This is the most comprehensive guide available anywhere for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the signature attraction inside Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
You can click any photo to view it full-screen.
What follows is a fully documented, step-by-step breakdown of the entire Forbidden Journey experience, including basics about the attraction, how the queue works, details about the storyline, and what you can do to minimize your wait time.
If you are planning your first visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, reading this post can save you hours. No kidding.
If you’ve already been, you’ll like this post too. We have tons of videos and pictures. You’ll get to relive it all again!
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: The basics
Before we get into the heavy details, let’s knock out a few basics about Forbidden Journey.
What is it?
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the star attraction inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. It is really two separate attractions: The first one is a tour through Hogwarts. During the tour you have the opportunity to see iconic locations such as Dumbledore’s Office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. You also get to see most of the primary characters, including Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
The second attraction is a revolutionary flight simulator-style ride. It is like nothing else in the world (at least for now). The ride vehicles, or “enchanted benches,” are mounted on the end of very powerful and flexible Kuka robotic arms, which themselves glide down a track. Through the use of classic set design, special effects, and a first-of-its-kind 180-degree screen that encompasses the ride vehicle, guests get to experience the chaos of Harry’s life for about four and a half minutes.
What’s a Kuka robotic arm?
The video above is from Innovention’s Sum of All Thrills at Epcot. It presents a fairly good depiction of the movement you can expect from Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. However, keep in mind that Forbidden Journey incorporates a dizzying amount of special effects and set design in addition to the Kuka robotic arm movement–much more than simply pulling a cover with a TV screen over your head.
What rides are similar to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey?
The most similar ride to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, which is also located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. If you’ve been on Spider-Man, imagine that ride but put the ride vehicle on the end of the Kuka robotic arm you see in the video above. Oh yeah!
Haven’t been to Universal Orlando yet? Then of course Sum of All Thrills is a good reference. If you haven’t seen that one yet, think Disney’s Soarin’, but think about it this way: Soarin’ is to Forbidden Journey what It’s a Small World is to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Where is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey?
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is located inside Hogwarts Castle, which itself looks over Hogsmeade Village inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These venues are inside Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort. You can see the most direct path from the Islands of Adventure turnstiles to Forbidden Journey on our custom-made Google map. Be sure to switch the map to Satellite View and zoom in!
Do I need a separate ticket for any of this?
Depending on when you visit, it is possible that you might need a return time ticket to get into the Wizarding World. Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay extra for it. We highly recommend that you read our complete guide to WWoHP reservation times and return tickets when you’re done with the Forbidden Journey guide.
Does Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey have a weight limit?
There is no weight limit per se for guests wanting to go on the ride portion of Forbidden Journey. However, like all attractions that involve considerable motion, guests do need to be able to fit in the seat with the safety restraint fully engaged.
When Forbidden Journey first opened, Universal was very strict about how far the safety restraint had to come down over guests’ shoulders and against the chest. As a result, many people who usually have no problem fitting on rides were turned away. Since the Wizarding World was such big news when it first opened, the additional news that many guests were not able to ride Forbidden Journey also got a lot of coverage.
But that was some time ago. Nowadays Universal’s requirement for how far down the restraint must come has been relaxed. And while “pooh-sized” guests do occasionally get turned away unexpectedly, the majority of larger proportioned guests seem to not have a problem. The catch is that there really is no way to know ahead of time, because it all depends on how a person’s specific body dimensions fit into the specific dimensions of the Forbidden Journey seat and safety restraint.
For those guests who are concerned, there are test seats available right in front of the Hogwarts Castle gates (see the picture below).
What’s the height restriction?
Does Forbidden Journey have Express Pass access (sometimes mistakenly called Fast Passes)?
Nope. To learn more, visit our Complete guide to Universal Express Passes.
Does the ride have child swap?
Yes. We’ll cover that below.
Is it too scary for kids?
Also covered on below.
Your options for experiencing Forbidden Journey
See the castle tour and then go on the ride
This is how the attraction and its story line are designed to be experienced. First you will walk through the rooms of the castle as you learn what Harry and his friends are up to, then you will set off on an unforgettable ride.
Castle tour only
If for any reason you are not interested in the ride portion of Forbidden Journey, you may still walk through the rooms of the castle in what is referred to as the castle tour. (This is the line that may be closed if the Wizarding World is busy.)
