Ever since they built the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, I’ve been dying to go to Universal Orlando Resort. Since the section of the park first opened during the year I graduated high school, I actually asked for it to be my graduation gift. But that didn’t work out. Eventually, I finally said to myself that this park is going to be a place that I go in my adulthood when I can take my family there to have the best time at Universal Orlando. And this past summer, I did just that.
Though you’ll see a whole dedicated section on the Wizarding World in the blog post, I first want to start off by saying there is a lot more to Universal Orlando than what many Potter fans go to see. I was absolutely blown away by all the great rides, eats, and various things to do while we were there. And what made it even better is that it’s a park that you can take for all ages.
For our first trip to Universal Orlando Resort, I went with my husband and preschool age son. So we had to make sure that we planned accordingly when it came to getting through the park, eating at the right times, and what areas were actually worth going to with a four year old. Yes, we wanted to have a great time at the park, but most importantly we wanted to make sure that our son had a great time too. It all came down to balance, knowing our interests and the interests of our son, and making sure that we set ourselves up for success.
Instead of heading back to Disney World, where we went with our little guy last year, we spent a whole day at Universal Orlando and experienced a whole lot before packing up and heading home. In this post, I’ll share with you some Universal Orlando tips along with providing some guidance on how to plan and how to make the most of your time at Universal Studios in Orlando.
PLANNING YOUR TIME AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT
Welcome to the thrilling realm of Universal Studios Orlando, where the magic of Hollywood and the excitement of incredible theme park adventures come together in perfect harmony. Step into a world where your favorite blockbuster movies and iconic TV shows spring to life, captivating visitors of all ages from around the globe. From heart-pounding rides to immersive experiences, this ultimate entertainment destination promises an unforgettable journey filled with laughter, adrenaline, and cherished memories.
Whether you’re a cinephile, an adventure seeker, or a family in search of the perfect vacation, Universal Studios Orlando has something special for everyone. Join us as we delve into the enchanting attractions, delve behind the scenes, and explore the captivating lands that await you in this blog dedicated to the wonders of Universal Studios Orlando! Let’s unlock the gates to this extraordinary universe of imagination and adventure, where dreams become a breathtaking reality.
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Tips FOR PREPARING YOUR TIME THERE
When preparing for your time at Universal Studios in Orlando, you want to make sure that you not only consider everyone’s limits, things they want to do, and what could possibly happen throughout the day, you want to make sure that you set yourself up for success by getting some things ahead of time, knowing when the best time of day is to go, and pack things that do become essentials.
BUY TICKETS AHEAD OF TIMEDepending on how many days you’re going for, you’ll want to make sure that you get the right tickets ahead of time. When purchasing your tickets, make sure that you get the tickets to go to the park(s) that you want to go to. Universal Studios, Island Adventures, and Volcano Bay are three different parks. Typically, most people who are not doing the water park opt to get the 2-park ticket so they can visit Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures, but if you are only interested in one or the other, that is an option as well.
GET THE EXPRESS PASSESThough it adds a fee to your overall ticket price, the Express Passes are truly worth it. It’ll allow you to get to the front of the line somewhat faster than the normal lines. To give an estimate, you can expect the Express Pass line to be about half the time of the normal line. For anyone heading to the park with children, you’ll definitely want this. Our little guy doesn’t like standing for very long and some of the lines had expected wait times of 40 minutes or more.
BECOME FAMILIAR WITH THE MAPArriving at Universal Studios can be a little confusing at first, so make sure to look at the map ahead of time and get familiar with where things are. Starting from the parking garage, know that you’ll have to walk through Universal’s City Walk before either heading to Universal or Islands of Adventures which are two different sections of the overall park.
PREPARE FOR THE WEATHERDepending on the season that you are heading to the parks, you’ll want to make sure you come prepared for the weather. Florida is known for it’s unpredictable rain storms, so if you are worried about getting wet, I’d suggest grabbing a poncho to carry in so you don’t need to buy one inside the park. Also, if you’re heading there during the Spring or Summer months, you may want to also pack a handheld fan and reusable water bottle.
Rides OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA
Between Universal Studios and Island of Adventures, there are plenty of rides to choose from to have a great time at Universal Studios in Orlando. As you plan for your trip to the parks, you’ll want make sure that you know what type of rides you want to go on, and if you have children, what rides they can get on. During our time at Universal Studios in Orlando, our little guy was right at the cusp of being a rider tall enough for some of the more jolting rides, but there were some that my husband and I were interested in getting on that our little man just wasn’t tall enough to ride. (Note: Some of the rides do have a parent’s “switch” area. It’s basically an area near the beginning and/or end of the ride where one parent will wait with the child while the other one rides and then you can switch).
Below, I’ve rounded up some of our favorite rides of Universal Studios. For anyone with a child around 42″, which was the approximate height of our son when we went, I’ve listed the ones that he joined on us on and which ones we either had to swap or I went on by myself.
