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    Universal Orlando Rope Drop

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What to Expect when you Arrive at the Parks (Rope Drop)

Because most touring plans are based on being present when the theme park opens, you need to know about opening procedures. Universal Orlando’s on-site resort transportation to the parks via buses and water taxis begins 2 hours before official opening, or 1 hour before Early Park Admission (see page 65). Guests staying on-site during peak periods will want to catch the first ride of the morning (or start walking around the time it leaves) to be the first into The Wizarding World during the early-entry period. Off-season visitors should arrive at the gates 15–30 minutes before Early Park Admission (EPA) begins.

The parking garage also opens 2 hours before official opening, but on days of exceptional attendance (like the grand opening of a new attraction), the garage has opened as early as 3 a.m. If you are driving to the resort and aren’t eligible for EPA, plan to arrive at the Universal parking garage 45–60 minutes prior to official opening. If you need to purchase park admission, add another 15 minutes to that. It takes approximately 10–15 minutes to walk from the parking garage to the parks’ entrance turnstiles, so you should arrive at the turnstiles 30–45 minutes before the park opens.

Lines tend to be evenly distributed at each turnstile. If you see a shorter line, however, get in it, especially if portable ticket scanners (which are usually faster than the fixed turnstiles) have been set up in front of the center gate.

Universal’s turnstiles use biometric scanners that record a grid of intersecting points on your finger (not a fingerprint), for guests age 10 and older only, when using your ticket for the first time. Be sure to remember which finger you use to speed reentry. The scanners are wiped clean between each guest, but you may also request to show a photo ID instead. You’ll also be asked to sign your pass, so you don’t mix it up with those of other family members. Universal’s finger scanners aren’t nearly as efficient as the ones Disney uses, so be prepared for slowdowns at entry, as this Orchard Park, New York, family found:

The finger scanning going into the park and at Hogwarts Express did not work well. It randomly did not work for some in our party—very annoying and time-consuming.

Rope Drop at Universal Studios Florida

USF team members select a “first family” from the early risers at the turnstiles each morning and usher them in a few minutes early to open the park with an old-fashioned movie clapboard. It’s no Magic Kingdom character welcome, but it’s a cute moment worth catching if you can.

Once the gates open, there is no mad dash for Diagon Alley, nor is a literal rope dropped. When USF’s turnstiles open for EPA, resort guests walk straight toward Revenge of the Mummy and are escorted to The Wizarding World via San Francisco. Day guests are restricted to the front of the park, where Despicable Me Minion Mayhem opens to all guests 10–15 minutes before the official opening.

On days when USF does not officially offer EPA, the gates may still open up to 15 minutes before opening, with Despicable Me typically running for all early guests. Guests can enter the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts queue before official opening, but the ride may not begin running until park opening (or a few minutes before) on non-EPA mornings.

Most of the crowd will head for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Gringotts ride, which usually sees its longest waits between opening and early afternoon. Despicable Me, located a short distance past the entrance, also attracts large crowds, as do Transformers: The Ride 3-D and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. A smaller number of visitors will head for The Simpsons Ride or Revenge of the Mummy, but these attractions usually don’t get crowded until an hour or two after the park has opened.

Rope Drop at Islands of Adventure

IOA’s gates may open up to 15 minutes before the official opening time on days when EPA is not offered. Guests headed to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Hogsmeade are held at the bridge to Seuss Landing until 10 minutes before opening, while the remaining guests are sent to Marvel Super Hero Island, where they will be held near Cafe 4 until opening time. Once released into the park, most guests turn counterclockwise through Seuss Landing and make a beeline for Hogsmeade as soon as the park is open. A smaller number of guests will head clockwise for The Incredible Hulk Coaster (which may allow guests to ride a few minutes before the official opening time) and then continue through Toon Lagoon to Skull Island.

When EPA is offered at IOA, eligible guests may visit Marvel Super Hero Island, but most head straight to Hogsmeade as soon as the gates open. Guests without EPA privileges can still enter early but will be held in the Port of Entry and Seuss Landing. If IOA officially opens an hour after USF, only guests eligible for EPA may ride the Hogwarts Express during IOA’s early-entry hour.

Unless you have early entry, our advice is to see The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Reign of Kong first and save The Wizarding World until later in the day. Note that when one park opens before the other, guests arriving on the first Hogwarts Express train will reach the opposite Wizarding World at the same time or slightly after those entering from the front gates; therefore, you can’t use the train to beat the crowds to Hagrid’s. And when EPA hour concludes, guests already inside Hogsmeade have the advantage in queuing for the Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Reign of Kong, reaching Skull Island via Jurassic Park a few moments before the general public is released from the Marvel area.

Rope Drop at Volcano Bay

Arrival for Volcano Bay visitors is complicated by the fact that there is no parking at the water park itself, so all guests must be bused in from the main parking garage or resorts. Guests begin arriving at the turnstiles up to an hour before the park opens, but distribution of the mandatory TapuTapu wristbands doesn’t begin until moments before early entry starts. Once it does, hotel guests and off-site visitors alike are allowed in, with those eligible for EPA funneled to the left for admittance to the attractions. Day guests are herded to the right, where they may rent lockers and purchase food while awaiting their release into the rest of the park, which may happen up to 30 minutes before official opening. Upon entering, most bolt for the lockers and beach chairs, with all the prime spots around the wave pool usually snapped up within an hour of opening. Long lines for guests trying to rent cabanas also immediately form at the concierge hut closest to the entrance. All slides start the day with “Ride Now” status, but queues can build swiftly, and Virtual Line waits for popular slides may exceed an hour by 11 a.m.

Last updated on February 1, 2021

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