Like several of Universal Orlando’s rides, Forbidden Journey has a single rider line. When there is a significant wait time for the attraction, this line allows you to get onto the ride in a fraction of the normal wait time. The trade-off is that you miss most of the walk through Hogwarts. And groups entering the single rider line will be split up. It is also worth noting that there is no age restriction for single rider — as long as a child is tall enough to be permitted to ride Forbidden Journey, he or she can use the single rider line.
Forbidden Journey: The queue begins
Ironically, the scariest part about this attraction may be the very first thing you encounter: the line stretching out from Hogwarts.
Forbidden Journey is such an amazing attraction that virtually every single person visiting Orlando wants to go on it, and nearly all of them are willing to wait for an hour or more to do so. Even with the addition of a new outdoor queue space in the second half of 2011, there still is not enough room to neatly house the line when it is busy. Let’s use Google Maps to take a closer look at this:
IMPORTANT: Be sure to switch the map to Satellite View. Then, zoom in on the blue and green lines to the left. Understanding what these lines represent, and how they work, is the absolute key to minimizing your wait time at Forbidden Journey. It is also very important to know that the information we’re about to explain to you is not available from Universal Orlando or any other source that we’re aware of.
The blue line
The blue line is the infamous Forbidden Journey locker line, and here’s how it works: In order to ride on Forbidden Journey, you cannot carry any loose articles with you. That means no bulky cameras, purses, bags filled with chocolate frogs, fanny packs, or anything else that is hanging off your body. If it doesn’t fit comfortably in your pockets, it’s a loose article. And all loose articles must be stowed in the castle’s locker room.
While stowing one’s loose articles is not unique to Forbidden Journey (you have to do it for Dragon Challenge, Incredible Hulk, and a few other Universal rides), what sets Forbidden Journey apart is the enormous wait that develops for those guests who have to use the inadequately sized locker room.
The truth is that the location and size of the locker room was very poorly conceived. Universal originally believed that guests would somehow move quickly into the castle’s entrance, stow their stuff, and continue on to the rest of the attraction. They didn’t think a line would get backed up for people wanting to use the lockers. So, Universal designed 99 percent of the Forbidden Journey queue spaceafter the locker room. Well, they quickly discovered that the need for guests to use lockers created a huge bottleneck. During busy times it’s not uncommon for the locker room wait to be an hour or more. That’s just to get to the lockers. It could be another hour to get to through the castle and onto the ride!
But in terms of crowd management, the real issue was as follows: there was no designed space before the locker room for an hour long line of people to fit into. As a result, the “locker line” would wrap down into Hogsmeade and all over the place! It was really a mess.
Universal implemented a solution in the fall of 2011 to address this huge locker line that had no home. They decided to develop some unused space next to the castle and push the locker line into it. That’s why, when you look at our Google map (be sure to switch it to Satellite View and zoom in on the blue line), it looks like the locker line cuts through a heavily wooded area as it goes down and circles around. That’s the newly developed area.
If you are confused by all of this stuff, it is totally understandable. What’s important to understand here is not so much where the locker line goes and what space is new. Rather, the most important thing to understand is that this line is for guests who want to go on the tour and ride as a group or single riders who need to use the lockers. Keep reading to learn more.
The green line
We’re sure you have noticed the much shorter green line on our Google map (be sure to switch it to Satellite View and zoom in on the green line). The green line represents how guests enter the castle who are either just going on the castle tour or are single riders with no bags.
CASTLE TOUR GUESTS
If you only want to enjoy the castle tour and you plan on skipping the ride, you do not have to wait in the locker line. You can walk directly up the the gates of Hogwarts, inform the team member posted there that you just want to go on the tour, and you will be able to proceed directly to the castle’s entrance. Also, if you are just doing the tour, you may bring all the loose articles you’d like, including cameras.
(Please note that the castle tour-only line is the line that Universal may close access to if the Wizarding World is busy. If it is indeed closed, you have to wait in the locker line if you want to walk through the castle, even though you don’t have to stow your loose articles!)
SINGLE RIDERS WITH NO BAGS
If you only want to go on the Forbidden Journey ride, and you don’t mind skipping most of the castle tour, you too can proceed directly to the castle’s entrance and skip the locker line. Just walk up to the team member posted at the castle entrance and let them know you are a single rider with no bags.
Forbidden Journey outdoor queue area – video
Let’s try to put it all together by watching this short video:
You’ve successfully navigated through the colossal line outside of the gates of Hogwarts, and now you’re just inside the castle entrance.
