Date: 9 July 2019.
T-shirt choice: Hand-painted Virginia is for Wizards Ravenclaw/Erudite hybrid.
Status of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure: Open, with “brief” delays.
This was our Wizarding World-focused day. Our hotel offers early admission to the Wizarding World, so we decided to take advantage of being able to visit prior to the general public. Our plan was to start at Hogsmeade, which we hadn’t explored in detail the previous day, but, turns out, the early admissions offer only applied to Diagon Alley. This is not what the brochure advertised, so I suspect this restriction is a response to the crowd control measures necessitated by the popularity of Hagrid’s Motorbike Ride.
So, with my son’s new wand tucked safely into our Generic Magic Festival tote (thanks, Lana!) we headed there around 7:30 to try out some more spells. We spent an hour or so puttering around Diagon Alley with the spell map, trying out all the official ones and the “secret” unmarked ones that I had found on the internet. As we had heard, some are easier than others, and learning to use the wand takes some practice, as you can see in this video of my first attempts at spell-casting.
Within an hour or so there was a huge crown forming in the line to King’s Cross Station and word spread that Hagrid’s Motorbike Ride was open. With high hopes that yesterday’s closure had resulted in the removal of all the nargles, we hopped in the line, got aboard the train (this time seeing the magic brick wall where people appear to vanish—we missed that on day 1) and joined the crowd heading to Hogsmeade, to assess the situation. Did we make it to the oh-so-hyped adventure? Tune in after the jump. Spoilers for rides ahead.
The line extended all the way into the Lost Continent section, staff was saying it would be around a two-hour wait. We decided that if we were ever going to do this thing, this was the day, so we got into line around 9:15 and resigned ourselves to the wait. Once we actually made it into Hogsmeade and got into the actual ride queue, we had to place all lose items, including cell phones in a locker, as no loose items are permitted on the ride. So, the photos here are from other sources.
As you approach the ride, you come across a replica of Hagrid’s hut, complete with pumpkin patch, with several gourds showing signs of hippogriff claw-marks. Making your way to through that brings you to ruins of what looks like an ancient temple or castle, which Hagrid has apparently co-opted for some of his Magical Creatures care, and apparently some of his unauthorized breeding experiments.
Unfortunately, by the time we were in the hut area, there were regular recorded messages stating that the ride was experiencing a “brief delay” — some saying things would be online again shortly, sometimes saying they were unable to say when the the ride would resume. The line kept moving forward, though, so we stuck it out. No one in the line had any allusions that this would be a short wait, so, with the exception of a British group in front of us who displayed some rather Durseley-ish behavior at around the 90 minute mark, when rumors were flying that the ride wasn’t even scheduled to open until noon. The line kept getting shorter, as more and more people gave it up as a bad job.
Happily, shortly after the Durseleys’ tantrum, an unrecorded voice informed us things were up and running again. We were near the temple entrace by this time, and were immediately hustled ahead. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to hustle the long-suffering riders through as rapidly as possible, they hustled us right through the room that was supposed to show us the welcoming video that explained the premise of the ride. No one objected, though, in retrospect, I wish I had seen it. I looked up some bootleg videos online later, so I can tell you that the story is that Hagrid and Arthur Weasley are collaborating on a special… and unauthorized…Care of Magical Creatures lesson. Arthur is duplicating the flying motorbike, and the plan is to take the students out to the Forbidden Forest to see unique creatures, including Hagrid’s prized Blast-ended Skrewts.
We proceeded through several other rooms which, like Diagon Alley, did not skimp on details. Decorations included multiple cages, a long room with shelves full of over-sized eggs (including the clue-containing one from the Triwizard Tournament, if you look closely) and Hagrid’s messy workroom with ramshackle equipment and a pair of giant-sized gloves. The main waiting room is set up to appear as if the students are on a lower level, watching shadows of Arthur and Hagrid preparing for the lesson through the ceiling slats, while eavesdropping on their conversation This is perhaps the funniest part of the experience, with duplicating and exploding motorbikes, extinguishing fires with Aguamenti, at times, disturbing various creatures. The dialogue is witty and fun of in-jokes for Potter fans: for instance, when a group of acromantulas scurry past, Hagrid admonishes them, “Those are students down there, not supper!” and Arthur remarks that he understands Ron’s fear of spiders a bit better. They also deliver safety warnings, listing not only typical muggle reasons not to ride (back trouble, pregnancy, heart conditions) but also creature-induced injury, spell damage and potion and plant poisoning. “And,” adds Arthur, “If you have even the slightest case of dragon pox or spattergroit, you should not have come out today in the first place.”
The resumed line moved painfully slow, I lost track of how many times I viewed Hagrid and Arthur’s ceiling spiel. Then, cruelly, when we were literally on the platform waiting to board the next set of motorbikes, the ride shut down again. They herded us back into the room and we saw them reboot the whole ride. Thankfully, this wait lasted only about 20 minutes. It was worth it when my husband and I got one of the coveted front seats, and I claimed the motorbike seat by virtue of my Hogwarts Professor status.
