After little over two and a half years since the Jaws attraction closed on January 2nd 2012 in Universal Studios Florida, Diagon Alley finally became the most realistic ‘imaginary world on earth’ yesterday (July 8th 2014).

Universal had planned the launch well it seems, despite the incredible pressures of crunching a major $256m construction project into a seemingly ludicrous and ambitious timeframe.
Just like their wizard heroes, they did the impossible.
Admittedly, the all important press launch could have gone better, as the one and only DIagon Alley ride did suffer bouts of major downtime, with journalists repeatedly being escorted off the ride.
But Universal seemed undeterred, and even confident that the most important date of all would run smoothly on those rather magical and very expensive Gringott rails.

During the official opening to the public, the Escape From Gringotts ride behaved rather well despite one chunky outage of 45 minutes, but the crowds were not bothered in the least it seems, as line waits went up to a whopping first day record of a ‘leg numbing’ 450 minutes!
(yes, that is 7 hours 30 minutes just in case you think that was a typo!).

300x200 total_ad1As crowds gathered to enter, the entrance to Diagon Alley was indeed thronging with muggles, as the early morning Florida sunshine broke its way into the sky above CityWalk.
Picking a Wednesday launch, and opening the parking lots at 5am paid off well as the park operational team desperately sought to avoid the gridlocking that plagued Citywalk during the 2010 Hogsmeade opening in Islands of Adventure.
Sure, guests raced past the final staging point of four ropes yesterday, as they entered Diagon Alley after the brief 8am opening ceremony.
A few muggles and their flip flops parted company in the opening moments, but overall it was a cheery and well mannered launch for the latest section of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
As Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes joke shop kind of ‘grid locked’ and the Leaky Cauldron lunchtime line wait reached right back until 3pm, it was crystal clear that the swathe of guest numbers simply didn’t care.  They were just glad to be part of the moment!

 

Diagon Alley Crowd Predictions for 2014/2015

How the crowds pan out of the next 12 months is literally no more than a guess right now, but it is very safe to assume that both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are going to jump up in popularity.
Based on the effect of the Hogsmeade area inside Islands of Adventure in 2010, we ourselves feel that visitors could jump by an additional 2,000,000 guests per year.
If that number sounds big, and means very little; it might sound better in terms of an extra 5,500 guests per day moving around in the  parks.
If that still doesn’t make too much of an impact on you, perhaps dividing that number over the 10 main restaurants and fast food spots will help;  as each and every dining venue could see an additional 500 guests pop in for lunch!

Before we work out how crowd levels will improve, we thought we’d look at some important points to consider;

  • Diagon Alley is currently swarming with theme park bloggers and journalists and that should reduce rapidly over the summer.
  • Devout Harry Potter fans and bloggers are also in the frame over the summer as they rush to be first to share their passion and devotion through their blogs and social media.
  • Schools out for summer across the USA until mid August so the parks will always be busy.
  • School will soon be out for summer in the UK until early September adding another quarter of a million or so guests each summer.
  • Many local residents wont’ be visiting Diagon Alley as their annual passes have blockout dates until August 15th 2014.
  • Many US guests will choose to steer clear of Universal if they can, and will return later in the year or some time next year in the hope of shorter lines.
  • September, early December and January are the traditional quiet months in Orlando
  • Halloween, Thanksgiving and especially the Christmas Holidays will probably be crazy.
  • As word gets out about Diagon Alley, and photos and videos are posted online, awareness of the fun that’s available will increase, drawing more visitor than usual to Diagon Alley and Orlando.
  • It’s taken over 3 years for Hogsmeade crowds to reach what could be described as ‘regular park crowd levels’

So, what about that all important question; When will those crowds fade at Diagon Alley?
The short answer is probably 2016/2017!
(Except for a few reasonable ‘spells’ scattered in September, early December and January of any given year.)

If the crowds really bother you, then enjoy the rest of the park as best you can and prepare yourselves to dip in and out of Diagon Alley if the opportunity looks right.
Don’t forget that Islands of Adventure is connected by the Hogwarts Express, so a busy Universal Studios almost certainly means a busy sister park.

Our advice is that guests should mentally prepare themselves for a busy few years, and that its worth slowing your park visit shcedule right down when you Diagon Alley for some fun!
It’s going to be busy, with long line waits, but definitely worthwhile!

Check out our Diagon Alley Quick Guide Blog Post