Theme park fans are in for a treat when Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey officially opens on Thursday inside Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Hollywood.
For those who have never been on the world’s best dark ride, Forbidden Journey literally turns the traditional dark ride experience on its head by placing riders on the end of a unique robotic arm as they travel past domed projection screens and animatronic characters.
For those who have visited Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the West Coast version of Forbidden Journey adds 3-D imagery to the domed screen segments that were only 2-D when the ride debuted in 2010 at the Florida theme park.
I rode the new Forbidden Journey three times during technical rehearsals at Universal Studios Hollywood and found that the 3-D enhancements added depth and detail to the already spectacular visuals. The 3-D imagery was first introduced when the ride opened at Universal Studios Japan in 2014.
The extensive ride queue that winds through Hogwarts Castle is an attraction in itself. Visitors pass through Professor Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room and the Defense of the Dark Arts classroom, where Harry, Ron and Hermione Granger give riders instructions on how to survive the Forbidden Journey. Throughout the queue, visitors encounter the mysterious Mirror of Erised, the talking headmaster portraits and the sorting hat. The experience changes if you choose the single rider or Gate A skip-the-line queues.
The combination of the stunningly detailed queue and the state-of-the-art ride make Forbidden Journey the best dark ride in the world. The addition of the 3-D overlay only makes it better.
Some people have complained that the 3-D version of Forbidden Journey causes motion sickness. Universal officials contend that any ride, including Forbidden Journey, can cause dizziness in some riders. During test-and-adjust technical rehearsals, I found the spinning vortex scenes at the beginning and end of the ride to be the most nausea-inducing. My advice: Close your eyes for a few seconds when Hermione douses riders with Floo Powder and you’ll be just fine.
Of course, the real problem won’t be the people that can’t ride Forbidden Journey, but rather all the people who will want to climb aboard -- over and over again. Expect massive lines for the first few months. The single-rider line will probably be your best option on crowded days.
If Wizarding World proves popular, and all indications are it will, Southern California theme park fans could be in for an even bigger treat. A Diagon Alley expansion of Wizarding World is reportedly envisioned for the Waterworld stunt show arena location, complete with the Harry Potter and the Escape Gringotts indoor roller coaster, widely considered to be the best ride in the world.
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