Spoiler-FILLED Review: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World

in Islands of Adventure, Movies, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando


Excitement is building as Universal Orlando is letting more guests by the day into their new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. Recently, limited soft openings have allowed all park guests to finally enter the area, enabling many excited visitors to experience the groundbreaking new attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

I have had a chance to ride Forbidden Journey three times this week and have already written my completely spoiler-free thoughts on the attraction. If you’re not interested in potentially “ruining” the ride by reading details about what’s inside, I recommend reading that article rather than what I am including below.

From this point forward, this post will be filled with spoilers as I take you step-by-step through the entire Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride experience, offering both descriptions of each scene as well as my own personal thoughts on how well those scenes work. Get ready for an exciting ride…

The introduction

Now that we’re prepared to unleash Forbidden Journey spoilers, I recommend you first watch our video tour of the incredible Hogwarts Castle queue that stops just short of the ride’s loading area:

As you can see, Forbidden Journey truly begins the experience long before you sit down for the ride. A slow walk through the queue takes roughly 20 minutes, longer if you care to stop and watch each of the scenes several times. The Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom actually features three separate bits of dialogue between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as three different spells that get cast in the room, each with its own unique special effects. They’re all worth stopping and watching, though the one seen in its entirety in the video above is definitely the most entertaining.

Upon passing through everything you saw above, just past the Sorting Hat, you arrive in the “Room of Requirement,” which acts as the loading area for Forbidden Journey. This room is impressive not because it is filled with detail like all of the other Hogwarts Castle areas, but rather because of how well it hides the massive contraption that you’re about to strap yourself into.

Loading area

Upon first arriving into the Room of Requirement, you are greeted by Hogwarts students who ask, “How many muggles in your party?” You get the feeling like you’re really being escorted out of the castle by a group of students eager to help you skip a boring lecture on Hogwarts history. It’s a nice touch.

When approaching the loading area, you catch your first glimpse of the “enchanted benches” that you’ve been told will guide you out of the castle and to a Quidditch match. These four-seat vehicles glide horizontally along a mirrored back wall, reflecting floating candles above and making the room seem much larger than it is (though it is already a large room to begin with). The “benches” really appear to be nothing more than that. There is no indication at that time that they will do anything except slowly float along the ground, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

A unique element to boarding Forbidden Journey is that the ride vehicles never stop moving. Guests are required to step onto a slow-moving platform and take a seat while in motion. The loading process has been compared to Disney’s Omnimover system, utilized on attractions like The Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. But comparisons to those attractions end there as each of the four seats on the vehicles features an over-the-shoulder harness like those found on many roller coasters. Once you sit down in the snug seats and pull the harness down, you realize that there is no way this ride is going to be a slow-moving adventure.

Speaking of snug seats, it should be noted that a good number of guests are unable to ride Forbidden Journey due to their height and/or girth. There are test seats outside the attraction as well as before you reach the Sorting Hat. While Universal has released the ride’s minimum height requirement of 48″, they haven’t officially stated any maximums. But if you feel like you are taller than most or rather overweight, then there’s a good chance you won’t be able to ride. Fortunately, you can still walk through the queue and enjoy the scenes presented within Hogwarts Castle.

For those who do fit properly in the seats, the Forbidden Journey begins with gentle music as you glide along the moving platform, which is surprisingly long. It takes somewhere around 15-30 seconds to make it from the initial loading area to the ride’s first scene.

Bringing the ride home

The entire ride (which lasts around four minutes) is far too dark to be captured well on video. Moreover, no video of this attraction would ever do it justice. Plus, you’re asked to stow any bulky bags or equipment in lockers before entering the queue. If you do hang onto anything, there’s also a small bin in the seat backs.

So rather than posting four minutes of video featuring almost nothing but blackness, I (with the aid of my wife Michelle) created a high-quality stereo audio recording of the entire attraction, which I have embedded below for your listening enjoyment. So you can either listen now and then continue to read my descriptions of each scene, or you can read the rest of this article first and then come back to listen afterward. Either way, I recommend listening using headphones to hear all of the details.

[wpaudio url=”http://media.libsyn.com/media/insidethemagic/HarryPotterandtheForbiddenJourney.mp3″ text=”Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey full ride audio” dl=”0″]

The ride begins

As you reach the end of the horizontally moving platform, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey truly begins upon spotting Hermione Granger once more. She stands ahead of you up on a balcony, ready to assist you in leaving the castle. Played by Emma Watson (of course), this rather lifelike image appears to be created using the same “musion” technology that places her, Ron, Harry, and Dumbledore in the ride’s queue (as you saw in the video above). This time, unfortunately, the effect is somewhat less believable and she looks less like she’s standing in the room with you and more like a video projection. But you only see her for a brief moment as she enchants your bench and whisks you away through the “floo network.”

Now, having recently watched all of the Harry Potter films, I am familiar with the notion of traveling by floo. Wizards and witches interested in making their way quickly from one part of the Wizarding World to another need only sprinkle some “floo powder” into a fire, state clearly where they want to end up, and jump in. But even knowing all of this, I didn’t grasp the fact that we were about to enter the floo network. We had been told by Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the earlier classroom scene in the queue that we would be traveling out of the castle by “enchanted bench,” not by the floo network. And although just after passing Hermione you do travel through a bright green cloud of fog, I never made the connection to the green flame that accompanies any floo network passage.

While this may seem like a minute detail, it actually is rather representative of the entire Forbidden Journey ride. A lot of scenes seem to come and go for no reason other than to simply entertain. The overall story of the ride is set up in bits and pieces throughout the queue via messages delivered by a series of moving portraits, Dumbledore, Ron, Harry, and Hermione, but the entire message never fully comes together. Is the ride’s story about the fact that muggles (non-wizards) are being allowed into Hogwarts for the first time? Or is it about the fact that Hagrid has “lost a dragon,” as is mentioned in passing a few times? Or is it that Harry, Ron, and Hermione really want us to see a Quidditch match? Or is there really no story at all?

Decades ago, Walt Disney Imagineering (then WED Enterprises) developed the world’s first theme park based largely on one simple design “rule”: Everything starts with a story. Even something as seemingly small as the recent name change of Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel to Prince Charming Regal Carrousel was accompanied by an extensive story explaining the new name. And yet, in Forbidden Journey, it seems like story comes last behind state-of-the-art technology and in-your-face effects.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying Universal’s approach to Forbidden Journey is wrong. Even without a strong beginning, middle, and end-style story, the attraction is still an amazing ride unlike any other I’ve ever seen. Moreover, my favorite theme park attraction of all time, Disney’s Haunted Mansion, also only features a loose story that is not entirely clear to the average theme park goer. There are times when a clear plot isn’t needed for an attraction to work. But when it comes to a ride based on a 7-book and soon to be 8-film series, I was simply expecting a more coherent story to carry me through the experience. But instead, Forbidden Journey provides an impressive whirlwind tour of almost every scene and character you’d expect to show up in a Harry Potter-based adventure.

With all that aside, let’s return to the action…

Scene 1:

Upon entering the floo network, you find your enchanted bench suddenly lift up off the ground, through the green fog, and instantly begin flying through tight stone corridors. At the time of riding, I thought these were meant to be Hogwarts hallways but now I realize they are representative of flying through the chimney to get to the observatory.

How it’s done: Lifting off of the ground should be rather unexpected for any guests not realizing that the “enchanted benches” are actually some of the most technologically-advanced ride vehicles currently employed in any attraction, anywhere. These seats are attached to the end of a giant robot arm, created by a company called Kuka Industrial Robotics. Similar arms can be seen at Disney’s The Sum of All Thrills attraction at Epcot, though those arms are placed in a fixed position on the ground and feature just two seats on the end.

