Universal Studios allowed guests in the theme park to ride Hogwarts Express on Tuesday afternoon.
The train from the “Harry Potter” books and movies will be used to connect the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at the park with the original Wizarding World at neighboring Islands of Adventure.
The official opening date for is July 8. Universal has not announced any schedule for general previews of the new attraction, which features the Leaky Cauldron restaurant, various shops designed for wizards (and theme-park consumers) and the dragon-topped Gringotts Bank, home of the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts thrill ride.
There will be windows of time through the grand-opening date when Hogwarts Express would be available, a Universal official said Tuesday evening.
Tuesday’s visitors with tickets that included park-to-park access were allowed onto Hogwarts Express, which simulates the trips between Hogsmeade and London. Riders in the cabins see special effects that show off the virtual British countryside, “Harry Potter” characters, frogs and evil Dementors.
By 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, a 45-minute wait was posted at the Hogsmeade train station at Islands of Adventure.
Megan Stump, who waited outside the Diagon Alley gates for 23 consecutive days in hopes of a preview, made it inside the area Tuesday afternoon.
“So freaking happy,” she posted on her Twitter account, along with a picture of her with the Hogwarts Express engine in the background. “23 may be my lucky number.”
The design of the attraction would allow Universal to share the train experience with daily guests without letting them into the main section of Diagon Alley.
The train is “definitely for Potter fans,” Stump said.
Folks who had purchased Universal's Potter-driven hotel package started exploring Diagon Alley on Monday evening. Some people were able to experience the Gringotts ride, but that attraction did not operate for the full two hours of the preview.
Potter fan Kendall Hutchins of Seattle was able to ride Gringotts, and she gave the entire attraction high marks. She used the words spectacular, phenomenal, fantastic and brilliant in her assessment..
“The detail in everything was just like in the movies, just like you’d imagine it in the books,” she said.
People with the hotel deal were scheduled to have access to Diagon Alley Tuesday and Wednesday night.