Best Rides at Universal Orlando
Universal Studios Orlando once housed only one entertainment park – Universal Studios Florida. Its second theme park, Islands of Adventure, along with the CityWalk entertainment district and Portofino Bay are a result of a massive expansion that took place back in 1999. After the addition of more entertainment venues, shops, rides, hotels, and a few future adventure attractions, Orlando Universal Studios is now considered to be one of the world’s best theme parks.
Are you planning your first vacation at Universal Studios? Not sure what to do at Universal Studios Orlando to make the most of your time? Universal Studios has a lot to offer. To make your stay unforgettable and worth all your hard-earned money, we’ve covered everything you need to know plus fun, fantastic tips and more below!
What Is There To Do At Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios Florida
Wondering what to do at Universal studios? Universal Studios Florida is only one of three theme parks at Universal Studios. This adventure movie-themed park comprises of seven unique attractions that exude film set vibes including the famous Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s King’s Cross Station and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. You can also choose from a long list of highlights including The Simpsons Ride, Revenge of the Mummy, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon, and TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3D – to name a few!
Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure is specifically tailored to the younger crowd, boasting attractions filled with magical creatures, superheroes, beasts, and cartoon characters. Enjoy themed rides such as Seussland, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade as well as Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the Hogwarts Express, the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster, and Doctor Doom’s Fearfall: Some of the best rides at Universal Orlando.
You can catch a photo op with your favorite comic book characters and visit themed shops including the Betty Boop Store, Ollivanders, Spider-Man Shop, and more! And lastly, if you feel like basking in the sun while you wait for the crowds to die down, you’ll enjoy a quick visit to a cabana in Volcano Bay resort.
Volcano Bay opened its gates for the first time back in 2016. It focuses on creating the island life experience, and boasts water park features that will surely make you feel like you’re on vacation in an exotic location when you ride it. The Krakatau Aqua Coaster and the man-made Waturi Beach Resort are just two of the best rides at Universal Orlando. To create a solid touring plan inside Volcano Bay, you can purchase the 1-Day Volcano Bay ticket to take advantage of all the fun attractions and enjoy a comfortable private cabana.
CityWalk is Universal Orlando’s entertainment district which you’ll pass by on the way to the Islands of Adventure. Here, you can eat, shop, just wander around, and enjoy the vibrant stores while people watching. What to do at Universal Studios Orlando? If you haven’t yet finalized your dining plan, make sure to check out the famous Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen for an extraordinary feast.
Other notable places for unique and excellent dining experiences include Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, Lone Palm Airport, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, and Hard Rock Café Orlando. You can also enjoy the thrill of the Blue Man Group show, shop at Universal Studios Store, and visit the Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company for that special tattoo.
Best Resort and Hotel At Universal Studios
Staying at a resort or hotel inside Universal Studios Orlando has two amazing perks. Aside from its convenient location, you’re also given the advantage of entering the parks an hour earlier than guests who bought general passes, and every guest in your room receives a Universal Express Unlimited Pass. Of course, staying at a Universal hotel or resort is not cheap. However, the fun and memorable benefits must be weighed against the overall cost of the visit.
Below are the hotels at Universal Studios:
Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort offers the lowest prices and is in the “Prime Value” category of Universal Studios. It is ideal for families and large groups on vacation because aside from its standard rooms, it also has family suites that are big enough to accommodate as many as six guests. Facilities include two large swimming pools, a fun water slide, bowling lanes, and a fitness center.
If you’re looking to get early admission to Harry Potter attractions such as the Hogsmeade and Escape from Gringotts ride, staying at Cabana Bay can help you have your ideal adventure. Remember though, it does not include the Universal Express pass used to skip wait times for an adventure ride. Furthermore, compared to other Loews hotels, it is considered to be the farthest hotel resort from the adventure park.
Royal Pacific Resort
The Loews Royal Pacific Resort is ideal for guests looking to stay at, have fun, and experience a nice vacation in a moderately luxurious hotel at a reasonable price. The lot is just a couple minutes walk to the parks and boasts a beautiful orchid garden. You’ll also enjoy their amazing on-site restaurant Islands Dining Room and their complimentary Universal Express to avoid the long lines to your favorite adventure ride and attraction lots.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel depicts a lovely Italian seaside town and is considered to be the most “Premier” resort hotel in all of Universal Studios Orlando. It is the farthest resort and, therefore, requires a long walk going to the main parks. If you plan on staying here, you have a choice of riding a water taxi to the resort or taking a leisurely stroll to the lot.
For guests who like to enjoy a quiet stay especially during Halloween Horror Nights, a visit to this hotel is the perfect option. You can still enjoy any adventure ride you’d like to visit in Volcano Bay but always come back to a peaceful and serene resort hotel. Compared to the other hotels, the Loews Portofino Bay is the most expensive, in part because of its on-site Italian restaurant and spa.
