Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Studios Orlando - Main Entrance GlobeUniversal opened the first theme park in Orlando June of 1990. They quickly expanded the resort to include two theme parks, a water park, a shopping district, and several hotels.

The resort immerses visitors into movie and TV themes with rides, exhibits, and shows.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the latest addition, and it spans the two theme parks. To enjoy everything Harry Potter, you can have to buy passes that cover both parks. 

Universal Studios

Universal Orlando - Hollywood - Wikimedia by EliedionUniversal Studios Orlando is the first universal park to open in Florida and has many of the traditional rides similar to the park in Hollywood. The main difference is that this park is much larger, with more rides and attractions.

The park has eight distinct areas surrounding a large lagoon but does not have a studio tour. Instead, some of the attractions from the Hollywood tour are stand-alone rides in this park.

There are so many rides and shows to pick from, It is hard to decide where to go and what to do. To help, the Universal website offers several ways to filter the attractions. You can find your favorites by height requirements, areas, or interests. Go here to find your thrills.

Some of my favorite rides and shows are Shrek 4D at Production Central, Revenge of the Mummy at New York City, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Diagon Alley, and Men in Black: Alien Attack at World Expo.

Families with younger children can find many attractions at Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone.

The see the full list of attractions go to the main story about Universal Studios Florida here.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Go on a journey of exploration and adventure through uniquely themed islands. Visit places Universal Islands of adventure Incredible Hulklike “Marvel Super Hero Islands”, Jurassic Park”, or “Skull Island’ for rides and shows - and spend time at the other half of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.

The two halves of the Wizarding World are connected via the Hogwarts Express, which in itself is an attraction.

While visiting this newest expansion to the Universal parks, you must go on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride through Hogwarts Castle and try the newest ride, the “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure”.

Other islands at the park are Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. Some of the most thrilling rides and shows on those islands are “The Incredible Hulk Coaster”, “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”, “Jurassic Park River Adventure”, and “Poseidon's Fury”.

Read more about Islands of Adventure here.

City Walk

Universal Orlando - CitywalkLike its sister in Hollywood, the City Walk is a long entrance plaza for the Universal Resort parks with lots of entertainment, dining and shopping choices.

It is hard to resist browsing through the shops on your way in or out of the parks. It is also a good place to have your main meal outside of the parks.

If you live close by or taking an extended vacation here, you can spend a day at the Citywalk without paying for park entrance.

For entertainment, you can enjoy a meal while listening to dueling pianos at Pat O’Brien’s, and you can spend some time at the Groove for a drink and dance, or watch the latest movies at Cinemark theaters.

For a delicious meal, go to Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar, Hard Rock Café, or Margaritaville. You also have a choice of fast-food and snack shops.

Finally, for epic shows don’t miss the Blueman Group or Bob Marley–A Tribute to Freedom.

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Universal Islands of Adventure

Universal Islands of adventure - EntranceGo on a journey of exploration and adventure through uniquely themed islands.  Visit places like “Marvel Super Hero Islands”, Jurassic Park”, or “Skull Island’ for rides and shows - and spend time at the other half of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.

The two halves of the Wizarding World are connected via the Hogwarts Express, which in itself is an attraction.

While visiting this newest expansion to the Universal parks, you must go on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride through Hogwarts Castle and try the newest ride, the “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure”.

Other islands are Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. Some of the most thrilling rides and shows on those islands are “The Incredible Hulk Coaster”, “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”, “Jurassic Park River Adventure”, and “Poseidon's Fury”.

You don’t have to visit the islands in any specific order – except for their vicinity from each other – but if you have a 2-park ticket, you should make the Wizarding World your last island so you can hop on the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios.

Marvel Super Hero Island

Enter the world of comic books and superheroes and enjoy four thrill rides. This island was Marvel Super Hero Island - from universal pressdesigned to resemble comic book buildings with sharp angles, loud colors and Marvel characters roaming the streets.

This island is designed for thrillseekers. All the rides here are extreme so be prepared to be thrown about, spun and dropped.  

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

The spiderman ride is a 3D motion simulation dark ride. The ride takes you to New York City on an adventure to save the Statue of Liberty.

