I posted earlier asking about the best method to ride Hagrid’s and got some good information. I thought I would add this post to the board to provide my observations about our recent trip and maybe this could helps others.
Cold Weather = No big rollercoasters:
Our first park day was 12/26. Temperatures at 7AM were in the mid 30s. My teenagers and myself got up early to be at the gate of IOA at 6:40am to ride Hagrid’s at early entry and before the virtual line started. It was not operating because of the temperature. My wife slept in - she made the right decision.
Likewise, Hulk and Rip Rockit also were offline. We learned from a UO manager that below 48 degrees the big coasters don’t operate. It didn’t hit 50 degrees until noon so the coasters were not up and running till later.
Express Pass is a must during crowded days, but there are some caveats to be aware of:
The parks hit capacity on 3 of the 4 days we were there. Lines were running in the 2 to 3 hours for all the big attractions. Express pass cut the wait down to 30 minutes or less. However, a number of attractions have a pre-line area before you get to the express pass entrance where you wait with everyone. Hulk, Rip Rockit, FJ and Mummy had these. So you will spend part of your wait in line with the general public before you are able to split off to the express pass entrance.
Locker lines - this also slows you down. You need to put bags and backpacks in lockers for many of the rides - this causes additional waits, especially with COVID social distancing. For Gringotts the line for the lockers was 15 minutes! This is before you get to the line for the actual attraction ride. A solution, if one of your party is not riding, is to let them hold the bags to skip the line for the lockers.
Also if a ride hits capacity, express pass does not allow you to get in line. It is closed for everyone. During our trip all the major rides hit capacity at various points during the day, even King Kong which is hardly a headliner! Usually after 30-45 minutes they would reopen, but you have to keep checking the app to see.
Even with these limitations we were able to ride the big rides using express multiple times. I could not imagine being at the park without it when we were there, though. It would have been miserable.
After our failure to ride Hagrid’s during early entry, it was virtual line pass or bust for us. We had everyone try on their phones are were able to get at least one virtual line pass per day for Hagrid’s. It’s a great coaster. I just set an alarm on my phone for one minute before the drop times. Also keep trying a few minutes after the hour. I found that the drops would show up 2 minutes after rather that right at the hour mark.
I will follow up with some more tips.