Forbidden Journey: Ultimate unofficial guide

 

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey:

The ultimate unofficial guide

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This is the most comprehensive guide available anywhere for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the signature attraction inside Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

You can click any photo to view it full-screen.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey begins as you enter Hogwarts Castle.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey begins as you enter the gates of Hogwarts Castle.

What follows is a fully documented, step-by-step breakdown of the entire Forbidden Journey experience, including basics about the attraction, how the queue works, details about the storyline, and what you can do to minimize your wait time.

If you are planning your first visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, reading this post can save you hours. No kidding.

If you’ve already been, you’ll like this post too. I have tons of videos and pictures. You’ll get to relive it all again!

 

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: The basics

Before we get into the heavy details, let’s knock out a few basics about Forbidden Journey.

What is it?

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the star attraction inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. It is really two separate attractions: The first one is a tour through Hogwarts. During the tour you have the opportunity to see iconic locations such as Dumbledore’s Office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. You also get to see most of the primary characters, including Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

The second attraction is a revolutionary flight simulator-style ride. It is like nothing else in the world (at least for now). The ride vehicles, or “enchanted benches,” are mounted on the end of very powerful and flexible Kuka robotic arms, which themselves glide down a track. Through the use of classic set design, special effects, and a first-of-its-kind 180-degree screen that encompasses the ride vehicle, guests get to experience the chaos of Harry’s life for about four and a half minutes.

What’s a Kuka robotic arm?

This is…

The video above is from Innovention’s Sum of All Thrills at Epcot. It presents a fairly good depiction of the movement you can expect from Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. However, keep in mind that Forbidden Journey incorporates a dizzying amount of special effects and set design in addition to the Kuka robotic arm movement–much more than simply pulling a cover with a TV screen over your head.

What rides are similar to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey?

The most similar ride to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, which is also located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. If you’ve been on Spider-Man, imagine that ride but put the ride vehicle on the end of the Kuka robotic arm you see in the video above. Oh yeah!

Haven’t been to Universal Orlando yet? Then of course Sum of All Thrills is a good reference. If you haven’t seen that one yet, think Disney’s Soarin’, but think about it this way: Soarin’ is to Forbidden Journey what It’s a Small World is to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Where is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey?

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is located inside Hogwarts Castle, which itself looks over Hogsmeade Village inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These venues are inside Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort.  You can see the most direct path from the Islands of Adventure turnstiles to Forbidden Journey on our custom-made Google map. Be sure to switch the map to Satellite View and zoom in!

Do I need a separate ticket for any of this?

Depending on when you visit, it is possible that you might need a return time ticket to get into the Wizarding World. Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay extra for it. I highly recommend that you read our complete guide to WWoHP reservation times and return tickets when you’re done with the Forbidden Journey guide.

Does Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey have a weight limit?

There is no weight limit per se for guests wanting to go on the ride portion of Forbidden Journey. However, like all attractions that involve considerable motion, guests do need to be able to fit in the seat with the safety restraint fully engaged.

When Forbidden Journey first opened, Universal was very strict about how far the safety restraint had to come down over guests’ shoulders and against the chest. As a result, many people who usually have no problem fitting on rides were turned away. Since the Wizarding World was such big news when it first opened, the additional news that many guests were not able to ride Forbidden Journey also got a lot of coverage.

But that was some time ago. Nowadays Universal’s requirement for how far down the restraint must come has been relaxed. And while “pooh-sized” guests do occasionally get turned away unexpectedly, the majority of larger proportioned guests seem to not have a problem.  The catch is that there really is no way to know ahead of time, because it all depends on how a person’s specific body dimensions fit into the specific dimensions of the Forbidden Journey seat and safety restraint.

For those guests who are concerned, there are test seats available right in front of the Hogwarts Castle gates (see the picture below).

What’s the height restriction?

48 inches.

Does Forbidden Journey have Express Pass access (aka Fast Passes)?

Nope. To learn more, visit our Complete guide to Universal Express Passes.

Does the ride have child swap?

Yes. I’ll cover that on page 4.

Is it too scary for kids?

Also covered on page 4.

Forbidden Journey test seats located at the gates to Hogwarts Castle.

Forbidden Journey test seats located at the gates to Hogwarts Castle.

 

Your options for experiencing Forbidden Journey

See the castle tour and then go on the ride

This is how the attraction and its story line are designed to be experienced. First you will walk through the rooms of the castle as you learn what Harry and his friends are up to, then you will set off on an unforgettable ride.

Castle tour only

If for any reason you are not interested in the ride portion of Forbidden Journey, you may still walk through the rooms of the castle in what is referred to as the castle tour. (This is the line that may be closed if the Wizarding World is busy, as noted in the update at the top of the page.)

Single rider

Like several of Universal Orlando’s rides, Forbidden Journey has a single rider line. When there is a significant wait time for the attraction, this line allows you to get onto the ride in a fraction of the normal wait time. The trade-off is that you miss most of the walk through Hogwarts. And groups entering the single rider line will be split up. It is also worth nothing that there is no age restriction for single rider — as long as a child is tall enough to be permitted to ride Forbidden Journey, he or she can use the single rider line.