The Incredible Hulk

Universal Islands of adventure - Incredible HulkThis rollercoaster is not for the faint of heart. Join the hulk in the Gama Ray accelerator to be launched at an incredible speed.

Be ready to reach 40 mph in two seconds and then speed up to a top speed of 67 mph. From then on experience freefall drops, sharp turns, and seven inversions. 

Although the lines are some times too long, riders are kept busy while going through Dr. Bruce Banner’s lab and by the screens retelling the story of the Hulk. 

Doctor Doom's Fearfall

A typical freefall drop ride with a movie theme. Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four movie uses the audience’s fear to defeat the Fantastic Four. Not a very original plot, but for thrillseekers, the drop is enough.

Storm Force Accelatron

Another teacup ride in which riders can control the spin of the cup. The more you spin the more you help the X-Men defeat Magneto.

Toon Lagoon

You can find plenty of wet fun for all ages on this island. Riders can go on a log-ride, river rafting or shoot each other with water canons.

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls

The log-ride takes passengers through several “caves” and a few short drops before reaching the final 75-foot drop that ends with a big splash.

Riders are guaranteed to get wet, but if they escape this fate, some evil spectators may get them with nine hoses. Believe it or not, people pay to use those hoses on the riders.

Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

Ride a big raft through white-waters with a lot of twists, turns, and dips. This is not as exciting as the “Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls” ride, but still fun for the whole family - and you will get wet.

Me Ship, the Olive

This is a wet play area for young children built around Popey’s ship. Three levels of the boat offer lots of fun and opportunities to soak each other. From that vantage point, visitors can aim nine water hoses at riders on the Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls ride.

Skull Island

Skull Island is home to the newest attraction, “Skull Island: Reign of Kong”.Universal Islands of adventure - Skull Idland - Wikipedia by Paulo Guereta

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Based on the 2005 movie “King Kong”, the ride takes visitors on a dangerous adventure to skull island.

Be prepared to encounter all kinds of prehistoric animals and be chased by vicious dinosaurs and then get saved by King Kong. The moving safari vehicles and 3D effects will make you feel part of the action. 

Jurassic Park

Step into Jurassic park (from the movie series), and go exploring the era of the dinosaurs. This island has three main attractions and lots of exhibits, shops, and dining options.

Jurassic Park River Adventure

Universal Islands of adventure - Jurassic Park - Wikipedia by Little Mountain5This ride is one of the most thrilling attractions I was ever on. It starts with a deceptively tranquil Jurassic habitat with life-size animatronic dinosaurs.

The raft you are riding gets attacked by parasaurolophus which diverts the raft from its intended course into the Raptor containment area. You will know that your tranquility is over when you pass by destroyed vehicles, damaged electric fences, and a Dilophosaurus eating the remains of a poncho. Then, the raft goes into a series of mishaps Universal Jurrasic Park Discovery Centerand dinosaur attacks culminating in an 85-ft plunge into the water.

If you didn’t already get wet while dinosaurs and waterfalls try to get you on the way, you are guaranteed to get wet at the end of the ride.  

Jurrasic Visitors Center

After your Jurrasic rides, visit the archaeological center to discover dino fossils, gaze at huge reconstructed T-Rex skeletons or play the Jurrasic trivia game.

Pteranodon Flyers

A slow roller coaster with suspended two-seater cars. The cars are pulled up a hill and then go on a leisurely spin around Jurrasic Park.

Camp Jurassic

This children’s play area is centered around a massive Banyan tree. Kids can have fun on the slides, nets, water cannons and fountains.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

Universal Islands of adventure -Wizarding World Entrance - Wikipedia by AlfredA_SiThe Wizarding World is split into two areas between two parks. The two halves are connected via the Hogwarts Express, which in itself is an attraction.

While visiting this newest expansion to the Universal parks, you must go on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride through Hogwarts Castle and try the newest ride, the “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure”.

