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Dragon Challenge

Rating: * * * +
Type: A junior roller coaster
Time: About a minute
Short Take: Best for the view of Hogsmeade

Just past Hogsmeade Village and just before you enter Hogwarts Castle, you’ll find a stone monolith marking the entrance to this cute coaster. Formerly known as The Flying Unicorn, the ride was re-themed around one of the favorite pets of Rubeus Hagrid, Hogwarts’ “care of magical creatures” instructor. Eager riders wind around Hagrid’s pumpkin patch and stone hut on the fringe of the Forbidden Forest, listening as the gentle giant instructs us on the proper way to approach the proud Hippogriff.

We board one of the two 16-rider trains, which appear to be made of woven wicker, and are urged to bow respectfully to the life-size animatronic eagle/horse that sits nodding in its track-side nest. After a slow climb to the first drop, which provides a spectacular view of the Wizarding World and beyond, the coaster glides briefly through a series of dips and swoops before returning to the wooden hut that serves as the station.

Smaller kids will delight in the gentle ride from the slower front seats, but even adults have been know to squeal when sitting in the surprisingly zippy back rows. Though the “Vekoma Junior” track is similar to Woody Woodpecker’s coaster next door in USF, the Hippogriff is 400 feet longer, 15 feet taller, and 7 m.p.h. swifter. Striking vistas and rich theming make this a worthwhile spin even for childless grown-ups.

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Universal Orlando 2011

 

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