Yesterland
at Yesterland
Dragon Challenge
 
Yester Wizarding World of Harry Potter
at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

 
Height: at least 54"

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Hungarian Horntail (blue) versus Chinese Fireball (red)

Would you like to twist and loop through the sky just outside Hogsmeade? Are you up for the challenge?


The official website says it best:

You’ll need the courage of a Triwizard Tournament™ champion as you mount one of two dragons—an aggressive Chinese Fireball or a ferocious Hungarian Horntail—that twist and loop in an intertwining roller coaster chase across the sky. Dragon Challenge™ is actually two high-speed roller coasters—each “dragon” is a completely different ride.

[Universal Islands of Adventure website, 2013]

Are you ready? Have you stowed your belongings in a free locker?

Step through the gothic archway to begin your journey to Dragon Challenge. Your path is flanked by Triwizard Tournament flags and banners. Triumphant music fills the air. Enjoy Harry Potter icons along the way, including the Weasley family’s Ford Anglia, the Goblet of Fire, and the Triwizard Cup.

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Ancient gothic arch leading to a modern double roller coaster

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Attraction name chiseled in stone

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Flying feet and the soles of shoes

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Triwizard Tournament flags and banners

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

“Harry Potter, True Champion” banner

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Banner for Cedric Diggory

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Weasley family’s flying Ford Anglia, after crashing into a tree

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Almost at the Triwizard Cup

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Triwizard Cup, trophy of the Triwizard Tournament

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Goblet of Fire, emitting the glow of blue flames, in the champions tent

After some dark corridors and caves, it’s decision time. Which dragon will you ride? The Hungarian Horntail or the Chinese Fireball?

The two tracks are different. In either case, you’ll get a 2-minute and 25-second flight with several inversions—some combination of a zero-g roll, a cobra roll, a corkscrew, and a vertical loop.

Enjoy your ride!

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

No-Floor Inverted Coaster

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Track colors matching the dragon colors

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Cobra roll

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Feet to the sky!

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Intertwined track

The ride is over. What are you going to do next?

Go back through the archway again, of course. You’ve only been on half the attraction so far. Now for the other dragon!


Dragon Challenge officially opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure at the Universal Orlando Resort on June 18, 2010. It was part of the park’s then-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Dueling Dragons at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2009

Dueling Dragons, the original incarnation of Dragon Challenge

Dueling Dragons at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

Dueling Dragons in 2000

However, the ride was actually quite a bit older, having originally been Dueling Dragons in the Merlinwood section of The Lost Continent when Universal’s Islands of Adventure opened in 1999.

The Harry Potter books and movies had dragons too, so it worked out well that the park already had a major dragon-themed thrill ride that could be reused. It would just take an updated queue, a new attraction name, and new names for the two coasters. The Hungarian Horntail had been Ice, while the Chinese Fireball had been Fire.

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Steel track dominating the skyline of Hogsmeade

Despite the dragon tie-in, the dual-track steel coaster never fit well into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Hogsmeade Village was meticulously detailed, and Hogwarts Castle was surprisingly convincing through the skillful use of forced perspective. But the coaster’s acres of bare steel looked industrial, not magical. The ride looked like what it was—a state-of-the-art thrill extravaganza from 1999, as one might find at a top-notch regional theme park.

On top of that, the ride lost its best gimmick—its biggest thrills—in 2011. Until then, there were three points when the trains would approach each other as if the riders might collide, coming within 18 inches of each other at the closest point. A sophisticated dispatch system compensated for weight differences between the two trains so that the trains would be synchronized. It added to the illusion of danger, while being completely safe.

Or was it?

The Orlando Sentinel described two accidents on Dragon Challenge that occurred within two weeks (“Universal adjusts Harry Potter coaster following 2nd injury,” by Jason Garcia, August 17, 2011):

The first accident occurred July 31 [2011] when 52-year-old Carlos Montalvo of Puerto Rico was hit in his right eye while sitting in the front seat of one of the coaster trains.

“At some point, when the coasters came together, something struck him in the eye and lacerated his right eye,” said Clay Mitchell, an Orlando lawyer representing Montalvo.

Mitchell said Montalvo lost all vision in the eye and was forced to have it permanently removed this week. The lawyer said his client was already “virtually blind” in his left eye.

A second rider was hurt last week. Local television station WKMG identified the rider as 19-year-old Jon Wilson of Ohio and said he was hit by something on his foot, arm and face while riding Dragon Challenge last Thursday.

The solution was to eliminate the “dueling” feature entirely after the second accident—temporarily at first, becoming permanent in October 2011. The Hungarian Horntail and the Chinese Fireball would be dispatched separately for the next six years.

By 2017, it was time for something new.

The last day to ride Dragon Challenge was Monday, September 4, 2017. Demolition of Dragon Challenge began almost immediately, and construction began—but on what?

Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

© 2018 Universal Orlando

Artwork: “A Magical New Adventure Is Coming in 2019”

More than a year after the closure of Dragon Challenge, Universal still had not announced what its replacement would be. There was a clue in October 2018, when promotional artwork showed a single steel track above a forest—perhaps the Forbidden Forest—with several Cornish Pixies along the track.

Replacement for Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2018

Construction wall at Hogsmeade

Replacement for Dragon Callenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2018

New attraction rising beyond the wall, December 2018

No matter what the new attraction’s name and story turn out to be, it’s already obvious that it will fit in much better with the rest of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter than the reused dragon roller coasters that preceded it.


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Updated January 25, 2019.