This is going to be a little bit more than just a "how to skip the lines on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey". There is a particular way to experience Hogsmeade, especially if you're visiting Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando for the first time. So bear with us.
For many people, their whole reason for coming to Universal Orlando (many of them from England) is to experience the truly unique Wizarding World of Harry Potter firsthand. From visiting Zonko’s Joke Shop to selecting a wand at Ollivander’s to somehow sweating through 95 degree heat while snow caps the rooftops of a quaint, magical village tucked into the back corner of an amusement park, Hogsmeade is truly something that takes your breath away when you first step through the gates. If you’re a fan, that is. Those who visit without ever having seen the films or, more importantly, read the books, will not fully understand many of the fine details found throughout that section of the park. You have to laugh at the confused looks some of the male visitors get when they hear Moaning Myrtle wailing and giggling in the men’s room.
If you’re going to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time, we strongly suggest you follow these steps for the best experience.
1. When you first pass through Islands of Adventure’s main gates, you’ll eventually find yourself with a decision to turn left toward the Marvel Comics area or right toward the Dr Seuss land. Either one will take you to Harry Potter, but for your first experience, you’ll want to turn right. This will bring you around to the northeast entrance where you will find the Hogwarts Express. This way of entry is better simply because, for the sake of mimicking a Hogwart student’s experience, it’s the train that one should first see when making their way to the school. Plus, there is a practical reason I will get to in the next step. The other entrance is just as breathtaking, but it’s best to leave the best gasp for last.
2. If your immediate goal is to hit up the Forbidden Journey, but without the long lines, it’s good that you are at the Hogwarts Express train station because you might need to drop off your loose belongings in the free lockers, as you can’t and shouldn’t take them with you on the ride. There is a larger collection of lockers within Hogwarts itself, but they are the primary reason that there is a line outside the castle on any given day. Dropping your things here is especially important on busy days. On emptier days, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s always good practice to keep your things at the train station to avoid any delay whatsoever. Of course, if you have no loose articles (cell phones kept tightly in your pants pocket are fine), just make your way through the village.
3. While the main goal is to get to the Forbidden Journey, take your time as you walk through the village, peer into the windows and catch the hidden details that they’ve squeezed into every nook and cranny. As you pass Ollivander’s and Spintwitches on the right and a hat ans scarf-wearing snowman on the left, you’ll reach the edge of town and the towering Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will quickly come into view. Those who have always dreamt of visiting Hogwarts have been known to break down in tears at this point.
4. Once you’ve composed yourself, make your way to the gate. Even if there is a line, step to the left of it and keep walking with confidence. Do not stop and do NOT get in that line! That line is only for people who need to drop off their loose items. You’ve already done that, so there is no reason to stop. Once you step inside the archway of the castle entrance, turn to your left. It will be very dark, especially if it’s sunny out at the time, so walk carefully past the people stuffing souvenirs and backpacks into lockers and keep heading toward the line entrance.
5. There is normally a Hogwarts student directing everyone toward the official line and shouting instructions to confused locker-stuffers. When you see that person, look up and to the left. You should see a sign that says “SINGLE RIDER LINE”. Go through that doorway and up the stairs, even if you’re with a group of your friends. This is the one sacrifice you’ll have to make on this ride: you won’t necessarily get to ride it with your family and friends all at once. But considering that the ride seats 4 at a time and none of you can see or interact with each other, you are not going to miss out on anything. Besides, if you’re paying attention to anything except the adventure unfolding in front of you, you’re wasting your time.
6. The single rider line takes you up through a back stairway and hall that brings you within a few dozen feet of your destination. Just follow it until you find yourself looking up at the Sorting Hat and be ready to board when the attendant points your way. Don’t try to ask them if you can ride with your boyfriend, best friend, mom, cousin, whatever. They won’t hear you. You just skipped potentially an hour or more of standing in line to board within minutes. You are a Single Rider. You will be riding with 3 people you don’t know. But that’s okay. You won’t know they are there once the ride starts with a greeting from Hermione as portrayed by actress Emma Watson, who played her in the movies. That’s right. There are no Orlando local theater actors slapping a lightning bolt on their forheads and affecting a fake British accent, pretending to be the Boy Who Lived. Each of the characters in the ride are portrayed by the actors in the film: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Neville, Hagrid, Malfoy, and more.
7. So that’s the trick. Using this process, we’ve been able to experience the Forbidden Journey ride in as little as 3 minutes from the moment we stepped through the gates of the castle with no line standing at all. Of course, depending on the crowds or even the time of day, your experience will vary. You might find a number of other single riders in line in front of you, but no matter what, it’s a much shorter line (indoors, especially good if it’s raining) than what you’d experience the normal way. If you want to ride it again immediately, just turn right into the locker area to the right of the gift shop and retrace your steps back up through the Single Rider Line path. We’ve gone on the ride on a busy day 3 times within a half hour while many people were still in line for almost 2 hours just to ride once.
8. One caveat, however… By skipping the line, you end up missing all of the cool stuff that is peppered throughout the castle’s regular line. And you absolutely have to see these pieces of Harry Potter history if you’re a fan. You have two options: Either stand in the line like all of the other shlubs or use the Single Rider Line to go almost all the way to the front of the line and then go backwards through the regular line all the way back to the beginning. You’ll see the greenhouse, the pensieve, Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, a variety of moving and talking paintings, including those of the school’s founders, including Salazar Slytherin, who is a bit skeptical about this Potter boy.
WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DO THIS? We know that this trick is incredibly simple, so why don’t more people use this line skipping option? Mainly because most people don’t know what to expect from the ride and they think that they MUST ride with the people they came with. Also, the entrance is so dark that most people don’t realize that the Single Rider Line entrance exists, forcing them to take the regular line most of the time.
Here’s a quick summary of what you should do to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey without waiting in line:
- Drop off any loose items at the Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade train station, not the castle!
- At the line entrance after the castle lockers, turn left and go up the stairs for the Single Rider Line.
- Wait in the very short line to be selected to board the ride.
- To go again just as quickly, exit the gift shop to the right, walk through the lockers area and re-enter the Single Rider Line path. You never even have to leave the castle.
Oh, and one more thing: Try the Butterbeer. So yummy! (just don’t expect it to be beer)