In this post, we discuss rope drop at Universal’s Islands of Adventure park at Universal Orlando Resort. We cover how to start your day at Islands of Adventure, including whether you should start with the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and what to expect if you do or don’t start with it. Read on to learn everything about the morning hours at Islands of Adventure!
What time does Islands of Adventure open?
You should always check the official park hours, but Islands of Adventure typically opens at 8AM or 9AM. Keep in mind that guests with Early Park Admission may enter early on certain dates, in which case you need to read that post.
The times given in this post assume a 9AM scheduled open.
What Is “Rope Drop”?
Rope drop refers to the actual—as opposed to scheduled—opening of the park. Depending on the precise protocols at a park on a day, Team Members may actually have a rope up cutting off people from the park which is dropped when the park opens.
We also use “rope drop” more generally to refer to the very earliest of hours in the parks, when lines for rides haven’t plateaued for the day and you can walk right on to many of the rides.
What Time Is Rope Drop At Islands of Adventure?
Rope drop at Islands of Adventure usually occurs before the scheduled time the park is open. There are several times to know.
Turnstiles typically open 30 minutes before the park is scheduled to open. At this point, guests are allowed to scan in and access Port of Entry. They’re held up at the entrances to Seuss Landing and Marvel Super Hero Island, though.
About 10 minutes before the scheduled park open, guests will begin to be escorted to attraction queues. The walk to Hagrid’s from Seuss Landing is taking about 16 minutes in the early days of the ride. Rides in Marvel Super Hero Island are usually operational immediately.
So When Should I Arrive At Islands of Adventure?
Again, this post does not cover Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure. The specifics of the two rope drop strategies are covered next, but generally:
To rope drop Hagrid’s we recommend arriving 90 to 120 minutes before the park opens.
To rope drop Incredible Hulk Coaster, we recommend arriving 30 minutes before the park opens.
As with all things, these are estimates. We consider them to be safe times, and they are what we’d target for most visits.
That said, if you are slower, you’ll need to arrive earlier (a lot of people can pass you in 16 minutes walking to Hagrid’s). If you have to have a perfect morning, add 15…30?…minutes to these times.
Because Hagrid’s has struggled with operational issues, rope drop to that ride has been a varied experience. If the ride is down most of the one day, morning crowds will be heavier the next day. There’s really no way to predict that.
And in one instance, I was at the front of the crowd with people who had arrived at 6:45AM, and we all waited until 9:45AM (45 minutes into the park hours) for the ride to start operating.
Islands of Adventure Rope Drop Strategies
In this section, we’ll discuss the two approaches to a morning at Islands of Adventure. We’ll start with how to pick between them. Last reminder—this post does not cover Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure.
Should You Start With Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure?
I’m comfortable, for the purposes of this section, saying that Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the single best ride in central Florida (that includes all of Walt Disney World’s rides).
I would discourage you from watching videos of it because they contain spoilers, but if you’re at all comfortable with outdoor coasters (no upside downs), you’ll want to ride this ride.
Because of its popularity, the ride has seen long wait times, with two to three hours being a standard wait most days. But this isn’t really the big problem.
The big problem with Hagrid’s is that it has had a lot of operational issues. Florida weather—the ride can’t operate in storms—has played a part. But even in perfect weather it’s been common for the ride to stop running for huge chunks of the day—as in, over three hours.
You could get in line—thinking you can stomach a two hour wait—and wind up in line for five hours because of a ride closure. That’s just a risk of the ride currently.
And one variation of this problem is that sometimes the ride doesn’t open with the rest of the park. In one instance when I was there, it didn’t start operating until 45 minutes into the morning.
Finally, keep in mind that Hagrid’s does not have Universal Express Pass access while pretty much every other ride at Universal Orlando Resort does. It does have single rider, though.
In short, the best way to get on Hagrid’s is to deal with rope drop to Hagrid’s. The best way to have a smooth morning at Islands of Adventure is to push Hagrid’s into your afternoon.
If you haven’t decided yet, well, check out the below two strategies. After them, we have a section that “runs the numbers” and compares them.
What about Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey?
There are several reasons why you don’t start your day with Forbidden Journey. Morning waits are inflated by people who decide against waiting for Hagrid’s. The queue has about 20 to 30 minutes of indoor parts that are perfect for the afternoon.
And waits really don’t get bad enough to justify coming here first and then backtracking to the Marvel rides. Save Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey for the afternoon.
Rope Drop Through Marvel Super Hero Island
I’m going to start with this one because it’s more of a baseline that you could compare the Hagrid’s rope drop to. Here are crowds at 8:25AM, 35 minutes before the park opened this day.
Most of those people are headed to Hagrid’s, so there’s no need to be intimidated. The gates open at 8:30AM, and even at 8:42AM the crowd heading to Incredible Hulk Coaster isn’t too impressive.
Remember—you need to put all loose items in a locker across from the Hulk entrance before you get in line for the ride. At 8:50AM, we head to the lockers.
I walk right onto the ride, and I’m entering the Spider-Man queue for my second ride of the day at 9:02AM.
From there, I just stream through the rides on this side of the park. These times are from a day that wound up with level 9 out of 10 crowds according to Touring Plans. The times are when I get in line:
8:51AM Incredible Hulk Coaster
9:02AM Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
9:10AM Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall
9:24AM Skull Island Reign of Kong
9:40AM Flight of the Hippogriff
9:54AM Jurassic Park River Adventure
10:23AM Ripsaw Falls
11:09AM Bilge Rat Barges
Things got a little slow toward the end, mostly because I should have left Flight of the Hippogriff for later in the day. But it’s pretty impressive how much you can accomplish by 10AM even on a busy day. Let’s flag this number—five rides done by 10AM, and I was in line for a sixth.
