By Lauren Tjaden
Step into the action of blockbuster movies and epic TV shows, brought to vivid life at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, a fanciful land populated by malevolent monsters, cute cartoon characters and classic super-heroes.
You can defend New York against intergalactic invaders when you climb aboard Men in Black Alien Attack, zapping aliens with your laser gun; soar into a gorgeous, starry night on the kid-friendly E.T. Adventure while you pedal a bicycle with the beloved alien tucked in the basket; and dare to try the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, a looming coaster with a musical twist, ranked by many theme-park insiders as the Universal Studios’ most exhilarating ride.
Here's where to discover what you need to know about Universal Studios Florida: the best rides and attractions, kid-friendly features, places to eat and stay, and tips to help you plan your trip...
You’ll enter this multi-dimensional thrill ride below a gargantuan dragon belching fire, venturing deep into the bowels of the earth as you traverse subterranean vaults where you'll stumble upon Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It’s not all goodness and light; you'll have to escape the fury of anti-heroes Voldemort, Bellatrix, trolls and other beasts that block you from a homecoming to Diagon Alley.
Gru’s has a scheme to make you into a minion on this giggle-worthy motion simulation adventure that the entire family can enjoy. When the plans go awry, you’re hurled into a memorable journey through his super villain laboratory.
On this high-speed thrill ride into total darkness, you should make sure you’re hanging on to the safety rail and not your buddy’s arm in order to avoid leaving fingernail marks. You’ll rampage forwards and back on the track as you flee the villainous Mummy Imhotep, finally rocketing into a black abyss down an unknown path.
Kids pilot their own flying saucer as they navigate through an alien adventure on this spinning, swooping, Simpsons-themed ride that comes complete with the warning, ‘Hang onto your lunch.’ While gyrating, they’ll attempt to fry animated, slimy-green alien fiends with lasers.
The action feels authentic on this virtual-reality roller coaster ride, where you smash and explode through Krustyland -- Krusty the Clown’s monumentally low-budget theme park -- in a yell-out loud adventure.
This small coaster delivers big smiles for kids, softly rolling and curving amid Woody's decidedly nutty nut factory, with all the fun of a classic coaster without the scary drops.
And There’s More!
Here are all of Universal Studios Florida’s rides and attractions.
SHOWS AND ENTERTAINMENT
See-it-to-believe it stunts! Parades! A horror makeup show! Universal Studios Florida boasts all of these and more. Check out these must-see and dos.
This brilliant show lights up select nights with a gala of songs, water and light that transports you into the movies. Thunderous dinosaurs from Jurassic World, high-octane cars from Fast & Furious, and the naughty capers of the Minions from Illumination's Despicable Me are all part of the celebration.
Live super-star athletes, cutting edge technology, risky stunts and mesmerizing special effects immerse you in the excitement of Jason Bourne’s world, clouding the distinction between stage and cinema in a hybrid, new form of entertainment.
A hoot for your whole menagerie, this 20-minute show stars skilled bird, cat and dog actors from movies and TV performing in a rollicking combination of videos, live skits and audience interactions.
This parade urges you to ‘break out the confetti and join the fun’ with SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora and Diego, Gru and the Minions as the roads of Universal Studios burst into color and action with sumptuously themed floats, spirited street performers and exciting music.
And there’s more!
KIDS PLAY AREAS AND CHARACTER ENCOUNTERS
Wee ones can meet a minion, a green giant and even a sharp-toothed dinosaur, as well as blow off steam in whimsical, themed play areas.
Adorable cartoon character Fievel Mousekewitz is the inspiration for this imaginative playground filled with oversized props from the films An American Tail and Fievel Goes West. You’ll see the world from Fievel's perspective, clambering up a 30-foot spider web, creeping through oversize tin cans and traversing rope bridges. You can investigate a humungous cowboy boot, make waves in a 1,000-gallon cowboy hat and shriek all the way down a curving 200-foot water slide.
Get up-close-and-personal with this gargantuan green ogre with the big heart, his furry, four-legged sidekick and the ever-stunning Princess Fiona.
And there’s more!
Here’s a list of all of Universal Studios Florida’s kids play areas and its character encounters.
