The 12 Best Rides at Universal Orlando

  • 01 of 12

    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

    Harry Potter quidditch match
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    For many years, the Disney parks had a monopoly in North America on the spectacular E-Ticket rides that it pioneered. Universal, however, entered the fray and ended The Mouse's exclusive reign. By using animated characters, set design, stirring soundtracks, wild special effects, projected media, and other techniques inspired by Disney's Imagineers, as well as a few innovations it developed, the Universal parks have produced some stunning attractions.

    Some are so stunning, in fact, they not only compete with the rides found at Disney's parks, they actually surpass them (in my humble opinion, anyhow). Let's count down the 12 best rides at Universal Orlando. If you only have limited time to spend at the Florida resort, these are the ones that you should include on your itinerary. (And you might want to consider carving out at least a full two days at the resort to better experience all that it has to offer. To learn more about when to go, ticket deals, dining recommendations, and...MORE more, see my overview of Universal Orlando.)

    If you are planning a trip to Universal Orlando, here are some hotel resources:

    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

    OK, on to the best rides. Let's start with the number one best attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

    Location: Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure

    This is not only the best attraction at Universal Orlando, it is, in my estimation, at the top of the list of the best theme park rides in North America. When the first Wizarding World land opened in 2010, its rich detail and level of immersion caused jaws to drop and Potter fan's hearts to soar. The highlight of the land is this wild romp which includes a getaway through Hogwarts Castle, an airborne Quidditch match, alarmingly close encounters with Death Eaters, and more hairy Harry moments. The robotic ride vehicles are a breakthrough in attraction design. Read my review of The Forbidden Journey of Harry Potter.

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  • 02 of 12

    The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

    Amazing Adventures of Spiderman promo image
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Location: Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure

    When it debuted in 1999, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man's revolutionary roving motion base vehicles helped blur the line between virtual and reality to an astonishing (amazing?) degree. The hybrid attraction blends dark ride concepts, ridefilm-style 3-D projected scenes, 4-D movie elements, and other high-tech trickery to immerse passengers into Marvel's stylized comic book world. A 2012 update rendered the imagery in remarkable high-definition. Read my review of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

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  • 03 of 12

    Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts

    Gringotts dragon in the vaults
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Location: Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida

    The centerpiece of Universal Orlando's second Harry Potter land (which is even more immersive and extraordinary than the original Hogsmeade land), Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts sends riders on a journey alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione in one of the climactic scenes from the book and film series. It uses a tricked-out roller coaster train to take passengers deep into the subterranean Gringotts Bank vaults where dragons, Voldemort, and other menaces await. Read my review of Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts.

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  • 04 of 12

    Revenge of the Mummy

    Revenge of the Mummy promo image
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Location: Universal Studios Florida

    The "psychological thrill ride" combines both a dark ride with impressive animatronics and special effects and a kick-ass, launched roller coaster experience. It will have you screaming for your mommy. Read my spoiler-free review of Revenge of the Mummy.

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  • 05 of 12

    Transformers: The Ride 3D

    Transformers fighting
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Location: Universal Studios Florida

    Using the roving motion base ride system it developed for Spider-Man, Universal invites citizens to help the Autobots save the world (not to put too much pressure on guests). Instead of the comic book look used for the Marvel ride, Transformers employs the photo-realistic look of the Michael Bay movies. Befitting the series' giant robots, the characters depicted in the attraction are enormous. Among its clever features, the ride vehicles themselves are transformed robots. Read my review of Transformers: The Ride 3D.

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  • 06 of 12

    Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

    Grand Opening of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem At Universal Orlando
    ••• Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

    Location: Universal Studios Florida

    Channeling the cheeky, slapstick humor from the Despicable Me films, Minion Mayhem is funny and irreverent. It is the third attraction to be presented in the park's ridefilm theater. With its high-def resolution and engaging story, it is by far the best of the three. Read my review of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

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  • 07 of 12

    Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

    Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
    ••• Universal Orlando

    Location: New York at Universal Studios Florida

    The 4D motion simulator ride puts you in the driver seat as you race against the Tonight Show host through Times Square, under the East River, above the Statue of Liberty, and around other landmark locations in New York. It's a funny, engaging, and not-too-thrilling attraction. Before you ride, there are displays about  the Tonight Show to explore as well as opportunities to see Hashtag the Panda and other show features.  

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  • 08 of 12

    Men in Black Alien Attack

    Outside of the Men in Black Ride
    ••• Arthur Levine.

    Location: Universal Studios Florida

    Universal's interactive shoot-em-up ride recruits "scrubs" to take a test run with the Men in Black. When catastrophe strikes (as it nearly always does in theme park rides), the recruits are called into action to zap aliens. The '60s-era world's fair theme is evocative, the spinning ride vehicles make for a dizzy ride through New York City's streets, and the gameplay is a hoot. Read my review of Men in Black Alien Attack.

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  • 09 of 12

    Hogwarts Express

    Hogwarts Express promo image
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Location: Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure

    You can travel back and forth between London and the Scottish town of Hogsmeade just like Harry Potter aboard the Hogwarts Express. This isn't a mere means of transportation, however. It is an attraction itself with magical events occurring in passengers' berths as they make the journey. Read my full review of the Hogwarts Express.

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  • 10 of 12

    The Simpsons Ride

    The Simpsons Ride promo image
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Location: Universal Studios Florida

    The Simpsons Ride takes guests into the decidedly dangerous Krustyland theme park for a gag- and calamity-filled excursion. Retrofitted into the ridefilm building that formerly presented the Back to the Future attraction, it is thrilling. True to the beloved Simpsons, it is also wildly funny. Read my review of The Simpsons Ride.

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  • 11 of 12

    Terminator 2: 3D

    Terminator 2 3D promo image
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Location: Universal Studios Florida

    Although like its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is a bit long in the tooth (and Universal Studios Hollywood said "hasta la vista" to its counterpart at Florid'a sister park), Terminator 2: 3D is still a potent presentation and one of the best examples—if not the best—of a 3D movie attraction at a theme park. It combines live action, animatronics, in-theater effects, and an engaging film projected onto an enormous screen. Read my review of Terminator 2: 3D.

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  • 12 of 12

    The Incredible Hulk

    The Incredible Hulk coaster
    ••• Arthur Levine.

    Location: Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure

    Unlike most of the other entries on Universal's best ride list, The Incredible Hulk doesn't tell much of a story. (Although, it does feature a few seconds of expository mayhem in the "Gamma Force Accelerator" tube just before the ride takes off.) It's an inversion-filled, highly thrilling roller coaster that includes a unique and exhilarating launch.