Record-Breaking Thrills: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Longest. Fastest. Tallest. Steepest. As theme parks across the U.S. throw open the gates for the 2011 summer of fun, these thrill-makers dare us to climb aboard and test our mettle (and the strength of our stomachs). We scoured American theme parks big and small to find the wildest adventures. The question is: Are you ready for the challenges they offer?

The World’s First Robotic “Coaster”: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort, Fla.
Opened in June 2010, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the first attraction to use what they’re calling “robo-coaster” technology. Riders sit in a pod-like capsule mounted on a robotic arm that twists, pivots, and fully immerses the rider in the animation: flying around Hogwarts, coming face-to-face with evil Dementors, and even getting caught up in a Quidditch match. The robotic arm machinery, developed by German engineering firm KUKA, has been used in other theme park attractions (not to mention automobile manufacturing plants), but it has always been stationary. The difference here is that the Forbidden Journey robots move along a track, giving riders a never-before-experienced sensation of flying. The Park: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened last June inside Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort. The land brings the world of J.K. Rowling’s books to magical life: Hogwarts Castle; Potter-inspired rides, like the Dragon Challenge coaster and the Flight of the Hippogriff.

Join us on a whirlwind photo tour of the most scream-worthy thrill machines in the U.S.
Launch the Slide Show
When to Go: When planning a visit, think early and midweek; Tuesday and Wednesday first thing in the morning (8 or 9 a.m., depending on the season) is the best bet for the shortest queues. tickets $82 for adults, $74 for children three through nine,

Source: Sally Walker Davies, Budget Travel.