At Universal Studios Florida, you can chow down on quick fare like Krusty Burgers and Lard Lad donuts, relax in a beer garden, enjoy a sit-down meal and yes—even find healthy offerings. Here are some favorites.
The Simpsons Fast Food Boulevard
Tacos and pizza and burgers, oh my! Everyone in your gang will find something to please them at this string of eateries that pay tribute to the The Simpsons television series. They include:
· Krusty Burger — Krusty the Clown’s burger dive is the ideal place (and also the only place) to feast on an authentic Heat Lamp Dog, Krusty Burger or Ribwich. For a gloriously decadent treat, try the Clogger Burger-- two humungous beef patties dripping with nacho cheese and special sauce and layered with bacon --accompanied by the bubbly coolness of a Buzz Cola.
· The Frying Dutchman — With a menu of shrimp, calamari and fish, Sea Captain Horatio MacAllister’s seafood counter boasts ‘if it can be hauled from the ocean and fried, it can be put on your plate.’ It promises a good change of pace from burgers and fries, with items like the ‘Basket o’ Bait, which is fresh-caught, hand-cut cod, coconut-crusted shrimp and fried calamari with a hushpuppy and homemade tartar sauce or cocktail sauce.
· Flaming Moe's — Sample the drinks available in Moe’s Tavern at this walk-up counter, including the signature Flaming Moe, a fizzing, citrusy, non-alcoholic potion.
· Luigi's Pizza — It’s long been whispered that this petite pizza parlor is a favored stomping ground for the mob, with ties to notorious Springfield outlaws like Fat Tony-- but don’t let it stop you from ordering one of its delectable, individual pizzas, which come in varieties that include meat-likers and meat-haters options.
· Lisa's Teahouse of Horror — Healthy eaters will rejoice at the choices available at this eatery, like its yummy veggie sandwich, which features guacamole, sprouts, tomatoes and roasted vegetables served on a freshly baked oat roll. The pre-packaged fare offered includes turkey wraps, hummus, fruit plates, fruit cups and yogurt.
· Cletus' Chicken Shack—Turns out Cletus, a southern hillbilly character from the Simpsons, is a wizard at frying chicken. Choose from the Double Batter Chicken Platter, Chicken Thumbs, and everyone’s favorite, the Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, which stars a double battered, extra crispy fried chicken breast nestled between two waffles and slathered with maple syrup mayo.
Raise a frosty glass of Homer’s beloved suds while you kick back in this beer garden, complete with ample seating, waterfront tables with umbrellas, and topiaries of the much-adored Seven Duffs: Tipsy, Queasy, Surly, Sleazy, Edgy, Dizzy, and Remorseful. The bar’s Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry beers are brewed by the Florida Beer Company in Melbourne, Florida, and are offered exclusively at Universal Studios Florida. Beer aficionados report that regular Duff is similar to Heineken, while Duff Lite tastes like Miller Lite and Duff Dry tastes like Guinness.
And There’s More!
Here are all of Universal Studios Florida dining and food options.
With almost 40 fantastical stores, it’s a good bet you’ll bring home more than memories from Universal Studios Florida.
Hello Kitty and her Sanrio friends take center stage in this shop, brimming with apparel, accessories, plush toys and souvenirs. The sweets treats are so adorable you’ll hesitate before eating them—for a second.
Hardly your average photobooth, the Dark Room invites you to step into the picture with your favorite Universal Orlando characters or into otherworldly landscapes, thanks to the green screens at two photobooths, which each offer four different, immersive backgrounds.
Themed perfectly – like everything else in Springfield: Home of the Simpsons -- the Kwik-E-Mart will keep you giggling with its sharp-witted humor and one-off products like Duff energy drinks, Lard Lad donuts and fake theme-park posters like the ones seen on The Simpsons Ride’s façade, including Captain Dinosaur’s Pirate Rip-Off. Remember to snap a picture with Milhouse on the bench in front of the building on your way out.
Witch and Wizard fashionistas get their threads at this fancifully appointed shop, where you can scoop up authentic replicas of Hermione's Yule Ball gown, Hogwarts uniforms, ties, scarves, sweaters, cardigans and jewelry. Make sure to cap off your outfit with a wizarding hat.
