Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a dark ride manufactured by KUKA with much creative help from J.K. Rowling and the entire Universal Creative team. The attraction is located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Japan. Although they are all very identical, today I will be diving deep into the Islands of Adventure since that is the only one I have been on as of right now. This attraction opened at Islands of Adventure on June 18, 2010 along with the rest of the Hogsmeade section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Today I will be looking into the experience and will also be giving my thoughts on it!
The first thing you will notice when you enter the queue under Hogwarts Castle is that you need to put your bags in a locker. This uses the same locker system as the other rides that require it, but this is by far the attraction that handles it the worst. The lockers are situated after the queue begins so it is a tight area with people just standing and waiting. That’s not the worst part, as the locker banks are small and connected to the exit gift shop, which means that the people coming off the ride are getting their bags as the people entering are storing their bags. This is by far the worst locker system at Universal and I hope they can fix it!
After the mess that is the lockers, you then enter the queue through a dungeon and into the greenhouse. There is some stuff to look at in this part of the queue but it mainly serves as extended queue for when the line is long. You then enter the back doors of the castle where the real queue begins. This queue is one of the best I have ever walked through. Period. You will walk through multiple rooms, and each one feels like you are actually in Hogwarts Castle from the books and movies. It is amazing and extremely well done. There are talking portraits, holograms of the characters, statues, and a lot more to look at! It makes waiting in line very entertaining and an experience in itself even if your like me and don’t know that much about Harry Potter.
After walking through the extremely elaborate queue, you enter the loading station. I never thought I would like a loading station so much, but this one is awesome because it’s kind of dark but has a little bit of light that gives it a mysterious vibe, it’s kinda cool! The station is also a continuous loading station, kind of like an omnimover system you would see at a Disney park. This is very convenient as it always keeps the line moving. You then board your ride vehicle and pull down your over-the-shoulder restraint, and then you are lifted into the first show scene.
After you set off, you find yourself in the middle of a Quidditch match on the dome screen. You then encounter a large animatronic dragon before moving into the Forbidden Forest, where you will encounter multiple different creatures such as willows and spiders, all while being flipped around by the KUKA arm. This area of the ride is intense, thrilling, but very fun, something you can’t really say for too many dark rides. You are then put back in front of the dome and back in the middle of the Quidditch match. You will then go into the Chamber of Secrets, another practical show scene similar to the Forbidden Forest. It’s another intense, fun, and thrilling scene. Then you go through another small screen portion before heading to the unloading station.
After exiting your ride vehicle, you will walk down the exit to a gift shop where you can retrieve your bag from the locker. The gift shop also sells on-ride photos and Harry Potter related merchandise.
My Thoughts: Despite the bad description of the ride (Sorry, I barely know anything about Potter), I still absolutely love this ride. This is my favorite dark ride at IoA with Spider-Man being a close second, and one of my favorite dark rides I’ve ever ridden. I think it’s because of the amazing mix of screens and practical sets. I said the same for Spider-Man, but the difference is Forbidden Journey is way more intense. The fact that this ride throws you all around and is such a unique ride system makes the ride for me. This attraction is fun, intense, especially the practical sets, the theming is some of the best in the world from the queue to the actual ride, and it’s unique!
Tips: Due to this attraction being located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this ride draws a significant crowd. Wait times are no longer the 2 hour waits the ride had in it’s first couple of years, but they can still be quite long. On an average day, this attraction normally has a wait of 45-60 minutes, but on busy days the ride can reach two hours. I would come here after Marvel and Kong. One of the best kept secrets of this ride is the single rider line. It’s a secret because of how hidden it is. When you enter the locker area, there is a little sign indicating the single rider line, many people don’t even know it exists. This results in the line being almost always a walk-on. The downside is you skip almost all of the elaborate queue, but if you or your party want to get on as quick as possible and don’t mind being separated, the single rider line is absolutely the way to go!
Final Thoughts: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is everything a world class dark ride should be. Elaborately themed, thrilling, and having just the right amount of intensity to make it scary but fun! If you are headed to Islands of Adventure anytime soon, make sure to take a ride on this amazing work of art! It is attraction you just can’t miss!