Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Now at Islands of Adventure Only

Universal Orlando Early Park Admission IOA
Universal Orlando Early Park Admission policies have changed once again. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

Welcome back to the never-ending saga of Universal Orlando Early Park Admission procedures. As of January 20, 2015, Universal has yet again adjusted the popular perk offered to their on-site hotel guests. Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which allows eligible guests into the resort’s most popular area one hour before the general public, is now restricted to only Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure.

A quick recap: IOA offered early entry hours from the time the first Harry Potter land opened in 2010 until last year. Once Diagon Alley opened last summer, both parks opened for early park admission until the summer season ended, at which point only Universal Studios Florida was opened. This made sense, as most guests are primarily interested in the new Diagon Alley, and early park admission was the best time by far to experience Escape from Gringotts without a lengthy wait.

Now, and until further notice, only IOA will open early, somewhat reducing the value of early park admission. On the flip side, day guests now have a fairer shot of riding Gringotts with a short wait at rope drop, though for now we still recommend saving it for the afternoon. Universal is scheduled to return to 2-park early entry for January 30 through February 1 (during the Celebration of Harry Potter event), then return to IOA-only early entry on February 2.

The Hogwarts Express opens the queue at Hogsmeade Station at 8:15 a.m. (or 15 minutes after early park admission begins) and dispatches the first train to Universal Studios Florida at 8:30 a.m. (30 minutes before USF officially opens). Guests arriving from IOA will be allowed into Diagon Alley at around the same time as guests entering from USF’s front gates, and Gringotts will not start running until the park officially opens.

We will continue to monitor wait times and adjust our premium Universal Orlando touring plans if this new policy greatly affects crowd patterns. Keep an eye on this blog and our newly updated comprehensive Early Park Admission information page for further updates.

 

 

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.

10 thoughts on “Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Now at Islands of Adventure Only

  • January 23, 2015 at 4:55 pm
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    What???!!! This makes no sense. I’ve been planning our family’s visit to Universal and this is making me seriously consider cancelling those plans. The one-hour early access to see Harry Potter was, for us, the entire point of staying on property. Skip the lines is nice, but so many people buy the upgrade to skip the lines that it’s often not valuable. But to completely eliminate on site guests’ ability to get into Harry Potter an hour early… I’m just incredulous. There is no way that this makes sense. Someone please explain to me how this is a good idea.

    • January 23, 2015 at 9:38 pm
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      I don’t think it makes sense either, but I have some advice! We are going in May and right now Universal has a promo that no matter what hotel you choose from their site (even offsite hotels) you get the early entry! I think it was a 3 night stay with 3 day park tickets at like the Ramada or something for less than $600 for two people. Hope this helps! Also, when I was there last December we did not get the early entry because we went on the way home from visiting family but we only waited maybe 15 minutes for the forbidden journey in Hogsmead.

    • January 24, 2015 at 7:25 am
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      Erik, those are my thoughts exactly. Universal was getting a lot of my vacation dollars by requiring an on-property 2-night stay in order for us to enjoy one hour early entry at each Harry Potter land. Now I’m thinking of scrapping the whole thing and just staying longer at WDW! I can’t see how this will be good for Universal’s business. Ridiculous!!

  • January 23, 2015 at 5:28 pm
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    I suppose I don’t have a problem with them only having one park open early a day, but I think it would make sense for the attraction that’s been open less than year to open early, not the one that’s been around for 5 years. I’d prefer a DL/DCA approach, where the early entry alternated between the parks.

  • January 23, 2015 at 6:07 pm
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    This was quite an annoyance for me as well, not because of Diagon Alley but rather I had hoped to use early entry to avoid a long wait at Despicable Me. I wasn’t sure whether it would help me to ride the HEx from IOA and then try to beat the USF front-gate guests to Despicable Me. In the end I decided to just wait with everybody else outside the USF turnstiles, which required getting there at 8:30 a.m. (By 9:15 a.m. on January 22, for example, the wait for Despicable Me was 50 minutes.) I had spent a lot of time and effort putting together a weeklong stay at CBBR, only to find that the much-vaunted early entry was essentially worthless.

  • January 24, 2015 at 7:37 am
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    How frustrating! That remarkably diminishes the value of staying on the resort for our upcoming trip.

  • January 24, 2015 at 8:12 am
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    Also planning a trip here this summer. I haven’t been since the Wizarding World was built but wondering if this strategy could work if you had a 2 day park to park ticket: first morning- use your early entry for IOA as usual to enjoy the Wizarding world. 2nd morning: enter the wizzarding world through IOA with other early entry guests but instead of riding the rides there hop in line (at 8:15 or whenever the que opens) for the Hogwarts Express to arrive in Universal Studios Diagonal Alley and hopefully be among the first to enter and get in line to ride Gringotts. What do you all think? Would arrival by Hogwarts Express get you in any faster than those walking via the main entrance of US or would that actually be a slower method?

    • January 24, 2015 at 9:05 pm
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      I was considering this strategy too and was wondering how well it would work

  • January 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm
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    This has changed my touring plan but it doesn’t matter much. I’ll just start with Gringotts. Curious to know why you wouldn’t recommend riding Grigotts at rope drop?

  • January 29, 2015 at 11:36 pm
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    So confused! Planning a trip for perhaps busiest days of the year–April 3-4. Staying on-site, got express, early hours, etc. Also have a Potter crazy child (and adult). Was working with the TwoDay Two Park Touring Plans and they did NOT suggest getting there early–Universal web site is saying both days are OPeNInG at 8 am already! So should we be there at 7 am or go with the touring plans that suggest 8 am? (I had input correctly.) Advice please! 🙂

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