Choose your own adventure
Inside the castle entrance you will choose one of three queues depending on what you want to experience (and depending on what you told the team member posted at the castle gates!):
Regular line for guests seeing the tour and going on the ride
When you’ve made it into the castle entrance, this line is straight ahead. It brings you down the dungeon corridor, and back outside to the castle’s greenhouse. We’ll go into great detail about this experience after we talk about single riders and castle tour guests.
Single riders agree to help fill the 4-seat enchanted benches when odd-numbered parties are riding. These single riders usually can get on the ride in no time compared to the regular queue. The trade-off, as we mentioned earlier, is that single riders skip almost the entire Hogwarts tour. In fact, the single rider line goes directly from the castle entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room, which is the final room on the tour.
The single rider line can be a great friend to you, but it has a nasty temper! We have used it dozens and dozen times. When Forbidden Journey has had a wait time of 75 minutes or more, we’ve gotten on in less than ten minutes… repeatedly. But it can be deceiving! From the castle entrance you cannot see the line. So when you go to your left and head up the stairs to the Gryffindor Common Room, you may find yourself stopping before you even reach the top of the stairs. Should this happen, you may be in for a 20 or 30 minute wait. Or more.
Nonetheless, if you just want to go on the ride, it’s a good option. In fact, most guest don’t know about it because Universal hardly advertises that the single rider line exists for Forbidden Journey. And, if you find the line to be too long, you can always turn around and leave. (For Orlando coaster fans, it’s not like the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster single rider line, where once you’re past the recording studio, you are pretty much stuck.)
Castle tour only
Castle tour-only guests agree not to go on the ride, and for their reward these guests get their own line through the castle. Once inside the castle entrance, you will need to inform the team member posted there that you are just doing the tour.
Something to understand about the tour: this is a self-guided tour. It’s not like a museum tour where you will have a person guiding you through the rooms. Essentially what you are doing is experiencing the best parts of the attraction’s queue (the rooms inside Hogwarts Castle) and skipping the green house and the ride at the end. Even if you are just going on the tour, you cannot bring strollers in with you. But, as we mentioned above, you can bring everything else, including your camera!
The castle “tour only” option has its big advantages and one disadvantage. The first big advantage is that you get to skip the outdoor queue as we explained above, head right into Hogwarts, and begin your exploration. The second HUGE advantage is that everyone in this line is in it to see the tour! What you will find is that the regular line moves far too fast through the castle’s rooms. The vast majority of guests in the regular line miss the Forbidden Journey storyline and much of the theming. When you take the castle tour-only line, you can walk at your leisure, taking pictures and video, observing the detail, and soaking in the wonder of it all without anyone pushing you from behind–and no team members in front of you telling you to hurry.
The third big advantage: castle tour guests get their very own talking portrait room!
In the regular line the talking portrait room is small and you’re pushed right through it in about 15 seconds, so you don’t hear practically any of the conversation. This is terrible because it’s the first part of the Forbidden Journey story and it sets the stage for everything else. In the “tour only” line, you get a beautiful room full of portraits, and you can listen to the WHOLE conversation. (There are actually two varieties of the conversation, if you want to stick around).
After the talking portrait room the castle tour-only line enters Dumbledore’s Office. From this point it winds through the castle’s rooms with the regular line. This brings us to the one castle tour-only line disadvantage: Because of how the paths wind through the rooms, the castle tour-only line stays at the far back of the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. This means you can’t get very close to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. However, like the talking portrait room, you still can stop and enjoy the classroom for all its worth, albeit at a distance.
Navigating Hogwarts Caste entrance – video
You now know all about your three options for experiencing Forbidden Journey: the regular line (tour + ride), single rider, and castle “tour only”. Here is a video to help you better understand the layout of the castle entrance area and locker room:
Now that you’ve seen what the castle entrance area looks like when it is slow, here is a look at it when it is busy (although it gets even busier than what this video shows):
The Hogwarts Castle tour
The description below mostly focuses on the “regular line” for guests going on the tour and the ride. But there is still some additional information in it for single riders and castle tour guests. No matter how you plan on experiencing Forbidden Journey, we recommend that you read through it all.
The green house
Once you’ve entered the castle and headed straight into the regular line, you walk a very short distance through a hallway meant to be the castle’s dungeon. After a few steps you are back outside.
