A Guide to Universal Studios Rides and Attractions
By Dalia Colón
The options for rides and attractions at Universal Orlando Resort’s various parks — including Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay — are extensive.
“Universal is the king for multisensory rides,” said Jason Mayhew, owner/site administrator of OFF On The Go, a website that highlights fun things to do in Central Florida and beyond.
Indeed, it’s nearly impossible to define what constitutes a ride at these parks. Multisensory experiences abound at all three Universal Orlando theme parks, and the fun isn’t just for thrill-seekers.
“Universal sometimes gets a bad rep for only being fun for teenagers and older, but that’s just not true,” said Matt Roseboom, editor/publisher of Attractions Magazine. “They have a lot of fun attractions for kids. In fact, just about every area has something for the smaller ones to enjoy.”
Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or kid-friendly fun, here’s a breakdown of rides and attractions at Universal Studios and other parks at the Universal Orlando Resort.
Some of your favorite movies and TV shows come to life in this pop culture playground.
Best rides for thrill seekers and older kids:
● Revenge of the Mummy: Enjoy being wrapped in fear? Plunge into darkness as you attempt to escape the Mummy Imotep.
● Men in Black Alien Attack: Defend New York against intergalactic invaders as you zap aliens with your laser gun.
● The Simpsons Ride: This virtual reality roller coaster ride takes your imagination through Springfield and beyond, with cameos from Bart, Homer and the rest of the Springfield gang.
● Transformers: The Ride-3D: In this 3D/4D adventure, you’ll defend the planet against Megatron and his evil Decepticons, alongside Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
● Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts: Universal’s Diagon Alley brings the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to life. On this thrill ride, you’ll encounter Harry and his pals as you try to elude the evil Voldemort and Bellatrix.
Ideal rides for kids and the young at heart:
● Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl: Pilot a flying saucer as you navigate through an alien adventure in this Simpsons-themed ride.
● Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster: Tap into some family fun on this gentle roller coaster that older kids and parents can enjoy together.
● E.T. Adventure: No trip to Universal Orlando Resort would be complete without a ride on this classic attraction. Soar into the starry night as a you peddle a bicycle with the beloved alien riding in the basket.
● Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: Experience life as a minion with Gru and company in this light-hearted 3-D adventure.
But, as they say, there’s much, much more…
Come face-to-face with your favorite superheroes, cartoon characters and others in this enchanting theme park.
Best rides for thrill seekers and older kids:
● Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls: Hold onto your stomach and prepare to get wet as you embark on this fast flume ride that includes a 75-foot drop.
● Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges: Eat your spinach so you’ll be brave enough to ride the raging rapids as you help Popeye save his sweetheart, Olive Oyl, from an 18-foot octopus.
● The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man: 3D glasses are your ticket for adventure on this virtual-reality ride, which includes a simulated 400-foot freefall.
● The Incredible Hulk Coaster: You’ll need superhuman strength to endure this roaring roller coaster that sends you fast, faster and upside down.
● Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: In this 3D/4D adventure, you’ll explore the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and encounter magical creatures as you soar high above the castle grounds.
● Jurassic Park River Adventure: What starts as a relaxing water cruise soon turns into a harrowing journey that includes a rendezvous with a T. Rex and an 85-foot drop.
● Dr. Doom’s Fearfall: Once you’re trapped by the Marvel villain’s henchmen, you’ll be catapulted 85 feet into the sky and hurled back down to earth with head-spinning speed.
● Poseidon's Fury: In this live-action show, an archeologist guides you through the ruins of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
● Skull Island: Reign of Kong: You’re in for big thrills as prehistoric creatures attack your vehicle to remind you who’s king of the jungle.
● Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure: In this newest addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade, you’ll board a magical motorbike and fly into the Forbidden Forest, with Hagrid as your guide.
Ideal rides for kids and the young at heart:
● Hogwarts Express: Hogsmeade Station: Climb aboard this train to King’s Cross Station, where along the way you’ll encounter characters from the Harry Potter books and movies. You’ll arrive in London, just steps from the secret entryway to Diagon Alley. With a Park-to-Park admission ticket, you’re free to board at either King's Cross Station in London at Universal Studios Florida and travel to Hogsmeade Station in Universal's Islands of Adventure.
