USA TODAY’s Sarah Sekula experiences Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando. Join her for the twists, turns and drops. Universal Orlando Resort
ORLANDO — Magical creatures, flying motorbikes and the lovable half-giant himself: These are the things Muggle dreams are made of.
However, this week those fantasies will exist in real life, inside Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. On Thursday, Universal Orlando Resort opens its latest addition to the wildly popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The new immersive roller coaster, located inside of Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, revolves around Rubeus Hagrid, a character in the series who is the son of a human man and a giant woman. For Potter newbies, he’s the one who teaches the Care of Magical Creatures class (and often gets into trouble).
This over-the-top ride puts guests smack dab in the middle of his classes, which happen to be inside the recreated Forbidden Forest (a mysterious, and often dangerous place featured in the books and films). The elaborately themed area, which has been in the works for two and a half years, replaces the former Dragon Challenge coaster.
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Theming to the extreme
Outside it’s a mishmash of 1,200 live trees and grassy shaded areas. As you enter the queue, the first thing you’ll notice is the graffiti on the walls, the next thing you’ll notice are the unidentifiable grunts and growls. That might be attributed to the fact that the ride includes things like gnomes acromantulas, cornish pixies, centaurs and Fluffy the three-headed dog.
Along the way you see remnants from Hogwarts, the wizarding school, and receive instructions on how to care for the blast-ended skrewt, a hybrid creature that is part scorpion, part crab. Next, you encounter Hagrid and Arthur Weasley, who has duplicated Hagrid’s motorbike and sidecar. Then, you pass artifacts, including “The Monster Book of Monsters,” broken cages, singed blankets and teddy bears. Hagrid is a softie, after all.
A story coaster
If you’ve seen the Harry Potter movies, then you’ll remember Hagrid’s flying motorbike. The coaster’s ride vehicle is almost an exact replica. With no overhead restraints, the idea is that you will feel like you’re flying through the Forbidden Forest just like Hagrid and Harry do in the films.
This marks the first time Universal has had this type of ride vehicle in any of its parks.
Better yet, this coaster has more launch points that any other coaster in the world. There are seven areas where you launch forward or backward at a moment’s notice.
Once you’re on the ride, which hits speeds up to 50 mph, you’ll go past castle ruins, see the impressive Hagrid animatronic and the blast-ended skrewt he’s attempting to tame. With that comes some special effects (think steam and fire), and Hagrid decides that’s quite enough for today, time to head back to Hogwarts.
“Creating the animated figure of Hagrid was really a long process,” says Thierry Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative. “It took about a couple of years. We actually used some of the original molds that were made for the films, and we went through the whole process of sculpting, of doing the prosthetics and doing all the elements. And then the mechanics that go into that are very innovative. It allows the figure to be very fluid, very real.”
Of course, things don’t go as planned. After plenty of twists and turns through the Forbidden Forest, you enter the darkest parts of the forest, where a centaur comes into view. That’s when the ride vehicle becomes entangled in devil’s snare and the track drops 16.5 feet onto another track.
“This is a whole new level of themed roller coasters,” says Coup. “It will blow your mind. One of the most innovative things on this roller coaster is really the drop-track moment, which is the only one of its kind in the U.S., where you really free fall.”
Thanks to Hagrid’s “lumos solem” charm, the devil’s snare retreats and guests are blasted outside of the dark forest and back to the load platform. But not before you catch a glimpse of a very fun surprise. Hint: It’s a creature (along with a baby creature) you would not have seen alive in the Harry Potter films.
Overall, it’s all delightfully overwhelming and certainly has die-hard fans in a frenzy. Even though it’s been more than 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published, Potter fans are still going strong. And if there’s one thing they love more than anything, it’s a new immersive attraction.
“I would be willing to wait three to four hours in line for this ride,” says Amy Syth, a 31-year-old who has been a Harry Potter fan for 20 years. She visited the first weekend that Hogsmeade opened in 2010 and says: “I had tears in my eyes when I caught my first glimpse of Hogwarts Castle.”
It’s that level of enthusiasm that Universal will continue to bank on.
“Since 2010, yearly attendance at Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure has increased from a combined 12 million guests to nearly an estimated 20 million,” says Ryan Roth, IBISWorld lead industry analyst. “Additionally, revenue generated from NBCUniversal’s theme parks has increased more than 50% over the 10 years to 2019.”
It’s true, Americans love their them parks and fictional fantasy worlds. “Universal won’t stop adding Harry Potter attractions into its theme parks until the public quits caring about Harry Potter,” says Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, “which I don’t see happening for a very, very long time.”
If you go
Cost: Single-park admission to Universal Islands of Adventure starts at $115 for adults and $110 for children. Park-to-park admission starts at $170 for adults and $165 for children. Note: prices vary depending on the day of the guest’s visit.
Height requirement for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure: 48” tall
More info: UniversalOrlando.com/WizardingWorld
Sarah Sekula is a journalist and video host who tells stories about travel, health, wellness, fitness and extraordinary people. Follow her adventures on all seven continents @sarahsomewhere.
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