At night a spectacular special effects show is projected on the castle walls celebrating the house spirit with music and laser lights. The first show of the night gets very crowded. You can avoid the crowds by going to the last 2 shows instead.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Universal Islands of adventure - Potter Fly - WikipediaSoar over Hogwarts Castle on your magic broom with Harry and friends and try to evade dragons, giant spiders, and spirits. Join a game of Quidditch and fight Dementors before you are guided back to safety by the young wizards. 

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Take a fast ride on Hagrid’s motorbike through the forbidden forest and come face-to-face with the magical creatures.

The roller coaster ride travels up to 50 mph and passes by Fluffy the three-headed dog, Cornish pixies, Devil's Snare, a Centaur from the Harry Potter movies.

The motorbikes have speakers that provide sound effects and the storyline.

Other attractions

This half of the Wizarding World also has “Flight of the Hippogriff”, a roller coaster for a younger audience – Ollivanders, where you can buy your perfect Wand – and the Hogwarts Express, a train ride between the two sides of the Wizarding World.

Hogwarts Express

Universal Islands of adventure - Hogsmeade ExpressThe Wizarding World was smartly split up between the two parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. To see both sides, you will need to buy a ticket for two parks and you will probably take the train between the two parks.

The train ride itself is an experience. The windows simulate going from the magical castle to London, and the cabin doors show reflects of the Harry Potter gang running around and preparing for some mischief.

The videos played on the windows change depending on the destination. You will see different scenery and storyline when coming from King’s Cross station.

The Lost Continent

Universal Islands of adventure - Lost continentThe lost continent take the visitors to ancient mythical times with a visit to old Arabia and the lost city of Atlantis. The main attractions here are Poseidon's Fury, an undersea adventure, and The Mystic Fountain that entertains and interacts with guests.

Poseidon's Fury

Take a trip under the sea with an archeologist, discover the hidden treasures and witness a battle between the gods.

The undersea chamber comes alive with fireballs, laser flashes, and water spouts coming at you from all directions. The chamber quakes and falls apart while you are trying to escape with the help of Poseidon.

Dining

The lost content is home to Mythos, a full-service restaurant with an ancient theme. In keeping with the lost content theme, the place feels like a cave in a lost city with a cascading waterfall.

Mythos offers a mix of American, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisine. You can find items like Greek salad, pad Thai, wraps, burgers, or Pan Roasted Wild Salmon.

Sitting indoors you can admire the lost continent theme, but the outdoor seating has a grand view of the inland sea (the large lake in the middle).

Seuss LandingUniversal Seuss Landing - wikipedia by David Bjorgen

This island is themed after the famous Dr. Seuss children books. It has 3 rides, a stage show, and an interactive play zone – all geared towards younger kids.

“If I Ran the Zoo” is the play area where kids can spend their energy riding a wacky cow, sliding down tunnels, or getting each other wet. 

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Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Orlando - Main Entrance GlobeUniversal Studios Orlando is the first universal park to open in Florida and has many of the traditional rides similar to the park in Hollywood. The main difference is that this park is much larger, with more rides and attractions.

The park has eight distinct areas surrounding a large lake but does not have a studio tour. Instead, some of the attractions from the Hollywood tour are stand-alone rides in the park.

There are so many rides and shows to pick from; It is hard to decide where to go and what to do. To help with your choices, the Universal website offers several ways to filter the attractions. You can find your favorites by heigh requirements, areas, or interests. Go here to find your thrills.

The parks areas, going clockwise around the lake, are:

Production Central

As one of the main entry points into the park, you will find lots of dining options and shops along with two main rides, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (4D) and Shrek 4D - both are motion simulator rides – and a music-themed roller coaster.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Universal Studios Orlando - Minions - Flickr by Jeremy ThompsonDespicable me ride is based on the popular animation movies and takes the rider into a 3D simulation. The riders are transformed into minions and then undergo extensive training. The training involves being tossed around, sprayed with water cannons, hit with giant fly swats. If you survive the training and avoid becoming a minion, you get to join a dance party before you exit the ride.  

Shrek 4D

The fourth dimension is motion. So grab your 3D goggles and help Shrek and Donkey to Universal Studios Orlando - Shrek4D - Wikimedia by Freddosave princess Fiona from the spirit of Lord Farquaad.

