The Universal Orlando Resort encompasses a plethora of state-of-the-art attractions, shows, rides, and restaurants to feed your thirst for the movies. With two parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, it offers double the excitement plus the world-famous Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You will not be at a loss for fun at this stellar Orlando, Florida attraction, with intriguing rides and shows for the entire family. We’ve compiled an ultimate guide for visiting, including 33 fun things at Universal Orlando Resort, and a few hotels you should consider staying at.
FYI: By the way, the complex’s official name is Universal Orlando Resort, though it is mostly called Universal Orlando, Universal Studios, or simply “Universal.”
I was comped tickets for Universal Studios Orlando and attended as a guest of a conference and most recently, IPW, in Orlando. As always, reviews and opinions are 100% mine and unbiased.
10 Must-Do Things at Islands of Adventure
Stir up the feisty Mystic Fountain carved of ancient stone at Sinbad’s Bazaar in The Lost Continent for a good splash and laugh. Try to match wits with this interactive jokester who when awakened, is a real card.
Take a break from the fun and frolic of amusement park rides and enjoy an air-conditioned break at the Marvel arcade. There are games for all ages enjoyment. Or, head over to PlayToon Lagoon Games for boardwalk style games and a test of your agility and skills.
Take yet another break from the hustle and bustle with creative cocktails and beverages from Backwater Bar near Islands of Adventure’s entrance. The menu offers draft and bottled beer, plus wine, as well.
Explore Hogsmeade Through Butterbeer, Food, and Rides
Hogsmeade is probably the biggest draw to Islands of Adventure, or at least a close contender to the kick-ass coasters. You truly feel immersed in the Harry Potter culture, like you’ve stepped into a movie scene, when you wander through this exquisite part of the park. I love riding Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure, certainly a big draw.
And, can anyone come to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without trying a Butterbeer? Absolutely not! Have the buttery sensation discussed worldwide in both parks at both King’s Cross Station and Hogsmeade. Try it cold or frozen.
I like to eat lunch while I’m in Hogsmeade, too. The Fish & Chips from Three Broomsticks, specializing in British pub food.
Tip: Travel between King’s Cross Station (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) aboard the Hogwarts Express. Dual park admission is required.
Shop the Year-Round Christmas Store
I collect Christmas decorations, so it pleases me that Islands of Adventure offers a store to buy them year-round. Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe has so many cute things ranging from character ornaments to stockings, and decorations for your tree to holiday books and tree skirts.
Ride Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park’s VelociCoaster is an awesome thrill ride at Islands of Adventure. Take a high-speed dash through the “raptor paddock” and enjoy the twists and soaring high above the land as you dodge the scary predators. Height requirement is 51″.
Wander Through Dr. Seuss Land
Enjoy all things Dr. Seuss-related as you wander through this darling part of the park. From riding the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride to eating the most delicious sweet treats at Snookers & Snookers Sweet Candy Cookers, you won’t stop smiling at the possibilities.
Our favorite part, aside from the awesome photo-ops is the Character Zone, where you can take selfies with The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch (hooray!), Sam I Am, and Thing One & Thing Two.
Eat at Mythos Restaurant
Mythos is an award-winning full-service restaurant with a mythological decor that sets the stage for an imaginative meal. I love to cool off after the hot Florida sunshine with a Chicken Hearts of Romaine Caesar salad, done perfectly at Mythos Restaurant. Other tasty options include Pad Thai, Gnocchi Bolognese, and Souvlaki (chicken, beef, or tofu) Couscous bowls.
Ride the Incredible Hulk
If I had to choose one all-time favorite ride and the most fun thing at Universal Orlando Resort, it is, hands down, the Incredible Hulk Coaster. This freaking insane coaster launches you at 67-mph, then spins you upside down in a zero-gravity roll that seems to never end. The coaster keeps racing and raging around the tracks, giving your heart and fear factor a good workout. It is a blast! There is a 54″ height requirement on this one.