Hard Rock Hotel
Staying at the Hard Rock Hotel means you don’t only get to visit a fun rock n’ roll attraction, but also enjoy a deluxe “Premier” hotel resort that offers excellent service and superior rooms. The resort is a reasonably short walk to the main parks, and a single reservation comes with complimentary Universal Express passes for all guests to enjoy. As you’d expect, this resort may not be ideal for people who are not rock fans as the music can get loud.
Tips on How to Enjoy Universal Studios Orlando
Experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios is the only themed park of its kind, although there are also talks of constructing a more massive Harry Potter-themed park at Universal Studios Hollywood. Since most of its attractions are spaced a good distance apart from each other (Diagon Alley and Escape from Gringotts at Universal Studios, Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure), Harry Potter fans recommend exploring the Hogwarts Castle for a full day. That’s why staying at a Universal Studios hotel or resort may be a better option than getting a one-day FastPass.
Filling up your visit to Universal Studios with fantastic activities is never a problem since the Wizarding World alone offers lots of photo ops, rides, and dining experiences. However, make sure to plan well, since the wait for some attractions, especially for Escape from Gringotts, can run as long as several hours in busy times. For the true Harry Potter fan, you’ll notice that Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley’s restaurants and shops are exact reproductions from the movies which is really a thrill!
Enjoy a Roller Coaster Ride
There are many roller coaster rides to choose from at Universal Studios! The Incredible Hulk Coaster, for starters, is the best ride to choose if you are limited on time. Situated at the Islands of Adventure, the roller coaster runs at 67 mph and takes you through seven inversions in one go. Wow! One of Universal studios best rides.
Other great coaster rides are the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and the Mummy Coaster. Both are amazing, with the former accompanied by rock n’ roll music and the latter full of thrilling special effects. For guests who are easily scared or tend to get dizzy, but still want to experience a great coaster ride, the motion simulator Simpsons Ride is is one of the best rides at Universal Orlando for those who prefer a slower pace.
Buy Tickets in Advance
Long queues can always ruin any vacation plan, so if you don’t prepare ahead, you could miss some top attractions at Universal Studios. Buying Universal Orlando tickets in advance is highly recommended to avoid this problem. Guests can get a 1-day pass, annual pass, fast pass, and child swap tickets online or at the front gate of the park. If you’re lucky, you can even land yourself a Buy 2 Get 1 promo on your Universal Orlando tickets.
If you’re planning on visiting both the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade and Gringotts, you are going to need the Park-To-Park ticket. This pass gives you access to both parks and starts at $170 per day.
Arrive Early, Leave Late
If you’re going to visit a theme park and want to see all the popular attractions in one day, the most important thing you should remember is to arrive early. Some guests arrive 30-45 minutes before the park gates open and wait there until park attendants let them in. If you’re there before everybody else, you get to pick and ride a fun attraction without worrying about the queue.
That said, if you are limited on time, it is highly recommended that you plan to leave late. The crowd at all Universal Orlando Parks tend to slow down around 4 pm. That way, you get to experience the beach resort or other morning attractions and still get lesser wait times for rides.
Wear Good Walking Shoes
Universal Studios Orlando guests who stay at the Universal Resort have the benefit of being able to take a well-deserved rest in between activities. However, if you’re only planning to drop by for a day, make sure that you wear comfortable and reliable walking shoes. To fully experience the whole lot and everything that a theme park has to offer, you’ll be on your feet almost all the time. That’s because, unlike Disney parks, Universal Studios Orlando does not provide transportation inside the parks. Don’t forget to wear socks, too!
 TripSavvy; The Best of Universal Orlando, Arthur Levine, November 15, 2018.
 Get Away Today; The 5 Best Planning Tips for Universal Orlando, Lex Tingey, May 16, 2018.
 Paste Magazine; The 10 Best Attractions at Universal's Islands of Adventure, Garrett Martin, September 5, 2016.
 Family Vacation Critic; First Time Tips for Universal Orlando, Gina Vercesi, September 26, 2018.
 Undercover Tourist; 7 Things to Do at Universal Orlando Besides the Theme Parks, Leah Caraher, October 31, 2017.
 People; 5 Things Every Parent Should Know Before Going to Universal Orlando Resort, Kate Coyne August 20, 2018.
 Whispered Inspirations; 7 Reasons Why You Need to Stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort! , Nancy Polanco, March 6, 2017.
 The Points Guy; Passing Grade: Universal Studios Loews Royal Pacific Hotel.
 Play Party Time; 12 Amazing Reasons To Stay at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, August 15, 2017.
 The telegraph; Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, Hard Rock Hotel Orlando.
 Top Ten Travel List; Attraction of the Week: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, June 13th, 2018.
 Travel Pulse; 25 Best Rides at Universal Studios Orlando Theme Parks, Lauren Bowman, October 12, 2018.
 Insider, Everything you need to know before visiting Universal Orlando, Megan DuBois, Nov. 16, 2018.
 Reader's and Digest, 20 Secrets Amusement Parks Won’t Tell You About Saving Money and Avoiding Crowds, Michelle Crouch.
 Traveling Mom, Most Comfortable Walking Shoes for Theme Park Travel, Julie Bigboy, October 31, 2018.