- Universal Orlando’s two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, are home to a total of five “Harry Potter”-themed rides.
- I rode all five rides on a recent trip to the parks while covering the latest coaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
- They’re all great rides, but the park’s newest addition is the best by far for its on-ride thrills. Escape from Gringotts is a close second.
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While at Universal Orlando for the opening of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, I made it my mission to see if it’s possible to ride all of the main “Harry Potter”-themed coasters in one day. (It is! If you’re willing to wait.)
Every “Potter” ride is great. They’re standouts over many of the rides in Universal’s two parks. But some are definitely superior to others.
INSIDER tested the four Potter-themed coasters back-to-back-to-back-to-back, along with the Hogwarts Express while at the park on other days. Keep reading to see where each one falls on our ranking and why.
5. Flight of the Hippogriff is a good entry coaster, but it’s shorter than the other rides.
Ride length: One minute and six seconds Wait time when I rode: 40 minutes / 20 minutes for express ticket holders)
I have nothing against Flight of the Hippogriff, it’s just less of a thrill ride than the majority of the rides on the list. This is a kid coaster that isn’t that long, but it’s perfect if you’re looking for something short, breezy, and not too intense. If you’re a big fan of the franchise, you get great views of Hogwarts Castle from the sky and a view of the hippogriff Buckbeak upon liftoff.
Queue grade: B-
Compared to all of the other “Potter” queues this one feels the least magical. You’re just outside waiting in any old queue. However, the addition of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure adds a view of Hagrid’s hut that’s Instagram perfect.
4. The Hogwarts Express takes you from King’s Cross station in London to Hogsmeade or back to Diagon Alley on a magical train ride that transports you to platform 9 3/4.
Ride length: Four minutes Wait time when I rode: With the express pass it took us no more than 10 minutes to get onboard the train.
I wasn’t sure whether or not I should include the short train ride that transfers you from one Universal theme park to another on our list. However, after chatting it through with the hosts of MuggleCast, we decided we had to include the Hogwarts Express on here.
The Hogwarts Express includes a very detailed queue to walk through, there often is a wait time (even if it’s a relatively short one), and you receive two different experiences on the train depending on whether or not you’re travelling from Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Each ride has a different video for you to watch on the Hogwarts Express depending on which way you travel.
It’s important to note that you can only ride the train if you have a ticket which allows you to enter both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, but it’s well worth the extra money for a chance to ride in one of the train cars. Not only does it feel like you’re on the real Hogwarts Express, but you get to hear Ron, Harry, and Hermione as they travel past your train car.
Part of the queue experience is waiting for the train to roll in, but that’s OK. If you board from Hogsmeade outside of Islands of Adventures’ Hogsmeade it gives you the perfect chance to capture video of the train entering or leaving the station. You’re also given the opportunity to step aside after disembarking at King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios to capture this moment.
In Universal Studios, I love that you’re able to walk through a version of London’s King’s Cross station. Once you’re more than halfway through the queue you’re able to “step” onto platform 9 and 3/4 in a similar way to Harry and the gang. If you’re with a friend or family, you can have them capture the moment in the queue as you “disappear” onto the invisible platform located between platforms nine and 10. You can watch an example of it here.
On the flip side, if you’re travelling from Hogsmeade, the queue isn’t as grand or exciting. You’re basically just waiting to board the train, but you do get to watch the train making a perfect entrance into the station. The train only moves on one track so it moves forwards and backwards. If you’re boarding at King’s Cross, you watch the train entering the station in reverse.
3. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is still a classic, but the visuals feel a bit dated, and you’re prone to get the most dizzy on this one.
Ride length: Four minutes and six seconds Wait time when I rode: 45 minutes/under 20 minutes for express ticket holders
Forbidden Journey was my favourite “Harry Potter” ride for the longest time, but as you get older, the tossing and turning of the vehicle may leave you a bit dizzy and disoriented.
While riding the “Potter” rides back-to-back, it’s easy to see how aged the graphics in the ride video have become, especially when compared to those on 2014’s newer Escape from Gringotts ride, which also uses video screens. The latter’s graphics are crisper and clearer. Still, the ride’s animatronic dragon and Dementors still frighten me every time I ride. There’s also nothing quite like walking through a real-life Hogwarts castle for the first time. The length of the ride and detailed ride queue make up for any qualms on the actual ride.
Queue grade: A
What’s not to love? Universal built the Hogwarts castle and brought the hallways to life. More than that, there are real moving and speaking portraits in the castle, just like in the films and books. Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, and Harry all appear so the ride queue never feels boring. There’s always something to look at.
2. Escape from Gringotts has the best ride queue of the “Potter” rides and is a bit darker than the other rides.
Ride length: Five minutes Wait time when I rode: 20 minutes. (I entered the park with early admission and rode right when the park opened at 8 am.)
The first time I rode Escape from Gringotts in 2014, I was left wanting a little more from the ride. I guess I was expecting something closer to the actual adventure in the books where fans would be following Harry through the bank vaults. Instead, you’re on a tour with one of the Weasley brothers while Harry, Hermione, and Ron happen to be breaking in as well. What timing?!
Years later, the ride is much better than I remember with a welcome addition of Voldemort, who doesn’t appear on any other ride (other than a brief cameo on the Hogwarts Express). Escape from Gringotts is the most high-stakes ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A drop in the coaster and some illusions make you feel like you’re free falling at points. The only downside? If you’re not a fan of 3D glasses, you do have to wear them on this ride.
Queue grade: A+
This is easily the best ride queue at either Universal Park in Florida. When the ride queue is long, you have to wait outside, but when you are finally let indoors you’re welcomed into the Gringott’s bank with working goblins and real chandeliers. It’s gorgeous and so unexpectedly breathtaking that you’ll probably be convinced for a moment that you’re actually at the wizarding bank.
As you head downstairs into the vaults there are newspapers with moving photographs that are so impressive you’re going to wonder how they’re working. A pre-show featuring one of the Weasleys and a goblin makes it look more realistic than a video recording and an “elevator” that guests enter make you feel like you’re heading levels deep into the wizarding bank. The queue may almost be more impressive than the main attraction here and that’s why it’s not first on the list.
1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure isn’t just the best “Potter” ride, it’s one of the park’s best attractions.
Ride length: Just over three minutes Wait time when I rode: Eight-and-a-half hours. There was no express queue and the single-rider queue was limited. In the end, both had similar wait times. In the near future, Universal is supposed to have a virtual queue to help alleviate wait times. Don’t be me and wait this long for Hagrid’s.
One of the few rides at Universal without screen projections to guide the attraction, Hagrid’s is the best thrill coaster the parks offer. You can read my review of the ride here.
You can choose to ride in a motorbike or sidecar. The motorbike experience is unparalleled. If you lean into the handlebars, you feel like you’re soaring through the skies leaning left and right on a motorcycle as it shifts into higher gear after higher gear. It features a button which lights up that you can press near the ride’s end to help save the day.
Not only does Hagrid’s go backwards, but at one point the entire coaster drops down onto a second track. The group I rode it with Friday screamed and yelled out expletives as they were taken aback by the drop. Even though our wait was a long one, the four people I stood in line with for the majority of the day all told me they thoroughly enjoyed the attraction.
An animatronic Hagrid looks great too. The biggest downsides are the ride’s super long and easy-to-jumble name and its long lines right now.
Though it contains plenty of nods to the books and the movies, the queue for Hagrid’s feels less special than the others. It’s tough to compete with moving photographs, speaking portraits, and the actual Gringotts bank entrance. The ride more than makes up for any point where the queue may be lacking. That’s why I kept it at number one.
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