The arms utilized in Forbidden Journey are often referred to as a “robocoaster”, as the entire arm assemblies travel along a track while also offering complete freedom of motion in any direction for riders. The system is incredibly smooth and never jerks riders around. Quick motions from left to right, upward and downward, and any combination in between are never coupled with any harshness or unpleasant feelings. While the arms are technically capable of placing riders completely upside down and spinning them around, Forbidden Journey never does this.

But all of this technology is completely hidden from the view of riders. You will never actually see the rig you are attached to, though if you’re really interested in seeing it in motion, there area a few areas of the ride that can offer you short glimpses at the vehicle ahead or behind you if you know where to look. But I recommend not searching for it, as it does ruin the illusion of flying (as if reading this article hasn’t already).

In the specific instance of flying through the stone-walled chimneys, the robot arm acts as a motion simulator base with guests looking at projected images. You don’t actually fly through a physical set quite yet and, honestly, the chimney projection is not all that convincing. Fortunately, it is short and the next scene is far more immersive.

Scene 2:

Upon arriving in the observatory, you’ll find yourself flying at the top of Hogwarts Castle, looking out onto the surrounding scenery. Harry yells out the obvious fact that Hermione succeeded in making you fly and that he and Ron will be meeting up with you shortly. Passing from right to left, you gently fly through the wooden observatory, staring out at the sky and rolling hills. Each scenic view is presented through a large ornate archway. You pass by two of them and then are suddenly thrust through a third, flying beyond the comfort of solid ground and out into the open air next to Hogwarts Castle.

How it’s done: The entire observatory is a real set. It’s a startling switch to go from the video projection of initially flying through the chimneys and suddenly ending up in a highly-detailed real environment. This type of switch takes place numerous times throughout the ride and always left me thinking that the video-based sequences felt very fake whereas the scenes featuring real-life elements felt, well, real. It’s a combination that, in my opinion, works better in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, likely due to the fact that Spider-Man uses 3D glasses and projections. The video sequences on Forbiddden Journey are 2D and evoke a feeling more similar to The Simpsons Ride and Disney’s Soarin’ attraction, where it’s fun to experience them but you realize they’re not real while you’re watching it.

But while the juxtaposition of real life scenes with projected ones seems a bit odd at times, the actual transition between the two is incredibly smooth. Unlike Spider-Man which clearly takes you from screen to screen, throwing a few real-life elements in between, all of Forbidden Journey’s scenes seamlessly flow into one another, regardless of which type of scene you’re traveling across.

Scene 3:

Once you have flown out of the observatory, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley emerge, flying on brooms ahead of you. They are dressed in their Quidditch outfits and want you to follow them to the match. However, upon approaching a large Hogwarts Castle bridge, you briefly slow your flight as you spot Hagrid standing there, holding a large broken shackle at the end of a chain. He wonders if you’ve seen a dragon around. Well, sure enough, a huge dragon appears moments later and begins to chase you, Harry, and Ron, spitting fire while twisting and turning around you. Ultimately you take a turn toward what appears to be the Forbidden Forest.

How it’s done: This entire sequence is a video projection onto a dome surrounding you on all sides. Since the projection stretches all around you, you and the other three passengers with you in your vehicle are essentially immersed in your own private flight around Hogwarts. It’s a very unique twist on the motion simulator technology that makes The Simpsons Ride and Soarin’ possible. Unlike those attractions during which you’re likely to catch a glimpse of other riders and their vehicles, there is no chance of this happening on Forbidden Journey.

Unfortunately, these video projections are the home of my biggest complaints about this ride. While the actual physical motions of the vehicles are quite smooth, the video you’re moving in synch with is all over the place. One second your flying upward, then the next you’re taking a turn, then you’re back up, then down, and so on. I understand the designers’ desire to simulate what it would really be like to fly alongside Potter and the gang, but instead of flying with experts, I was left feeling like I was a first-time flyer that couldn’t keep under control. Because of the fast, hectic pace, you never get a moment to really take it all in.

As a result, you can almost never focus on anything. The projection moves so fast that everything ends up a blur. There are moments where it might as well not even have been Daniel Radcliffe or Rupert Grint playing their famous roles because you can’t even tell who they are due to the blurriness of the projection. It’s a truly unfortunate downfall for an otherwise fantastic attraction.

Scene 4:

Now, I’m not entirely sure of the location of this next scene. To try to evade the dragon, you take a sharp left turn into some kind of wooden building. Another part of Hogwarts? Perhaps some random wooden shack in the Forbidden Forest?

Update (6/6/10): As pointed out by “DniScribe” in the comments below, the wooden structure you enter while evading the dragon is supposed to be the covered bridge that is connected to Hogwarts Castle.

Regardless of what it is, the important thing is that the dragon is still chasing you, igniting the wooden structure around you, sending you flying for cover around every turn. Ultimately, after dodging your way through this collapsing building, you find yourself face-to-face with the dragon when it spits fire, sending you flying in a completely different direction.

How it’s done: This entire sequence is made up of real-life elements. You make a left turn out of the previous video projection sequence and into an area surrounded by wooden beams. Along the right side are wooden embers glowing red along with what appear to be claw marks. Just beyond those, a giant dragon wing is flapping outside the building as the roars get louder and closer. The wing is a memorable moment as it’s the first time in the ride you encounter a real life character of any kind. But it’s only setting the stage for the surprise that’s to come.

Just past the wing is one of my favorite moments of the ride. You continue weaving through the building until directly ahead a big expanse opens up revealing that you have reached the top of the structure. The ceiling comes to a point above you and you think you’re going to head along the top but suddenly you take a fast dive down back into the building. It’s a tough scene to describe, as there aren’t any specific landmarks to discuss, but it’s the first time during the attraction that you get a roller coaster-style sudden drop.

Just beyond that drop, the entire room lights up glowing red as an enormous animated dragon head appears right before your eyes. By animated, I don’t mean it’s a video or cartoon. I mean it is a real-life, full-size, articulated figure that is horned, grizzly, and quite angry. Fortunately, it appears that it could only lodge its head into the building and can’t quite get you. But it is literally only a few feet from you when it opens its mouth, screams, and blasts you with “fire” created by a whole lot of fog and flickering lights. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the ride.

Scene 5:

You’ve obviously found Hagrid’s missing dragon, but that’s the last you’ll see of him. You’re separated from Harry and Ron and nowhere near the Quidditch match. But rather than your enchanted bench leading you back to them, instead you suddenly find yourself deep within the pit of the Acromantulas (giant spiders). Darkness surrounds you but the occasional flash of light reveals that you’re surrounded by spiderwebs and plenty of 8-legged creatures. While at first they don’t seem so bad, as they’re no bigger than a large dog, it’s not long before they begin to launch venom at you. If that wasn’t bad enough, you encounter Aragog, parent to all of the smaller Acromantulas. You spend a moment getting to know Aragog up close before moving on deeper into the pit. Fortunately, Hermione magically appears amongst the spiders to whisk you out of there and back to the Quidditch pitch.

How it’s done: While extremely exciting, this scene is a bit baffling. I don’t entirely understand how we transition from getting blasted by a dragon within a wooden building to suddenly being down deep in the pit of the Acromantulas. That aside, once you’re there, the ride vehicles really come alive. This is another real-life scene, not a video projection, and it is very dark, often pitch black, and really disorients you. Only flickering strobes light the way, revealing spiders around every corner, on the walls and dangling from above. While winding around the spiders, you’re turning left, right, up, down, and even tilted sideways.

Depending on which seat you’re in, you may get quite wet during this scene, as many of the spiders spit at you. The left two seats are far more likely to get wet, possibly to the point where you’ll be dripping when you exit the ride. It’s fun and unexpected, but also possibly excessive at times.

