Universal has received a lot of flak over the past several years for the new additions to their theme parks. Skull Island: Reign of Kong debuted in 2016 with the Kong animatronic, exterior set design and queue leaving many impressed, but a lot did not embrace the attraction due to the heavy use of screens. 2017 saw the arrival of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon as well as a ton of bad feedback for the ride itself, but many praised the queue. Fast and Furious – Supercharged was introduced in 2018, but chances are you don’t know a single person who actually likes it – except for me, but I embrace the stupidity of it. The point is, Universal has had a rough couple of years with new attractions, but we knew that would change with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Details were vague at first about the latest addition to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even before Dragon Challenge saw its last challenge, rumors had been swirling for a long time that a new coaster would take its place. Some were expecting Universal to build the tallest roller coaster on property and others were speculating that they would stick with a family-friendly attraction. Universal ultimately decided with the family-friendly roller coaster approach, but it would be belittling to simply label Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure as a family-friendly ride, because it is so much more than that and we’ll get there.
Universal closed the doors on Dragon Challenge on September 4, 2017 and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure will open to guests on June 13, 2019. If you need help doing the math, that’s less than two years to dismantle two roller coasters, build a new one, completely re-theme and update the queue, build a forest, and add in animatronics, while losing the screen technology that Universal had relied on so heavily over the past couple years. It’s not all perfect, but it’s impressive and the results are pretty stunning.
Let’s begin by going over the new experience… Warning – some spoilers ahead!
For the second time in a Wizarding World attraction, guests will make their way into the Forbidden Forest beyond the grounds of Hogwarts. You may see some marketing saying that you will be flying into the Forbidden Forest for the first time, but of course you can always fly into the Forbidden Forest on an enchanted bench in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Anyways, the reason you’re going into the Forbidden Forest is to attend a Care of Magical Creatures class with Hagrid. The way to get you into the Forbidden Forest – motorbikes with sidecars just like the one Sirius Black lent to Hagrid and later belonged to Harry.
Entrance and Lockers
Let’s go very broad here just for a second. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is located inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade inside Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort. If you only have a ticket for Universal Studios Florida, it won’t do you any good, unless you upgrade to a Park-to-Park option, which is always recommended if you’re looking to get the full Wizarding World experience. If you’re looking for the attraction and coming in from The Lost Continent or the Hogwarts Express, you’ll find it on your right just past the Hogsmeade arch and the Hogwarts Express train. If you’re entering The Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Jurassic Park, you’ll make a right after the bridge to head into Hogsmeade and the attraction is located to your left.
Lockers are required for bigger loose articles. What that means is bags, backpacks, purses, cameras, souvenir cups, wands, and anything else that can’t fit safely or securely into a pocket or be thrown away. Basically, you can take what you want on the ride as long as it’s in a pocket and it’s not going to come out. That includes your phone or GoPro that you’ll be tempted to record the ride with. Leave it in your pocket and don’t try it. As someone who worked at a roller coaster in the past, if you drop your device then it will most likely break.
The layout for the exterior portion of the queue is relatively unchanged from what it was as Dragon Challenge. As you wind your way closer to the ruins, you’ll have spectacular views of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in action the same way you saw all of the action of Dragon Challenge/Dueling Dragons. The one major change is the addition of extra queue behind Hagrid’s hut. When metal detectors were implemented at Dragon Challenge, parts of this area was used for the process, but now it is being utilized as a bulk part of the outdoor queue. If you were a fan of Dragon Challenge, you knew how rare it was to actually ever have to wait outdoors except during the busiest times of the year, but a good amount of waiting will now happen in this portion because of the pre-show addition.
Other minor touches include magical creatures that blend into their environment and extra gardens around Hagrid’s hut. As you approach the ancient ruins you’ll notice that it looks relatively similar to its Dragon Challenge appearance, but crumbling and missing an extra turret. Instead of walking straightforward into the queue, like you did with Dragon Challenge into the Champions’ Tent where you’d see the Goblet of Fire, you now make a left into a set of double doors to enter the interior portion of the queue.
