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
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Ollivanders Wand Shop (Diagon Alley)
- Hogwarts Express (King’s Cross Station)
- Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
Islands of Adventure
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Dragon Challenge
- Ollivanders Wand Shop (Hogsmeade)
- Hogwarts Express (Hogsmeade Station)
- The Cat in the Hat
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.
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.