Take Memorable Selfies
Character greetings add so much value and memories to your vacation. You have great options at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. A few that made my family happy and sent us down Memory Lane were Dora the Explorer, the Lorax, Grinch, Spiderman, Wolverine, the cast of Scooby Doo, Popeye, and Curious George.
Get Wet on a Water Ride
Teens and tweens really love riding the Dudley Do-Right Ripsaw Falls, part water flume ride and part coaster. Relive the classic cartoons by this Royal Canadian Mountie as you meander your way through the flume’s path, twists, and turns, before getting to the juiciest part of the ride, a 75-foot drop. That’s when the drenching really happens.
Caution: You will get soaked on the water rides. I recommend bringing a change of clothing or buying a plastic poncho.
Walk Through a World of Comics
Comic Strip Lane is a blast to walk through in the Toon Lagoon part of the park. You’ll see classic comic strip neon signs in a clever setting that include cafes, Cathy’s quick-serve ice cream, Wimpy, Comic Strip Cafe, and Blondie’s quick-serve eateries, and three food carts, to name a few. These vintage and beloved Sunday funny paper stars are exaggerated larger than life at Islands of Adventure.
This area is also home to Me Ship, The Olive, a three-floor interactive playground for kids that is designed like Popeye’s boat. Experience climbing platforms, slides, and all sorts of fun things to give kids a chance to, well, be kids. There is a separate play area for younger tots.
Explore Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal Orlando
Marvel Super Hero Island is easily one of the most popular and fun lands at Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando. The area is created around the Marvel Comics superheroes—Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Incredible Hulk. It opened back in 1999, but Marvel Comics popularity has gone through the roof since then, hence its continued relevance at the park.
You’ll have a chance to meet a few of the superheroes and evil villains for photos. You can also ride the Incredible Hulk Coaster, Dr. Doom’s Fearfall, Storm Force Acceleration, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at this part of the park.
Fun Fact: Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment several years ago, so it is odd seeing a Disney line of business at a Universal park, but it fits perfectly here.
5 Must-Do Things at Universal Citywalk
What is dubbed as “the epicenter of awesome”, Universal Citywalk is a free place to roam around and enjoy the scenery, shopping, and attractions, anchored to the Universal Orlando theme parks. There is a great energy throughout Citywalk and it a place your Orlando vacation should definitely include visiting.
The list of fun things to do includes seeing a movie at Cinemark, grabbing a tasty bite, sipping cocktails, and watching the picturesque sunsets.
Pro Tip: Save time by ordering your food and drinks from participating CityWalk restaurants from the official Universal Orlando Resort app, available on Google Play or the App Store.
Sip cocktails and munch on appetizers at Jimmy Buffet’s seaplane (Hemisphere Dancer) at Lone Palm Airport on the waterfront of the Universal CItywalk. Like the song says, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” and this tiki bar is the epitome of the perfect spot for “Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville”.
Lone Palm Airport”s menu also includes salads, burgers in paradise, entrees, and kids items. Kick it old-school with a Bahama Mama cocktail, or a JalaMango margarita with fresh jalapeños and a chili rim.
Shop the Universal Legacy Store
Shop for exclusive Universal theme park merchandise you can’t get anywhere else in this treasure trove. The Universal Legacy Store is filled with movie-themed items, souvenirs, apparel, and toys.
Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar gets my vote for the best place to eat at the Universal Orlando Resort. Whether it’s the salty Edamame or Crab Rangoon Dip, The Cowfish Bento Box, or The Cowfish Has Officially Left The Building peanut butter and banana burger, everything you put in your mouth from this creative culinary gem is incredible.
Tip: Be sure to snap some photos from the restaurant’s top floor for great panoramic CityWalk views. Eat lunch at the Universal CityWalk instead of inside the park.
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
Did you know that the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium has a full-service restaurant with tasty eats? Have the Chocolate Almond bread with salted caramel butter, Totchos, Croque Monsieur, Grilled Chicken Gnocchi, or Coffee & Chocolate Stout Buffalo Wings, all things I can vouch for.
