Spoiler-filled look at the new 'Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey' ride and the rest of the Wizarding World


If you like to experience new attractions for yourself without knowing much about them, and you’re planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, stop reading now. But if you want to know all about what guests will find in the new area of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, read on …

We were able to spend a few hours over the weekend experiencing and documenting the not-yet-opened to the general public, Wizarding World of Harry Potter. No, we didn’t get in because we’re with the media, we found out that everyone staying at one of the three Universal hotels gets into the new land each morning. So we booked a room.

No other park guests have been allowed in the park yet, despite many loyal fans hanging out by the entrance and reporting on Twitter with the #potterwatch tag (ourselves included). Rumors persist of a soft opening for Universal Passholders or all park guests but nothing has been officially announced. So for now, the hotel guest previews continue.

Within the below videos and photos, you can see just about every part of the Wizarding World. But I’ll start with one of the most talked-about and little-known, the brand new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.

Each day of the preview, the ride has been running but it hasn’t been long before it shut down with technical issues. I spoke with Alan Gilmore, the art director of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and he said the ride is 99% ready, but they’re having a few small issues. This is to be expected of any brand new ride. That’s why the grand opening is on June 18 and any access before then is considered a preview or soft opening.

But I was one of the lucky ones this morning. I got to ride with no glitches. It’s pretty awesome.

Universal describes the ride as a “360-degree theme park experience and first-ever combination of live-action, advanced robotic technology and innovative filmmaking …”. I describe it as a mix of “The Many Adventures of Spider-Man”, “Soarin'”, and a traditional dark ride with animatronics. But you have to ride yourself to really know. It’s unlike any others. Many say Spider-Man is the best theme park ride around, but I say Forbidden Journey one-ups Spidey with its motion and animatronics.

Riders sit four to a “bench” which is connected to a robot arm that moves along a track while smoothly swinging you around in time to what you’re seeing (you can’t see the arm). In one scene you’ll be enveloped by a dome screen showing a high resolution film of the Harry Potter actors and scenes from the movie (think Soarin’ from the very center), then without a noticeable interruption, the screens will be gone and you’ll be in a live scene full of animatronic spiders, a dragon or Dementors. (Sort of like Spider-Man but with live animatronics.)

You’ll continue from screen to real scene and back seamlessly throughout the four minute ride. (I was worried about the ride being too short, but it doesn’t feel that way.) It’s not in 3D, but it does feature effects such as air blasts, smoke and water hitting you.

Despite the warning sign, I didn’t find the ride physically intense. The movement is smooth and you don’t go upside down. But some of the movements are fast and you do go on your back a couple of times. I think if you can handle riding Spider-Man and Soarin’, you’ll be fine. But the intesity is there in the form of emotion. With spiders, a dragon, and the evil Dementors trying to suck out your soul, many will have their eyes shut during parts of the ride. One cool (or scary) aspect is just how close everything gets to you. You’ll feel like you can reach out and touch a spider (not that you’d want to). Also, like Soarin’, it’s best if you’re not too afraid of heights.

You’ve probably heard the plot already. If not, you’ll figure it out after going through the many rooms of Hogwarts on your way to the ride. Harry and pals are taking you to a Quidditch match and Hagrid’s lost his dragon. So you’ll have to deal with that and the Dementors that show up unannounced. That’s it for the plot. The ride doesn’t try to tell a story as much as it just takes you through the skies above Hogwarts encountering dangers on the way. (Including a life-size swiping Whomping Willow). But it all moves by so fast it’s hard to take it all in. You’ll need a few rides before you’ll be able to see everything there is to see.

Before you get to the ride, the queue will take you through the very detailed Hogwarts Castle and many of its rooms as seen in the movies. Here’s a walk-through.

Hogwarts Castle walk-through tour at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We’re going backwards here, but here’s a walk through Hogsmeade Village up to the castle.

Hogsmeade Village walk-through tour at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

And a look inside the many shops.

Inside the shops of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Here’s what you may experience inside Ollivanders Wand Shop.

A wand chooses a boy inside Ollivanders Wand Shop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Outdoor entertainment includes the Frog Choir …

Frog Choir performing in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal

And students from the visiting wizard schools performing.

Last are the other two rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We have some photos in the gallery below, but no video from Dragon Challenge (formerly Dueling Dragons).

Here’s a point-of-view video of Flight of the Hippogriff (formerly The Flying Unicorn).

Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster POV at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

PS. Butterbeer is fantastic, and frozen Butterbeer is even better. It tastes like a mix between vanilla creme and butterscotch. My son says the Pumpkin Juice tastes like Thanksgiving.

If you have any questions, please post them at the bottom of the page in our comments section.

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(Photos by Chris Nash and Matt Roseboom)


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Nick Lepa May 30, 2010 - 9:54 pm

Now that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter updates are near an end are you going to start doing weekly/ monthly construction updates of the new Fantasy Land and the new hotels coming to Disney?

Andrew May 30, 2010 - 10:14 pm

Quick question. Looking at the ride vehicle, the thing that sticks out at me most is the box above your head. Being 6′ 4″ and a Harry Potter fan this makes me nervous. Any word on if there are height restrictions about being too tall?

Matt May 31, 2010 - 2:10 pm

Nick: Yes, but our Fantasyland updates won’t start for a while. There’s not much to see yet.

Matt May 31, 2010 - 2:11 pm

Andrew: I’m not sure, but I can tell you I am 6′ 1″ and had no problems fitting into the seat. I think you’ll be fine.

Kerri June 2, 2010 - 2:15 pm

My kids can definately ride soarin no problem but spiderman made them feel sick. Do you think that this ride is more tame like soarin as far as motion goes? They can always close their eyes if they don’t like the scene.

Amber June 2, 2010 - 2:32 pm

Some rides make me feel a little queasy when they are motion simulators…I rode this one 3 times and felt fine twice and sick once. Overall, it’s wonderful and I would definitely recommend it! Its worth the sick feeling-but I am definitely glad that was my 3rd time on!

Matt June 2, 2010 - 2:38 pm

Kerri: It’s not as tame as Soarin’. There’s a lot more movement, so I’d suggest riding, but taking some seasick pills first or something.

Chrissy June 2, 2010 - 6:12 pm

I am not into Harry Potter, but the ride seems so fabulous I want to go.
My question is if I am scared to death of spiders, dragons is it worth it to go and stand in line for hours only to close my eyes during those scary parts???

Matt June 2, 2010 - 6:14 pm

Chrissy: I say yes. There are scary parts but there’s enough other cool things to make it worth seeing.

ryan keelan June 2, 2010 - 11:42 pm

i went in to the wizarding world of harry potter today and it was excellent. Frozen butterbeer is one of the greatest things I have ever tasted and the ride was amazing. I am glad i got to go before it is packed every day

Carol June 3, 2010 - 7:27 am

My husband and I are plus size people. Do you think the seats are accommodating enough?

Matt June 3, 2010 - 7:59 am

Carol: You may not be able to fit. You have to be able to pull the restraints down over your midsection and lock them down. They have test seats outside of the castle.

Charlotte June 3, 2010 - 5:01 pm

Is there any news of Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint making an appearance at the Grand Opening? I’ve heard that they might be there.

Matt June 3, 2010 - 5:04 pm

Nothing official has been said yet. But I’m guessing since Emma already toured the land recently, she won’t be there for the opening.

jess June 4, 2010 - 6:10 am

are the seats high to get onto or are they a bit above floor level?

Matt June 7, 2010 - 3:03 pm

Jess: They are regular chair height.

Cara June 9, 2010 - 12:33 pm

My 8 year old son has read books 1-4 and seen those movies. Are there many “spoilers” regarding the last 3 books on the ride or in the park? It looks like most of the action stems from the first 4 movies/books…

Matt June 9, 2010 - 12:39 pm

Cara: I can’t think of any spoilers he might see. There could be some things he hasn’t seen before but I don’t think they’d spoil anything for him.

Kelly June 9, 2010 - 6:31 pm

Hi Matt,

I skimmed through real quick because I didn’t want to be spoiled, but I am worried about something.

I am a bit arachnophobia. Should I prepare myself for any, um, giant spiders in this Forbidden Journey ride? Thanks!

Matt June 10, 2010 - 7:08 am

Kelly: Yes and more.

Kyle Diamond June 10, 2010 - 4:48 pm

Hi, I’m not scared of rides and rollercoaster, but I’m just curious. Is the ride in any way scary other than the pop-up things? Are there any drops that are noticed (like 50 ft.+) that sone would be scared of? Thanks…

Matt June 10, 2010 - 6:03 pm

Kyle: No, nothing like that is in the ride.