As soon as you enter these doors, you’ll notice a nod to Dragon Challenge/Dueling Dragons directly in front of you, but that’s only if people aren’t standing in front of it. Essentially, you’ll see text that says “Dueling Club” with a blue dragon to the left of it and a red dragon to the right. If you don’t know what that means, the attraction was originally Dueling Dragons and the coasters would be launched at the same time and would have moments where the coasters would nearly miss out on a collision. The two dragons were blue and red for ice and fire. Dragon Challenge then came next when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter took over and the coasters continued to duel for a short period of time, but the blue and red dragons remained as the Hungarian Horntail and Chinese Fireball.
Moving on, you make a left when you enter the ruins and you’re right back in the familiar queue of the past. The Triwizard Cup is obviously gone from the first circular room and it does feel empty in the center, but the walls are now adorned with beautiful artwork of magical creatures that looks like it has been there for centuries. After leaving this room, you will come to a stop because this is where you enter the pre-show.
Universal is embracing Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure as a story coaster and because of this they need an opportunity to set up the story. They do this in the pre-show that features Arthur Weasley and Rubeus Hagrid. The pre-show happens in the area that was the Champions’ Tent, but it has been completely redesigned. The technology to bring Arthur and Hagrid there is the same that you see with Bill Weasley in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
As you enter the room, you see the motorbike sitting by itself until Arthur pops up after having a bit of a welding accident. Hagrid enters in the room to check on him and welcomes the guests to his special Care of Magical Creatures class for the day. Arthur has agreed to help get us around for the class by fixing up the motorbike. When we get to the edge of the forest, Hagrid plans on showing us Blast-Ended Skrewts, Cornish Pixies, and a Unicorn if we’re lucky enough to lure one in. Hagrid’s dog fang knocks open a cage with Cornish Pixies that wreak havoc around Arthur and Hagrid, but it sets up the opportunity to add some special effects in the pre-show.
The path of the interior queue after the pre-show is basically identical to what it was before, but it is almost completely different in the open rooms. The first room you enter in that housed the three golden eggs for the Triwizard Tournament has been completely remodeled. It now appears to be a kitchen of sorts. Pots and pans are hung around the room, some are stacked higher than you can imagine, and there’s a giant fireplace with burning embers. The coolest part of this room is the tree that has come through a window and continued to thrive in the environment.
The next room used to feature some tapestries and floating candles, but basically was just a dark room. Now it’s bright and vibrant, lit up by big glass windows, the room is made up of shelves with Hagrid’s eggs that are close to hatching, but there’s also another nod to Dragon Challenge in this room. In the middle display case, you’ll be able to spot the golden egg that used to hang above the entrance of Dragon Challenge. Besides the eggs in this room, a lot of the walls feature the same ancient artwork of magical creatures that are remarkably well done and more foliage is growing through the ceilings.
You then make your way through long winding tunnels the same way you did through Dragon Challenge and Dueling Dragons. There are a few minor changes to this interior section, but most of it remains identical. The one massive change comes to small interior room of the catacombs. This room went from a boring, circular space into a sprawled out office. Cages, jars, and more are stored all throughout the room, posters of different magical creatures, including the Niffler, are hanging throughout the room, and there’s a giant desk with Hagrid’s gloves and reading materials. The space is very-well themed, but the props are easily accessible and will probably be destroying by impatient guests quickly.
You continue through more tunnels until you approach the final part of your journey. Gone is the choose thy fate room leading to two different paths and instead there is a giant open room that is clearly under another portion of the ruins as you can look up and see the floorboards and more. From time to time you’ll see and hear a motorbike being ridden and then you even see it multiply to the amount of motorbikes you see on each train. You’ll even catch spiders and other creatures crawling up above you.
Boarding the Ride
As you finish the last part of the queue, you have to start making some decisions. First off, figure out how many people are in your group. Second, decide who wants to sit on the motorbike and who wants to sit in the sidecar. Three, pay attention to the video monitors before boarding to see how you can board quickly and efficiently. The loading portion is done on a moving belt system similar to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. During the testing period and the media event, the belt was moving at a slower pace while the team gets used to how to best load the attraction, but one day it will speed up and you can’t be caught off guard.
Height and Weight Limitations
It’s not a secret that there are many Universal attractions that aren’t accommodating of all body sizes. This usually is taken negatively, but it really is broad. While working at Universal, I saw guests who were thicker around the waist have no issues getting on an attraction, but the body builder right next to them wouldn’t be able to ride, because they were built too big. For an attraction like this a bigger upper body could be less of an issue that someone with wider hips and legs. It really just depends on the person, but I’ll try to break down what I saw sensitively.
