Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey:
The ultimate unofficial guide
Welcome to Book 2 of the most comprehensive guide available for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the signature attraction inside Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Continuing from the end of Book 1…
You’ve successfully navigated through the colossal line outside of the gates of Hogwarts, and now you’re just inside the castle entrance. (Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen)
Choose your own adventure
Inside the castle entrance you will choose one of three queues depending on what you want to experience (and depending on what you told the team member posted at the castle gates!):
Regular line for guests seeing the tour and going on the ride
When you’ve made it into the castle entrance, this line is straight ahead. It brings you down the dungeon corridor, and back outside to the castle’s green house. I’ll go into great detail about this experience after I talk about single riders and castle tour guests.
Single riders agree to help fill the 4-seat enchanted benches when odd-numbered parties are riding. These single riders usually can get on the ride in no time compared to the regular queue. The trade-off, as I mentioned in Book 1, is that single riders skip almost the entire Hogwarts tour. In fact, the single rider line goes directly from the castle entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room, which is the final room on the tour.
The single rider line can be a great friend to you, but it has a nasty temper! I have used it more than four dozen times over the past year. When Forbidden Journey had a wait time of 75 minutes or more, I’ve gotten on in less than ten minutes… repeatedly. But it can be deceiving! From the castle entrance you cannot see the line. So when you go to your left and head up the stairs to the Gryffindor Common Room, you may find yourself stopping before you even reach the top of the stairs. Should this happen, you may be in for a 20 or 30 minute wait. Or more.
Nonetheless, if you just want to go on the ride, it’s a good option. In fact, most guest don’t know about it because Universal hardly advertises that the single rider line exists for Forbidden Journey. And, if you find the line to be too long, you can always turn around and leave. (For Orlando coaster fans, it’s not like the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster single rider line, where once you’re past the recording studio you are pretty much stuck.)
Castle tour only
Castle tour-only guests agree not to go on the ride, and for their reward these guests get their own line through the castle. Once inside the castle entrance, you will need to inform the team member posted there that you are just doing the tour.
Something to understand about the tour: This is a self-guided tour. It’s not like a museum tour where you will have a person guiding you through the rooms. Essentially what you are doing is experiencing the best parts of the attraction’s queue (the rooms inside Hogwarts Castle) and skipping the green house and the ride at the end. Even if you are just going on the tour, you cannot bring strollers in with you. But, as I mentioned in book 1, you can bring everything else, including your camera!
The castle “tour only” option has its big advantages and one disadvantage. The first big advantage is that you get to skip the outdoor queue as I explained in book 1, head right into Hogwarts, and begin your exploration. The second HUGE advantage is that everyone in this line is in it to see the tour! What you will find is that the regular line moves far too fast through the castle’s rooms. The vast majority of guests in the regular line miss the Forbidden Journey storyline and much of the theming. When you take the castle tour-only line, you can walk at your leisure, taking pictures and video, observing the detail, and soaking in the wonder of it all without anyone pushing you from behind–and no team members in front of you telling you to hurry.
The third big advantage: castle tour guests get their very own talking portrait room!
In the regular line the talking portrait room is small and your pushed right through it in about 15 seconds, so you don’t hear practically any of the conversation. This is terrible because its the first part of the Forbidden Journey story and it sets the stage for everything else. In the “tour only” line, you get a beautiful room full of portraits, and you can listen to the WHOLE conversation. (There are actually two varieties of the conversation, if you want to stick around).
After the talking portrait room the castle tour-only line enters Dumbledore’s Office. From this point it winds through the castle’s rooms with the regular line. This brings us to the one castle tour-only line disadvantage: Because of how the paths wind through the rooms, the castle tour-only line stays at the far back of the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. This means you can’t get very close to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. However, like the talking portrait room, you still can stop and enjoy the classroom for all its worth, albeit at a distance.
Please note that the castle tour-only line may not be available when you visit. See the update at the top of book 1 for more information.
Navigating Hogwarts Caste entrance – video
You now know all about your three options for experiencing Forbidden Journey: the regular line (tour + ride), single rider, and castle “tour only”. Here is a video to help you better understand the layout of the castle entrance area and locker room:
Now that you’ve seen what the castle entrance area looks like when it is slow, here is a look at it when it is busy (although it gets even busier than what this video shows):
The Hogwarts Castle tour
The description below mostly focuses on the “regular line” for guests going on the tour and the ride. But there is still some additional information in it for single riders and castle tour guests. No matter how you plan on experiencing Forbidden Journey, I recommend that you read through it all.
The green house
Once you’ve entered the castle and headed straight into the regular line, you walk a very short distance through a hallway meant to be the castle’s dungeon. After a few steps you are back outside.
This outdoor, partially covered area is the castle’s green house. It is not really considered part of the tour. Rather, it is a large holding area for the line to zig-zag through on its way to the castle’s backdoor.
Keep in mind that the wait in the green house can be substantial.
Now that you’ve reached this point, the line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey tends to move at a steady pace. The good part is that, during your walk around the green house, the line is almost always in motion. So even though you may be out here for 40 minutes or more, the fairly constant movement makes it feel like a little bit less.
The bad part is that once you are inside the castle you will feel very rushed. If it is your first time touring Hogwarts, chances are you will want to take your time and SEE everything there is to see. Unfortunately, you just can’t do this in the regular line. Because the ride itself is constantly loading and unloading (you’ll see this later), it continues to pull and pull guests toward it. This is different than the line for Flight of the Hippogriff or Dragon Challenge. Those rides load a certain number of guests and then stop the line to launch. If you didn’t make the cut off, you need to wait. This naturally creates a “pulse” through the line.
But the enchanted benches of Forbidden Journey are always launching, and therefore the line is always moving (again, I’ll show you this later). While this is nice when you’re in the green house, it is a big issue once you’re in the castle. With the constricted line from the green house pushing from behind and the constantly loading ride pulling from the front, you really never get a chance to see most of the incredible detail and hear the Forbidden Journey storyline.
Don’t worry though! We’ve got you covered! I’m going to show you all that Hogwarts has to offer.
The castle’s backdoor entrance
Once you’ve made your way back and forth through the green house line, you enter the castle again through a backdoor. Now the sights and sound begin to look very familiar…
This next video was shot as I entered the castle’s backdoor and moved through to the talking portrait room. You can see how the line is entirely empty–and the video is blurry.
That wraps up Book 2. Continue to Book 3.