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The very best way to experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey castle
Your journey begins as you enter Hogwarts Castle.

This page is designed to be read after you have gone through the Ultimate unofficial guide to Forbidden Journey. If you have not already gone through the Forbidden Journey guide, some of the more detailed advice below may not make sense.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – background

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is two attractions in one: The first is a walk-through tour of Hogwarts Castle’s most iconic rooms. The second attraction is a four minute flight simulator ride that is a mix of incredible ride vehicle mechanics, film action, elaborate set design, and special effects.
The tour is open to everyone. The ride portion has a minimum height requirement of 48 inches. There is a Child Swap room in the loading area for parties with young children. It is absolutely worth going through the castle tour even if you have no intention of going on the ride. Wheelchairs are permitted inside Hogwarts Castle; strollers are not.

There is no Express Pass access. (However, the other two rides inside the Wizarding World–Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff–do have Express Pass access.)

Nowadays, after Universal made some adjustments to the enchanted benches, most “Pooh-sized” guests have no problem fitting on the ride. But if you are concerned, check out the test seats located just outside the gates of Hogwarts. Also, please be aware that larger guests, when loading onto the enchanted benches, should use one of the two outside seats–save the two inside seats for smaller guests.

Universal changes the game

As of the holiday 2011 season, Universal has made two very significant changes to the Forbidden Journey queue system: First, they began requiring that ALL guests, other than single riders, wait in the regular “locker line”. Before this change, guests without bags could walk up to the castle gates and get right inside, effectively skipping the locker line. This is no longer possible.

Second, Universal began closing access to the tour-only line when there is any significant wait for Forbidden Journey. Before this change, guests who wanted to just go through the castle and not go the ride could skip the locker line outside, go right inside the castle, and proceed directly into the tour-only line. Now, with access to the tour-only line closed, guests wishing to see the inside of Hogwarts Castle but not go on the ride have to wait in the locker line with everyone else, even though they don’t need to use the lockers because they are not going on the ride. Then these guests have to queue through the greenhouse holding area where there is virtually nothing to see, and when they are back inside the castle, these guests have to rush through the rooms in the regular line. (For those who are not familiar, the regular queue through Hogwarts Castle moves very quickly, which prevents guests from enjoying the masterful details of the castle’s rooms and even hearing the backstory for the ride.)

It is worth noting that Universal still does allow single riders with no bags to skip the locker line and get right into the single rider queue.

So what does this mean to guests who want to experience Forbidden Journey the best way possible? In a nutshell, it means that you cannot.

How you used to be able to experience Forbidden Journey

Before the holiday 2011 changes, we advised all of our readers to experience Forbidden Journey by (1) not bringing any bags, (2) going through the tour-only line first, and then (3) going on the ride as a single rider. This method had huge advantages. It allowed you to always skip the locker line, but more importantly, it allowed you to really enjoy your first walk through Hogwarts Castle (which you could do at your own pace in the tour-only line). After you had walked through the tour-only line, you could easily double-back to the castle entrance, get in the single rider line, and get right on to the ride. Voila, a perfect recipe for experiencing Forbidden Journey without every really having to wait in line.

But with the holiday 2011 changes, this recipe is no longer possible — some of the time. If you want to experience both the tour through the castle and go on the ride, you have to wait in the big, long line. The only way to skip the line is as a single rider with no bags, but that means you miss most of the castle tour.

The new “best way to experience Forbidden Journey”

First off, if possible, don’t bring any bags. Even if you have to wait in the locker line anyway, by not bringing bags you will not have to push and shove your way through the tiny Forbidden Journey locker room. This may not save you much time, but it will save you a lot of frustration. If you do have items to stow, use the Dragon Challenge lockers, being aware that you might have to pay a little extra for going over the “free” time (you can pay with a credit card).

When you arrive at Hogwarts Castle, we still strongly recommend that you approach the team member stationed at the castle gates and ask if you can go through the tour-only line. For a visual reference, open up my custom-made Google map, be sure to switch it to Satellite View, and zoom in on the green line. It is possible that the tour-only line may be open when you visit. If so, you definitely want to take advantage of it. If you do get a chance to go through the tour-only line, then at the end of the tour simply return to the castle gates and ask to use the single rider line. Remember: to use the single rider line, you cannot have bags.

