The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is by far the most exciting thing to happen to Orlando's theme parks over the last few years. With its tremendous attention to detail and one-of-a-kind experiences, the Wizarding World is as busy now as when it first opened. Perhaps Disney's upcoming Fantasyland expansion will finally overshadow the boy wizard, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you are planning a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter during the busy Spring Break periods or summer months, you will absolutely want to consider getting Early Park Admission.
Why do I need Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World?
I can quickly answer this question with the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzuxrRLFfx8
How does Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World work?
Guests with Early Park Admission (EPA) get to enter Islands of Adventure an hour before the park opens to the general public. For most of the year, this means EPA guests get in at 8:00 am and everyone else get in at 9:00 am. During very busy times, it shifts up an hour, and guests with EPA get in at 7:00 am while everyone else gets in at 8:00 am.
During Early Park Admission, only the attractions inside the Wizarding World are open (and occasionally Cat In The Hat at Seuss Landing).
How do I get Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World?
Right now there are only two ways to get Early Park Admission. The first way is to stay on-site at one of Universal's three on-site hotels: Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay Hotel. All guests staying on-site, regardless of how they booked their rooms, get Early Park Admission as a on-site benefit. (There are other benefits as well, such as unlimited Express Ride access, resort-wide charging privileges, and more. You can learn about them, and view over 700 full-screen images of the resorts, by visiting the On-site Hotels section of the OI Universal Center).
The second way to secure Early Park Admission is to book a Universal Orlando vacation package. A vacation package will include accommodations and theme park admission tickets. As far as accommodations go, you can choose from over 40 Universal Orlando Partner Hotels. These Partner Hotels range from economical (EconoLodge, Best Western) to luxury (JW Marriot, Peabody Orlando). Villas, or family-suites, are also available a some properties (Pointe Orlando, Floridays). With such a broad selection, you should definitely be able to find something to match your budget and style. Visit www.UniversalOrlandoVacations.com and click Hotels to see the complete list.
Keep in mind that booking a Universal Orlando Partner Hotel on your own is not enough to get Early Park Admission. You have to book a Universal vacation package including accommodations at a Partner Hotel to get the Early Park Admission benefit.
What else do I need to know about Early Park Admission?
The first thing to know is that your Early Park Admission will be valid for each day you are checked in to your hotel, including your check-in and check-out dates. So, if you book one night at Universal's Royal Pacific Resort, you actually receive two days of Early Park Admission: the morning of your check-in and the morning of your check-out. I have helped plenty of guests book one night at a hotel, even an economy Partner Hotel, just for the two days worth of Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World.
The second thing to know is that, even with Early Park Admission, it is important to get to the park early! I can't stress this enough. I recommend that you get to the Islands of Adventure turnstiles 45 minutes before Early Park Admission begins. This may sound very early, but this is what you need to do to make the most out of the first hour before the general public is let in.
What if I am not able to arrange Early Park Admission?
During Spring Break and the busy summer months, getting Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is about the only way to guarantee that you will be able to enjoy the area with limited crowds. However, getting early admission isn't always feasible for everyone. If you cannot get it, then the next best strategy is to plan on visiting the Wizarding World during the last two hours before the park closes. In general, as families (especially with young children) leave after a long day in the sun, the park crowds begin to lighten. But this strategy has risks. For example, during the months of April, May, and June, Universal will be closing one or both of their theme parks unusually early -- at 6:00pm -- for what I assume are private events mostly related to the Universal Studios' 100-year anniversary. (You can see these dates on our Universal Orlando crowd calendar.) If your visit to Islands of Adventure happens to fall on one of the days that IOA closes at 6:00 pm, I can say with confidence that the Wizarding World will not empty out for the last two hours before the park closes. In addition to these published park closures, sometimes just the Wizarding World itself has an unannounced early closure for a private event -- again, if this were to happen on the day you planned on staying late to avoid the crowds, well, you are not going to be very happy.
That's why, overall, Early Park Admission is the the easiest way to ensure you will be able to experience the Wizarding World the way it was meant to be.
If you are looking for more information about how to ensure that your trip to Universal Orlando is the best vacation of your life, I encourage you to visit my site: www.OrlandoInformer.com.
PS. I thought I'd also mention that this weekend Universal Orlando kicks of their Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Studios Florida! Visit our Mardi Gras 2012 page to learn more!
Dan Hatfield is the Owner & Editor of OrlandoInformer.com, the world's largest and most up-to-date Universal Orlando vacation planning resource. With thousands of members, Dan's site is proud to help so many of families make their trips to Universal and the Orlando area more enjoyable and affordable. Visit OrlandoInformer.com to learn more. You can also join OrlandoInformer.com on Google+, Facebook, Twitter & Foursquare.