This outdoor, partially covered area is the castle’s greenhouse. It is not really considered part of the tour. Rather, it is a large holding area for the line to zig-zag through on its way to the castle’s backdoor.
Keep in mind that the wait in the greenhouse can be substantial.
Now that you’ve reached this point, the line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey tends to move at a steady pace. The good part is that, during your walk around the greenhouse, the line is almost always in motion. So even though you may be out here for 40 minutes or more, the fairly constant movement makes it feel like a little bit less.
The bad part is that once you are inside the castle you will feel very rushed. If it is your first time touring Hogwarts, chances are you will want to take your time and SEE everything there is to see. Unfortunately, you just can’t do this in the regular line. Because the ride itself is constantly loading and unloading (you’ll see this later), it continues to pull and pull guests toward it. This is different than the line for Flight of the Hippogriff or Dragon Challenge. Those rides load a certain number of guests and then stop the line to launch. If you didn’t make the cut off, you need to wait. This naturally creates a “pulse” through the line.
But the enchanted benches of Forbidden Journey are always launching, and therefore the line is always moving (again, we’ll show you this later). While this is nice when you’re in the green house, it is a big issue once you’re in the castle. With the constricted line from the greenhouse pushing from behind and the constantly loading ride pulling from the front, you really never get a chance to see most of the incredible detail and hear the Forbidden Journey storyline.
Don’t worry though! We’ve got you covered! We’re going to show you all that Hogwarts has to offer.
The castle’s backdoor entrance
Once you’ve made your way back and forth through the green house line, you enter the castle again through a backdoor. Now the sights and sound begin to look very familiar…
This next video was shot as I entered the castle’s back door and moved through to the talking portrait room. You can see how the line is entirely empty–and the video is blurry.
We’ve made our way through the queue outside of Hogwarts; we’ve selected the regular line, single rider line, or castle tour line, knowing that the regular line and the castle tour line have different talking portrait rooms; and now we enter Dumbledore’s Office.
This space is crafted exquisitely well. One could scarcely believe that this isn’t the Professor’s real office.
The experience in this room is also significant because it sets the anchor for the Forbidden Journey storyline. Professor Dumbledore introduces you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry like you’re really on a tour. After explaining the purpose of the school – and commenting on one of its most infamous students – Dumbledore informs you that you’re heading next to the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. Once there, Professor Binns “will condense hundreds of years of Hogwarts history into a few short hours.” Sounds like a fun tour, huh?
Now you make your way to the next stop on the tour.
Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom
In this room you are waiting for Professor Binns to arrive and began his Hogwarts history lecture. But Harry, Ron, and Hermione have different plans. They sneak in the room underneath the Cloak of Invisibility (look for the door to the right cracking open) and unveil themselves in front of everyone.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione explain in their own way that Professor Binns is “very boring.” They suggest that, instead of attending the lecture, you should go to a game of Quidditch with them. You agree of course, and they tell you to meet them in the Room of Requirement. Having the new plan set, they slip back under the Cloak of Invisibility and sneak out the door.
Remember that if you go through the “tour only” line, you’ll be at the back of the classroom. But, as we mentioned above, you won’t be pushed through the line either. Notice in the following video how the guests in the regular line are continuously moving, not allowing them to fully watch or hear the story.
You can click here to see a second video we shot in this room.
The Fat Lady & The Daily Prophet
From the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom the lines move through a small hallway. In the first part you see the Fat Lady portrait. She picks up the storyline and gets excited about the upcoming Quidditch match you’ll be attending.
In the second part of the hallway is a cabinet filled with Quidditch supplies and a bulletin board with a copy of the Daily Prophet pinned up. Again, the focus is on Quidditch.
At the end of the hallway you enter the Gryffindor Common Room.
Gryffindor Common Room
The Gryffindor Common Room is probably the least impressive of all of the rooms. Its purpose is more functional than theming. There are no more characters, but the talking portraits are back. They are chatting about the Quidditch match. Perhaps more importantly, they also start directing the conversation toward you, bringing to your attention the upcoming ride’s safety issues.
Here’s a video of the room. Pay particular attention to what happens at 0:58 in the clip…
If you watched the video and had the volume up at all, you definitely heard the Universal team member calling out: “Muggles, right this way please! Hermione is waiting for you!” This is a perfect example of what happens if you try to see everything on the tour when you’re not in the “tour only” line. We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it. You need to go through the castle tour line if you really want get the most out of this attraction.
