- A new “Harry Potter” coaster is open Thursday at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.
- I rode Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure three times during the afternoon and evening on Tuesday with media.
- It’s the perfect ride for Potter fans because of the attention to detail in the ride queue and attraction.
- There are plenty of Easter eggs for fans to find from the books and movies. There’s also a nod to the ride this one replaced at the start of the ruins inside the queue.
- You can ride in a sidecar or a motorbike. We recommend the motorbike. If you hold on to the handlebars, it feels as if you’re soaring through the skies on a motorcycle, twisting and turning.
- It’s even better at night because of the forest setting.
- Try to ride this one first thing in the morning and at night to see the attraction and ride lit up.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure opens at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida on Thursday, and it may be the best “Harry Potter”-themed ride at all of Universal (sorry Escape from Gringotts and Forbidden Journey). The new coaster is definitely one of the best rides in the two theme parks.
I was among a group of media members who were among the first to check out the park’s new “Harry Potter”-themed coaster on Tuesday afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to ride it again. The coaster twists and turns at up to 50 mph (but it feels much faster at some points), shoots you up in the air, goes backward, and has one big surprise near the end.
For some context, I’m a big Potter fan. I went to Diagon Alley shortly after it opened at Universal in 2014 and unabashedly bought a $US47 wand to “perform magic” throughout the park. (You can read my review on that here.)
I rode the new Hagrid attraction three times across the day and night, sitting in both the front and back rows and from the motorbike and sidecar points of view. I haven’t sat in a bad seat yet on this ride. I’m not sure there is one.
Keep reading for my complete review on the long and winding line queue, my tips and recommendations on where to sit, and when to ride the new attraction.
What you should know before riding: You can ride in one of 2 cars, and it replaces the popular Dragon Challenge coaster.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure replaces a fan-favourite Universal coaster called Dragon Challenge, which ran from 1999 until fall 2017. A Universal representative told INSIDER in March that early concept work on the new “Harry Potter”-themed ride started about September 2016.
The ride’s story is simple. You’re taking a Care of Magical Creatures class with Hagrid, and for this lesson he’s taking the students on a quick trip into the forest. Of course, since you’re with Hagrid, things don’t go according to plan, and that’s where the real fun of the ride begins. If you run into an Orlando cast member while going through the queue, the person may ask you whether you’re on your way to class. I told one I was running late.
Each train has seven rows of motorbikes with an adjacent sidecar. When you board, you get to choose which of the two to ride in. Those riding the motorbike board first, followed by the sidecar riders.
The coaster moves forward and backward and speeds up at times to over 50 mph, and riders must be at least 48 inches tall. It’s a thrilling and breezy ride that’s just over three minutes but never feels that long. There’s also one unexpected moment toward the end, which I expect to stir up some cheers and short screams. If you’re a roller-coaster junkie like me, it’s better off not knowing the final surprise. I’ll talk about it later in this review if you’re curious. But I think you’re better off going in blind, not knowing about it. I certainly didn’t expect it.
If you’re with little ones, there’s a family room near the front of the ride queue where you can wait with any small children while the rest of the family rides. Inside is a TV playing “Harry Potter” movies on loop.
The Queue: Like all of the ‘Harry Potter’ ride queues at Universal, this one is showered with details from the books and movies. There’s always something to look at to keep you occupied.
Universal built an actual forest with 1,200 trees for the new attraction. It feels as if you’re travelling through a forest, especially at nighttime, as you wind up and down a path making your way to Hagrid’s hut for your school lesson. You don’t get to walk in the hut, but the queue sends you past it so you can take a photo.
During the daytime, keep a close eye on some of shrubbery. Nestled within them is a wooden hippogriff. Hagrid was in possession of one, named Buckbeak, who was saved from execution by Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Sirius Black later housed the hippogriff.
After passing the hut, you make your way into a giant building of ruins. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the writings and markings on the wall.
