Hagrid's casts a spell to capture top roller coaster honors

January 5, 2020, 10:46 AM · Moving along from the hotels and restaurants, it's time to get to the attractions in our 2020 Theme Park Insider Awards. Our next honor is for Best New Roller Coaster and it goes to a ride that pushes the definition of a coaster... and whose name might be longer than some other coasters' ride time — Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

The replacement for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter's Dragon Challenge opened in June, eliciting immediate raves from critics and headline-grabbing lines of eager fans. Hagrid's up-and-down operations (pun maybe intended) coupled with the huge demand to result in wait times that at one point hit 10 hours and then averaged over two hours pretty much ever since the opening.

Typically, waits like that can kill ride's reputation. But there is no more compelling endorsement for Hagrid's than the fact that almost everyone who has waited in those ridiculous lines has come off the ride saying some form of, "well, actually, that was totally worth it."

That's because Hagrid's routinely delivers that most intoxicating emotion from a theme park attraction — exhilaration. Hagrid's eschews screens and media for a practical adventure through the Forbidden Forest, bringing us face-to-face with the half-giant Hagrid as well as his menagerie of magical creatures. The ride itself features a record seven launches, a spike track, and a free-fall drop, delivering a range of motion that feels as much like a motion-base dark ride as a roller coaster.

But Hagrid's is so much more than the sum of its parts. This is the magic that turns what could have been just a pile of metal into gold, further advancing the trend at the forefront of the themed entertainment industry in creating attractions that combine, and defy categorization into, traditional ride types and forms.

Still, at least for now, casual fans demand that simplistic definition of what a new ride is, so... "roller coaster" it is. And of the new ones this year, Hagrid's is the best.

Our honorable mentions in this category for 2020 are The Steel Curtain at Kennywood and Yukon Striker at Canada's Wonderland.

The Theme Park Insider Awards continue tomorrow with the presentation of our award for Best New Attraction. For tickets to Universal Orlando's theme parks, please visit the Universal Orlando tickets page from our travel partner.

2020 Theme Park Insider Awards:

About Theme Park Insider: Theme Park Insider is a consumer's guide to the world's best theme park resorts, reaching more than five million unique readers via its website annually and winning multiple honors for its reporting, including from the Online Journalism Association and the Webby Awards. Winners of the Theme Park Insider Awards are those locations that received the highest average reader rating, with a minimum number of votes, in their categories over the past year.

Replies (14)

January 5, 2020 at 4:53 PM

Yup! Well deserved 5th win for UOR.
Disney’s on deck.

January 5, 2020 at 6:43 PM

Glad to see backlash over his breakdown issues doesn't hurt its standing as is a great fun ride.

January 5, 2020 at 10:08 PM

I can't wait to get down there and ride this! I just waited 2 hours for Jurassic World at USH on Friday, and I was really impressed with the masosaurus water tank - very realistic - but I'd much rather spend 2 hours waiting in line for Hagrid's Magical Mystery Motorbike Merry-Go-Mania.

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January 6, 2020 at 6:32 AM

Hagrid's is a great ride … no doubt. But the operational issues still persist, making it a frustrating ride to experience if your timing isn't right. Can't even imagine trying to ride this thing during the summer when the weather is also constantly a factor.

January 6, 2020 at 7:20 AM

I wonder if this would have still won had it been a better overall year for roller coasters. Let's not forget that Universal won this award one year with a ride that had no wheels, so winning this honor is kind of like Best New Artist at the Grammy's. Hopefully this can have better legs than Milli Vanilli.

January 6, 2020 at 9:25 AM

i've ridden hagrid's 3 times now with the longest wait at 90 minutes. each time i said it was TOTALLY worth the wait and as sad as i was about the dragons, this is a very worthy replacement. it's also fun to watch the pure joy on rider's faces when they exit. definitely one of my "look forward to" rides at UO from here on out. and when the "hush hush" new JP coaster opens, IOA will be the park to beat!

January 6, 2020 at 10:34 AM

I just don't get this. Hagrid's is an ordinary coaster at best. As an immersive ride it's excellent .... but the top coaster of 2019? Never in a million years.

How it can beat out Copperhead Strike is beyond me. I haven't been on Yukon Striker or Steel Curtain, but it's difficult to understand why, as pure coasters, they would be voted lower than Hagrid's.

Simple answer is I suppose ... more people have ridden Hagrid's and thus voted it as TPI's #1 ... ??

January 6, 2020 at 10:36 AM

Another well-deserved win for Universal! This is the future of coasters at theme parks. Expect bigger thrills and more theming in future installations.

Perhaps we need a "theme park" and an "amusement park" best coaster category, since these are destined to split and provide different experiences.

January 6, 2020 at 2:40 PM

This is a particularly difficult category when a ride like Hagrid's is introduced because opinions can vary wildly depending on if you evaluate it as an overall attraction or strictly as a roller coaster. As the former, there's no doubt it's a deserving winner. As the latter, however, I probably would have voted for Steel Curtain or Yukon Striker as Hagrid's is clearly a family coaster (at least it looks that way...I haven't actually ridden it). Like Russell, I do wonder if this coaster would still have won if the big thrill rides had been at more prominent parks and had actually opened on time. Steel Curtain in particular is disadvantaged without a TPI page for Kennywood...I'm convinced that would have taken it had it been at a major Six Flags or Cedar Fair park.

January 7, 2020 at 8:46 AM

Great point AJ. I'm glad Robert provided an honorable mention to Steel Curtain (though I think it's a shame he overlooked Copperhead Strike in favor of Yukon Striker), but the reality is that it was never going to be eligible for this award because there was no mechanism for TPI readers to rate the record breaking coaster. From a logistical IT perspective, it really doesn't make sense to maintain dedicated pages for parks where so few readers visit (plus you end up with the arguments that ensue when a park like Kennywood gets a page but Knoebel's doesn't), but in a year where very few major parks installed new noteworthy roller coasters, the one that opened at a tourist/destination park was going to waltz to the win.

That's where the setup by awarding based on reviews and ratings throughout the year runs into issues, and why a nomination following by voting system would be more fair (though I doubt even in that setup any other new coaster would top Hagrid's). I guess it's still better than a water slide winning a roller coaster award.

January 9, 2020 at 4:55 PM

I have ridden both Hagrids and Yukon striker this year and without a doubt Hagrids wins hands down. As a dive coaster Yukon striker is not even as good as Oblivion at Alton Towers and that ride is ancient!
Yes Hagrids is a ‘family’ coaster but that does not mean it is inferior!

January 10, 2020 at 2:36 PM

Oh lord, Russell... if this was at Disney, the heaping of praise from you would be perpetual. Is there something in your brain that automatically tries to undermine any success at Universal? Regardless of what you say, you are not objective.

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