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Islands of Adventure - Lost Continent: Dueling Dragons

 

NOTE: This ride has been replaced with Dragon Challenge and is now part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The following ride description is for the historical record.

Rating: * * * * *
Type: Twin roller coasters
Time: 1.5 minutes
Kelly says: Aaaargh!

One reason The Lost Continent is so large is to house this immense inverted steel roller coaster. Actually, it’s two separate roller coasters travelling along separate but closely intertwined tracks that diverge and then converge to terrifying effect.

You enter this experience near the Enchanted Oak Tavern, past two stone dragons standing as mute sentinels to a mysterious world of eerie chimes and chilling sounds. At the top of a winding path lies a brooding, ruined castle. When you enter, you discover that this was once a flourishing kingdom filled with happy and prosperous people until it was overrun by two ferocious dragons — the Dragon of Ice and the Dragon of Fire.

UPDATE, December 2008: The Enchanted Oak has been demolished to make way for its Harry Potter replacement. The entrance to Dueling Dragons is now via Jurassic Park.

As you make your way slowly, slowly through the castle corridors — oh, let’s face it, it’s the waiting line for the coaster — you receive constant warnings to turn back before it’s too late. Of course, you can hardly wait for it to be too late. It’s a great way to keep people entertained during the wait and marks a new level of theme-ing in roller coasters. It must be said, however, that this is an extremely long queue line, so long in fact that some people begin to wonder if they will ever get to the coasters. A few people even turn back, convinced they’ve taken a wrong turn. If you find the line slowing down shortly after you enter the castle, you’re in for a long, long wait. Leave and get a Universal Express Pass.

Tip: If the line is short and you find yourself whizzing through the castle, you might want to pause to watch the video that plays on the large stained glass window. It sketches in the story behind the ride.

Finally, you are confronted by Merlin himself who bellows that the time for cowardice is past and you must now choose which of the two dragons you will attempt to slay. There’s even a special line for those brave nuts, er . . . knights who want to ride in the front.

This is an inverted coaster, which means that the cars, completely dressed to look like dragons, hang from a track over your head. Your feet dangle in the air below your seat. When the cars are fully loaded the passengers look as though they are hanging from the dragons’ claws. Then it’s off on a ninety-second ride through Merlinwood and over Dragon Lake, which is actually shaped like a dragon, a fact that few people who ride this attraction are likely to notice.

The two coasters share the same lift to the top of the first drop, but the Fire Dragon peels off to the left as the Ice Dragon swoops to the right. After that their separate trips are carefully synchronized so that, as they loop and swirl their way around Merlinwood, they meet in mid air at three crucial moments. A computer actually weighs each coaster and then makes the appropriate adjustments to get the timing just right. Perhaps the scariest close encounter comes when they come straight at one another on what is obviously a head-on collision course. At the last moment, they spin up and apart with the dangling feet of the riders coming within a foot or two of each other at nearly 60 miles per hour. At another point, both coasters enter a double helix, spinning dizzily around one another. All told there are three near misses in the 50 seconds or so it takes to travel from the first drop to the point where the coasters slow down to reenter the castle. If you’ve ever asked yourself what could be more terrifying than the current generation of high-speed steel roller coasters, ask no more.

Some people find this ride so extreme, the motion so violent, and the experience so short that they can’t decide whether they liked it or not. Indeed, you’ll notice many people exiting in stunned puzzlement.

Note: This ride requires that you stow all your belongings in nearby electronic lockers that are free for a short period of time but charge a hefty fee if you overstay your welcome. For more information, see Good Things To Know About....Lockers in Chapter One.

Tip: If you’d like to get a preview of this ride, look for the exit. It’s to your left as you face the entrance, behind The Dragon’s Keep shop. A short way up you will find a viewing area behind a high metal fence; most likely a number of departing riders will have paused here for another look. This vantage point gives you a pretty good view of the twin coasters’ routes. For those who have no intention of ever strapping themselves into this coaster, it’s a pretty entertaining attraction in itself.

It’s also possible to enter the queue line itself for a peek. Just a short way in is a spot where you can witness two of the ride’s close encounters up close. You’ll actually feel the wind rush through your hair as the coasters spiral past. If this dissuades you from venturing farther you can turn back. Don’t worry: you’ll see plenty of people doing the same thing.

The best seats in the house. The first row is the clear choice for the thrill seeker. Otherwise, the outside seats in each row give a better view (if you have your eyes open!) and are less likely to induce motion sickness. Seats farther back in the vehicle offer a different ride experience, partly because you can see what’s coming and partly because the back rows snap about with a bit more zip. Finally, the Fire Dragon (the red one) is more “aggressive” than the Ice Dragon; that is, it has a few more spins to it and moves a bit faster at some points.

Tip: Dueling Dragons is the only ride with a “re-ride” door. If the wait is less than 15 minutes, ride attendants will open this door and let you get back on immediately.

Note: This ride may be closed during your 2009 visit for Potter-related renovations.

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