When you take the train from King’s Cross at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, you’ll end up in Hogsmeade, the perpetually snowy village at the base of Hogwarts. And when you wander through Hogsmeade you’ll end up at the base of Hogwarts Castle.
The main attraction over on the Islands of Adventure half of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.
Not only is it a school for witches and wizards, but it’s also home to The Forbidden Journey, a robocoaster that has you spirited away to the land of magic and go on a journey in and around the legendary Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books and films. it’s hard to ignore the giant towers and behemoth that is Hogwarts looming over everything. Even though Hogsmeade is wonderful, everyone immediately wants to go rush to Hogwarts, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s been replicated in a beautiful fashion. The stone work, intricacies in the detailing, and overall atmosphere add to the glee that is the entire park. If you’ve ever gotten goosebumps reading the books or seeing the movies, seeing the castle in real life is definitely an exciting experience, awakening the inner child.
Speaking of Hogwarts, you know a famous wizard that was expelled from Hogwarts? No, not Hagrid (bless). Newt Scamander! Alston did a great cosplay shoot as the main character from the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which you can check out on Nerd Out.
As we approached the castle, one of the workers, a rather slick looking guy in a Slytherin uniform called us aside. Now, by this point Alston had been mistaken for a park employee about fifty thousand times (thanks in part to the fact he’s just an immaculate dresser in general, plus add Hogwarts robes…) and more than a few people had taken photos of us. I thought maybe this was happening again or he was just going to say “Hey! Nice costumes!” or something, but in fact we instead were offered to skip the line!
Turns out the students/employees at The Forbidden Journey randomly pluck people and give them a guided tour through the castle before bringing them to the front of the line. On a busy spring day this was a plus as the place was a touch crowded. But moreover, it was incredibly exciting! I never get chosen for stuff, ever. I was that kid who was always picked last in gym (though to be fair I had (and continue to have) no athletic ability). I wasn’t first choice for partners or anything and I have notoriously bad luck at games… so I was kinda super excited.
… well that got depressing. Back to magic!
Josh the Slytherin let us into a separate line where we waltzed on up to the castle and had to take care of our belongings. You see, The Forbidden Journey is a pretty intense ride with no storage space, so you can’t have any spare belongings or anything. Keep that in mind!
Pro Tip: There are lockers provided, but on crowded days you may be queuing for locker space in addition to the ride. Don’t bring a ton of stuff with you, use lockers in other parts of the park, or give them to a non-rider.
Inside the castle is an interactive and fascinating line. The entire place is decorated just like in the films and you weave in and out of classrooms and past Common Rooms and more. There are props and magic (it may start suddenly snowing in a row!), talking paintings, plus lots of excited Potterheads around you. It is dark however, so forgive the low lighting in the photos. Gotta have that ambient magical feel after all.
As we were whisked past the line during our tour, Josh would occasionally stop and explain something about a prop or piece. He also quizzed us. Or rather, me, because I was the Ravenclaw and he had a delight testing my knowledge. I remember getting most things correct, I seemed to have passed and done my fellow Ravenclaws a solid. Or at least we’ll just say that happened.
While the actual line itself weaves outdoors around the Herbology greenhouses, goes through the dungeons, and interacts with the famous trio, we diverted off a few times. We got to explore the back hallways of the castle, off-limits to regular guests. This included getting to see the beautiful stained glass window from The Prisoner of Azkaban, and heading the back way into Dumbledore’s Office and such. Also more quizzes. Brush up on your Potter facts before entering the ride!
After our tour was finished, Josh brought us to the front of the line and asked if he could join us. Now, seriously, what better place to work? Get to show people around a magical castle all day and then get to ride the ride as many times as you want?
Sign me up… seriously… are you hiring, Universal?
The ride itself is great fun! I had no idea really what to expect, but I was laughing and screaming the whole way. You get a glimpse at so many parts of the franchise and the Hogwarts grounds. You’re zooming up to the Observatory, playing Quidditch, tackling Dementors, going through the Forbidden Forest, escaping dragons… I mean, what more could you ask for?
Josh clearly knew where the cameras were.
Alston knew there was a section with a bunch of spiders. He ALSO knew that I hate spiders.
He laughed at my screams.
Overall The Forbidden Journey is a wonderfully fun ride. It’s not really a rollercoaster so much as it’s like a more extreme version of the Flight of Peter Pan from Disneyland (the one is Shanghai Disney is upgraded and super sweet btw). You twist and turn and sometimes are at a total 90 degree angle, but there’s no upside down parts and anyone afraid of such things won’t have much to worry about! I really recommend it though, even if you’re not chosen for the tour.
Huge thanks to Josh for showing us around Hogwarts! It was a lot of fun to get to explore the castle a bit. You’re pretty awesome… for a Slytherin.
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Huge thanks to Josh at #WizardingWorldOfHarryPotter for taking us on the #ForbiddenJourney! Private tour of #Hogwarts with behind the scenes sneak peeks, jumping the line, & taking a ride with us! 😁 You rocked, even if you are a #Slytherin 🐍😜. . . . . 📷 by @alstonstephanus #universalstudios #universalorlando #universal #Orlando #themepark #travel #adventuretravel #travelgram #havefun #travelwithme #enjoylife #universalpark #IslandsOfAdventure #HarryPotter #harrypotterandtheforbiddenjourney #Ravenclaw #Gryffindor #behindthescenes #theforbiddenjourney #girlsjustwannahavefun #shewhowanders #dametraveler #cosplay #cute #harrypottercosplay
A Muggle’s Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a multi-part series, so make sure to subscribe and follow us on social media to know when the next part is published!
A Muggle’s Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of the Disney Adventures collaboration between The Nerdventurists and Alston Stephanus of Alston Stephanus Accessories. Check him out on Instagram & his company!
Photos and video by Noriko Sugiura.