What Are Your Must Ride Attractions at Universal Studios Florida?

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We are in the final countdown until our first family trip to Universal Studios Florida. My third grader is a huge fan of Harry Potter, so watching her see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter come to life at Universal Studios is something I am very much looking forward to experiencing with her.

My Harry Potter girls.

While we have lots of trips to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando under our belts, Universal is relatively new territory for us. My impressions of the Universal Studios theme parks is that they are better geared towards tweens and teens, so up until recently we haven’t had a child in what I think to be the ideal Universal Studios age-range.

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I have the Disney portion of trip outlined basically down to the minute with dining reservations, FastPass Plus times for attractions, character meet and greets, and more. What I would love help with is learning about your must-ride attractions at Universal Studios Orlando. Thanks to one of this year’s Daily Getaways Deals, we will be staying at a hotel that includes Express Passes. We have one eight-year-old who is plenty tall for any ride and an almost-three-year-old who is right at 40 inches tall in her tallest shoes…I hope.

We will for sure be doing everything Harry Potter related at both parks, but beyond that we are very open. When I asked for some Universal Studios attraction suggestions on Twitter, some popular suggestions were:

  • The Hogwarts Express
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Flight of the Hippogrif
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (if you want to get wet)
  • Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Seuss Landing
  • Revenge of the Mummy

Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’d love to not only hear about your favorite Universal Florida must-experience attractions and tips, but I’d also enjoying hearing things you may have questions about at Universal Studios since we will be documenting and sharing as much of our journey as possible once we get back home so others can use our learning to make their trips even better.

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  1. Spider-Man and Transformers are both great but also very similar in style. My Dad is 65 and Spider-Man is his favorite ride ever! Minions and Race Through NY are also great and must do’s in my opinion. Poseidon’s Fury is terrible as you basically stand for 30+ minutes for a boring show. Shrek is fine the first time but it’s not really as great as some of the other rides. Men In Black is so so. I’m 30 with no kids though so obviously my taste will be different than yours and your daughter’s. Regardless, I think you’ll love Universal and IOA.

  2. My tween daughters ride the Hippogriff over and over. They love the Gringotts ride, Mummy, Seuss Landing (one fish, two fish), Pteranodon Flyers and Ripsaw Falls and will ride multiple times. I can’t drag them out of the Jurassic Park play area. I personally love the King Kong ride.

    Universal has moved ahead of Disney in my Family.

  3. The first time I took the kids to Universal I also worried about our ride selection as I only had Disney as my frame of reference. We stayed at Universal for 3 days and we did every ride at least twice. All of the Harry Potter rides were the kids’ favorites. We rode Escape from Gringotts at least five times and the Forbidden Journey at least ten. We had the fastpass too and went in the summer and still had no problems riding the rides as many times as the kids wanted. I was surprised the kids like the Jimmy Fallon “ride” as much as they did. Since they aren’t up that late watching t.v. they got to see some of the funny bits he does while waiting for our color to be called. I would not have thought they would have liked that one, but I was looking to spend some quality time away from the heat. They’re going to have a blast!

  4. We have been staying at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Here, you should try the pizza at the Market Deli (take-out) and sit outside on the amazing plaza. The pizza and ambiente is amazing! Even if you are not a hotel guest, take the watertaxi to the hotel and check it out.
    Beautiful, instagram worthy.

  5. I didn’t notice the Simpsons ride as a must do…add that ride to the list! Stop by krusty’s for a krusty burger as well. Kong, Spider Man, Transformers and the Mummy.

  6. I went to Universal for the first time just a few weeks ago and my favorite rides had to be all the Harry Potter ones, Transformers, fast and the furious, and King Skull Island. The best food was at Mythos, near Poseidons fury is just a show but the effects and walk through water tunnel was pretty cool, my 12 year old brother loved it. The Simpsons ride is awesome just makes you dizzy so don’t eat right before it. The Krusty Burger was my brothers favorite food there, bumblebee mans taco truck is also pretty good if you need something quick to eat. If you buy a wand, make sure to bring it every day you go because you can always find a new spot for spells. Also the souvenir cups are a great buy because then only cost $16 and you can bring them with you every day and refills are only $2. A medium soda can already cost $3-$4. I loved the Hard Rock Hotel, and if you stay there you get free express passes for as many days as you’re there. Universal Citywalk has the best restaurants, the cowfish and voodoo doughnuts are my favorite, plus the mini golf place was a blast.