First off, the motorbike is definitely more accommodating for bigger and taller guests. It doesn’t appear to be modified, but the restraint just closes on you differently because of the position you are in. With the motorbike, I don’t see height as an issue at all, but guests with bigger hips and waists may have more difficulties.
The sidecar is a different story. The seating for the sidecar is more traditional, but it is very compact. As a person who is 6 feet 4 inches, I felt like I was sitting down in the car and my legs were slightly elevated because of it. I do carry most of my length in my legs, but I’m not all legs. The problem with this seat is the restraint hit my thighs at about the half way point because of my long calfs. The restraint was still another six or seven inches away from my stomach, so there was plenty of room that way, but even then I’m not the trimmest person out there by any means. That being said, the sidecar still seems pretty accommodating, but the biggest issue will probably be for those who are tall or carry their weight in their hips.
The last thing I’ll say about it is use the test seats to decide ahead of time if you can ride and which seat you are more comfortable with. If you can get that sorted out ahead of time then the loading experience will be much smoother. That being said, when I boarded the sidecar and was right on the level, a Team Member did ask me if I was comfortable and if I’d like to switch so it is possible to change your mind, but you can’t be indecisive. Ultimately, decide ahead of time using test seats.
After you board your motorbike or sidecar, you are off to the edge of the Forbidden Forest. It doesn’t take very long to hit the first of seven launches throughout the attraction, but once you take off it doesn’t slow down except for a handful of times. You weave your way around the forest and eventually get inside the first show scene where the Blast-Ended Skrewt is located showing off its prominent blasting end and this is also where you’ll find the Hagrid animatronic that Universal promoted leading up to the opening of the attraction. You take off once again and eventually fly past Fluffy, the three-headed dog, on your left.
One of the features of the attraction that was heavily promoted was the spike moment. You see the Flying Ford Anglia covered by Cornish Pixies sitting on rocks as you take off through a tunnel of fog and at the other end you find yourself going into the air at a 70 degree angle and immediately back down into a portion of the ride that takes place completely backwards. This moment isn’t really epic unless you’re sitting in the front 2 rows, but the mechanics behind it are genius. When you come back down you inevitably take a different path meaning that the track switch has to be lightning fast, because it all happens in a very short amount of time.
Your backwards journey takes you into a dark part of the Forbidden Forest where you see the centaurs before getting entangled in Devil’s Snare. This is the moment where the coaster has its free-fall drop. The drop is quick and doesn’t feel very far, but it still adds to the excitement of the ride. From there you take off out of the dark part of the forest and hit the fastest launch of the ride to take you back to the ruins.
Immediately after exiting Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure for the first time, I had already decided that it was now my favorite roller coaster at Universal Orlando and potentially even my favorite in Orlando. After a day of processing that attraction, I still have the same feeling I did when I got off. It really is a home run for Universal. It’s not perfect, and I’ll explain what I mean, but it’s a ride that is going to be adorned by fans of Harry Potter as well as those who love theme parks.
I think one of the brilliant things about the attraction is that you don’t have to be a fan of Harry Potter to enjoy it. I feel the same way about Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but that is more from a technological standpoint. That ride is built so incredibly well that you can appreciate it regardless of the story and characters you see. It enhances the story if you know them, but it doesn’t make or break the attraction. Hagrid’s is the same way, but not technologically speaking. It’s a roller coaster that is fast, but not too fast and constantly moving, and it has a few hills and thrills, but spends more time weaving and turning. It could definitely be more family-friendly, but it is about as family-friendly as it can be from a design standpoint. Manufacturers decide the heigh requirement, not Universal, but I bet if the coaster didn’t utilize the motorbike trains then the height requirement would be lower. However, the trains are a big part of the fun.