If you ask for the tour-only line and it is not available, then we are afraid you have no choice but to get in the regular “locker line” with everyone else. For a visual reference, open up our Google map, switch it to Satellite View, and look for the blue line. On busy days the locker line may extend out of the castle gates and down toward Hogsmeade Village. On slow or moderate days, it may not extend out of of the gates at all.

What is this stuff I’ve heard about cutting through the locker room?

Going into Hogwarts Castle through Filch’s Emporium (the attraction’s gift shop), cutting through the locker room, and entering the castle’s entrance area, thereby skipping the outdoor lines, became the worst kept secret of the Wizarding World. It is no surprise that Universal has finally put measures in place to stop it. Now, when it is busy, team members are staffed around the locker room to monitor guest traffic and make sure everyone is following proper procedure.

That is why, even if you are a single rider with no bags, we no longer recommend cutting through the locker room. Instead, you should enter the castle through the front gates. If you really are a single rider with no bags, you won’t have to wait long anyway.

Should I do anything differently if it is slow?

If you walk up to Hogwarts Castle and notice that there is no line coming out from the gates and no partition between the locker line and the castle tour / single rider line, it means that it is slow — and you are lucky! No matter what you do, if it is your first time experiencing Forbidden Journey, we strongly recommend that you do the tour-only line first. This is really the best way to see all of the splendor of the Forbidden Journey story for the first time. Remember, in the regular line you will likely be rushed through the castle’s rooms. In the castle tour line you pick your own pace. Hopefully the tour-only line is available!

But here’s the nifty part about it being slow. If there is no wait to get into Hogwarts’ entrance, that means there is no wait for the lockers. So you can bring your bags and your cameras with you. You can go on the tour with all your stuff, take all the pictures you’d like, exit the castle at the end of the tour, turn right around, go back in through the entrance and use the lockers to dump your stuff off, then go on the ride!

Final note: There are a few elements of the regular line that are different from the “tour only” line (the green house, etc.). If crowd levels are low and you have not already gone through the regular line, we would recommend doing so before you leave the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Finding the beginning of the queue when it is crazy busy – map & video

There is the possibility that when you visit Universal Orlando and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the park could be slammed. As we are sure you have seen on our You really should see this before you go page, the Wizarding World is as popular as ever.

If you do find yourself in this predicament — where there are wall-to-wall crowds — you can assume that the tour-only line is closed. In this case, don’t even try to get up to the castle gates to ask. Also, since you will have to wait in the regular “locker line” anyway, there is no point in trying to get rid of your bags beforehand (unless you just don’t want to deal with the Forbidden Journey locker room).

Next, it is important to realize that 99 percent of the guests visiting the park do not have the knowledge you have about the Wizarding World. (Be sure to tell them about OrlandoInformer.com!) As a result, most of these guests try to push their way up to the gates of Hogwarts, naturally assuming that the queue for the castle and ride starts there. Well, when it is slammed at the park, it doesn’t. Instead, depending on how busy it is, the queue may start anywhere along the fence line leading down from Hogwarts Castle. If it is truly slammed, the queue will extend onto the bridge that goes toward Jurassic Park. This is a snapshot of our custom-made Google map for the Wizarding World. Remember, the *potential* queue for Forbidden Journey is the blue line:

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey map

The takeaway here is that, if you get to Hogsmeade Village and there are in fact wall-to-wall crowds, don’t try to get up to the castle looking for where the queue starts. Instead, head to the fence line and look for the rope chain, and follow it down toward the bridge. That is where you will find the beginning of the queue.

Here is a video to help you. At the very beginning of the clip we are standing right at the castle gates, facing Hogwarts. A few moments into the video we turn around and start walking toward Hogsmeade Village. The queue for Forbidden Journey is the line you see on the right of the frame as I’m walking toward the village.

Is it always this busy at the Wizarding World?

No, not always. But yes, it does happen regularly. Be sure to see our Universal Orlando crowd calendar.

Is there anyway to skip the line when it is this busy?

There are only two options. One: Go on the ride as a single rider with no bags, knowing that you are going to miss most of the castle tour and that, if you are with other people, you will be split up. Two: Come back during the last hour before the park closes.

Navigating the entrance to Hogwarts Castle – videos

To help you remember exactly how to get into Hogwarts Castle and into the line you want, we’ve included my Hogwarts Castle instruction videos here. The first video is from the bottom of Forbidden Journey: Ultimate unofficial guide, and it explains the outdoor queue area in front of the castle.

This next video was featured in Forbidden Journey: Ultimate unofficial guide, and it explains the layout of the castle entrance area, including the locker room.