Caution: Be sure to save room for the killer milkshakes, which is probably why you came to Toothsome anyway. Don’t forget; you can take home the mason jar it is served in.
VooDoo Doughnut Orlando
Voodoo Doughnut is now at the Universal CityWalk. Game changer! Try the most requested doughnuts: the Bacon Maple Bar, Grape Ape, or Dirt Doughnut. You can also opt for a special one created exclusively for Universal like the Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) jelly-filled doughnut.
Tip: Parking is free for Florida residents at the Universal CityWalk after 6 PM.
10 Must-Do Things at Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is known for inducing high amounts of pleasure and happiness from a single visit. The picturesque property is a nod to the movies, both old and new, with attractions, rides, and points of interest that will interest all ages. There is a lot of walking, so come prepared, but be prepared to have the time of your life.
Gen X and Baby Boomers are sure to remember Woody Woodpecker, and at this park, you can take a ride on his gentle, family-friendly Nuthouse Coaster. Moving forward a few years, enjoy the nostalgic Blues Brothers Show, then take a break for a delicious plate of spaghetti with meatballs from Louie’s Italian Restaurant, which also has pizza and salads, and doesn’t have an expensive price tag.
Two thrill rides you’ll want to be sure to make time for are Revenge of the Mummy and the TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3-D. The Mummy has a straight down drop and goes forward and backward, while Transformers is a simulator experience, but equally as exciting.
For those not into action rides, watch the Horror Make-Up Show, a comedy meets educational offering that really appeals to teens and tweens. See how special effects are done, what the characters look like after the creation, and the tricks of the trade through movie clips, demonstrations, and props.
Please Note: The show may feature pyrotechnics or gunfire, so be prepared.
Easily the things that make me love Universal Studios Florida the most are opportunities to meet SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek and Donkey, Scooby and Shaggy (sometimes the whole gang), and the Transformers. Meet and greets are the best!
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This was the first Harry Potter park in Orlando, and watching that fire-breathing dragon in Diagon Alley will always be a top draw for Potterheads. As will shopping for a wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop, buying Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans at Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop, and sorting through the Hogwartz logo clothing and uniforms at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions.
“It’s just like watching your favorite TV shows and movies IRL, except with the ultimate ride-y things like twists, turns and drops”.
Rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter include Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, a 3-D dark ride and simulator, and the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Station to Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure. Walk through the solid brick wall on Platform 9 ¾ and travel through the enchanting countryside to enjoy the best of both Harry Potter worlds.
You can’t come to anything Harry Potter related and not try a Butterbeer. This non-alcoholic beverage cosec in regular out of a tap or frozen, and the cart where you buy it is part of the fun. Don’t miss the full-scale replica of the Hogwarts Express train when you enter the land.
Fun Fact: You can see the inspiration behind the Hogswarts Express in Fort William of the Scottish Highlands. It is called the Jacobite Steam Train and travels over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where you can get the iconic photos.
Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon
The protocol to get to Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon is exactly like being a guest on the real show at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Having been to a live taping of the Jimmy Fallon Show, I was impressed by how realistic it is, even down to the TV clips. The ride queue takes a bit of time, but you will be entertained along the way.
High in the Sky with Seuss
Take a break from an invigorating day at the parks on the High in the Sky Seuss trolley train ride. This colorful, family-friendly ride slowly takes you around Seuss Landing while telling you a classic Dr. Seuss story.
Tip: You can take great photos of the park from this ride.
Experience Springfield: Home of The Simpsons
Fans of the Simpsons long-running TV show will be in heaven visiting the Springfield land at Universal. There are plenty of interesting things to see and do in that part of the park, but my favorite is devouring one of the enormous pink frosted donuts. Yummy!
Pro Tip: You might want to share it with a friend–it’s enormous.
Check Out Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
The Despicable Me attraction is a must-do at Universal Orlando; a thrill ride, simulator, and 3D/4D experience all rolled into one. See the mischief that Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes, and the Minions get into while enjoying the adorable show.