Dick Dickers June 12, 2010 - 2:40 pm

My mother has epilepse and a bad back and a heart condition, so she’s unable to ride alot of the attractions. Would this one be one of them?

Matt June 12, 2010 - 2:44 pm

Sorry, Dick. Your mother probably shouldn’t ride.

Kelly June 12, 2010 - 4:33 pm

Thanks, Matt.

I’m just going to have to put on my big girl pants and ride. 😀

Cody June 13, 2010 - 10:31 am

Will fast passes work for the new rides?

Tom Croom June 13, 2010 - 11:37 am

I rode the ride yesterday (http://www.tomcroom.com/?p=6516) and I was completely UNDERwhelmed by it. Everything else seemed splendidly done, but with the level of detail and energy they put into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you’d expect something more exciting than what was served up on the one new ride in the area. Meh.

Sandra June 13, 2010 - 3:51 pm

We are going July 8 for my 69th birthday. I’ve read all the books multiple times as well as almost wearing out my collection of DVDs. Can’t wait to see it all!

Tori June 13, 2010 - 5:25 pm

You mentioned the ride features air blasts, smoke, and water hitting you. Just wondering if you get fairly wet or is it just a little mist?

Tom Croom June 13, 2010 - 5:36 pm

@Tori: Small blasts of water as if something is spitting on you.

Matt June 14, 2010 - 8:23 am

Tori: It also depends on which seat you’re in. I’ve ridden and barely got wet and I’ve ridden and gotten pretty drenched. But at its wettest, it’s nowhere near as wet as you’d get on a true water ride, such as a log ride.

Matt June 14, 2010 - 9:52 am

Cody: No one knows yet. The Rip Ride Rockit opened last year and they’re still not on the Express Pass system. But the new ride has had a single riders line.

Tori June 14, 2010 - 5:39 pm

Tom Croom and Matt: Thank you for the information and responding so quickly to my question. 🙂 I will be going to Universal Islands of Adventure in 3 weeks! I’m so excited.

Shannon June 22, 2010 - 9:50 am

I’m going to WWOH next week. We’re doing Disney and Universal. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan read all of the books more than once and have seen all of the movies more than once. I am not a rider. I’m usually the bag holder person, but since i love harry potter so much I actually am tempted to ride. I do not like roller coasters mainly because of being turned upside down and because of drops and dips. Are there any drops and dips on the Forbidden Journey ride? Also, could you tour the castle without actually getting on the ride?

freddie June 26, 2010 - 11:47 pm

Hello-LOVE ur site…question for you is this…we read about larger people not being able to fit—a few family memebers are larger (5’8” 220 and 5’11 310) do u think they could fit the ride restictions -“3 clicks”?

Abbey Wells June 28, 2010 - 7:21 am

Shannon, I went on the ride a few days ago, and there are simulated drops (like, the screen shows you falling and the seat tilts) but no real ones! Also, I don’t think you can tour hogwarts without going on the ride, though I wish you could!

Matt June 28, 2010 - 9:07 am

Abbey, you can skip the ride if you’d like. Just let the attendants know you don’t wanna ride and they’ll direct you to the exit.

Monica Nicastro June 28, 2010 - 7:28 pm

What about for a 12-week pregnant person? Is the ride too rough for that? And do they have a baby-handoff option on this ride, as I have 2 children who will not be tall enough.

Matt July 3, 2010 - 11:33 am

Monica: I don’t think it’d be too rough for a 12-week pregnant woman, but I’m Universal would probably advise against it.

Yes, they do have a baby swap area for this ride.

james July 9, 2010 - 7:26 pm

im going to wwoh and i wanna know does the forbidden journey ride go really fast and do you have to hold on the bar for certain parts.im a person who is scared of heights and i don’t like to be tossed and twisted and be on my back alot so i need to know is this ride for me and can you go on the tour and not go on the ride.

Tina July 23, 2010 - 9:13 pm

Hi Matt, I can’t wait to go and see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I read all the books at least 5 times(and I’m an adult). Anyway, my question is on the Forbidden Journey ride, do the spiders touch you and how close are they to you? I really want to go on the ride, I can deal with everything else but I’m not a spider person. Thanks.

Matt July 23, 2010 - 9:19 pm

Tina: The spiders don’t touch you but they do squirt you. They get as close as about six feet away from you. You should ride. If they bother you, just close your eyes for that part.