And there’s more!
TIPS, APPS AND MAPS
Find Your Path
Here’s where you can check out parking, directions, and addresses for Universal’s Theme Parks and Resort Hotels.
There’s an App for That
Here’s where you can get the Official Universal Orlando Resort App. It lets you buy and redeem select theme park tickets and Universal Express passes, see the latest wait times, access maps, find what’s open and which rides are offering the Virtual Line experience. Free WiFi throughout the parks and Universal CityWalk makes it simple to stay connected.
In the Know
The Discover Universal blog offers the latest park news, behind-the-scenes information, and insider tips for planning your vacation-- everything from where you can discover the coolest Simpson souvenirs to what you should know about the Haunting of Hill House at Halloween Horror Nights.
It’s Just the Ticket
You can buy tickets at UniversalOrlando.com
Stay to Play More
When you 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.
First Things First
Head to the Harry Potter attractions first, before the lines get too long.
Go it Alone
Ask if the ride you’re interested in has a single-rider line, which usually are much faster than the regular lines. You can meet up with your posse after the ride and dish on your favorite parts.
Park-to-park passes are needed in order to ride Hogwarts Express back and forth from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade; without this ticket you can’t experience the train.
Take a Pass
Complement your theme park admission with Universal Express access to skip the regular lines at most of your favorite rides and attractions, either one time per participating ride with Universal Express, or an unlimited number of times with Universal Express Unlimited. This time-saving goodie is included free when you stay at a Universal Premier category hotel.
Experience Universal Orlando Resort like the star you are with a VIP Experience guided tour, where a Universal Orlando expert will lead you through the most popular rides and attractions. This means you get exclusive backstage access, fun insider information, and priority access (translation: no lines) to the parks' most astonishing rides and attractions. In addition, you’ll receive an assortment of special benefits before, during and after your tour.
And There’s More!
Check out more vacation tips from Universal, including information about tickets, special deals on dining, what to bring and helpful hints for kids and families.
STAY THE NIGHT
Astonishing surroundings, striking themes, customer-dedicated service and exclusive theme park benefits make Universal Orlando Resort Hotels the perfect place to pull up the covers after a long-day of theme-park adventures. Here are some options.
Universal's Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites
With an easy, surfer-vibe and super-affordable rates, this resort boasts sunny, beach-inspired rooms and generous, two-bedroom suites that sleep six.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
For a glorious splurge and memorable escape, stay in this premier resort, inspired by the seaside enclave of Portofino, Italy. Expect decadent rooms and suites, fabulous views, alluring pools and remarkable restaurants.
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
This retro-style retreat is reminiscent of iconic Florida beach resorts of the 1950s and 60s, offering affordable rooms and suites. Two enormous pools, a meandering lazy river and a bowling alley will keep your whole gang smiling.
And there’s more!
Here are all of Universal Orlando Resort Hotels.
If you prefer to bring your accommodations with you, area RV parks abound.
For a Universal Orlando getaway, you can’t beat the location of this hidden gem, only 23 minutes from the resort. Set on 69 acres, it’s pet friendly and packed with amenities that include a pool, a café, shuffleboard, bocce ball, horseshoes, live entertainment, social events, and an on-site laundry. It also offers vacation cottages.
Sited 38 minutes from Universal, this 355-acre park offers camping, kayaking, a concession, picnic pavilions and a playground. But the undeniable star of the show is its free-flowing, deliciously cool natural spring, an ideal antidote for a scorching summer day. Even your little ones can wade, swim, or tube in the crystalline waters as they flow into Rock Springs Run. It offers only 26 campsites at an affordable $23 a night. Each site is spacious, private, and shaded, with a picnic table, fire ring with a grill and water and electric access. Pets aren’t allowed, with the exception of service animals.
And there’s more!
MORE UNIVERSAL FUN
6 Reasons to Visit Universal Orlando Resort
Universal CityWalk Orlando: The Epicenter of Awesome
Universal Orlando Resort Volcano Bay: A Tropical Oasis with Thrills and Chills
Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure: Epic Rides and Enchanted Escapades
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