If your family loves the movies, you will also love Universal Studios Florida, one of two theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort. This park brings you "behind the scenes, beyond the screen" to experience rides and attractions based on blockbuster films and TV shows from the NBC/Universal stable. (See map of Universal Studios Florida.)
Note to Harry Potter fans: The amazing, highly-themed Harry Potter areas span both theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter lies inside the Islands of Adventure park, while Diagon Alley is located in Universal Studios Florida, and you can travel between the two on the Hogwarts Express.
Top Rides and Attractions at Universal Studios Florida
In no particular order, here are the attractions you should put on your don't-miss list:
Love Harry Potter? The wildly popular Diagon Alley comes to life at Universal Studios Florida, where 'London' has been recreated in incredible detail. The highly immersive Diagon Alley features shops, dining experiences, and a marquee ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Just like in the Harry Potter books and films, you can travel aboard the Hogwarts Express from London to Hogsmeade, where you disembark at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure. (Note: This trip requires a dual-park ticket.)
Transformers: The Ride 3D
Minimum height: 40 inches
On this intense 3D attraction themed on the "Transformers" franchise, you are merely along for the ride in the incredibly immersive, larger-than-life battle to the finish between the Decepticons and the Autobots, fighting alongside Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Minimum height: 51 inches
Maximum height: 79 inches
If you love adrenaline-fueled roller coasters, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit may end up being your favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida. Orlando's tallest roller coaster starts with a flat-on-your-back journey straight up to the top before a lift-you-out-of-your-seat freefall and several exciting, "never been done" elements, including the world's first non-inverting loop.
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
This "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"-themed 3D ride is a fun and hilarious adventure that's also an homage to Fallon's adopted hometown of New York City. Before boarding the ride, you'll enter the fabled Studio 6B for a special taping in which Fallon challenges his studio audience to the ultimate race through the city that never sleeps. Then you’ll board the world’s first-ever flying theater for an exciting race alongside Jimmy Fallon through the streets of New York. You and your fellow studio audience members will zoom past iconic New York City landmarks in an action-packed race with plenty of twists and turns.
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
Minimum height:40 inches
Based on the blockbuster film “Despicable Me,” this rollicking ride immerses families in the world of Gru and his Minions. Universal has a lot of 4D motion simulation rides, where you don 3D glasses and sit in a car or room that tilts and shakes or tilts while you experience the attraction. This is one of the smoothest, so it's a particularly good bet for younger kids.
Revenge of the Mummy
Minimum height: 48 inches
Based on the "Mummy" films starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, this indoor dark roller coaster has a psychological thriller side that loosely follows the movie concept, bringing riders face to face with Imhotep the Mummy as he attempts to capture their souls for all eternity. You'll plunge in total darkness, plagued on all sides by giant fireballs, swarms of scarab beetles and an army of warrior mummies.
Minimum height:34 inches
This one is for nostalgia's sake. The only original Universal Studios ride that’s still open takes you to the fanciful world of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." This is a classic dark-but-unscary ride that is tame enough for little kids. Obviously, it is more enjoyable if you know the movie, which provides context when your bike-shaped vehicle takes off and flies over a town recreated in miniature below while casting shadows on the full moon.
Got little ones? E.T. Adventure is one of the very few Universal Studios Florida rides geared to younger kids. Our advice: If you have little kids and can only visit one of the Universal Orlando parks, choose Islands of Adventure, which offers more rides and attractions geared to the younger set.
This ride is located is in the Woody Woodpecker Kid Zone, which also offers Fievel's Playground, with tubes, slides, a giant spider web, and a water slide all scaled to little kids. You'll also find A Day in the Park with Barney; Curious George Goes to Town; and the Animal Actors on Location live show.
Tips for Visiting Universal Studios Florida
- if possible stay at an on-site hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, which will give you nice digs plus the best front-of-the-line ride access. Each of the resorts has a fantastic pool and free water-taxi shuttles to the theme parks.
- be aware that some rides have minimum heights for kids.
- if you want to visit Islands of Adventure or ride the Hogwarts Express, you'll need dual-park passes.
- Universal Studios Florida offers major seasonal fun at different times of year. The most popular event, Halloween Horror Nights, takes place in September and October and requires a separate ticket.
- Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher