Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey Review

Ride Reviews Theme Park Reviews

On my recent trip to Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, my family’s focus was on Seuss Landing. My oldest daughter is a Dr. Seuss fan and loves The Cat in the Hat TV show. We enjoyed rides like the Caro-Seuss-el, One-Fish, Two-Fish, and of course The Cat in the Hat dark ride. As our evening at the park was coming to an end, we made our way to the impressively-themed Wizarding World of Harry Potter so that I could take a quick spin on the Forbidden Journey.

A Quick Taste of The Wizarding World

My brief stroll through the Wizarding World blew me away. I felt like I just walked onto the set of the movie and for some reason there were all these theme park guests there instead of the characters from the series and British bystanders. There’s a large steam train and then a long city street with an authentic London look. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to venture into the shops, but I could tell that I would have been impressed by the amount of detail inside just as I was from the outside. One of my daughters was a little freaked out by the vomiting statue in the window of one shop anyway. No surprise, but this area is really for older kids and adults. I really do wish that I had more time to explore and I’m looking forward to re-visiting the park and taking it all in. It was very impressive, but the coup de grace was still ahead.

Hogsmeade - Wizarding World Harry Potter

Hogwarts Is In Orlando!

We made our way to the end of the themed street. I looked up to my left and was in awe. I’d heard that people had been literally stopped in their tracks by the sight of Hogwarts and I was too. I’m only a lukewarm fan of the movies. I think I’ve seen 4 (maybe 5) of the 8 movies and I’ve never read any of the books, but I know the series well enough to know Hogwarts when I see it. It looked amazing from the outside!

Forbidden Journey - Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The park was about to close, so there was no wait in the queue at all. As I moved through the interior of the castle I was again impressed by the level of detail and theming in what has to be one of the World’s coolest queues. There were the talking paintings in a stairwell and  projections of characters that were likely laying out the storyline for the ride. With the distance, lighting, and technique used, I had to take a double take as I moved past Dumbledore talking to an empty queue. I’d be more than fine waiting for the Forbidden Journey on a future visit. That way I’d be able to catch all of the details and try to figure out the magic behind all of the cool stuff in the queue.

Finally, I found the enchanted benches. Even the station (which is normally run-of-the-mill) looked other-worldly. I had to stop and comprehend what was going on for a second. “Oh yeah, I’m getting on a ride here”. The station was made to look like the Room of Requirements. It was surrounded by mirrors and had weird lighting. The four seat-wide benches were sitting on a massive rolling floor like a conveyor belt. Once aboard for my solo trip, the wizards put a spell on the bench and it lifted off of the floor. Having covered the ride since it was only a rumor, I knew the robocoaster system was behind me, but for the general public I’d imagine that they have no idea what’s happening. The experience was very different than riding in just a car or vehicle moving on a track.

The Forbidden Journey

Spoiler Alert – Don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know what happens in the Forbidden Journey.
I won’t go blow-by-blow through the entire ride, but here’s a summary of what I remember. As you ride the bench, you find yourself flying after Harry who’s riding a Quidditch broom stick. You encounter a dragon and then end up in the Forbidden Forest. There you face mammoth spiders and a tree that’s not too happy to see you. The benches are moving on robotic arm that’s moving on a track. They’re synchronized with large wrap-around projection screens and they also move past physical animatronic set pieces. There are plenty of scares which is a good thing since this ride falls into the dark ride genre. The ride could have just focused on flying around the school and Quidditch scenes, but I’m glad that it took a dark and scary turn (although I didn’t enjoy the spider spraying me in my eyes). If you’re an arachnophob, good luck!

After quite a while in the Forbidden Forest, we met up with Harry again and fly into the middle of a Quidditch match. Those spooky Dementors show up and try to steal your soul. Harry saves the day and you return to the castle. As the ride ends, your magically and seamlessly placed back on that rolling station again. The transition back to the station is unreal. That’s a pretty brief summary and I know that I missed a lot of details. Read a full detailed account of the ride here on Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey on Wikipedia page.