● Flight of the Hippogriff: Ride through Hagrid’s pumpkin patch on this family-friendly roller coaster in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
● Storm Force Acceleration: On this family-friendly spinning ride, help X-Men’s Professor Xavier and Storm harness enough thunder and lightning to ward off the evil Magneto. The faster you spin the steering wheel, the better chance you have of saving the planet.
● One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: Oh, the places you’ll go on this gentle Dr. Seuss-inspired ride. Maneuver your flying fish over the fountains, and watch out for squirting water.
● The Cat in the Hat: You can have lots of good fun that is funny as you ride a car through a life-sized version of the beloved Dr. Seuss book.
● Pteranodon Flyers: Your little ones will have a dino-mite time soaring beneath the 10-foot wings of a prehistoric flying reptile. Bonus: This gentle ride gives you a bird’s-eye view of the entire park.
● Caro-Seuss-el: The classic carousel gets a dose of Dr. Seuss magic, with characters who can blink, wiggle their eyes or turn the heads on your command.
● The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride: This elevated, slow-moving trolley includes a retelling of the Sneetches.
If water rides are your thing, then Universal’s newest paradise is sure to make a splash.
● Kopiko Wai Winding River: Take it easy in a tube on the lazy river as it meanders through Volcano Bay’s tropical surroundings. There are life jackets for small children and non-swimmers.
● ika Moana of the Honu ika Moana: Hold onto your five-passenger raft as it twists and turns over bubbling geysers.
● Ko’okiri Body Plunge: As the name implies, this ride is not for the faint of stomach. Participate in the ancient tradition of honoring the volcano God, Vol, by braving this 70-degree, 125-foot fall.
● Honu of the Honu ika Moana: If you have a need for speed, then hop onto a four-passenger raft and zip down this open-air flume.
● Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides: Grab your BFF and plunge together down side-by-side clear tubes before you’re reunited in the turquoise waters below.
● Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides: Keep your wits about you as you climb across the chasm and navigate the rope bridge before plunging into the blue waters below.
● TeAwa The Fearless River: Strap on a life vest and leave fear behind as you embark on this water slide full of fierce rapids and intense waves.
● Krakatau Aqua Coaster: You’ll be glad to have company on your four-person canoe as it ticks upward into the dark mist of the volcano before plummeting into a roaring waterfall.
● Waturi Beach: You’re in for more watery fun as you swim, splash or just relax in this lagoon at the foot of Universal’s iconic volcano.
● The Reef: Looking for some R&R? This leisure pool is the perfect place to cool off in peace.
● Punga Racers: It’s a slippery slope once you hop aboard a manta ray mat and race your companions through the underwater sea caves. First rider to the finish wins a celebratory spray of water, courtesy of the legendary hero Punga himself.
● Tonga of Taniwha Tubes: Hop into a tube and careen down one or both water slides, but watch out for tiki statues that spray water.
● Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides: Drop in for some fun on this thrilling water slide that twists and turns before letting you off four feet above a whirlpool.
● Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides: Hang onto your multi-person raft as it lunges into a dark, winding cave, sends you through a funnel and deposits you safely at the bottom.
● Raki of Taniwha Tubes: Ride one or both of these twisting twin water slides, but watch out for playful tiki statues that spray jets of water.
Ideal for kids and the young at heart:
● Tot Tiki Reef: If your little ones aren’t ready for raging rapids, they’ll enjoy this tot-sized splash pad that’s just their speed.
● Puka Uli Lagoon: This leisure pool is perfect for the entire family, with bongo drums, spraying jets of water and a great view of nearby water rides.
Tips for visiting Universal Orlando Resort
● Splurge on a Universal Express Pass for shorter wait times at most of your favorite rides and attractions.
● Better yet, stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel. You’ll get to enter the theme parks an hour before the general public, and guests at select hotels get free Universal Express Unlimited to Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. Mayhew advises heading to the Harry Potter attractions first, before the lines get too long.
● At Volcano Bay, you can use your waterproof TapuTapu band to hold your place in the Virtual Line for one attraction at a time.
● Ask if the ride you’re interested in has a single-rider line. “The single rider lines are usually much faster than the regular lines. You can always meet up after the ride and discuss your favorite parts,” Roseboom said.
● “Park hopper passes are needed in order to ride the train back and forward from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade,” Mayhew notes. “Without this ticket you cannot experience the train! Make sure you use those tickets.”
● Buy discounted tickets through Undercover Tourist.