The roller coaster ride itself was phenomenal. This coaster does things that literally no other coaster in the world does, like free-fall drops and aborted climbs up hills. Of course, there is a dragon-fire acceleration. And plenty of Forbidden Forest friend to see, including Fluffy, the Ford Aguila, the Skrewt, Centaurs and finally, as you relax at the end, a unicorn and foal. The animitronics are impressive, but there is little time to take a close look, given the ride’s speed.
We emerged from the ride about 12:30, making the total wait around 3 and a quarter hours. So, was it worth it? The consensus was, yes, given we had multiple days in the park. For a one day visit, you’d probably be better off doing three other rides in the time it took to do this one.
The Three Broomsticks was both crowded and served the same fare as the Leaky Cauldron, so we went back to the Lost Continent area for lunch at the kebob house, before returning to Hogsmeade for more rides and wanding. After lunch, we did the Flight of the Hippogriff, a much more traditional coaster whose only hat tip to Potterdom is the wicker Hippogriff head on the front car and the horse’s behind on the caboose, and then headed to the last of the major Potter rides: the Forbidden Journey.
This involves a journey to Hogwarts Castle itself, and yet another detailed set. You enter to a bit of the Gryffindor/Slytherin favoritism: the entrace hall includes statues of Godric and Salazar, but not Rowena and Helga, and the House Point hourglasses show those two houses well ahead of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. I was particularly miffed that Ravenclaw was a distant fourth and, as my son pointed out, the smartest kids should be earning the most points for correct answers in class. The queue takes you past Dumbledore’s griffin-door, into a hallway and room where you are entertained by some very funny portraits, including some bickering founder’s portraits: at least the ladies were included in this part. The Gryffindor and Sytherin portraits appeared to be channeling Dumbledore and Snape, with very similar tones and voices. Salazar insulted both Harry Potter and the muggle visitors, replying, to Helga’s admonition that they must not appear ungracious hosts, “Why not? Maybe they’ll leave.” Godric, however, reminded him that love, not luck, saved Harry and that all were worthy, not just the magical. Oh, yes, all the portraits are quite excited about the upcoming Gryffindor/Slytherin Quidditch match.
From there, you enter Dumbledore’s office, a magnificently detailed room that includes, for sharp-eyed visitors, the case with the Sword of Gryffindor in a glass case on the wall. A videotape Dumbledore greets the visitors, and tells them they can look forward to a lecture from Professor Binns, who will condense the 1000-year history of Hogwarts into “only 2-3 hours.” and closes with his usual wisdom about choices, and a caution that, should we encounter any dragons, we should alert a staff member and run, but not necessarily in that order.
From there, we enter one of the main waiting rooms, the DADA classroom, with a Dementor lesson scribbled on the board. The Trio appear from under the Invisibility Cloak, with which they have just snuck out of class, explain that the ghost professor’s lecture will be “dead boring” and offer to sneak the visitors out to watch a Quidditch game instead. Hermione has a special charm that will get us out of the castle and down to the pitch, but we have to meet her in the Room of Requirement. From there, after meeting the Fat Lady in the connecting Hallway, we go into yet another portrait room, where we learn that Hermione has charmed some benches into flying, and they will carry us down to the game. From there, you finally get to the boarding area, where the Sorting Hat is reciting the safety rules.
For the actual ride, you load up on the benches, and then, are virtually taken out through the clock tower to the exterior grounds. The last thing you see is Hagrid standing there with a broken chain, asking if anyone has seen a dragon.
As might be predicted, you encounter the dragon— and a real-life blast of hot steam when he blows fire at you, along with acromantulas, the Whomping Willow, the Chamber of Secrets, and dementors before the journey is over. You do get to see a close up view of the Quidditch game, as Harry invites you to chase the Snitch with him, Ron goal-keeps and Draco accuses Harry of “showing off for your Muggle admirers!” before shoving him aside. Once the dangers are escaped, expecto patronumed and otherwise dispatched, you land in the great hall, with Harry congratulating you for your courage and Dumbledore assuring you you are welcome back anytime. He kindly reminds you to remember your personal belongings as you exit, “lest they be confiscated by Mr. Filch.”
All in all, another great ride that also went on my list for a return trip. Hagrid’s would be, too, except one 3 hour line is enough.
I have been avoiding buying any souvenirs so far, wanting time to choose carefully, because turning me loose in an area with multiple wizarding stores is a bit like turning Ron loose in Honeydukes with a bag full of Galleons. But, I did pick up a pack of postcards and special Wizarding World stamps, so many of my Potter Pundit friends should be receiving an owl from me soon.
More to come on Day 4!