Universal Studios is located in Orlando, Florida, conveniently located via Interstate I-4. It is one of many parks within the area, and is walking distance (or train ride) to Universal's sister park, Islands of Adventure. It is also home City Walk and to the theater where the Blue Man Group performs. In addition, Volcano Bay is Universal's new water park attraction.
Things to Do
- Visit Diagon Alley, the newest attraction at Universal Studios, and ride Escape from Gringotts - This is one of the more popular attractions. Be prepared to wait about 40-60 minutes (or more!) as Express passes do not work for any Harry Potter rides.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - ride the Hogwarts train from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade) or if you plan to stay, try the frozen butterbeer, yummy!
- If your kids have wands, there are several interactive locations where you just wave the wand and something magical happens. The line to Gringotts can take a long time - more than an hour, so it is advised you do this first thing!
- Play arcade games at the Simpsons area - for just $5, you can get to bring home a plush toy of one of the Simpsons characters. It is one of the best spots to get a cheap souvenir. You can also get other toys like minions from Despicable Me just by playing a game with your kids!
- Ride the rides - while most rides are for older kids and teenagers, there is a special spot for the young ones at Fievel's Playland, located near Woody Woodpecker's KidZone. Suessville featurs kids rides on the Islands of Adventure side.
Universal Studios Orlando Insider Tips
- Universal Orlando & Islands of Adventure are actually 2 separate parks, so figure out if you want a park-to-park ticket or just a single park ticket. Park to park allows you to ride Hogwarts Express between the two parks. There is a Harry Potter attraction in each park.
- If you are going in peak season - consider getting an express pass. Express passes shorten your wait times dramatically for coasters and prime attractions. However, they do not accept them at the Harry Potter rides.
- While you CAN visit both parks in one day, it's probably best to buy a 2-day ticket - and many times Universal offers a Buy 2 Get 2 day pass deal which will enable you to save, and also not feel rushed to hit all the rides in one day. However, I don't know that I would be able to enjoy 4 days at Universal.
- If you stay on property - you get a free Express Pass which helps bypass long lines on most rides (excluding Harry Potter). So if you are a fan of the roller coasters and 3D rides - the express pass really does help cut your wait times.
- Express passes are about $79 in addition to your park ticket - if you buy them online you save about $10.
- Many hotels offer free shuttles to Universal Studios to help save on parking fees.
- Arrive at the gates 30 minutes early - you can often get into the park before the official open time, which will enable you to get a head start on the crowds.
- If you purchase your tickets online - choose the Kiosk option for pickup to avoid lines.
- If you are a Florida resident and plan to go to Universal Studio or Islands of Adventure more than twice, it is worth investing in the Annual Pass - you can get free admission to the park for certain days of the year (black out dates apply) for the cost of a day in both parks.
- If you're also trying to save money, best if you eat at the CityWalk area for lunch or dinner rather than inside the park. We liked Cowfish - great sushi and burger options.
Insider Tips on Rides at Universal Orlando
- If you are a roller coaster fan, Hulk, Dueling Dragons, The Mummy, and Rip Rider are all awesome experiences. Hulk is our favorite.
- Virtual 3D Rides - if you have a problem with motion sickness, many of these rides might not be a good fit for you. They include: Minions, Transformers, Simpsons, Spider Man, (Shrek - but this one is pretty tame) and the Jimmy Fallon Ride. Of all of these rides, the Jimmy Fallon ride is most nauseating.
- Get wet rides - Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park. You will get wet - but you can purchase ponchos in the gift shop they do have fully body dryers outside the rides.
- Little Kids rides - Suessland has a number of rides for little kids, and there is a Pteradactyl flight ride for kids under 48 inches.
Start the day at Universal Studios (be sure to PARK there and not at Citywalk). Ride Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem’s 3D simulator before battling Decepticons face-to-face on TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D, which have long lines in the afternoon. (Shrek rarely has a line more than 15 minutes so you can save that one). If you prefer coasters - head over to the Rip 'n Rocket Coaster where you can personalize a rockin' ride.
From there, head straight to the park’s immersive Diagon Alley to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts before grabbing early lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, for some great fish & chips, bangers & mash, or a cheese & salad plate. (They also serve a nice breakfast that includes butter beer). Wander through the whimsical stores on the cobblestone streets - there are also lots of places to cast magical spells with your wand, if you have one.
Next, exit to King’s Cross Station and board the Hogwarts Express train, an attraction mimicking the journey of Harry and friends that doubles as transportation to Universal’s second park, Islands of Adventure. You need a park to park pass to take the train.
Spend the afternoon conquering Island of Adventure attractions
Once you arrive, explore the wand stores and sweets shops of Hogsmeade Village as you make your way towards its signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (This ride is rough for people with motion sickness, so if you prefer not to ride you can just tour the castle). Afterwards, head to Jurassic Park River Adventure to experience dinosaurs and water-fueled drops, and Skull Island: Reign of Kong, both of which are nearby. If you have an express pass, put it to use on The Incredible Hulk Coaster —before return to Hogsmeade to experience the quick inversions of the dueling Dragon Challenge coasters.
End your day with a gradual succession of coasters
Take the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley, which provides a completely different experience than the way over. When you arrive, head back to Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour and opt for the Butterbeer soft-serve or uniquely flavored scoops on offer. From there, explore the The Simpsons land before boarding Revenge of the Mummy’s dark indoor coaster as a prelude for the biggest ride in the park, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. The over-the-top twists and turns are worth riding for the choose-your-own-soundtrack element, but it can be a bit of a rough ride. Finish on a calm note with E.T. Adventure and thenhead home.