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Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Hogwarts: the one place that pretty much every child secretly hopes he or she will be invited to attend when the heralded eleventh birthday rolls around.
Unfortunately, I did not receive my green-inked letter, and to my utter astonishment and very real disappointment, I have never met anyone who has.
So when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened and I heard that Universal was planning on building Hogwarts, I decided I would have to settle for the amusement park experience of our favorite magical school. A visit to the park is considerably shorter than seven years of Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, and History of Magic, so I suppose that’s a plus.
What I was not expecting was Hogwarts to be presented to the hoards of Potter fans as a ride entitled Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Gee, J. K. Rowling, why didn’t you name one of your seven highly acclaimed books that? I can’t for the life of me see why.
Anyway, so Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey; first you walk through the dungeons, which are pretty artfully done, and then you proceed through a line that meanders about the Herbology greenhouses. When you finally enter the castle, you find yourself in rooms that incorporate one of the best features of Hogwarts—talking portraits!
The paintings are wonderful! They bring to life several characters that you will surely remember from the books, and the magic begins to materialize. They are followed by various statues, the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, the Fat Lady, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and several other artful touches that will enchant the true fan and the casual movie watcher alike.
The Trio makes their appearance before the ride begins of course, and when you board the ride you are hoisted into the air by one of Hermione’s spells—because nothing is complete without the genius witch’s wandwork!
What then follows is an absolutely ingenious conglomeration of the first four Harry Potter books which includes the Chamber of Secrets, a dragon, Aragog, dementors, Quidditch, and the stunning usage of bubbled screens that truly make you feel like you are flying with Harry himself.
It was unlike any ride I have ever been on, and it was an absolute thrill. My sister and I described it as crazy amazing—it was a bit crazy in that neither of us really knew what was going on, but amazing in its effects and ability to bring the series and the grounds of Hogwarts into stunning clarity before the awed visitor.
So, despite my skepticism, it was a brilliant ride. It avoided all the elements of the series that I disliked (the entirety of the last three books) and rejoiced in the bright and exciting adventures of Harry in his early years. Is Hogwarts finally accessible at Universal Orlando? Of course not. But the Forbidden Journey offers us Muggles a superb taste of the magic that will always be just beyond our reach.
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