RIDES IN UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: If you’re ready to get turned into a minion and work for Gru, you’ll really enjoy this ride. You’ll find this ride located right upon walking into Universal which made it a great for stop for us with our son. This indoor, simulator rollercoaster seats like you’re in a theatre and with 3D glasses on, you’re rocked around and taken for a fun ride through the mayhem happening in Gru’s lab. Depending on what time you go, you may also be in for a treat right at the end where you may even get to see and take pictures with one of the minions.
E.T. Adventure: If you’re looking for some nostalgia, this is a cute little ride. It’s okay for little ones since it’s very calm. You can probably say this ride is one of the oldest rides of the park, so there isn’t really much about it besides the fact that is shows E.T.’s home world. You ride casually through all of the sections on a bike as if you’re flying with E.T. This ride isn’t super popular so the line goes super quickly. For us, it was cute to see and a great way to get out of the heat and flash stores.
Men in Black Alien Attack: This ride is not only a ride, it’s a game and it was so fun. We were able to get on with our little guy but he was right at the edge. On the ride, you get a little stun gun where you head through an area filled with aliens that you need to shoot to rack up points on your score. There are some spins and jolting rocks throughout the ride and it does throw you around, but our four year old does really enjoy that kind of action. Also, just as a tip, make sure to listen closely about the red button to get those bonus points at the end. You’ll have to hit the button before anyone else in your car to get the points, so make sure you’re really on it.
Harry Potter Escape from Gringotts: One thing that I really liked about this ride before even getting on was that when you walk in, you walk into the entrance area to Gringotts and looks so much like what you see in the movies. The experience of waiting in the line is one that you won’t see in many other rides which also adds a little bit extra to the overall experience. The ride itself is really great. It’s an immersive, indoor-simulated rollercoaster where you’ll wear glasses to get the full experience. Right from the start you are literally catapulted through Gringotts where you’ll encounter a number of different characters while learning about how Gringotts operations.
The Simpsons Ride: This wasn’t one of my favorites, but it had it’s appeal. This is another indoor, simulated rollercoaster where you were glasses and are jolted around while following along with the craziness that you typically see with the Simpsons. Our little guy was able to get on, but he didn’t enjoy it too much and I found it slightly inappropriate for him.
Transformers: This 3D ride was a fun indoor, simulated roller coaster ride where you’re on a mission with the Autobots to fight the Decepticons. It’s not interactive like Men in Black and can become somewhat intense at times. Our son really enjoyed the entrance area, but about midway through the ride, he got a little nervous because of the action of the ride. That being said, it really feels like you are in one of the battles from the Transformers which made this ride super fun.
RIDES IN ISLAND OF ADVENTURE
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure: This is probably one of the top rides that everyone talks about at Universal Studios. Being one of the newest rides to the park, it houses so many great things that many rollercoasters don’t have. I will state that if you are interested in going on this ride, I would recommend that you go to this ride first. Kids aren’t able to get on this ride and there is no Express Pass offering. The line can get up to be 90 minutes of a wait and the single rider line can get just as along, but it is a rollercoaster that you won’t want to leave Universal without getting on. You ride the ride either on the motorbike or in the sidecar as you taking through the Forbidden Forest. I’m not one that is huge on rollercoasters, but I really liked this ride and would have probably rode it again of the wait time hasn’t drastically increased.
Jurassic World Velocicoaster: I will first say that when you walk into the Jurassic World area, it’s really like you are stepping into Jurassic Park. The ambiance is super cool, and heading onto the ride was great as well. If you’re someone that doesn’t like rollercoasters, this ride isn’t for you, and it’s not one that it great for little ones. I rode this by myself and let me tell you this is quite the speedy rollercoaster. Many people say this is the rollercoaster to get on if you are really into rollercoasters because of how fast it goes, the loops, and the barrel roll right at the end.
Jurassic Park River Adventure: I’m going to be honest, I didn’t get on this ride. I’m not much for getting soaked while at an amusement park no matter whether it’s hot or not. But if you like getting drenched, I heard this was the ride to get on. It’s has the largest water drop and watching people get off along with watching them come down the drop, it’s becomes super evident that you may want to have a backup of clothes or a bathing suit for this ride.
Caroseussel: Our little guy really loves carousels and this cute one in The Cat and the Hat land was fun even for me. My husband didn’t take the ride with us, but I went and road around and had a giddy little time that wasn’t too intense. Additionally, you’ get a great little breeze ride this ride so it was great for a hot summer day.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man: As another indoor ride, it was great to go along on an adventure with Spiderman, especially since my son enjoys Spiderman so he was very into the entire ride. This ride does require glasses to see the interaction, but isn’t crazy intense like you would experience with the Transformers ride and the other rollercoasters that you’d get on while in Islands of Adventure.
BEST PLACES TO Eat AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT
There are a variety of different places to eat around the parks. Whether you’re looking to grab a quick bite or sit down, you’ll find different options. If you are planning on sitting down for a meal during your time at Universal Studios in Orlando, I would highly recommend using the app since you can often times make reservations or get on the waitlist. We walked up to a few restaurants while we were there only to be told that there was a 45 minute to an hour wait.