 

Forbidden Journey: The queue begins

Ironically, the scariest part about this attraction may be the very first thing you encounter: the line stretching out from Hogwarts.

The line stretching out from the gates of Hogwarts Castle (1).

The line stretching out from the gates of Hogwarts Castle – seen on the left (1).

The line stretching out from Hogwarts Castle (2).

The line stretching out from Hogwarts Castle – continuing in the background of the photo (2).

The line stretching out from Hogwarts Castle (3).

The line stretching out from Hogwarts Castle – keeps going down into Hogsmeade Village (3).

Forbidden Journey is such an amazing attraction that virtually every single person visiting Orlando wants to go on it, and nearly all of them are willing to wait for an hour or more to do so. Even with the addition of a new outdoor queue space in the second half of 2011, there still is not enough room to neatly house the line when it is busy. Let’s use Google Maps to take a closer look at this:

Click here to open up my custom-made Google map

IMPORTANT: Be sure to switch the map to Satellite View. Then, zoom in on the blue and green lines to the left. Understanding what these lines represent, and how they work, is the absolute key to minimizing your wait time at Forbidden Journey. It is also very important to know that the information I’m about to explain to you is not available from Universal Orlando or any other source that I’m aware of.

 

The blue line

The blue line is the infamous Forbidden Journey locker line, and here’s how it works: In order to ride on Forbidden Journey, you cannot carry any loose articles with you. That means no bulky cameras, purses, bags filled with chocolate frogs, fanny packs, or anything else that is hanging off your body. If it doesn’t fit comfortably in your pockets, it’s a loose article. And all loose articles must be stowed in the castle’s locker room.

While stowing one’s loose articles is not unique to Forbidden Journey (you have to do it for Dragon Challenge, Incredible Hulk, and a few other Universal rides), what sets Forbidden Journey apart is the enormous wait that develops for those guests who have to use the inadequately sized locker room.

The truth is that the location and size of the locker room was very poorly conceived. Universal originally believed that guests would somehow move quickly into the castle’s entrance, stow their stuff, and continue on to the rest of the attraction. They didn’t think a line would get backed up for people wanting to use the lockers. So, Universal designed 99 percent of the Forbidden Journey queue space after the locker room. Well, they quickly discovered that the need for guests to use lockers created a huge bottleneck. During busy times it’s not uncommon for the locker room wait to be an hour or more. That’s just to get to the lockers. It could be another hour to get to through the castle and onto the ride!

But in terms of crowd management, the real issue was as follows: there was no designed space before the locker room for an hour long line of people to fit into. As a result, the “locker line” would wrap down into Hogsmeade and all over the place! It was really a mess.

Universal implemented a solution in the fall of 2011 to address this huge locker line that had no home. They decided to develop some unused space next to the castle and push the locker line into it. That’s why, when you look at our Google map (be sure to switch it to Satellite View and zoom in on the blue line), it looks like the locker line cuts through a heavily wooded area as it goes down and circles around. That’s the newly developed area.

Work begins on the expanded outdoor queue area for Forbidden Journey.

Work begins on the expanded outdoor queue area for Forbidden Journey.

Forbidden Journey queue expansion: The final product.

The final product.

Want to see a photo gallery of the whole construction process? Visit this blog post

If you are confused by all of this stuff, it is totally understandable. What’s important to understand here is not so much where the locker line goes and what space is new. Rather, the most important thing to understand is that this line is for guests who want to go on the tour and ride as a group or single riders who need to use the lockers. Keep reading to learn more.

 

The green line

I’m sure you have noticed the much shorter green line on our Google map (be sure to switch it to Satellite View and zoom in on the green line). The green line represents how guests enter the castle who are either just going on the castle tour or are single riders with no bags.

Castle tour guests

If you only want to enjoy the castle tour and you plan on skipping the ride, you do not have to wait in the locker line. You can walk directly up the the gates of Hogwarts, inform the team member posted there that you just want to go on the tour, and you will be able to proceed directly to the castle’s entrance. Also, if you are just doing the tour, you may bring all the loose articles you’d like, including cameras.

(Please note that the castle tour-only line is the line that Universal may close access to if the Wizarding World is busy, as noted in the update at the top of the page. If it is indeed closed, you have to wait in the locker line if you want to walk through the castle, even though you don’t have to stow your loose articles!)

Single riders with no bags

If you only want to go on the Forbidden Journey ride, and you don’t mind skipping most of the castle tour, you too can proceed directly to the castle’s entrance and skip the locker line. Just walk up to the team member posted at the castle entrance and let them know you are a single rider with no bags.

A Universal team members controls access to the tour-only / single rider line.

A Universal team members controls access to the tour-only / single rider line.

 

Forbidden Journey outdoor queue area – video

Let’s try to put it all together by watching this short video:


That was a lot of work just to get into the Hogwarts Castle entrance! Let’s continue on to page 2.

 

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