Once inside, the cavernous walk to the front of the queue takes about three minutes with no line through five rooms and a few hallways. We were given free rein to travel throughout the queue while visiting, so I walked the long path once without stopping to time it.
Of course, I anticipate the waits on the queue to be long. When Diagon Alley first opened in 2014, I remember the line queues for Gringotts Bank to hover around six hours at the peak time of the day. Universal has a virtual queue implemented for this ride so guests can enjoy the rest of the park and come back at a designated time when it’s their time to wait. I expect that should help lower wait times a bit.
For what it’s worth, Tuesday night I waited in an actual queue with media and VIP guests to test the ride at night and waited for about 45 minutes. Once inside the ruins, the time felt as if it went by quickly.
The good thing is that even if there is a long wait, there is plenty to look at and ogle over in the queue. Keep an eye out for the Triwizard Tournament Egg hidden in a hallway full of eggs and you may spy a “J+L” for James and Lily Potter near the entrance ruins. There’s even a nod to the old Dragon Challenge ride once you enter the ruins.
And it’s not all waiting! A portion of the queue goes to a short show featuring Hagrid and Arthur Weasley. Don’t stand in the very center if you don’t want to get sprinkled on with a little bit of water. If you’ve been on other “Harry Potter” rides inside Universal’s Wizarding World, it’s the same technology used to bring the Weasley twins to life.
One other highlight of the line queue occurs right before you jump on the ride. You enter a giant room and start hearing a motorbike rumbling. Look up and you can see Hagrid riding his motorbike above the guests in the queue every so often. A Universal representative told us some “rare and magical” creatures were also passing by overhead.
After thinking it through, I don’t think the queue is better than the one for Gringotts. In that one, Universal made a replica of the bank from the movies to make you feel as if you’re in the movie, but this one is still very impressive.
So what’s the actual ride like? Amazing.
Enough about the queue! The main attraction is what you’re here for, and it is well worth the wait. Unlike a lot of Universal Orlando’s other rides, Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure doesn’t rely on movie projections featuring its characters. It’s a traditional coaster that is mostly outdoors with a spot-on animatronic of Hagrid and his three-headed dog, Fluffy.
My first ride was on the motorbike, and I’m glad that was my first choice. This ride was made with the motorcycle part in mind. You’re allowed to sit upright on the motorbike, but, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can reach out for the handlebars and sit the entire ride positioned as you normally would be on a motorbike. If you’re comfortable, I highly recommend leaning forward and taking the handlebars. You shoot out straight on the coaster, but it dips at angles to the left and right to make you feel as if you’re taking tight turns on a motorbike.
When you least expect it, the coaster zips a bit faster, making it feel as if the motorbike is actually just shifting into a higher gear. It’s a really clever effect to make you feel as if you’re really on a motorcycle. You feel all of this on the motorbike’s sidecar as well, but since you’re sitting straight up the ride may feel a little less intense.
After moving around with Hagrid for a short time on your class lesson, you shoot straight up in the air. However, when you see there’s no more track left in front of you, you dip backward sliding onto another track where you get caught in the Devil’s snare, which famously appears in the first “Harry Potter” book and film.
The most unexpected part of the ride comes near its end. Turn away if you don’t want spoilers!
Once Hagrid gets you out of the Devil’s snare it seems as if you may go forward again on the ride. Not quite. The entire coaster drops down onto a second track underneath you. It caught me off guard so much that there were tears of joy in my eyes from the surprise. You’re then surrounded by a bunch of blast-ended skrewts (the first time they have ever been seen outside the books).
Once again, Hagrid does another spell to get the group out of harm’s way. This time, he asks for your help. A little purple button on my motorbike lit up and we were asked to push it to help dispel fire to get us out of harm’s way. Everyone was so caught up in the drop the first time I rode the coaster that I missed Hagrid telling us to hit a button until my second and third times on the ride.
For what it’s worth, Hagrid’s Magical Creature Adventure Motorbike isn’t the first drop coaster. Verbolten at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, also has a drop track, but it’s not a feature you see too often. The change in track when the ride went backward reminded me of one of my favourite, underrated coasters at Walt Disney World, Expedition Everest.