Moving backwards, the queue is exceptionally well-done in my book and is a big upgrade from Dragon Challenge, but it didn’t take much to improve on that queue despite how much I loved it. The issue I do have with the queue is the pre-show mainly. The spot they chose to put it in makes perfect sense considering the space they had to work with, but it is a bizarre choice. The pre-show is about 3 minutes long and maybe holds 40 people max in the room, so on a busy day you are going to have a long wait out in the Florida sun before you make it inside. One method could be to just skip the show, and trust me it is set up so you can easily skip it, but that does impact the ultimate story. That being said, you don’t need to know the story of Arthur Weasley tinkering with the motorbikes so you can travel into the Forbidden Forest to enjoy the roller coaster.
After you leave the pre-show there is a TON of queue left. On days when the ride isn’t running with many trains or just really backed up I’m sure you will be waiting in a good chunk of the line, but it has to really back up to utilize the entire interior portion. Most guests probably don’t care about taking the time to look at the details, so it’s really a non-issue, but it’s a shame to think that it may have been set up where you will spend the same amount of time in the sun or even more waiting than you do inside the air-conditioned portions. It’s a shame, because the rooms that went through a redesign all have a ton of detail and are very interesting to look at.
As for the ride vehicles, I love the motorbikes. I feel like a lot of friends and families will fight over who gets to sit on the motorbike instead of the sidecar, but thematically it just makes more sense. I only wish that the comfort of each seat was the same. My wife and I both have the same length legs and both of us would probably prefer to sit on the motorbike, but one of us will always have to sit sidecar and that’s a shame.
The ride itself is very fresh. While I love moments in the attraction like the spike and the drop portion, those aren’t the moments that make the attraction fun for me. To me, the ride is at its best when it’s speeding off, turning, and twisting. Despite the fact that Universal planted a ton of trees for the Forbidden Forest, it is far from maturity. In fact, it’s extremely wide open to the point that most of the time you don’t feel like you’re actually riding through a forest. That’s not necessarily a knock on it, because over time the trees will grow and fill in, but right now it’s not there. Even after 10 years there are still going to be portions of the ride where you don’t feel like you’re deep in a forest, but I don’t think anyone truly expected that.
I mentioned before that it moves fast, but not too fast. That is true, but I do think that the attraction moves a bit too fast past the animatronics. The first time I rode, I felt like I had more time to look at the Blast-Ended Skrewt, Hagrid, and then Fluffy later on, but every ride after that it seemed like they came and went in a blur. That’s a bit of a disappointment considering how much they put into some of the animatronics, but I’m talking Hagrid specifically. The Blast-Ended Skrewt is pretty awesome to see in action, but they didn’t really work on hiding the mount for it and that slightly bothered me. The average guest probably won’t notice or care, but it stuck out like a sore thumb to a person like me who overanalyzes everything.
You do also move very quickly past the Flying Ford Anglia and the centaur in the Forbidden Forest, but that didn’t actually bother me so much because they were static. What did bother me was the transition during the day from being outside in the forest in sunlight to the inside portion with the Devil’s Snare that is in the dark. It’s hard to see a lot of the details in there because your eyes can’t adjust quickly enough, but there’s not much that could be done to actually fix that. I feel like you can actually see it well by the time you finish the drop though, so you can definitely appreciate some portions of the interior.
Want to have the best overall experience? Ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at night. I know it’s cliche to say that a roller coaster is best experienced at night, but it’s very true for Hagrid’s. It feels faster and more chaotic during the day. The motorbikes light the way, but it’s frantic and feels more true to the movies. The lighting design is perfect and my only criticism comes from the Devil’s Snare scene. Remember how I said it’s hard to see in the day, because your eyes haven’t adjusted? You don’t have that problem at night, so unfortunately you can see the mechanics of the Devil’s Snare and it slightly takes away from the magic, but that’s one minor complaint about the experience at night as whole.
I don’t doubt that Hagrid’s will have insane lines for a very long time, so one factor you need to consider is how long you’re willing to wait for the attraction. Universal will be utilizing their virtual line system to help cut down on the wait times, but ultimately their goal is to get you on quickly. They don’t want you standing outside and inside in miserably long lines. I wouldn’t call anyone crazy for waiting 2, 3, or 4 hours for their first ride. Heck, I’d probably even wait 2 hours for it if I was with a friend who really wanted to ride it for the first time. Only time will show the best strategies for getting on the attraction, but it’s a must-do attraction for sure.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is a huge success for Universal and a return to what they do best – blending thrills and storytelling with characters that we know and love.