Coming face-to-face with the giant Aragog spider is an exciting, but rather brief moment. If you blink, you might miss it entirely. Unlike the fully animated dragon from the previous scene, Aragog doesn’t seem to move at all. The motion of your vehicle combined with strobe lights offer a slight sensation of motion but really you just fly past the creature.

But the appearance of Hermione in the midst of all of this has me completely confused. You see her from the shoulders up peering through a hole in the wall. She is a video projection very similar to the one you saw at the very beginning of the ride. This time, however, it is completely out of place. She is just standing there, encouraging you to get out, but not really doing much else. I don’t understand how she got there or why she is there. But before you pass her, she tells you to watch out for the Whomping Willow on your way to the Quidditch pitch, which sets the stage for what’s to come.

Scene 6:

Leaving the Acromantulas pit, you are on your way back to Hogwarts Castle and, along the way, come mighty close to the famous Whomping Willow. In fact, you’re close enough to get whomped into the next scene.

How it’s done: This is one of the simpler scenes to describe and yet it works very well. You’re swung around and tilted on your back, facing upward, and you find yourself dangerously close to the Whomping Willow. And it’s really there. I’m sure there’s some clever visual trickery used here, but because you’re facing upward and staring at the top of this giant tree, you feel like you’re fifty feet in the air flying within inches of it. But the Whomping Willow is famous not only as a giant tree, but as a giant tree that swings its branches at you. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens here. This is once again a real-life scene and just as this real-life branch comes swinging at you, you’re thrust to the right and directly into the halfway point of the ride.

Scene 7:

Yes, that’s right, we’re only halfway through! Everything you have read since you first took off into the floo system has happened in the span of a mere 2 minutes. The good news is that you’re now back on course, as you’ve been whomped all the way to the Quidditch pitch and thrust right into the action. Suddenly, you’re caught back up with Harry and Ron in the middle of the Quidditch game. Harry yells out, “Where have you been,” as if you’d simply been strolling around a field. If only he knew you were nearly burned by a dragon, consumed by an Acromantula, and pummeled by the Whomping Willow. But it doesn’t matter, as the Quidditch game is in full swing and you’re in the middle of it.

The match is between Gryffindor and Slytherin and that means Harry is going head-to-head with Draco Malfoy. As always, Malfoy’s game is a bit dirty, talking trash and bumping Potter off course. After a few passes around the arena, it suddenly becomes clear that winning Quidditch is no longer the most important task at hand. Dementors have arrived.

Potter urges you to follow him as he leads you out of the Quidditch pitch and into total blackness.

How it’s done: This entire sequence is another video projection and it’s a ton of fun to fly through a Quidditch match, ducking and dodging around the flying quaffle (ball) while watching Ron defend his goal. The pace is so fast that you can never catch more than a brief glimpse of the action before it goes whizzing past you. I’m sure it’s quite representative of what flying in a real Quidditch game would be like, but I would prefer the action to have slowed down just a bit so I could actually see what’s going on. It’s all a bit like watching a Michael Bay movie if it were first-person. It’s nearly impossible to focus on anything specific, but it all still works for the most part.

You spend about 20 seconds flying around the Quidditch game before those creepy Dementors appear and chase you and Harry off. They chase you for another 15 seconds while you follow Harry before he leads you out of the arena.

Scene 8:

Dementors. Lots of them. They’re big, scary, and come way closer to you than you would ever have imagined you’d get to one. You’re twisting through complete darkness with more Dementors popping out from every corner. Some even follow you. Somewhere along the line you realize you’re in the Chamber of Secrets, as you fly by the skull of the Basilisk and through the giant statue of Salazar Slytherin. And just when you think you’re safe, you spot Lord Voldemort’s Dark Mark appearing amongst a cloud of fog and you know your luck just ran out. After that, more Dementors get even closer to the point where you can no longer escape their grasp. One locks you in its kiss, at which point you literally see your own soul being ripped from you in the form of your own face materializing in the fog. But fear not, as Harry Potter always comes to the rescue.

How it’s done: I believe this is the first time I have ever actually been physically startled by a dark ride scene since I rode Disney’s Haunted Mansion when I was very young. These Dementors are SCARY and they’re real. This is no video projection. As your vehicle gently glides through blackness, as if you are in a daze, you are suddenly thrust into super close proximity to the first Dementor, which seems to appear out of nowhere. It is huge, likely 10 feet tall, with skeleton bones emerging from its black draped cloth. And it’s fast. Something so large shouldn’t be able to creep up on you this quietly and quickly.

The first Dementor is unexpected and frightening. The next is scary. After that, unfortunately, the next few get a bit repetitive. They’re still extraordinarily cool, but you begin to scrutinize them a bit more the longer you have a chance to see them. What begins as a unique and scary character slowly devolves into a fabric-covered Halloween decoration. Perhaps some of the Dementors are more detailed than others. Or perhaps it’s that you get a better look at some of them when the lights come on. Either way, I remember some of them not looking as interesting as others.

My memory is a bit fuzzy as to exactly when you notice that Harry has led you into the Chamber of Secrets. Somewhere during this scene, you’ll definitely recognize the Basilisk skeleton as you go flying by it and later the giant stone head of Slytherin is quite obvious as you pass right through its mouth. Both are quite impressive set pieces.

The Dark Mark appears amongst the blackness via a creepy video projected onto a fog screen. If you’ve been on the updated version of Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom or at Disneyland and you’ve seen Davy Jones appear from the “waterfall,” then you know the type of fog screen I’m referring to. But in this case, rather than simulating a waterfall, the fog is used to make a giant skull appear.

The last Dementor you come face-to-face with has a wide open glowing mouth, simulating the Dementor’s Kiss, which is said to suck your soul right out of you. This hilariously creepy effect is achieved by projecting an image of your own face onto the same type of fog screen as above. Earlier in the ride, flashes of light were actually flashes used to take your photo for this moment. Out of the three times I rode it, I only saw my own face once, as the effect doesn’t always work. But when it does, it makes for a really excellent experience.

The scene ends with Harry exclaiming, “Get away from them!” Presumably he’s yelling at the Dementors and not you.

Scene 9:

Just as your soul is being ripped from your body, Harry Potter flies into the Chamber of Secrets with you and unleashes an “Expecto Patronum” onto the Dementors, driving them away. Unfortunately, at that moment, the chamber begins to cave in, but Harry leads you to safety and back to Hogwarts Castle. “To the Great Hall!”

How it’s done: Just after Harry exclaims “Get away from them!”, you’re thrust back into the final video dome projection of the ride. It’s almost over, but Harry’s got to take care of those pesky Dementors. But unlike his previous encounters with them, which required careful spell casting and great skill to create a Patronus Charm, he seems to be able to fire one off as if it’s nothing. With this being the climax of the ride, I was expecting a huge glowing Patronus blast like the one seen in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” It’s a moment that had the potential to be a real “wow.” Instead, the spell is rattled off rather matter-of-factly, blasting a single on-screen Dementor away before we continue flying behind Harry. It’s a bit disappointing and somewhat unfulfilling.

I’m not entirely sure why the Chamber of Secrets begins to cave in, other than the fact that it’s a pretty standard end to this kind of a ride. Your vehicle dodges falling rocks in all directions (much like in every other motion simulator you’ve ever been on) and when you emerge, Harry lets out the cliched line, “We made it!”

The flight back to Hogwarts Castle is a beautiful scene, passing over water and around a few turns before entering the Great Hall. Since you actually get to take a breath and look around for a second, it’s one of the better uses of the video projection sections of the ride. And it’s also the last.

Scene 10:

Your Forbidden Journey concludes when you reach the Great Hall and are immediately welcomed back by the entire Hogwarts school. At first you see a large crowd of students all cheering you on, including Harry Potter, the Weasley twins, and Ginny and Ron Weasley. After passing through there, you wind up in the moving portrait hallway where Dumbledore and more students wave and say goodbye. Dumbledore suggests that you “tuck your elbows in” just before you pass through the floo network once more on your way back to where you began. A quick flight through the chimneys and you’re welcomed back safely.

How it’s done: These two final scenes are the most similar to Islands of Adventure’s Spider-Man attraction. Each consists of a large floor-to-ceiling video projection surrounded by real life architecture. While both scenes are really nothing more than giant projected movies, the illusion of 3D is created by a perspective shift in the background. The same technique is utilized throughout the scenes in Spider-Man. As your vehicle moves from left to right, the foreground of the video remains static while the background of the shot shifts perspective, allowing you to see more as if you were truly traveling past a real space rather than a flat screen.

These final two scenes are a bit hokey, featuring a bunch of characters just standing around cheering at you. But they do serve as a final goodbye, allowing you to see everyone you have met on your Forbidden Journey one last time. You get the feeling that you truly were an outsider warmly welcomed into Hogwarts for a special occasion and are left feeling a bit sad that it’s all over.

Overall Impressions

Clearly Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has had an impact on me or I would not have written more than 5,500 words about it. It’s one of the most exciting and unique theme park attractions to be built in many years and certainly one that visitors to Orlando will flock to for years to come.

I tried not to nitpick the ride too much in my descriptions above. I have a tendency in reviews to often focus on the negative and not praise the positive enough. In the end, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is an incredible attraction. Individually, some elements don’t come off as well as they likely could have. Video projections are sometimes blurry and hard to focus on. Scenes seem to come and go without any connection between them. But while the ride doesn’t necessarily take you through a linear story, it definitely takes you on an exciting adventure that very much mirrors Harry Potter’s own. You stumble through one enthralling happening after another, never quite sure how you’re going to make it out – but ultimately you always do.

As Harry Potter himself describes his own experiences, “…the truth is, most of that was just luck. I didn’t know what I was doing half the time. I nearly always had help.” And that basically summarizes Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Universal Orlando has created a believable world that you might already know a little (or a lot) about – but in the end, it takes a little luck and a whole lot of help from familiar faces to see you through the incredible adventure that leaves you wanting to experience it all over again.

To wrap this up, here’s the on-ride photo we purchased after our first ride on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. We’re the two younger riders on the vehicle’s left side (closer to the dragon). I think the big smiles on our faces say it all.

And if you’re interested in seeing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before it grand opens on June 18, don’t miss our in-depth coverage:

  • Tour the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – 7 videos, 150+ photos
  • Walk through Hogwarts Castle and the queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – Video & photos

    1. The other people in the on ride photo look like this wasn’t their idea. :)

    2. Peter

      AWESOME review! You definitely took the time to write this, I like it!

      Awesome picture by the way 😉

      This review makes me want to go the WWOHP even more.

    3. Alan

      I really enjoyed reading that review Ricky. Thanks a lot for writing it.

      I haven’t been on the Forbidden Journey myself yet, but I find it extremely fascinating. I’ve been dreaming about robot arms on dark-ride tracks ever since the rumours began. From what I’ve seen Universal have a done a fantastic job, and should be fully recognised for pushing the envelope and innovating beyond Spider-Man (which Disney still haven’t caught up to yet).

      However, I listened to your on-ride audio recording and to me it seems like the ride is missing one HUGE ingredient. It’s missing a full score. There’s about 10 seconds of John Williams’ music at the beginning of the ride and another 35 seconds at the end. But there’s this huge 3 minute chunk in the middle of the ride that has absolutely no music. It’s just sound effects and voices, and to me sounds very bare and muddled.

      Music is what really makes a ride excellent. Music enhances the emotions of a ride, and helps define the different stages of the storyline. The Indiana Jones Adventure, Soarin’ and Star Tours are all great examples of music being the magic ingredient that takes an attraction to the next level.

    4. Thanks so much for this fantastic review! I’m going to the Wizarding World in August–I was already excited enough to start with, but your review has got me just about beside myself with anticipation! LOL!

    5. Alan

      Sorry, I got my numbers wrong. There’s about 34 seconds of music at the beginning of the ride, followed by 3 minutes of NO music at all, then 44 seconds at the end. I just find it strange. All of the Harry Potter movies have such GREAT scores, that mentally pick you up and fly you off to a magical place. Amazing scores. So why do a ride that features very little music, and instead is basically a cacophony of rumbles, growls and yawns?

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Excellent point. If there is music throughout those middle scenes, I don’t remember hearing it (and obviously my microphones didn’t pick it up either). But during the Dementor portions, the near-silence is deafening. It enhances the experience quite well, as the Dementors’ shrieks are that much more startling. I suppose it’s possible that the audio system is still being tweaked and that we may hear more music after technical rehearsals conclude. I’ll surely keep riding it keeping an ear out for anything new.

        1. Alan

          Hi Ricky. I think your microphones are fine. They didn’t pick up any music during the middle section of the Forbidden Journey, because there clearly isn’t any. Hopefully (like you said) the audio system is still being tweaked, but I would imagine that the content itself is finalised.

          Silence is great, when used sparingly. The most obvious example I can think of is in Mission: SPACE when you go into hypersleep. There’s a couple of seconds of silence, which creates great impact when the sirens come in afterwards with Gary Sinise saying “rise and shine”. But having 3 minutes of just sound effects and dialogue, to me, seems too grounded in reality and not enough in fantasy.

          A lot of dark-rides struggle with their climax. Often the way to create a truly satisfying climax is to have a big thrill at the end, such as a drop. The Indiana Jones Adventure and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man are good examples of this. You would’ve thought with the wide range of motions possible with the RoboCoaster system, they could’ve programmed in one particuarly thrilling move (a drop or even an inversion), to give the ride a clear climax.

          1. Ricky Brigante

            The biggest thrills definitely take place before the end. While the ending of the ride is happy, it lacks that final big bang that leaves you smiling. I can picture in my head exactly what that moment would be, when Harry lets out the Patronus spell. It could really have been a HUGE moment but instead it’s a very minor, understated point.

    6. Jay


      Thank you so much for taking your time on this VERY descriptive review. :) I do have a question. I’m not a huge thrill ride person, but I am dying to explore the queue. How do you exit the ride once you reach the boarding area if you do not want to ride it but want the full queue experience?

      1. Ricky Brigante

        You will absolutely have a chance to leave before the ride. Prior to reaching the Sorting Hat, there is a full-size 4-seat ride vehicle to test those who appear to be too large to ride. Just past that on the left side is an exit door that allows those guests, along with anyone who doesn’t wish to ride, to simply exit. And, sure enough, you exit right into the gift shop. :) You can wait for the rest of your party there, as it’s the same exit that they will leave through after riding.

    7. Emily

      First of all, thank you so much for your extensive coverage of all things Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It’s been amazing these few last days to travel through your fine descriptions and videos of the sites, sights and attractions! And of course congratulations, because it’s definitely an excellent job! My husband and I are seniors planning to go in October and just like Jay we don’t want to ride the Forbidden Journey (or any other ride for that matter) but would love to calmly explore the queue. Could you tell me if the queue is the same for riders and non-riders alike? The reason I’m asking this is because I’ll probably want to take my time as you guys did, and the people behind me are not going to be very pleased with it. Thank you once more!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        You’re welcome! I’m sure you’re going to love everything about it when you finally get here. There is not a separate queue for non-riders. I’ve heard that there is a totally separate moving portrait hall for guests who will ultimately utilize Universal’s Express access, but that part is not open yet. So if you want to casually stroll through the queue (which you certainly can), you’ll have to often tell those behind you to pass you. There is enough room between the railings for people to pass – but not a ton.

    8. Emily

      Thanks, Ricky! We are thinking of staying on-site for two days mainly because of the early admission perk. We think it will be a big head start to have one whole hour of relatively peaceful strolling (are we a bit deluded?)Could you tell me if this perk is a 7-days-a-week thing and that we will be able to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour prior to the opening regardless of the day we choose to book? Once more, thank you for your help! We really appreciate it!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        I believe that early entry is available every day for Universal’s on-site hotels. However, there are no guarantees as to which attractions will be open during those early entry periods. I’d imagine they’ll have the Wizarding World open during that time for many months to come, but it’s entirely possible that they go a different direction. If it is open, however, it will definitely give you a big head start on the rest of the off-site day guests.

        1. Eric V

          I got my e tavel documents from Universal and it says Jume 19th – Dec 31st early park admission will be for everything in Wizarding World and Cat in the Hat.

    9. Otto

      Thanks for the detaild description. I´m sure to check it out on my next visit.
      For the lack of logical trasitions, that was what bothered me on Soarin. The movie went from scene to scene. If they would fly you trough a cloud that would be nice but now it´s so obvious that is totaly screws up the experiance! I hope Disney fixes this soon.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        The difference between Forbidden Journey’s lack of understandable transitions and Soarin’s sudden cuts between locations is that in Soarin’, you’re not meant to believe that you’re hang gliding over California. The attraction is there to give you the sensations of what it would be like to do so, blowing air at you, sending scents to your nose, and completely wrapping the visuals around you so no matter where you look. But in the end, it’s a just an impressive tour of California by way of a theme park ride.

        Forbidden Journey (and the rest of the Wizarding World) is designed to do just the opposite. This area and attraction is not meant as a simulator; it’s actually putting you IN Harry Potter’s world. So while the sudden Soarin’ transitions are excusable for it being an gigantic “see the sights” attraction, I think Forbidden Journey deserves to make a little more sense when hopping from scene to scene. Each one unto itself in incredibly fun, but when put side-by-side, several just don’t make any sense. Or at least, I wasn’t able to catch the connection between them.

        1. Janiehile

          One of the parts that bothered me was that while walking the queue you may start listening in ad Dumbledore is ending. He slightly turns and says more guests but it’s still weird. I prefer the way Disney does it in that all head in the room, hear the scene from start to finish and then exit. I would like this for the DADA classroom and Dumbledore’s office. It didn’t bother me to walk into the middle of the portraits conversations though. It seemed like we were eavesdropping there while Dumbledore and the trio were speaking right to us.

          1. Ricky Brigante

            It’s both good and bad. Since you don’t stop, watch a scene, move forward, stop, watch another scene, etc., it keeps the line moving at all times. The loading area never stops moving, so neither does the line. However, it’s definitely common to walk into Dumbledore’s office or into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom right in the middle of a scene, missing half of what is said. You only wind around one twist in Dumbledore’s office, so it’s likely that you won’t see his entire show. But when the classroom is full, there are enough switchbacks that it is timed pretty well to see one full show and then you move on. There are three separate classroom bits, so you could stay and watch them all if you want.

            1. Janiehile

              I understand. It just seemed to me that the ride and Hogsmeade had such great attention to detail and that part seemed to fall short. I like the way they introduce the details in Disney’s Rockin roller Coaster better.
              Spoiler Alert: I mean if Moaning Mrytle is present in the restrooms, it seems like they could do those spots better too. I guess it’s just personal opinion and preferences.

    10. Niamh

      Hey tnx 4 writing such a great review. Do you know when the on ride photograph is taken? I want to make sure that I’m ready for it:) tnx!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Very good question. I don’t believe it’s during the dragon scene, despite what the photo shows. I’m pretty sure it’s during the spider scene, as many flashes and strobes go on throughout.

    11. matt

      Hey Rick,
      what was your experience with wait times for single rider vs. regular line would you say? Goin in the beginning of July. Should be nuts and a mad house. From your experience, do you think I should get to the park an hour or 2 hours early to fight the crowds? Sorry for all the questions, loved the in depth review. Keep up the good work!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        I have not seen the single rider line open yet. When I rode, the wait was quite minimal. Obviously that is going to change rapidly. The potential for a VERY long line is there so I would recommend going straight to this ride in the morning. When you first enter the queue, it is nice and air conditioned. If that part was full, I guesstimate that you could spend around 20 minutes in there. The next part is in the greenhouse and is all outdoors, some covered, some with fans, but all of it will be toasty over the summer. A completely full greenhouse would likely take 30-60 minutes to get through, depending on how many switchbacks they’re using. When you re-enter the castle, it’s another 20-30 minutes from that point, but you are highly entertained throughout that portion so you won’t think of it as a line. It’s really part of the overall attraction.

      2. Coach

        I went this past saturday, sunday, and monday. On saturday and sunday I waited in line and each time took about 50 minutes. It had been raining though and was late in the day so many people had left already. Monday the line was a 3 hour wait at the ride itself (as well as a huge line just to get into that section of the park, so definently get there early!) I went into the single riders lane a few times and it took only 5-20 minutes usally. The only downside is you enter straight into the common room and to the lines by the sorting hat. I would only ride this way once you have seen your fill of the rest of the castle.

    12. Elizabeth

      Amazing review! I guess my only question is- Does the ride feels similar to a roller coaster the whole time? I dislike roller coasters greatly and fear being flipped or dropped from heights. We’re going on opening day and I’d very much like to have a general idea before I decide whether the wait in line is worth it.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        It’s definitely not a roller coaster. You don’t get flipped at all and there is only one moment that feels like a “drop” – but it’s quick and much less intense than a roller coaster. You are physically moved around quite a bit, but none of the movements are particularly fierce. The ride system is very smooth and gentle, even when moving you quickly. It’s quite impressive.

        1. Natalie

          Thank you for the great in-depth description! I am going in October, and being a HUGE Potter fan didn’t want to miss out despite my intense fear of coasters. You truly helped to calm my nerves and now I can be excited about the “journey” :)

    13. Elliot

      This review is amazing! I cannot wait to see it, I am visiting IOA in October and am so excited. Your review is so informative and is exactly what I wanted to read! I was just wondering if you could elaborate a bit more on how the seats work. I am heavier and wanted to know if I even have a chance of riding the ride. Any information or advice would be greatly appreciated!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        The over-the-shoulder harness on each seat must come down to a certain level for you to be allowed to ride. Apparently it must make three “clicks” in order to be safely secured. You can sit in the test seats outside the ride and pull the harness down. Universal employees are there to help you figure out if you’ll be able to ride or not.

    14. Ashley

      I am super afraid of spiders…will closing my eyes be enough, or will they touch me (aside from the venom)

      also, the dementor bit sounds super scary too, because they get so close. again, will closing my eyes work? lol

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Closing your eyes will definitely work. While the sounds are scary, they’re not nearly as scary as the visuals. If you can handle listening to the ride recording embedded above, then you can certainly make it through the ride without looking. 😉 But you really should at least peek. It’s a lot of fun!

    15. Brent

      Hey Ricky. Thanks for the review. I know you’ve addressed the height/weight question a few times but i’m real curious about that..I’m 6’4″ and weigh about 250 so in your opinion as you’ve ridden the ride a few times, do you think my size will fit? Thanks again

      1. Ricky Brigante

        You’ll be close. Your height is within the limit but it will depend on how well your weight is disbursed throughout your body. If you have a big stomach, you likely won’t be able to ride. But if you’re just an overall big guy without any one part larger than another, then you will likely fit. It’s all about girth, as the harness has to come down to a certain level for you to be safe.

        1. Brent

          Thanks again Ricky. My fears have been abated. I’ll def be able to ride!

    16. Alan

      Hi Ricky. I have a few more questions, if you don’t mind.

      Do the Enchanted Benches travel at a constant speed along the floor throughout the ride, or do they speed up and slow down at certain points?

      Do the Enchanted Benches ever face in the direction of travel, or are they always facing away from the track so that you can’t see the other Enchanted Benches?

      Given that the ride vehicle is similar to a Floorless Coaster car, are you very conscious of the floor (and the track) during the ride? How do Universal prevent you from seeing it?

      With the heavy use of video projections of real actors, do you think the attraction will age well? In 10 years time will the video quality look dated, and will the actors seem strangely old and irrelevant? It’s hard to think of any other major attractions that use THIS much video of real actors. Can you think of any? Maybe Ellen’s Energy Adventure?

      Do you think the three dome projection scenes add to the ride, or would the ride be better without them, and focusing more on real three-dimensionsal sets?

      1. Alan

        Just bumping my owns questions, hoping they’ll get answered :-)

      2. Ricky Brigante

        It is my impression that the Kuka robot arms that hold the “benches” do travel at a relatively constant speed throughout the ride. It seems that all sense of fast movement is created by the arm swinging left, right, up, and down.

        The vehicles do occasionally face in the direction of travel, but only briefly. You avoid seeing other vehicles in these situations either by being tilted on your back and facing a bit upward or if there’s a turn ahead. Each vehicle is spaced quite a large distance apart. I only caught one or two quick glimpses of other ones when I was looking for them.

        I never once noticed the floor. I never even thought to look straight down. I imagine it’s just blackness down there.

        I don’t think the video portions will age gracefully. They’re already blurry and a bit warped looking. But the actors themselves will remain relevant for many years to come, in the same way that the Harry Potter movies will be enjoyable for quite a while without looking old.

        You couldn’t achieve the type of flying that is seen during the video projection sequences using real sets. With that said, I always prefer the real thing to simulations.

    17. Robby

      Thanks for the great review Ricky! I have a question about the floating candles (both in the Room of Requirement, and the Dragon Challenge queue). Do they look completely real and look like they’re really floating? People always mention that they are there, but never seem impressed by them. Can you tell how they did it? Does the illusion seem believable? I think it would be amazing to see them!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        They’re quite ignorable. They’re high up enough to where you can’t really see them all that well. They look great all together because there are so many of them.

    18. Susan

      Thank you so much for the review! I was concerned about being able to ride since I am in a wheelchair, but have only seen height restrictions and am “: there and transferring is no problem. However I have a rather embarrassing phobia of complete darkness. I can deal with total darkness for short periods of time and there is no problem if there is some source of light somewhere. I can handle scary as long as there is some light. What’s the longest amount of time you would say you were in total darkness during the ride? Thanks again for the review!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        The longest span of total darkness is a few seconds here and there. In those scenes, spiders, Dementors, or other nasty creatures inevitably pop out around every turn. :)

    19. Ian

      Wow! Just, wow! This review makes me want to go to the WWOHP even more but I live in England (UK) and can’t afford to go. Me and my mates are planning on going but we need to save a lot of money.

    20. Ricky,

      You did a super job on the Spoiler Filled review of the Forbidden Journey article. Just loved it!! Thanks soooo much. About 30 days and we will be there. Hoooray!! You only made us more excited about going.

      I noticed that the fellow on the bench with you in the picture had his hat on. Is there ny risk of losing your ball cap on the ride?

      Thanks for all the time you put in to bring these experiences “to life” for us.

      Besst wishes from Maine!!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        If your hat is on tight, it’s highly unlikely it will fall off. The ride is thrilling, but it’s not a thrill ride. It moves you around quickly but smoothly and never with extreme force.

    21. Fafa

      Nice Review. Just a bit disappointed Voldemort didn’t show up. I’d like a bit more dark magic than just some dementors.
      Thanks again!

    22. Paul

      Well written, I went on Tuesday, did the ride twice. OK it is a great ride, probably the best one I have ever been on. The HP section of the park is effectivley 2 new rides and 1 rebadged one. 1 new restaurant and some shops. It is all well designed. But if you have been to universal before, don’t be fooled in thinking it’s a seperate theme park. Having spent £340 on the 2 week tickets for a family of 4 to universal I don’t feel cheated having never been before, someone who has been before might want to think twice about splashing the cash as it will mean an expensive ride.

      1. Paul

        Forgot to add that I don’t agree with the blurriness comment in the review. I did not notice it as you are physically moving constantly. The image looked like it was from a HD projector as there was alot of detail in the CGI. I could not fault it at all, like 99% of people I am not a theme park buff. ( nb I had a virgin holiday package so got the early entry)

      2. Frog

        Actually, it’s two re themed rides and one new ride. However, being a Harry Potter fan and a theme park goer, I can’t wait. I think most people know that it’s a separate section, and if you’ve done your homework, you’ll know exactly what is in it. The section itself is so immersive that it doesn’t feel like your in a theme park. You very well could be in the United Kingdom at Hogwarts. I’ve been here many times, and I won’t think twice about spending the cash. 1, being a Harry Potter fan adds to me wanting to go. 2. The section is an attraction in itself, because of how immersive it is. I have been to many theme parks, but I’ve never actually felt like I was really in a different world. This, according to most, makes you feel just that. I hope this will attract people for years to come, and that people will not be disappointed as long as they do their homework.

    23. Rose

      Ok than! Did I miss something important for where is the ride? The journey to the ride was great and I most say, thanks for the video but where again in the ride?

      1. Ricky Brigante

        The ride is located within Hogwarts Castle in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is a section of the Islands of Adventure theme park at Universal Orlando in Florida. The Universal Orlando Resort is located around 20-30 minutes from Walt Disney World.

    24. Frog

      Alright, I have a few comments… One, maybe that shack you went into is supposed to be Hagrids Hut? That would explain you going into the forbidden forest and then the spiders… Also, the story seems to be to me that muggles were invited to a tour of Hogwarts, however, Harry, Ron, and Hermione come to save us from the boring lecture on the history that Professor Binns is about to give us. And instead of the boring, and possibly educational tour of Hogwarts, we instead get thrust into an adventure with Harry and his friends.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Yes, that’s definitely the basic plot. I use the word “basic” on purpose. That really just sets the stage for the adventure that ensues. There’s no real beginning, middle, and end to be found. You’re a muggle. You’re at Hogwarts. You’re thrust into a series of life-threatening situations. That’s pretty much it! :)

        1. Frog

          Yes, and Harry is too… The end kind of gives you a sense of the fact that this is Harry’s home… I’m sorry that you expected more, the ride should be amazing once I finally get to go on it… I love theme parks, and I love the Harry Potter series, so this will be amazing…

          1. Frog

            Man, I can’t edit my post, alright, the situation is kind of like Harry’s in the books. Harry doesn’t do much and there isn’t much that he does to get thrust into his situations… It just, happens, sometimes… I agree, a better story line would have made the ride even better, however, I think the ride will be amazing, because you have entered Harry’s world….

            1. Ricky Brigante

              Very true. You definitely enter Harry’s world and stumble through scenes in the same way that he did/does.

    25. DniScribe

      Actually, the “wooden building” in the “Scene 4” description is the covered wooden bridge on Hogwarts grounds. You fly around the outside of it during the previous projection, and it can clearly be seen while you hide in the Stone Circle.


      The bench attempts to escape from the dragon (the bench is a character of its own) and crashes into the bridge’s interior. Once the dragon reaches you, it knocks you (and the benches) into the Forbidden Forest — which is relatively close to the bench.