If you selected the single rider line, this is where you enter once you climb the stairs from the sorting area at the entrance to Hogwarts.
As we mentioned before the purpose of this room is more functional. Here Universal team members will stop the lines and parse them into the final staging area for the ride. If necessary, children’s heights will be double-checked and there is a set of test seats as well.
This is also where the “tour only” line ends. From here, “tour only” guests are directed through a door on the left, which brings them to the ride’s unloading area. But you’re going on the ride, so when the team member gestures, you move forward into the final queue space.
You are now at the final stage before the ride. The line moves down a short hallway. At the end of the hallway is the Sorting Hat.
Although small compared to all the things we’ve seen up to this point, the Sorting Hat is quite remarkable. He tells you more about the ride’s safety issues. Okay, that’s not exciting, but the hats movements and voice are really cool.
Turning to the left, past the hat, brings you just steps away from the enchanted benches.
“Hermione did it!”
Standing in the final staging area, you wait your turn to get on the enchanted benches that will take you to Hermione in the Room of Requirement. A Universal team member is here, breaking up groups into parties of 4 guests. Odd-numbered parties will be joined by a single rider.
What happens at this point? Well our friend, we’re going to let Harry and the gang take it from here. We don’t want to ruin the entire experience for readers who haven’t been on the attraction yet. If you want a glimpse though, go back to the top and check out the Kuka robotic arm video–but this time imagine these “enchanted benches” on the end of the arm, in darkness, moving down a track, and you sitting in it!
“You are free to return to Hogwarts anytime.”
Want to know if guests like the attraction? Check out this video taken just moments after guests have unloaded from the enchanted benches. The best reactions start at about 0:40 in the video.
At this point you walk down a set of stairs and into Filch’s Emporium, which is the attraction’s gift shop. Your journey is over.
Time to finish up a few loose ends. We put these questions at the end because we wanted you to see everything inside Hogwarts before we answered them.
So where is the Child Swap room for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey?
The Child Swap room is located right by the loading/unloading area.
This means children too young to ride get to see everything you’ve seen so far. And while they wait, there’s a Harry Potter movie playing!
If we will be using Child Swap, do we need to worry about stowing loose articles in the lockers?
No, you do not have to stow your loose items in the Forbidden Journey lockers if you are using Child Swap. As you likely suspect, the adult and child waiting in the Child Swap room can also guard all of the groups cameras, bags, etc.
How strict are they in the child swap line about re-riding?
So first Mom, Older Brother, and Older Sister go on Forbidden Journey why Dad and Too-young-to-ride Brother wait in the Child Swap Room. When Mom, Older Brother, and Older Sister get off the ride, can Dad now ride and bring Older Brother and Older Sister back on again? In general the Child Swap line isn’t very closely monitored, or the team members are perfectly fine with a re-ride or two, so re-riding should be quite possible. But, you will have to be polite and see exactly how it plays out when you are there. It is always possible that during your particular visit they might be regulating the Child Swap room tightly. If Older Brother and Older Sister don’t get a chance to re-ride, there’s always the single rider line!
See our Child Swap page if you are not familiar with this Universal program.
Is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey too scary for young kids?
This question does not have a straightforward answer. What is certain is this: Harry Potter and the Forbidden condenses the chaos of Harry life into four and of half minutes of thrill ride intensity. And while the ride doesn’t go upside down, nor does it ever propel you faster than a few miles an hour, you move in ways that are entirely new for most people. Combine that with truly in-your-face special effects as you deal with spiders, Dementors, and a certain Whomping Willow, and you’ve got yourself one unforgettable journey.
So will it be too much for young kids? If they can handle Spider-Man in Marvel Superhero Island and The Simpsons Ride over at Universal Studios Florida, they should be just fine. But remember, Forbidden Journey is a bit more intense than Spider-Man and a lot more intense than The Simpsons.
And if the kids don’t go on the ride, look at how much stuff they still can see inside Hogwarts!
The entire Forbidden Journey queue experience – HD video
Want to see it all again in one video? We’ve got that. Check it out below. Please note that the video will play in standard definition by default. If you would like to view it in HD 720p or 1080p, start the video and then change the bitrate using the toggle in the bottom-right corner of the video.
The best way to Experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Congratulations on making it to the end of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: The ultimate unofficial guide! Please proceed to The best way to experience Forbidden Journey to learn how to get the most out of your first visit to this incredible attraction, and how to minimize your wait time.
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