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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