Kelly July 23, 2010 - 9:32 pm

I had the pleasure of riding the Forbidden Journey on July 20/21st. Let me say it is the BEST RIDE I’ve ever ridden and I have ridden alot of rides. The most creative, imaginative, and fun ride you’ll go on. Even if you don’t like simulators or spiders it was awesome! My 7 & 8 year old daughters rode it twice with me and I’m 46! They loved it also. Both times we rode it broke down for a few minutes “Technical issues”. More advice. Don’t even attempt to ride it in the morning when there are up to 2 hour wait times just to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section. Wait until after 3:00. I waited 60 minutes the first time and less the 2nd time. I listened to management about the best times to go. Much of the wait is outdoors where there is shade and fans or indoors with AC. Great experience overall!

Blowing Richards July 24, 2010 - 3:48 am

If I enjoy Harry potter but that hairy things, is it okay if i go?
Oh, and if I I like Harry potter, but instead of using pots I use pans, is it okay if I go?

rachel August 13, 2010 - 10:05 pm

I am going in November, but am not sure if I am ok to go on the forbidden journey. From your description I am confused if it is like a rollarcoaster or Soarin. I HATE rollarcoasters, and basically any drops. I force myself to go on splash mountain at disney, but that is the most I will go, I hate feeling my weight drop. I do love the Soarin ride at Disney, though. Should I go on forbidden journey?

Matt August 14, 2010 - 8:05 am

Rachel: It does have some ups and downs but they’re not bad at all. It’s not a roller coaster. It’s more like Soarin’. Go for it.

Aaron August 20, 2010 - 9:36 am

I am a 31 year old man who is not a Harry Potter fan. My wife enjoys the movies. We took her 16 year old sister to Universal last weekend (we’re passholders). The three of us have been to every Disney theme park multiple times so I was not expecting much… but we were BLOWN AWAY by this ride! We immediately got back in line to do it again (waited 45 minutes at 8 PM)!

And even as a non-fan, the castle is incredible. The amount of detail puts all the other Universal attractions to shame. This is the best themed thrill ride I’ve ever seen. The rest of Potterland or whatever they call it, I could care less about (and the butterbear tastes just like I imagined – cream soda, nothing more). But they knocked the ball out of the park with this ride!

Priscila September 8, 2010 - 6:37 pm

Hi. I always get sick on simulators and I HATE free falls, spin, speed and rollercoasters. I’m worried about Forbidden Journey. Soarin is ok for me. But I think I’m not able to ride Spiderman. Do you think that I can ride Forbidden Journey?

Lina September 23, 2010 - 7:46 pm

Hi. I heard that during some parts of this ride you are on your back. If this is true please explain…

Anjel November 5, 2010 - 1:45 pm

I was just wondering if you knew how,long it takes to go through the ride altogether? And also, I heard about the back thing as well, and wanted to know what exactly was meant by that and for how long are you like that? Thanks!

PS I went the day it opened, but they couldn’t even say if we would get to get inside the actual Harry Potter section, so I am going back after I graduate high school! Yay!

Carter May 2, 2011 - 3:16 pm

Hi matt, im going this summer in august how early should I get there before the lines are unbareably long? I dont know if you had any insight on this

Matt Roseboom June 4, 2011 - 10:44 am

Carter: Get there as soon as the park opens.

Carter June 4, 2011 - 12:40 pm

Alright thank you, and also if you.get there early can you get right into harry potter or do you have to get a slip and come back at the time on the paper?

Matt Roseboom June 4, 2011 - 1:39 pm

If you’re there at open you should be able to get right in. Unless hotel guests get in first and fill it up.

kristine July 19, 2011 - 6:38 pm

hello ummm i read through the info up above because i will be vacationing at Universal this summer. I have a 10 year old daughter who will be going on the forrbidden journey ride. she is a harry potter freak. she knows any possible thing you could possibly ask about harry potter and more. but she doesn’t like going too fast. she is also not sure about the going on your side thing. she would like to know how long you would be on your side for during the ride. and also the dips how far down does it fall.cthanks so much…

Tess July 31, 2011 - 6:49 pm

Is the castle ride very scary? I dont like anything having to do with rollarcoasters! How bad is the scare factor?

Carter July 31, 2011 - 7:02 pm

Im 6’2″ and around 280 am I gonna fit on harry potter or all the other rides?

umagaa March 2, 2012 - 1:51 pm

where is this??
i wish i can go there


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