      1. Frog

        That’s what it is! That definitely makes sense… Although it could have a bit more lighting and outside projections of Hogwarts to seem more realistic. But oh well, that’s great, now we know what that is. That’s cool…

      2. Ricky Brigante

        Aha! Thank you very much for posting this. That makes perfect sense. I think it would have been clearer if you could easily see the area around you behind the dragon and beyond the bridge while you’re in it. It seems a bit more walled-in than that open-air bridge should be. But the relative placement of it certainly works. Even so, the transition from that bridge directly into the Acromantula pit is still abrupt. There really ought to be some kind of linking moment there.

      3. DniScribe

        Oops. I meant to say that the Forbidden Forest is relatively close to the covered bridge. Sorry about that. But yes, the look of it in the films is fairly claustrophobic, but the architecture throughout the practical set perfectly matches the interior of the bridge as seen in the films… just crumbling due to the attack, of course. =)

    26. Frog

      One part of your review stated that “I understand the designers’ desire to simulate what it would really be like to fly alongside Potter and the gang, but instead of flying with experts, I was left feeling like I was a first-time flyer that couldn’t keep under control.” While I realize that you want to feel like an expert on a broom, remember, your on the enchanted bench that “can be a bit dodgey”. Harry and Ron aren’t in control of your bench, therefore, the feeling of no control should be a bit expected. I have no idea where Hermione came from… But maybe we’ll find out tonight, when the “Making of the Wizarding World” special on NBC airs…

      1. Ricky Brigante

        All I meant by that was that you bounce all over the place, sometimes excessively. All of the motion simulator sections kind of feel like they’re in fast-forward.

    27. Hannah P

      How big is the drop? I’m not good with big drops. And are the motion simulated parts kind of like Star Tours? I got sick from that…But I was fine on Soarin’ because it’s not a lot of movement.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        The “drop” is not huge and it’s very short. It’s not even a real roller coaster-style drop, but rather a quick movement downward. The motion simulator parts are a lot smoother than Star Tours, but faster than Soarin.

    28. Hannah P

      Also, one more thing. When you’re on the ride can you hear other people laughing and screaming? I don’t want to feel alone. I know it sounds weird that I would WANT to hear the people behind me, but I think it would make me feel safer. Reading your review, I’m already scared. But really excited! But its so tough for me because I love Harry Potter so much, but I don’t like big rides. Ugh.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        You are somewhat isolated from everyone else, as there are only 3 other people in the vehicle with you and dividers separate your heads from each other. You can’t see each other but you can hear screams/laughter if they’re loud enough.

    29. Robby

      Ricky – Do the floating candles look real? Can you please tell us more about that effect? Thanks!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        I didn’t get a good look at them… too busy wanting to hop onto the ride! :)

    30. jtizzle1023

      Not sure if anyone has said this but, as ricky said that the scenes move rather abruptly like going from outside the castle to a wooden house. Im not full of knowledge about the potter series but is it possible it can be they linked the scenes together with the use of flu powder? Because thats how the ride began right?

      1. Frog

        Floo powder is the travel through fireplace, and as there isn’t a fire place outside and everywhere at Hogwarts, no, they couldn’t link them. However, the outside to the bridge scene would make sense. You’re trying to evade the dragon, and you crashed into the old wooden covered bridge…

        1. Frog

          The travel through fireplace at the begining of the ride is to get you up to the observatory… The travel through it at the end is to get you back to where you started…

      2. Ricky Brigante

        Definitely not. Some scenes just flow together even if they don’t totally make sense next to each other. And yet, it still works.

    31. Leah

      Thank you for your review! Did the ride say anything about pregnant women not being allowed to ride?

      1. Frog

        There is a warning sign outside that says pregnant woman should not ride. I’m sorry to say most rides aren’t for pregnant room due to the nature of the rides…

      2. Ricky Brigante

        Pregnant women are never encouraged to ride any attraction that bounces you around, like this one.

    32. Angi

      We are considering going to Universal this summer for this exact reason. How intense in the ride itself, one of my children, the 8 yr old is terrified of fast moving or very high rides. Do you think this would be too much for her?

      1. Paul

        There is a child swap room, so one of you can sit with the youngster whilst the others do the ride, let them decide if it is too fast, then you can ride it with or without the 8 yr old without queuing. It is fast paced when you are infront of the screens, I rode it again yesterday and it turned my stomach although the other 3 with me were OK, 9 yr old daughter loved it.

    33. Paul

      We queued for 80 minutes yesterday, so expect long lines, express pass was not valid on the ride. Also queued for 45 minutes to get into the wand shop, about 20 at a time. 1 gets chosen , luckily my 9 year old daughter. The chosen one has the wand ‘pick you’, well worth doing even if it is a long queue. No spoliers from me!!!

    34. Hannah P

      Does anyone know how fast the ride actual goes? Like MPH? Has that information been released yet?

    35. Are you absolutely sure the Forbidden Journey can be handled by someone who hates roller coasters to death? I really really hate those things (oddly enough because I constantly do gymnastics and inversions on the ground) and I really don’t want a repeat of the Disney world kiddie coaster at age 7. Trust me, it WAS NOT pretty. So do you think this is okay for me? I don’t want to have to nearly have a heart attack, mainly because of the special effects. I would try to close my eyes if the motion would for sure be fine. Haven’t had the chance to listen to the audio yet, but I will soon. But from just what I read, I’m scared to death. What about the hippogriff ride?
      Thanks so much for this report! We’re going to be there in just a week, and I don’t want to miss anything I might be able to do, but I don’t want to end up in tears coming off a ride I (or really, my parents) thought I could handle. Thanks!

      1. Paul

        After my 2nd go on the ride a woman was in tears as she came off the ride, she was either scared or a mentalist super fan

      2. Ricky Brigante

        It sounds like you have a pretty tough time on coasters, so I may not recommend you ride Forbidden Journey. Try Flight of the Hippogriff first. It’s a short kiddie coaster that isn’t very fast. If you can handle that, you may be able to handle Forbidden Journey. But if you can’t, I wouldn’t go on FJ. Good luck.

    36. Allison

      Thank you sooooooooo much for your insite all your info about WWoHP :) I am going in 21 days and am super excited :) I of course have some questions…
      1)When first arriving at WWoHP would you recomend going to Olivanders or the Forbidden Journey ride first to avoid the lines?

      2)You said they have somewhere to put small items if they are not in a locker, will my cell phone be secure? Or how is the optional storage on the actual seats secured?
      Thanks so much again, i love your site!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        You’re welcome! :)

        1. Ollivander’s. The Forbidden Journey line will be long, but at least a large portion of it is indoors and VERY entertaining. The line for Ollivander’s is completely outdoors and could get quite miserable after a while. Plus, there really is no better or more appropriate way to start your trip into the Wizarding World than the way that Harry himself started it – with a visit to Ollivander’s. Right?

        2. The storage in the seat back is large enough to fit small items, maybe even a small purse. The compartment is literally right behind your back. You open it before you sit down, put whatever you want inside, and then close it and sit back against it. It has a latch to stay shut, but your own body weight will keep it closed as well. But whatever you put in there will likely bounce around a bit during the ride, so I wouldn’t use it for anything fragile. I don’t think there is a cushion inside.

        1. Allison

          Okay thank you very much :) One more question, how long did it take you to get through all of WWoHP? I only have 2 days at Both universal parks and would like to spend a good amount of time at WWoHP but also my family will want to see the other part of the parks as well…sadly haha

          1. Ricky Brigante

            Two days should be enough time to see the majority of the Wizarding World and see the park’s other major attractions. I’ve spent a total of around 7 or 8 hours there and I feel like I’ve seen almost everything. There is a ton of detail to browse, but you can definitely at least get a good look at everything.