  7. We took our 2 daughters [8 and 4] back in January of 2017. They loved Minions, Escape from Gringotts, all of Jurassic Park, and Spiderman. We also stayed in the Hard Rock and a few weeks before we were to check in, they gave us a big discount to stay in the concierge level. You get a decent breakfast, lots of water bottles, and hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer, and desserts in the evening. So basically we ate breakfast, dinner, and dessert in the club room, and only bought a light lunch. For 4 days, we spent about $80 on food, butterbeer, and snacks. For a family of four, that’s a steal.

  8. One of my favorite memories with each of my children when they were toddlers is taking them to the “Day in the Park with Barney” show at Universal. The look on their faces when Barney appears was priceless! They loved playing in the Curious George play area too!

  9. I have a problem with motion sickness at times, so if that’s your issue (or anyone reading), do be careful as many attractions involve motion or 3d. I loved Gringotts. Barely kept it together for Forbidden Journey.

    Would skip Shrek unless you need a time filler. Just dated and not funny imo.

    For us, the Wizarding World was incredible. So immersive!

  10. Summer,
    Can’t speak to many of the rides at US., but i can say Finnegan’s Irish restaurant in Universal is super good and very reasonably priced, and has cold beer. I don’t know if Universal does the same, but one thing I find pleasantly surprising at the Disney parks is that one can go to any food establishment or kiosk in any Disney park and ask for a cup of ice water and they will give you one without any charge. Saves lots of $$ vs. the 4 dollar bottled water. Also, many of the restaurants in Disney parks can have long lines for food. I found that downloading the My Experience Disney app allows one to order and pay for the food from the restaurant and then simply walk in and pick up the food without having to wait in line to order. The food selection and prices are exactly the same. I stumbled upon this last year by going into a restaurant and seeing a long line and noticing an ad for the app while getting in line. I immediately downloaded and ordered and paid, and then picked up our order well before the folks that were in front of me in line had not yet even made it to the ordering spot. Super fast, plus it allows you to find a table while the food is being prepared rather than walking around looking for a table with a overloaded tray of food. But overall free water for the asking in any Disney park is a Godsend. Have fun!

  11. I’m one of those OG Harry Potter fans who was ~12 when the first book came out. My mom took me to Wizarding World for my 30th birthday which happens to be in the low season, so we did EVERYTHING in that part of the park. Forbidden Journey has a separate tour only line for non-riders to go through the castle and enjoy all of the memorabilia and effects in there without having to wait in the main line, and you can keep your camera with you. I would highly recommend you take S through there. Forbidden Journey makes a lot of people motion sick, so be strategic and ride that right BEFORE y’all want to have a snack/take a break. My mom closed her eyes halfway through the ride and came out white as a sheet. Luckily we hadn’t just eaten… Gringott’s is similar in its visual effects, but I found that one much gentler, and would’ve been willing to ride it again. There are also little mini shows around Wizarding World that the girls will enjoy. The Universal app is extremely helpful in both tracking wait times at the big rides, and the times of those shows. Try butterbeer all three ways! The drink varieties are definitely big and rich enough to just share one amongst the fam as a snack. Personally I think it may be a bit too crowded for the girls to enjoy the interactive wand features in the park, so if C really wants one when you go through the Ollivanders experience, the plain ones are cheaper and look more authentic. Lastly, we stayed in a hotel onsite that offered an early access hour, so I’d utilize that perk to head straight for Wizarding World since it’s at the back, enjoy the smaller crowd, then work your way out towards the front of the main park.

