Gringotts… it’s the safest place on earth. In fact, it’s nearly a fortress with its treasures secured miles underground. Down in bottomless caverns where trolls and dragons guard the vaults, nothing could disturb the valuables held there. However, everything takes an unexpected turn shortly after one’s arrival to the wizarding world’s famous bank.
Needing to open an account at Gringotts, guests enter the marbled lobby of the institution. As they proceed through the queue, numerous goblins work diligently at their desks, and a chief goblin directs guests beyond the entrance. Through a pre-show in Bill Weasley’s office, some “security photos” taken in the corridor, and an elevator ride that delivers passengers into the bowels of the federal reserve, the anticipation of the attraction builds. Finally, guests board some industrial looking carts and start off on what promises to be a grand tour of the bank’s facilities. What is soon found out, though, is that Harry Potter and his closest friends have broken into the bank to swipe a horcrux from the vault of Bellatrix LeStrange.
With Harry’s group setting off security systems, guests are mistaken as the thieves, and a wild chase begins. Confrontations are inescapable once Bellatrix and Voldemort get involved. It becomes a series of spins, sharp turns, and even a small drop at high speeds as one tries to flee the scene of the crime.
I recently experienced this attraction with all three of my children. Each had their opinion of the ride. This is our family’s take on one of Universal’s most detailed attractions – Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Elle is 11-years-old and a bit of a daredevil. Very little frightens her. In fact, she takes pride in her ability to venture where others turn away. While waiting in line for Escape from Gringotts where the queue seems dramatic and suspenseful, Elle anticipated a ride with heart stopping thrills. Naturally, she couldn’t wait to board. When it was all said and done, though, Escape from Gringotts did not live up to her expectations.
Without having a firm grasp on the storyline of Gringotts, Elle wasn’t sure what awaited her. When she realized that the attraction was a series of brief sprints interspersed with little 3D vingnettes, it was a disappointment for her. She loved the coaster-esque aspect of the attraction, citing a small drop in the ride as her favorite part. However, she found the frequent halting for “shows” to be a bit of a buzzkill. In her opinion, though, the ride was still worthwhile, and one she would repeat. It just ranked rather low on her excitement scale.
Miller is 13-years-old and takes most things in stride. He doesn’t seek out thrills, but he doesn’t run from them either. His strength is being able to “bend in the wind” in most situations.
Miller’s take-away from Gringotts was a bit different than Elle’s. While he felt the ride was a bit “mellow” in comparison to other attractions at Universal Studios, he still found it exciting. He described it as “a 3D ride that requires glasses with a lot of spinning around”—aspects of the experience that he enjoyed.
Thoroughly appreciating the attraction, Miller emphasized that he rode it twice in a row. He also wanted to point out that he felt it would be an enjoyable experience for all types of personalities (even those that might normally shy away from thrill-type attractions). The only cautions he threw out were for those who might get dizzy from spinning and those who might get nauseous from computer graphic simulations on a big screen.
Margeaux is 15-years-old and is timid about attractions that tend to frighten. In general, she despises rides that drop you or place you in the middle of a harrowing situation. While she can appreciate a thrill or horror story, actually experiencing one is not something for which she volunteers. Nevertheless, the story of Harry Potter was a pull for Margeaux, and she could hardly wait to experience this attraction.
The pace of Escape to Gringotts was exactly the type that appealed to Margeaux. She described it as “really short, fast roller coaster movement but not particularly exciting compared to other roller coasters.” The stop and go pattern broke it up enough for her that it kept the ride from crossing over into terrifying territory.
Because she was relaxed enough, Margeaux seemed to notice more of the rich detail that Gringotts displayed throughout the attraction such as the endless caverns and winding tracks. For her this helped suspend belief and further the story. “You see other parts of track that you don’t actually go on, but it gives the illusion that there are other tracks that other carts go through.” This gave everything a bit more of a layered experience for her, making it one that she wanted to repeat again.
I am the mom of this brood and a thrill seeker at heart. Scary things, fast things, and “bragging rights” have always appealed to me. As I have entered my fourth decade of life, though, my ability to handle certain thrills has diminished. I find myself more prone to nausea at times, and I’m not as likely to accept a challenge just to prove a point. This attraction, though, was one that I could not wait to experience.
With Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey being my favorite attraction in all of Orlando, I was particularly stoked to see what Escape from Gringotts had to offer. Surely Universal Creative upped their game since the last attraction. They would have to, right? When I exited the ride I walked away with an uncertain answer.
On the one hand, Gringotts blew me away with the extensive amount of detail given to the attraction. While the castle queue for Hogwarts is jaw-dropping and the queue for Gringotts doesn’t quite reach that level of awe, the actual attraction really took it up a notch in terms of design. While I was careening through what genuinely felt like endless caverns, I looked a full 360 degrees and found that the sets they built were complete. It was absolutely fascinating, and it did its part to immerse me in the story.
On the other hand, there was not as much thrill in Gringotts for me as there was in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It was fast-paced. It had a few moments where I felt fluttering in my stomach, but much of the excitement relied on 3D effects and computer simulation. Neither of those elements provided the amount of enjoyment I received from the animatronics and genuine physical surprises in Forbidden Journey. Likewise the 3D effects and computer simulation brought me a twinge of nausea (although nothing more than a twinge), and so Gringotts was a bit of a disappointment from that angle.
Overall, though, I had to admit that in terms of storytelling, Escape from Gringotts was superlative. It did a really great job of setting up the plot for the ride from the queue to the vingnettes. The roller coaster elements also enhanced the tale with its supporting role, and the whole thing worked together to make me a part of a story in a way that few rides are able to accomplish.
It was a fantastic ride that my entire family enjoyed across the board, and as a mom, that quality is always a top priority. This—coupled with its incredible ability to tell its tale—really did make Escape from Gringotts an attraction that can’t be missed for me.