You are immersed in the action through the motion seats that tilt, vibrate, and drop down – and with unexpected effects like water sprays and foot ticklers that make you feel spiders crawling on you.  

For people who are sensitive to motion, fixed seats are available.

New York City

Walking through this area, you must try the “Revenge of the Mummy” and “Transformers: The Ride 3D”. Both are immersive rides that take you into the movies. Another fun ride is “Race Through New York”. You can also find Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's here.

Revenge of the Mummy

nullAs with all the rides at the lower lot, this is not your average rollercoaster. The ride will start with an accelerated and sudden takeoff taking you through tombs and treasures while you are getting attacked by scarab beetles and worrier mummies - all while you are twisting and turning, rising and falling through a maze of caves.

Cinematic special effects and bursts of air at the right time and place make this experience even more thrilling and creepy.

Just when you think you survived the experience, everything starts over – in reverse.

Transformers: The Ride-3D

null This is the newest attraction at Universal. The ride is a fusion of HD 3D imaging, motion simulation and vehicles moving on a track to achieve a high level of realism.

When you first get into the ride, it is obvious to you that you are entering a simulator. But you will soon forget that fact and become immersed in the non-stop action. YourAutobott (EVAC) will take you from one intense battle to another while actually moving between streets and buildings. You will actually feel like you are flying next to Optimus Prime or the Devastator or crashing through buildings. You will basically join the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons and help in achieving the final victory over Megatron.

This ride was so exhilarating and realistic, I am left wondering how great it would be to watch a full-length movie using this technology.

San Francisco

In this area, take a ride through the “Fast & Furious: Supercharged”, which is based on Universal Studios - Fast and Furious - Flickr by Prayitnopopular movie series. It is similar to the Hollywood ride – which is part of the Studio Tour - except with no 3D effects.

Fast & Furious: Supercharged

After a long pre-show explaining the storyline, guests board the bus and start on highspeed chase with cars crashing. The ride is underwhelming. If you have witnessed the Hollywood version with 3D, then skip this ride.       

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley/London

Universal Studios - Diagon Alley - Wikipedia by osseousBrowse through the streets of London, and if you are lucky, you can find the secret entrance to Diagon Alley where you will discover the world of Harry Potter.

The ally has many shops catering to aspiring wizards and a restaurant. It is also home to “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” ride. A dark rollercoaster ride into the deep vaults of the Gringotts.

Universal Studios - Escape from Gringotts Bank receptionIf you want to experience more magic, you will need to ride the Hogwarts Express into Islands of Adventure, which is a separate Universal theme park. Once at the other half of the wizarding world, you can gaze at the commanding Hogwarts castle and enjoy more rides, shops, and restaurants.

Diagon Alley

Diagon alley is an experience on its own. Just like the young Harry Potter was amazed the first time he stumbled into it, I was thrilled and amazed with all the magic and merchandise around me. The fire breathing dragon was a nice surprise too.

And just like the young wizard, you can be fitted with your own wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop or get your official wizard’s robe.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Join Harry Potter and friends in trying to infiltrate Gringotts Bank to retrieve a Horcrux during Universal Studios - Escape from Gringotts - Wikipedia by Eliediontheir mission to defeat Lord Voldemort.

This roller coaster dark ride takes you and the wizards deep into the bank vaults. The ride is enhanced with 3D movie scenes and special effects.

At some point, the tracks are cut, and the cart careens down a steep drop. As if that is enough, the cart is dropped into a lava-filled chamber deep in the vaults. In the end, the wizards are victorious as they leave the vaults with the Horcrux.  

World Expo/Springfield

World Expo is a weird mix of attractions and dining experience with no central theme. Here you can find the “Men in Black: Alien Attack” and “The Simpsons Ride” side by side, along with the “Fear Factor” live show.

Men in Black: Alien Attack

Universal Studios - MIB - Flickr by Jeremy ThompsonA drank interactive ride based on the Men in Black movies. Riders get to shoot aliens with laser guns, but even before you board your car, you are immersed in the movie plot.

