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Why 'Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey' Beats All Other Amusement Rides

Where: Universal Studios [map], Orlando, FL, United States
June 18, 2010 at 1:20 PM | by | ()

This is something of a personal tale, a yarn that spins from a childhood growing up within a stone's throw of the famous Cedar Point amusement park and reaches its zenith inside of a British castle in Florida. Yes we're speaking of Hogwarts and their new experience ride Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey. It just might be the best amusement park ride currently offered anywhere on earth.

This is a difficult thing for us to say, partially owing to our Cedar Point training—only the tallest and fastest roller coasters for us—and because we are not obsessive fanatics about the Harry Potter series. Sure, we've read all seven books and really enjoyed them, but you won't see us sporting a wool Gryffindor cape in 90-degree Orlando weather. But back to the ride and its awesomeness...

Who remembers the Body Wars ride at Disney's EPCOT? They basically stuck you and so many others into a vehicle on hydrolics, which would lift and turn and drop according to the action on a movie screen in front of you. The Forbidden Journey is a bit like that, but saying this does it a serious injustice. We just want to stress that it's not a roller coaster, but we're not quite sure how to properly describe it. "Experience ride" is probably closest.

But The Forbidden Journey is simply the best for three huge reasons:

· The pre-ride entertainment is just as good as the ride itself, making you forget that you're waiting in a three-hour-long line. Even before you enter Hogwarts proper, you're in the castle's greenhouse. There is always something to look at, things which you can compare to your knowledge of the books or movies, or just simply marvel at. Everything is there and perfect: the Gryffindor Common Room and the Fat Lady painting, Dumbledore's office, the Sorting Hat and a whole mini-show where Ron, Hermione and Harry appear to plot and share hints at what to expect. It would be a shame to use a fast pass on this ride, and we were surprised to find ourselves loving the time spent waiting (indoors).

· The ride expertly tantalizes all five senses. Without giving too much away, we'll only say that it's impossible not to go instantly wide-eyed and tingly from the start. Spiders will spit at you, dragons breathe fire at you and Dementors try to suck out your soul, and even though this sounds scary, the experience of hearing, smelling, feeling and seeing every bit of it is irresistible. Perhaps the only sense left to its own defenses is taste, although this can easily be satisfied after a visit to Honeyduke's. Spoiler: you'll probably crave the edible Dark Mark.

· Riders are emotionally and physically engaged with the characters and storyline. We've already admitted that we're not obsessed with Harry Potter culture in any way, and yet simply enjoying the books and remembering their finer points took us to a different level on this ride. Flying on a broomstick behind Harry, you want to lean forward and go faster; seeing the usual characters is like returning to comfortable old friends. It also helps that they are very encouraging and complimentary to riders, even though they've done nothing to help save Hogwarts. There is a strong chance that people who are into the Harry Potter series will be made emotional by the ride as it inspired at the same time as it frightens. An emotional roller coaster, if you will, but of the most technologically and thematically advanced sort.

Entering into Hogwarts and towards Dumbledore's office

Disclosure: We're at The Wizarding World as a guest of Universal Studios, but all views expressed here are completely our own.

[All photos & video: Jaunted]

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