    37. Jean

      Are any of the drops similar to Disney’s Tower of Terror or is this one of the rides where you can re-orient your sense of balance by closing your eyes briefly such as with the Indiana Jones ride or the Star Tours ride? Thanks for the great review!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        There is absolutely nothing like the Tower of Terror on this ride. If you close your eyes during Forbidden Journey, you’ll realize that you’re really not moving all that much. You get turned left, right, up, and down, but the speed you’re actually traveling through the physical space is rather slow.

    38. Stephanie

      Ricky, thank you for the detailed review. I’d like to go to the Wizarding World, but am not a roller coaster fan, so I might have skipped “Forbidden Journey” (assuming too many steep stomach-churning drops) if I hadn’t read your review. I think I’ll brave it — the ride sounds well worth it. My kids will love it.

      Just one suggestion: can you revise your review to spell “flue” correctly? A fireplace flue is spelled F-L-U-E, just like the color blue or Elmer’s glue. It’s disconcerting to see “floo” used numerous times in your review.

      A true (not troo) fan of Harry Potter,

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Stephanie – I’m sure you’ll enjoy Forbidden Journey. Glad I could help.

        As for “flue” versus “floo,” perhaps you should direct your comment to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, as “floo” is her spelling of choice for the “floo network” and “floo powder.”


    39. Irene

      Thanks a lot for a great review, Ricky! We are traveling to Orlando in Nov with two kids (11 and 6). My 11-years old and me are both Harry Potter fans. I don’t think we will go to other parts of Universal, except of Wizarding World. Do you think one day will be enough only for Wizarding World?

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Yes, if you’re only interested in the Wizarding World section of Islands of Adventure, one day should be plenty. I being there when the park closes, as nighttime is definitely the best time in that area. It’s a nice treat to linger and be able to be one of the last guests out.

    40. Courtney

      Thank you so much for writing this article! I am an older Harry Potter fan who doesn’t like fast rides, so I was curious about this one. I do have one question for you, is it roller coaster like or would a scaredy-cat like me be able to ride this? I have done other virtual rides at Universal, and I am fine. Just a little curious that’s all. Again wonderful review!!

      1. Courtney

        lol never mind! I did not get through all the comments before I wrote this!

      2. Dan

        I really can’t handle going upside down on a rollercoaster. I can’t ride the Hulk or Dueling Dragons. I LOVE Spiderman and Simpsons. Will I be able to handle this ride? If I close my eyes, will I be ok? I truly appreciate the advice. You gave a fantastic review. Thanks.

        1. Ricky Brigante

          If you love Spider-Man and The Simpsons Ride, you will love Forbidden Journey. You’ll definitely be able to handle it.

          1. Dan

            Thanks, Does this ride go upside down?

    41. Matt O

      I was at the park on tuesday the 22nd. I rode the ride with my 7 year old son, it was a very good ride except it shut down twice while we were on it. The first time wasnt too bad except the was fog blowing in our face. The second time, we were upside down. and it got to be a little uncomfortable.

    42. Hey Ricky… Two guestions…

      Im going to Orlando next week and wanted to ask you this.. When entering the wizarding world, which side would you say is the best side to enter from to get the total effect… So I can see shops and then get the, “wow” effect of seeing the castle..

      Second, the water on the ride.. Is it really to a point where you come off soaked? I’m sure it’s not like popeye…haha.. But could you compare it to like Spider-man with just drips here and there?


      1. Ricky Brigante

        Definitely enter from the front. That is, when you enter the park, walk through Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent. That will let you pass through Hogsmeade Village first before getting the big castle reveal at the end.

        Depending on which seat you sit in, you could get rather wet. It’s not like Popeye or Dudley Do-Right, but after one ride my wife described what she felt as like getting a direct hit with a Super Soaker.

    43. Questions… * lol

    44. Laura

      Hi Ricky. Your review is great! I have 15 weeks to go and ill be there. Just hae a quick question if thats okay. I love rides/rollarcoasters, but my friend is coming to orlando with me. She is a huge HP fan, but has only ever been on 1 rollarcoaster in her life which was a kiddie coaster, and she refuses to go on another. I have explained that it isnt quite a rollarcoaster from what I have read.
      Was just hoping to get some info about the track height. Does the track just go along the floor or does it go up and down. What do you think is the highest you go on the ride. This would be ver helpful to us. Thanks in advance

      1. Ricky Brigante

        It’s definitely not a roller coaster. The track is largely, if not totally, flat. The vertical motion comes from the giant robot arm that you are attached to. You spend the majority of the ride suspended around 10 feet off of the ground, but you never realize that’s the case. Your feet dangle and sway, but you never have a reason to look down.

        1. Laura

          thank you…that has really helped :0)

    45. Thanks so much for writing such an informative review. I’m going this winter and am really excited. I read a number of people mentioning that the three rides in the area contain 2 revamped rides and only one new one… out of curiosity, is the dragon ride the old dueling dragons ride and the hippogriff ride the old unicorn kiddie ride? Just curious.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Yes, that’s correct. Dragon Challenge (Dueling Dragons) is essentially the same ride it always has been, with some changes to the queue. Flight of the Hippogriff is the same ride as the Flying Unicorn but with better-looking trains and a fun queue that passes Hagrid’s Hut.

    46. Amanda

      I was just wondering – I have a really hard time dealing with forced/canned air like on soaring and the stink bug fog in the 4D Bugs Life show in Walt Disney World. It almost makes me start to hyperventalate. Does the Harry Potter Ride have any of this? Thanks!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Yes, the section where the dragon blows “fire” at you is filled with that sort of thing. The dragon spits fog that’s lit up in a bright red color. But it only lasts a couple of seconds. You move past it pretty quickly. There are a few other fog effects, but none invade your space.

        1. Amanda

          Awesome – thanks Ricky:) Great review and thanks for your answer:)

    47. Dianab

      Great review, thanks so much. One quick question. I have a phobia of snakes and wondered if you caught a glimpse of any snakes on the ride. I even have trouble watching some of the movies due to this. Thanks again!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Yes and no. There is a giant skeleton of the Basilisk (the big snake from Chamber of Secrets), but it doesn’t move. You just fly past it quickly at one point.

    48. Lucie

      Hi. We will be going to Universal in 2 weeks. I love roller coasters and can handle them just fine. But, I have vertigo and simulated rides give me problems. Soarin’ wasn’t too bad but Mission:Space was bad, and I rode the non-moving one. Do you think I would be able to ride Forbidden Journey without getting sick? Thank you!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Mission: Space is a unique brand of simulator. If you can handle Soarin, Star Tours, The Simpsons Ride, and roller coasters, then you’ll have no problem on Forbidden Journey.

    49. Joshua

      This ride put me into sensory overload, by the end I wanted off and it brought me to tears. Did anyone else have that reaction?

      1. Mary

        Overall, I loved the ride but it was intense in terms of you feeling totally immersed. Four minutes was just enough time; any longer and I would have wanted off.

    50. Kelly Smith

      I was fortunate to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey twice in July of 2010. I am a 46 year old mother who loves rides and this is truly the most amazing experience I’ve had. The feeling of flying was like no other. The effects were outstanding. As soon as the ride ended I knew I was destined to repeat it even with the long wait times. People lined up at 6 am to enter the park which was not necessary. Although they rarely do this at Universal, we received something comparable to a Fast Pass on entrance to the park which allowed us a 1 hour wait when reporting back at the designated time. While we were on the ride it broke down for 15 minutes. The next morning the ride was shut down for several hours after it left riders stranded for more than an hour and they had to be evacuated via the stairs. Being gluttons for punishment we begged management for compensation by asking for one more flight with Harry and his friends. After another hour wait in line (another Fast Pass) we boarded the ride only to have it break down a 2nd time. We were just happy they were able to get it going so when the ride ended we cut our losses and moved on. Happy to have experienced the greatest thrill ride EVER! Well worth the wait.


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