During the pre-show you will be recruited to join the MIB team then you will plunge into the depths of the earth to the underground HQ passing by all kinds of aliens.

Once you pass your initial training with the lasers you are sent right into the action in New York. Your goal is to kill the most aliens and rack up the points. At the end of the ride you get to know your team’s score – but no prize for the winner.

The Simpsons Ride

nullThe fun starts while you are waiting in line and in the staging area. You are supposed to be visiting Krustyland for a fun-filled day with the Simpson family. While you are waiting for your ride to start, the villain Sideshow Bob appears and takes over the park and causes all kinds of destruction and mayhem – and you are caught in the middle.

The big HD dome screens and the motion simulators make your ride on the extreme rollercoaster seem very realistic. And, of course, you can’t watch a Simpsons movie without coming across giant baby Maggie - “Walking” through Springfield. Just when you think you and the Simpsons are safe at their home all hell breaks loose again.

Fear Factor Live

Universal Studios - Fear Factor Live - Wikipedia by ZappaOMaticA live stunt show in which you can be the contestant. Do you dare be a victim (I mean volunteer)? You will either hang from rope, retrieve beanbags from an aquarium full of "carnivorous eels", or grab flags from a window sill through air cannons and sprinklers. If you survive till the end, you get to launch a rocket at a target.

Fast Food Boulevard

This casual dining area present foods you can’t find anywhere else in the park with a theme straight out of the Simpsons. You can find places like Krusty Burger, The Frying Dutchman, Flaming Moe's, Cletus' Chicken Shack, Luigi's Pizza, and Lisa's Teahouse of Horror.Universal Studios - Curious George - Wikimedia by Eliedion

Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone

The kid zone is a great place to spend some time with younger children. “Curious George Goes to Town” is a play area where kids can have fun with water and balls. The “Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster” is an easy rollercoaster for smaller visitors. Saving the best for last, ride on your bike and fly above town to help ET go home – at the “E.T. Adventure” ride.

E.T. Adventure

Universal Studios - E.T. - Flickr by Sam HowzitRide on a bike and fly over town to take ET to his spaceship. But this time you will fly through a portal to ET’s planet where you discover the planet is dying. ET saves the day with his healing touch and everyone celebrates.

Before this exciting ride you pass through a sound-stage where the producers discuss how the film was made, you will then pass through a forest and hear police and NASA discussing the need to capture ET.

Hollywood

Stroll through the streets of vintage Hollywood and admire the classic buildings. Venture into the gift shops or learn how make is designed and applied for horror movies.

Universal's Horror Make-Up Show

Universal Studios - Horror Make Up Show - Wikipedia by JoopjrHow do they make those horror movies look so real? It takes a great makeup artist. This show starts with the co-host showing up with a knife through his heart. After his dying agony, it is revealed that the knife is fake.

The show then continues with various gruesome displays of fake props and makeup tricks. Someone from the audience is always picked to peform some task.

The highlight of the show is the use of a motion capture vest to control an animatronic dummy.

Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration at the Lagoon

Universal Studios - Cinematic Celebration - from Universal press relationsWhat a great way to end the day at Universal Studios. This huge production of mist, fountains,  pyrotechnics, and music is a celebration of everything Universal.

The 20-minutes of excitement starts with clips from Jurassic World, Fast & Furious, E.T. and runs through popular animations like Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon.

Harry Potter and friends have to make an appearance to try and defeat Voldemort again – then the minions bring this celebration to an end.

Dining

Finding a good meal at Universal parks is actually easy. There are a lot of restaurants from fast-food stands to lovely sit-down places. We had a delicious meal at an Irish Pub called “Finnegan's Bar & Grill”. We also had large pretzels for a snack.

Universal Studios - Finnegans Bar and Grill - Guinness Beef StewFinnegan's Bar & Grill

If you haven’t been to an Irish pub, this is your chance to try a god one. This restaurant serves traditional Irish cuisine along with some American favorite with a live band. Very upbeat atmosphere and great food.

We ordered the Potato & Onion Webb for starters, Guinness Beef Stew, and the Shepherd's Pie. All were delicious.

The prices were high, but that is always expected inside a theme park.   

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