Note: This is an immersive attraction (think simulator), and the bench can be uncomfortable at times.
Ride the Reign of Kong 3D
Hop on the Lost Continent area’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong 3D bus ride for a thrilling, fun time that will leave you scratching your head as to how they did that! It is my favorite Universal ride. Don a pair of 3D glasses and depart on a journey full of surprises. I will leave you with only that as not to spoil the fun. Ride skull island reign of kong Brave the dangers of a mysterious island where few have dared to venture.
On your treacherous jungle expedition, prehistoric predators and vile creatures attack from all sides. Just as all seems lost, the most colossal ape ever to walk the Earth—King Kong—hurls himself between you and certain doom. Is he your hero or the ultimate foe?
Don’t Miss the Kid Areas
Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone is a fun area that is a stroll down Memory Lane for those my age, and a world of adventure for the age it was designed for. Take the opportunity to share with your kids who these beloved characters at this entertainment area with rides and load of fun stuff.
A few of the offerings include E.T. Adventure, Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Curious George Goes to Town, and SpongeBob StorePants, a themed gift shop.
5 Epic Places to Stay at Universal Studios Orlando
My most recent Universal Orlando stay was at the big bluish skyscraper, Aventura. From here, you’ll have views of the entire Universal Orlando Resort property, an onsite Starbucks, a beautiful pool, and a price that won’t break the bank.
Experience ultimate relaxation at the 13,000 square-foot Mandara Spa at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, complete with a steam room, hot tub, fitness room, and sauna. Indulge in the Elemis Pro-Collagen Age Defy Facial, or if you are feeling adventurous, try the Balinese Massage, great for circulation and to relieve tension.
Loews Royal Pacific
Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando is the luxury resort. The beautiful hotel combines a taste of the tropics with exquisite grounds and a bounty of exotic restaurants, even sushi. Our favorite part is the lagoon-style swimming pool, complete with sandy beach, in the midst of a lush landscape and delicious pool bar.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the blast from the past, moderately priced Universal resort with a vibrant retro vibe and a motor inn feel circa 1950s. The architecture alone is impressive and fun, making you feel like you’ve walked into the Brady Bunch era. Other points of interest are the lazy river, bowling alley, and . Nothing screams Old Florida like this family-friendly, fun resort. The Dial soap and vintage fixtures just make me smile.
Fun Fact: This hotel has a walking path to Volcano Bay.
Loews Sapphire Falls
One of the more popular Universal properties is Loew’s Sapphire Falls Resort. This place takes you to the tropics with magnificent waterfalls, beautiful blue water, a 16,000 sq-ft pool, and a plethora of photo-ops. The Caribbean-inspired food is a nice change of pace, while the 321-square-feet rooms are colorful and functional. Kids will love the poolside activities, arcade, and water slide.
Best of all, there is quick transportation via boat ride from this resort to the Universal theme parks and CityWalk.
3 Special Events You Won’t Want to Miss
Holidays at Universal are fantastic. Plan accordingly and be there for your favorite season, holiday, or event.
Book your VIP breakfast experience at Café La Bamba and meet your favorite characters from Go Diego Go, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Despicable Me. The seven hour experience includes priority entrance into a minimum of 10 attractions. Be sure to get your share of selfies (and bacon) at Universal’s Superstar Character Breakfast.
Halloween Horror Nights rw Attending Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is all that and a bag of chips. From the thrilling scare zones to the incredibly haunted houses (different levels of frights), you are guaranteed to have your adrenaline on overload as you work your way through the eerily decorated park. The park offers special foods, drinks, shows, and hours for this fright fest.
Universal Studios Orlando Details
Tickets to visit Universal Studios Orlando will run you about $109 per day, per park. A park-hopper pass runs $164 for adults and $5 less form children 3 to 9.
While the list of things to do at the Universal Orlando Resort is endless, you are guaranteed plenty of thrills, screams, laughs, smiles, gasps, and memories for the whole family at this beloved park.
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