The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: A Guide for Muggles
Universal Orlando Resort
First Things First
Is there an extra charge? No, once you pay the fee for Universal's Islands of Adventure, there is no extra fee to become completely engulfed in the world of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
The flagship attraction at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the Forbidden Journey, which Universal has called "the heart" of the entire park. The journey takes visitors in and around Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on an "enchanted bench." The ride uses state-of-the-art technology such as audio animatronics and wrap-around projection screens, as well as meticulously replicated and researched props. Guests load into a coaster, which takes them around Hogwart's Castle, past the Whomping Willow and a mob of Dementors, and then through a Quidditch match.
Ride Hosts: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger
Specifics: You must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) for the ride, which lasts around four minutes.
For Harry Potter Fans: The experience of entering Hogwarts Castle starts when you enter the line to the Forbidden Journey, where you will wind through a maze of familiar items. You will pass by the Headmaster's office, Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and the Gryffindor common room, as well as get a chance to see the famous talking portraits and Mirror of Erised. In each room, characters from the books will greet you and some special effects are thrown in -- but we don't want to ruin any surprises!
For Theme Park Fans: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is considered a "Dark Ride" -- a ride that takes guests on a guided tour through scenes that use animation, sound, music and special effects to transfer them into another world. If you really have no idea who this Harry Potter fellow is, you may find the characters and scenes along the way confusing. Still, if you are looking for an introduction to the world of Harry Potter, there is no better starting point!
The Dragon Challenge at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has two attractions in one: this dueling roller coaster allows guests to choose their own adventure. Although both rides start by climbing the same hill, that's where the similarity ends. From there, each coaster breaks off into a series of loops and swoops that appear to overlap and chase each other. In homage to Harry Potter, each ride has been named after a different breed of dragon from the book: "Hungarian Horntail" and "Chinese Fireball."
History: The ride was originally opened by Universal under the name Dueling Dragons in 1999 and was renamed as a tribute to the first task of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It is the only dueling inverted roller coaster in the world.
Specifics: Chinese Fireball hits speeds up to 60 miles per hour (96.6 km/h), whereas the Hungarian Horntail goes up to 55 miles per hour (88.5 km/h). Both rides last about two and a half minutes. Visitors must be at least 54 inches (138 centimeters) tall to ride.
For Harry Potter Fans: While waiting in line for the Dragon Challenge, guests will wind pass Hagrid's Hut and the Weasley's flying Ford Anglia, before reaching a large pedestal with the Goblet of Fire glowing on top.
For Theme Park Fans: Roller coaster fans might want to choose their ride based on the specific characteristics of each. If you're looking for a moment of weightlessness, go for the Hungarian Horntail which as a Zero-g roll. If corkscrews are more up your alley, line up for the Chinese Fireball, which boasts more than its competitor. It's up to you to choose which option you think is better -- or take both for a spin!
Flight of the Hippogriff
Designed for families, Flight of the Hippogriff is a roller coaster that has been made to look like a wicker creature used for training at Hogwarts. The creature, a Hippogriff, has the head of a giant eagle and the body of a horse. This steel ride has a lot of dips and turns, but no loops.
Ride Host: Rubeus Hagrid
History: Formerly known as the Flying Unicorn, this ride originally debuted in 2000 in Universal Orlando's Lost Continent area. In its previous incarnation, the ride looked like a unicorn instead of a Hippogriff.
Specifics: The maximum height the Flight of the Hippogriff reaches is 42 feet (13 meters), and the max speed is 28.5 miles per hour (45.9 km/h). The ride lasts just over one minute, and you must be three feet (91 centimeters) tall to ride.
For Harry Potter Fans: The back-story to the ride is that it simulates a Hippogriff training flight over the grounds of Hogwarts castle. As you are lead through the line, you will pass Hagrid's Hut and the Forest, all while learning how to properly care for magical creatures. While on the ride, you will travel through Hogwarts Grounds, including the well-known pumpkin patch.
For Theme Park Fans: Roller coaster enthusiasts might not find this ride thrilling, but it is a nice alternative to the more extreme Dragon Challenge and more involved Forbidden Journey. From the top of the first hill you also get a nice overview of the park.
The masterminds behind the Wizarding World of Harry Potter also meticulously recreated Hogsmeade Village, the center of shopping and dining within the park. In the series, this is the only place in Great Britain inhabited solely by magic beings, and as such there are several pubs, restaurants, stores, and other places that have been taken out of the Harry Potter world and transferred here.
As you walk into Hogsmeade, you first pass a re-creation of the Hogwarts Express, the magical train used to transfer students from London to Hogwarts. Once on High Street, familiar sites include The Hog's Head and The Three Broomsticks pub that sell butterbeer and pumpkin juice. There is also Honeydukes Sweet Shop, where Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans are sold alongside Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbes, and exploding bonbons. There are also three gift shops where Harry Potter merchandise is sold, each designed to look like an actual place from the book: Dervish and Banges has clothing and magic supplies, Zonko's Joke Shop is a toy store, and Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods is a general gift shop with a hodgepodge of every kind of souvenir you can think of.
For Harry Potter Fans: Don't forget to check out the Owl Post, a functioning post office where visitors can fill out postcards or pen letters home. Sit on one of the many benches while nearly two-dozen owls ruffle their feathers in the rafters above you. Anything sent from the Owl Post will be delivered with an authentic Hogsmeade postmark.
For Theme Park Fans: Harry Potter fans will much better appreciate Hogsmeade Village, as this is basically a trading post for Potter merchandise. If you don't know what a Numbus Two Thousand is, you probably won't have very much interest perusing Ollivanders, but if you have worked up an appetite there are plenty of places for you to go. If visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has sparked your interest in the series, you may want to pick up one of the books for the plane ride home.