Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the latest attraction to open at Universal Orlando. Jemma Crew gives it a whirl

HOURS before Universal Orlando’s wizarding world usually opens, queues are already snaking their way through the resort as ‘Potterheads’ gather to try a much-hyped new ride.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is arguably one of the theme park resort’s biggest draws, with four rides in two magical locations linked by a Hogwarts Express replica train.

Warwick Davis, who played Professor Flitwick in the blockbuster films based on JK Rowling’s books, was joined by Rupert Grint, who played Harry’s best friend Ron Weasley, Tom Felton, who acted the part of Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy, and other Potter stars, to celebrate the stateside launch.

And with a 10-hour wait time on the ride’s opening day, it’s clear how committed Potter fans still are to the cause.

What’s it all about?

The ride is Florida’s longest coaster, with almost a mile of track weaving amongst 1,200 trees and lichen-covered ruins inspired by castles and abbeys in Ireland.

Students are taken on an interactive ‘care of magical creatures’ lesson set in the heart of the forbidden forest.

Accompanying Hogwarts game keeper Rubeus Hagrid, riders mount enchanted motorbikes, or recline in sidecars, and are whisked away with the voice of Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in the movies.

Warrington Guardian:

Graffitied walls, a clutch of dragon’s eggs ready to hatch, cobwebbed crates and cages suspended from the ceiling can all be found in the dimly lit, cave-like passageways as you queue.

How does the ride work?

With seven launches and a top speed of 50mph, you never quite know what’s coming, whether you’re hurtling through the treetops of the Forbidden Forest or dodging blows from a menagerie of magical creatures.

The rapid yet smooth acceleration gives a convincing impression of flight, with none of the jolting that accompanies the parks’ other high-speed roller coasters.

But as readers will know, while the good-natured but clumsy Hagrid always means well, sometimes his intentions backfire, and there is plenty of mishap and magical blunder in this thrilling three-minute experience.

Warrington Guardian:

For the biggest thrills, sit on the motorbike at the front – you’ll have the furthest to fall when you lose momentum during a climb and are propelled backwards, only to plunge 16ft as you de-tangle from a thicket of devil’s snare.

What are the other Potter attractions like?

Afterwards, stumble out on jelly legs into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Less than a five-minute walk away is Hogwarts itself, a splendid fortress made even more spectacular by a light and music show on selected nights.

Join Harry and Ron as they ditch a history lesson for a Quidditch match, in a simulator-style ride that turns you into a broomstick master. Its multiple twists and turns are not for the weak-stomached and, as our guide aptly puts it, not all muggles are cut out for flying. A less queasy alternative is the Flight of the Hippogriff, a more traditional coaster, which is shorter and more family-friendly.

Meanwhile, a short journey away on the Hogwarts Express is Diagon Alley, London’s magical shopping street around the corner from King’s Cross station in the Universal Studios park. Here, wannabe wizards can take part in an enchanting wand-sorting ceremony at Ollivanders wand shop, casting spells at marked and secret locations.

A double scoop cone at Florean Fortescue’s ice-cream parlour is a must, best enjoyed as you wait for the carved dragon on top of Gringotts bank to belch fire.

And it is hidden within the depths of Gringotts that the final Potter ride rests, another experience involving virtual 3D projections, which sees riders dodge the evil Lord Voldemort, as they make their escape from the bank.

Once you’re Pottered out

There’s some great news for those on a budget. A new resort that has just opened will allow families an affordable base from which to explore the parks.

Universal Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites is Universal Orlando’s first value category hotel, with rates starting from $73/£64 per night for a seven-night stay. The bar overlooking the surfboard-shaped swimming pool will serve seven frozen drinks, including a mango and toasted coconut mojito, while the resort’s emphasis on affordability means no food item will be priced over $12/£10.50. It’s modelled around a surfer’s paradise, with a large blue wave roof rolling in over an entrance lined with surfboards and palm trees.

How to get there

Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick, room-only accommodation at the Universal Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites, car hire and the 3 Park Explorer ticket, costs from £1,099pp (two sharing).