By Katie McElveen
Halloween chills, holiday thrills and a new Harry Potter adventure are just part of what awaits visitors this fall.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Harry Potter fans now have another reason to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure: Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a wild ride of a roller coaster that opened in June. The nearly one-mile-long thrill ride is so immersive — think booming, perfectly timed narration; remarkable digital effects and lifelike magical creatures — that Universal Orlando has dubbed the ride a “story coaster.”
And what a story it is. Hagrid, the beloved gamekeeper from the Harry Potter films, is taking you on a journey into the Forbidden Forest as part of his Care of Magical Creatures class to see a few Blast-Ended Skrewts that he’s been covertly breeding. The area is so remote that magical motorbikes are the only vehicles that can make the trip.
Making their way to the motorbikes on foot, guests move past the edge of the Forbidden Forest and into spooky abandoned castle ruins teeming with caves and graffiti-covered rooms. One of these is Hagrid’s workshop, where guests can see class materials — an open copy of The Monster Book of Monsters sits atop a desk — as well as various collections of dragon eggs, gardening tools, the terrarium where he raised his Blast-Ended Skrewts and other oddities. Along the way, beloved characters from the Harry Potter films including Arthur Weasley, Hagrid and his loyal dog, Fang, are brought to life with digital projection technology and special effects.Once aboard the motorbike or adjacent sidecar, riders will experience a nearly 17-foot vertical free fall that’s the first of its kind in the U.S.; speeds of up to 50 mph both forward and backwards; seven launches (which is more than any coaster in the world) and a catapult that will hurl them more than 65 feet into the air. There’s also face time with a Blast-Ended Skrewt animated figure, which is a never-before-seen creature, as well as with Fluffy, the three-headed dog and a swarm of mischievous Cornish pixies. The ride is narrated by Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in the Harry Potter films and appears as a remarkably lifelike 7-foot, 6-inch tall animated figure. As with all new rides, lines for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure are among the longest in the park and may reach capacity before the end of the day. To better ensure a place in line, Universal Orlando suggests downloading The Official Universal Orlando Resort App and using the Virtual Line system when it’s available. And for the ultimate Harry Potter fan, you can also book a Wizarding World of Harry Potter vacation package.
Halloween Horror Nights
This year, Universal Orlando’s annual Halloween event — which runs select nights from Sept. 6 through Nov. 2 — takes terror to new levels with a lineup of 10 totally terrifying haunted houses, five scare zones scattered throughout the park and live entertainment. And, when guests need a break from the screams, they can enjoy a selection of rides and attractions at Universal Studios Florida.
Based on the Netflix thriller Stranger Things, this year’s chilling maze about a predatory entity terrorizing the small Midwestern town of Hawkins, Indiana, picks up where last year’s suspenseful plot left off, delving further into the parallel universe called the Upside Down. Based in 1985, the narrative follows the arc of seasons 2 and 3 of Stranger Things.
Old-school scaries abound within Universal Monsters, a maze featuring bloody terrors in Dracula’s castle, a terrifying pursuit by the evil Mummy, a horrifying manmade monster within Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory and the mysterious Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Original content haunted houses include Depths of Fear, where guests will find themselves trapped in a deep-sea mining company that has been infested by parasitic “Mouthbrooders,” who spew their acidic flesh-eating eggs upon unsuspecting humans and, in the process, turn them into crazed hosts. As the infected are driven to madness, everyone left alive must escape before the entire operation implodes or fall deep into their watery graves. Nightingales: Blood Pit takes place in drought-ridden ancient Rome, where a ruthless emperor has declared the gladiatorial games to continue nonstop until the rains return. Then the nightingales arrive. Ravenous and bloodthirsty, they seek out survivors as they search for a way to flee the arena. Yeti: Terror of the Yukon is set in the remote tundra of Canada, where loggers and trappers are seeking refuge from the frigid grip of an arctic blizzard. Guests enter a logging camp to find that it’s been torn apart, its floors caked with snow, bones and gore — all evidence that the Yetis, beasts as brutal as the winter, are on a rampage. The route to escape leads through a labyrinth of caves that none have lived to see.
Originally called Fright ights, Universal Orlando’s Halloween happenings launched in 1991 with one haunted house. Over the years, characters such as Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, the Crypt Keeper and Jason Voorhees have joined Universal Orlando’s creations to scare the daylights out of thousands of fright-loving visitors.
Separate tickets are required for Halloween Horror Nights. Guests can skip regular lines with a Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass; the R.I.P. Tour provides priority front-of-the-line access at haunted houses and participating attractions. Halloween Horror Nights are not recommended for children under the age of 13. Masks and costumes are not permitted.
Holiday Happenings with Harry Potter
Universal Orlando’s holiday attractions kick off on Nov. 16 and run through Jan. 5. Set to a soundtrack of holiday performances, the streets of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade will glow with brilliant lighting, garlands and themed decorations. King’s Cross Station features buskers playing holiday favorites; Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees have a special show prepared just for the occasion. Guests can also hear both magical and Muggle Christmas carols from the Frog Choir, which is composed of Hogwarts students and their giant croaking frogs, while sipping hot Butterbeer and snacking on seasonal treats. At dusk, holiday moments inspired by the Harry Potter films will come to life on Hogwarts castle for “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle.”
Participation in holiday festivities is included with park admission.
When was the last time you visited Universal Orlando Resort? Call 800-750-5386 and book your Florida vacation today!