnist for the Orlando Weekly. Travel and arts journalist. Theatrical director and producer.

13 thoughts on “Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Changes Starting September 2 [UPDATED 8/30/14]

  • This is a bummer, the early entry to both Parks Harry Potter areas was one of the main reasons I booked a Universal hotel stay for 2 nights in October. The plan was to hit the early entry at IOA one day and Universal studios the other. I guess the plans will be changing.

    • Me too. I was going to have us stay 4 nights so we could do each park morning twice. But if I’m not getting early entry into IOA then I will just stay for two nights. I hope this hits Hotel profits – maybe then they’ll realise taking what limited benefits there are away is bad business

  • Universal is crippling it’s on-site hotels biggest perk. If they say “Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” it should be for the whole Wizarding World, not only half of it.

  • We are going in late October and I called this morning and was able to get a breakfast reservation at Three Broomsticks at 8:30. What time should we arrive since the park won’t open until 9:00?

    • That is very interesting! It seems like different departments have conflicting ideas about what is happening. I will investigate next time I’m at the park.

  • Will this change the touring plan for the off site guests for IOA. Would you recommend heading to hogsmeade right away or sticking with the published touring plans that have you heading to the hulk and other attractions first?

    • I would also like to know what the updated touring plan will be for IoA. Should we go to Hogsmeade first?

    • For now we’re keeping the touring plan the same, on the principle that most guests will run to Potter first, leaving Marvel empty. But I will be out there next week to retest all our touring plans and update accordingly.

      • Looking forward to your findings!

      • I too am interested in off-peak touring plan changes for off site guests. We will be there end of October, visiting both parks in one day. Obviously the whole Harry Potter section is pretty high importance, but want to compare it with the touring plan.

  • Hi – so during off peak times, once you have taken the Hogwartts Express over to IOA, will there be any attractions open? or can you just get the train at the end of the early entry hour?


    • All the IoA Potter attractions should be open once you take the train there.
      [Edit: the latest info is that IoA will NOT be open at all during early entry. Sorry for any confusion…]

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