There are tons of places to eat in City Walk which is the area right outside of the parks. You will walk through this area to enter to the parks, so I’d suggest looking around while walking through so you can get a feel of what is in the area to eat. Some of the favorites in City Walk are Margaritaville, NBC Sports, Grill & Brew, and the Cowfish.
THE HARD ROCK CAFE
Located between Island of Adventure and Universal is the Hard Rock Café. This is a popular spot like many of the Hard Rock locations around the world, but of course, it has it’s own individual identity. This is a great place to go for lunch or dinner and had the great food options to choose from along with some themed drinks.
Located in Diagon Alley, this location which is a hot spot for breakfast and lunch serves some traditional English means such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and a complete English breakfast. This location does fill up quick fast especially because there are a lot of people who flock to Diagon Alley and then start looking for food.
MOE’S TAVERN & FAST FOOD BOULEVARD
You’ll find this Simpsons-themed restaurant right in Springfield. These two locations combine to be a very popular place for lunch and to grab a drink. You’ll find eats such as Krusty Burger and The Frying Dutchman along with drinks such as a Duff Beer. This is on the locations that we stopped through and found that you need either get there early or be prepared to wait.
If you’re looking for another Harry Potter themed eat in Hogmeade, you’ll enjoy this restaurant. It serves a variety of similar foods such as what you’d find at the Leaky Cauldron along with a meal option that can serve your entire family. This is a great option for lunch or dinner, and is a very popular spot so ust make sure to plan accordingly.
For those who are looking for more options outside of fried food and buckers, you can get a meal at this table-serviced restaurant located in the Lost Continent Land. The menu offers dished inspired from a variety of places around the world, and also gives you a place where you can get a drink or just some appetizers when you want a moment to sit, cool down, and just take a moment in. This was probably our favorite to go to for dinner since it gave us a variety of options.
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF Harry Potter
Now I will say that I was super excited to be heading into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As an English major who loved all the books and made sure to visit Harry Potter Studios and Platfrom 9 3/4 when I was in London, we did spend a lot of time here while at Universal Studios. Whether you are entering from Universal or Island of Adventures, immediately upon entering, you step right into the enchanting world of Harry Potter, where the book series comes to life. It’s an immersive theme park experience that really is a dream come trues since you can wander through iconic locations, experience rides that seem like you are living in the books, taste authentic treats, and even choose your wand to cast spells around the wizarding world. There is really so much to do here that I probably could have wrote an entire dedicated blog post to the Wizarding World, but instead, I’ll give you the highlights so you can feel inspired to visit it yourself.
Enter the Wizarding World Through Hogsmeade: As you pass through the archway and enter Hogsmeade Village, a sense of wonder and excitement will wash over you. The attention to detail is astonishing, as the streets are lined with snow-capped rooftops, whimsical shops, and familiar faces from the Harry Potter series. You can’t help but feel like a student arriving at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the very first time.
Hogwarts Castle: The centerpiece of the Wizarding World is none other than the magnificent Hogwarts Castle. Towering over Hogsmeade, this incredible structure is a visual marvel both from the outside and the inside. The painstakingly designed castle houses the thrilling “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride, where you’ll join Harry and his friends on an adventure through the Wizarding World.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure: Prepare to soar through the Forbidden Forest on a thrilling roller coaster ride with Hagrid as your guide. The ride, noted above as one of the top rides of the park, offers heart-pounding twists and turns, surprising encounters with fantastic beasts, and a unique ride experience with different perspectives depending on whether you choose to ride on the motorbike or in the sidecar.
Ride the Train: Whether heading from Hogsmeade or from Diagon Alley, you’ll want to get on the train to get between both Wizarding World locations, as well as just navigating between the two parks. When you enter into the train station, make sure to prepare to run full speed through the wall to get through to Platform 9 3/4.
Get Your Own Wizard Essentials: No visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be complete without indulging in a little shopping Explore Diagon Alley, where you can find the famous Ollivanders wand shop t get your own interactive wand, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop, and magical supplies at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. Don’t forget to exchange your Muggle money for Wizarding currency at Gringotts Money Exchange.
Savor Magical Delicacies: Treat your taste buds to some authentic wizarding delicacies. From the frothy Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks to savory pastries at the Leaky Cauldron, you’ll have a wide array of delightful dishes to choose from. Be sure to try Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, but beware of some truly bizarre and unexpected flavors!
Magical Performances: The magic doesn’t end with the rides and food. Throughout the day, you can catch enchanting performances like the Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally, where students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang show off their magical skills. These shows add an extra layer of immersion to your Wizarding World experience.
Nighttime Magic: Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Castle are illuminated with stunning lights and special effects, creating a magical ambiance like no other. Witness the “Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle” show, where powerful dark magic is brought to life through mesmerizing projections and captivating music.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando is an extraordinary tribute to J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, bringing the magic to life in every way possible. From thrilling rides to magical treats and enchanting performances, it’s a place where fans can truly immerse themselves in the spellbinding universe. Whether you’re a lifelong Potterhead or a newcomer to the series, this immersive theme park experience promises to be an unforgettable adventure that will leave you spellbound!
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We received complimentary tickets to visit Universal Studios and Island of Adventure. Thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.