Rope Drop to Hagrid’s
We recommend arriving at Islands of Adventure 90 to 120 minutes early to start your morning with Hagrid’s. This should get you near the front of the turnstile lines, though you’ll need to avoid getting passed up during the rest of the process.
Here’s a look at the crowds 82 minutes before open on a busy day.
The guy who claimed the last open turnstile told me he arrived 110 minutes before opening.
Here’s 79 minutes on a day that overall was less busy than the other day.
Why is my line longer on this less busy day? Because the prior day the ride was down a ton. Several people in line commented how they had tried to ride yesterday, couldn’t, and decided to come early day.
Gates typically open 30 minutes before the scheduled park open. If you have a slow ticket scanner and you’re not up front, you can lose serious ground here.
You’re corralled at the entrance to Seuss Landing until 10 minutes before the scheduled open. This is the look from the front (entering at 8:30AM).
Here’s the look from the back, when I passed through the turnstiles at 8:36AM.
At the ten-minute-prior mark, things start moving. It’s about a 16 minutes walk to the Hagrid’s entrance.
The closer to the front, the less chaos you’ll have to deal with. People near the front don’t have much to gain from pushing, shoving, and running, but some still will.
In the back of the pack, everyone is fighting for ground. Keep pace, and you’ll get passed. Be slow, and you’ll get passed a lot.
The physical queue starts long before the Hagrid’s entrance. People who try and get around the main pack are going to run into roadblocks, ropes, or secondary crowds and be forced to merge at inopportune times.
Between 9:05AM and 9:10AM—an estimate—guests who are coming from the Hogwarts Express or who are otherwise in Hogsmeade as allowed to merge into the line.
Here’s an example timeline from a 7:10AM arrival:
7:10AM - Arrive at Islands of Adventure
8:30AM - Gates open
8:50AM - Walk to Hagrid’s begins
9:10AM - Estimated time on the ride if the ride operated on time
9:15AM - Estimated time off the ride if the ride operated on time
9:45AM - Actual time ride began operating this day
10AM - Actual time I was off the ride
Here’s an example timeline from a 7:41AM arrival. I consider this a good example of what a typical guest might experience:
7:41AM - Arrive at Islands of Adventure
8:30AM - Gates open
8:36AM - Through gates with a slow ticket scanner
8:50AM - Walk to Hagrid’s begins, fall farther back in the pack due to pushing / shoving / running
9:07AM - Arrive at Hagrid’s queue
10:06AM - Time I was off the ride
Once you’re off Hagrid’s, you have tough decisions to make. Do you head all the way back to Marvel Super Hero Island. The wait times you see now may have increased greatly by the time you get there. Do you start with Jurassic Park and Kong, which probably aren’t yet too high?
Here’s what we suggest. If Hulk or Spider-Man is under 15 minutes, head there. Otherwise, look to Kong or Jurassic Park. Fear Fall is a bad option because it isn’t that popular.
Ripsaw Falls isn’t good enough to warrant your immediate attention in this situation, in our opinion. And Bilge Rat Barges usually has relatively tame waits in the afternoon.
Comparing Hulk vs. Hagrid’s for Rope Drop
In our Hulk rope drop, we were off five rides on a busy day by 10AM. For Hagrid’s we were off at about 10AM in our 7:41AM arrival day.
The average wait for Hagrid’s the day I started with Hulk was 176 minutes (source). Theoretically, I would expect to spend 176 minutes in my afternoon waiting for Hagrid’s.
The trade, though, is that instead of being off Hagrid’s at 10AM, I’m off five other rides. Now I don’t have to wait for those in the afternoon. So how good of a trade is this?
I can wait an average of 36 minutes for each of those five rides in the afternoon in order to “break even.” Here are the average waits for those five rides on this day (source):
Incredible Hulk — 41 minutes
Fear Fall — 24 minutes
Spider-Man — 52 minutes
Kong — 61 minutes
Hippogriff — 41 minutes
That totals 219 minutes, or an average wait of about 44 minutes. By this math, it was a better decision to ride these five before 10AM than it would have been to ride Hagrid’s by 10AM.
There are lots of reasons this analysis isn’t perfect, but I think it’s pretty good. I do want to address a few points here, though.
First, you might be off Hagrid’s well before 10AM. On a perfect day, you’ll be off by 9:15AM. Obviously that sets you up for a much better day.
Second, Hagrid’s might break down at any point in the day. Between Orlando weather and the ride’s issues, you never know how much the ride will actually operate later in the day. We recommend just using Single Rider if operations seem to be bad during your visit. You’ll wind up in a sidecar, but that’s better than being stuck in line for five hours (in our opinion).
Third, you won’t get average waits on all five rides. Because you’ve missed the first hour of the day and you can’t ride all of them in the last hour, your waits are going to tend to be higher than the average waits that day.
Fourth, if you have Universal Express Pass, your waits will be much shorter. Hagrid’s doesn’t have Express Pass, but those other five rides do.
Fifth, if you single ride, your waits will be much shorter. This applies to Hagrid’s and several of those five rides. Single rider means your group will be split up, but it might be worth it.
That’s all for now. We expect Hagrid’s to “even out” over the next few months. At some point, a “smooth” strategy will probably emerge that involves starting at Hagrid’s, and we’ll update as that happens.