Of course, fans will want to know whether Hagrid’s is better than Dragon Challenge before it. It’s a bit tough to say since they’re so different. As someone pointed out to me in the parks, the former was made for an older target demo. You weren’t going to have kids of all ages riding on that one because they were traditional coasters side by side. The new coaster is something the entire family can enjoy together. In fact, my last ride of the night was alongside a family of three going back on for their second time.
OK, so the ride’s good. But where should I sit? The motorbike or the sidecar? Try both, but I swear by the motorbike.
If you’re a motorcycle rider or a gamer, you’re going to want to get on the motorbike. The ability to hold onto the handlebars makes it feel as if you’re zipping down a highway in the sky on a real motorbike. I’m a fairly small person, so I had enough extra room in the seat to lean from side to side with the coaster as it made turns. Try to get the front seat and it will make you feel as if you’re steering the whole train.
Before getting on the coaster for my first time, I asked an Orlando employee which side I should try. The person told me the motorbike was more fun. Even the “Harry Potter” actor Tom Felton told me he preferred the motorbike over the sidecar because of the handlebars.
During my preview, there was one member of the media who came by saying he loved the sidecar more than the motorbike. He didn’t say why. He just said that was his hot take.
Here’s what I’ll say about the sidecar. Typically, when I ride a coaster, I love to throw my hands up for the majority of a ride. This was one of the first rides in which I didn’t do that, because I really loved the experience of holding the handlebars while on the motorbike and feeling as if I were riding a motorcycle. When I rode the sidecar later at night, I threw my hands in the air the entire time.
I didn’t feel as if my experience on the sidecar was too different from that of the motorbike. I did get a clearer view of the Hagrid animatronic. According to Universal, the Hogwarts groundskeeper’s face was sculpted by hand while Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in the movies, recorded his voice for the ride.
My one concern is that some larger guests riding the attraction may be limited to riding the sidecar because of how narrow it feels to get on the motorbike. The guys over at Attractions Magazine, however, said they felt as if they had more room on the motorbike than on the sidecar. There is a test car before you get to the ride where you can see what it’s like to sit on the ride. Regardless of preference, I think you should try both if you get the chance.
It’s even better at nighttime.
Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure feels as if it were made for nighttime. You’re walking through a forest, and it really feels like it at night.
I was most impressed by how the ruins you enter were lit. They looked fantastic.
It was also very well lit inside the ruins. When you walk into the room filled with dragon eggs I was taken aback because the lighting from the windows made it look exactly how the room was during the day.
The motorbikes are well lit at nighttime with the headlights on. It looks really cool zooming by, but it is a bit difficult to get a good photo of in the dark. While on the ride, you couldn’t necessarily see where you were zooming off to, and it made the ride that much more thrilling. And though I knew the drop was coming I still wasn’t sure when to expect it.
The only downsides: The handlebars on the motorcycle don’t turn like a real one, and you’ll want to carefully choose the right time to go.
There isn’t much that I wasn’t a fan of on Hagrid’s Magical Creature. One slight complaint is that I wished you could move the handlebars and that the buttons on them were interactive. Someone at Universal told me the designers were probably worried they might break off.
I wouldn’t recommend heading in the afternoon. If you’ve ever visited Florida, then you know it often storms between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. during the summer and early fall. Most of Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure is set over a small lake, so if there is any lightning in the area, it won’t be running. Make sure to get to this one early or later in the evening.
The bottom line: Get there early for a minimal wait and try to ride it again at the day’s end to feel as if you’re in the real Forbidden Forest.
This is one ride you’ll want to go on more than once. The first time you go, you’re going to be so immersed in the movement and speed of the ride – especially if you’re riding the motorbike – that you may miss some of the finer details. I missed some of the dialogue Hagrid said the first time because I was so into the feeling of zipping around on a motorbike.
Show up early to the parks for this one. You’re going to want to go on it immediately and then get right back in the queue.
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