  12. OK, for huge Harry Potter fans you need to plan for time to see the rides in both parks. However you’ll also love the Diagon Alley set at Universal Studios. Go see the show in Olivander’s at Universal,cause the line is shorter (maybe your HP fan will get picked to find her wand by the wandkeeper). Even if that doesn’t happen, spend the money and get an interactive wand. That will be at least an hour of fun wandering around the area, casting spells and watching the results. Knockturn Alley is often almost empty for this purpose, even on busy days. You could also do the Butterbeer challenge and try all of them (Frozen, cold and ice cream – I don’t think the hot is available in the summer months). There are two different shows on the stage (one with Celestina Warbeck and the other one is a telling of the Story of the Three Brothers (the Deathly Hallows) with puppets. The actors in both of these shows are first rate). The Leaky Cauldron is nice for food but I prefer the other park. Make sure to see the dragon on top of Gringotts breathe fire every 10 minutes or so.

    Take the Hogwarts Express from Universal to Islands of Adventure. You need to walk through the station because they captured the essence of a London station. They even had a musician playing a sax with a case out for tips but I think they stopped because people kept tipping them :-).

    I prefer eating at the Three Broomsticks at Hogsmeade but either place is great for big HP fans. In Hogsmeade there are two shows on the stage (one with the Hogwarts Frog Choir and the other one with displays from visitors from students of Dumstrang and Beauxbatons). Both are nice but they’re not must see’s except for superfans. The final suggestion is a strange one. You need to check out the bathrooms at Hogsmeade. A certain ghost inhabits the space (Moaning Myrtle) and makes random comments as people are in there.

    For the rest of the park attractions (forgive me jumping between parks) the ET Adventure is a quaint ride that often gets overlooked. Unless you or your kids watch Jimmy Fallon, that ride would be wasted on them IMHO. Minions is fun. Men in Black is like Buzz Lightyear at Disney but with Will Smith. Don’t waste your time at Fast and Furious. Spiderman is a great ride if you can all handle 3D simulators. Transformers is the exact same ride but with Transformers (and everything happens so fast that it’s impossible to figure out what is happening). Simpsons is a hard one to call. The simulator tech is over 20 years old, as it was previously the Back to the Future ride. If you like Simpsons, it’s worth it but otherwise not. If you do like Simpsons, then walking through the land and stopping by Moe’s for a Flaming Moe is a fun diversion. There’s also the animal actors stage that might be a good place to rest if you’re getting fed up with rides. Oh, and don’t forget the Jurassic Park Pteranodon Flyers. This one doesn’t accept express pass and the line gets long. The little ones need to ride this while they can. The posted sign indicates that guests who are 56 inches tall on up must ride with a child that is at least 36 inches tall but less than 56 inches tall. Guests who are between 36 inches and 48 inches tall must ride with a supervising companion.

    I know that a lot to take in. Hope you have a great trip.

  13. If you have anyone who has a tendency to get motion sickness, beware of all of the rides at Universal. I swear that I got nauseous even on the Cat in the Hat ride!

    Our favorite ride at Universal is definitely Gringott’s. We don’t really care for Forbidden Journey because of the motion sickness factor, but you can do a castle walkthrough which we really liked to do when the park was busy in the afternoon. Hogwarts Express is a really great experience too. Honestly, we had a ton of fun just hanging out in Diagon Alley and soaking up the atmosphere.

    After the Harry Potter stuff, my kids favorite area was probably the Jurassic Park area. There is a huge play area that they enjoyed and they really liked Pteranodon Flyers. The line for that can get long and there is no express pass, so we did that early in the morning. Also, my kids really liked the inside area (can’t remember what it is called). They have dinosaur eggs that are “hatching” throughout the day and random kids are chosen to name a baby raptor. They get a little birth certificate to take home and can check in on their dino the next time they visit. My kids both have dinos that they named and check up on them each time we’re there.

    There is a cute animal show at Universal Studios called Animal Actors on Location. My kids love to see that. Also, there is a stunt show at Islands of Adventure that I think is pretty cheesy, but my husband and kids love it.

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