My Take – The Forbidden Journey Delivers and Then Some

Hogwarts & Flight of the Hippogriff

Overall, the Forbidden Journey is an incredible experience from the outside, the queue, and the ride. Again, I’m glad that there were physical pieces and real scares and not only the projection screens. The screens were a bit video game-ish, which isn’t a knock, but alone they wouldn’t have really made the ride all that great. Also, some of the screens seemed a little too dark to me. I wasn’t sure if they were always that way, but they seemed a little too dim at times. Also, the bit of the Wizarding World that I saw was very cool too. I don’t have a theme park ride scale like my roller coaster scale yet, but I think I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10. I tend to stick to roller coasters at theme parks so I can’t compare the Forbidden Journey against Disney’s many themed and dark ride attractions. I can say that it greatly surpasses the modern dark rides that I’ve ridden (Curse of Darkastle at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and the original Amazing Spider-Man also at Islands of Adventure).

If you haven’t been, this area and this ride are well worth a visit to Islands of Adventure. Never mind attractions like the inverted roller coasters of Dragons Challenge (Formerly Dueling Dragons – Fire & Ice), the world-class launch coaster Incredible Hulk, the upgraded Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and the rest of the park.

Visit the Universal Orlando’s site for more on Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey.

What’s your take? Have you ridden Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey? Leave a comment below.
Image 1 via CC Flickr User – PopCultureGeek.com, Image 2 via CC Flick User – Roller Coaster Philosophy

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

10 Comments

  1. Wish I would've known you were coming. I work for Universal Studios.

    Reply
  2. I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan but I've been wanting to ride this thing soooo bad. Can't believe I haven't made it back down there to check it out yet, as I don't think I've read a bad review. I could also use the Hippogriff credit even though it's just a large roller skater.

    Reply
    • You should definitely make it down there. It was quite an experience. Unfortunately, I didn't get the Hippogriff credit. The park was closing so I had to run. But, I had the same thought.

      Reply
  3. I finally made it for the first time in February (and only my second visit to IOA). I was pretty much blown away. The ride motion is intense and I felt pretty shaky when I got off the ride the first time. The videos of the ride on You Tube don't do the traditional dark/scary parts justice. It is amazing how close to the animatronics the the robo arm appears to swing you. I really thought the Whomping Willow was going to hit me. Although it does not technically go upside down, the arms swing you backwards pretty far–far enough that I had some hang time. I agree the main weakness is the bad resolution of the video, and at times the edges of the video domes are not blended into the live scenes that follow. Unfortunately Spiderman was down for its rehab so I couldn't do a side-by-side comparison.

    Congratulations on finally getting down there!

    Reply
  4. I actually still enjoy Spider-Man better than Harry Potter actually, and that's before the Spider-Man HD upgrade. Don't know if its the 3D, the special effects (lighting, explosions, etc.) or just my love of Spider-Man in general though. Forbidden Journey is still really good though, and I definitely could see people spazzing out in excitement over the experience.

    I'd actually like to see a robocoaster ride geared towards thrill seekers. Probably would never happen due to the sheer expense of the ride, but seeing what the capabilities of the robocoaster arms are (The Sum of All Thrills at Epcot let's you design a rollercoaster and ride it on a robocoaster-powered simulator). The arms are definitely capable of inversions and other thrilling maneuvers, so I'd like to see that type of stuff realized while moving along a track like Forbidden Journey. Don't know what theme park I'd expect to invest that type of money in for a high thrill ride though.

    Reply
  5. Unlucky for me, the last time I'd came to Islands Of Adventure, The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was still in construction. Seems like I have really missed out; though i am hoping to go to Orlando again.

    Reply
  6. I was down there opening year and it was epic! I loved the entire theming of the whole area. Did it break down on you at all? Did you locate the single-rider line?

    Reply
    • I didn't need to find the the single rider line since the queue was empty. But, it's good to know that there is one.

      Reply
  7. I got to enjoy this ride all the way back in March and I still think about it daily. I would say it's best to go into this ride spoiler free. I never read a Harry Potter book nor seen any of the films. I didn't know the ride mechanics or what was involved with this ride. To be honest as a person who is used to mostly amusement parks and not theme parks I wasn't even excited about this ride. and then POW!!!! First it has to have the longest queue I have ever seen! It took longer to walk thru the queue with no line the actually riding the ride. And I had also never seen such a well themed queue. My friend and I commented on how if we were Harry Potter fans we would probably be losing our collective minds! I have to say I loved the technology of the ride and was not expecting that. Also the integration of contrasting elements as mentioned above in the review. I liked how the more times I rode that more things I heard or saw and that made it even better. All I can say as a theme/amusement park fan is I'd love to see more rides like this and it is a must ride so get down to Universal!!

    Reply
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