'Sup, vacation planners! Tad here. As the Frog Family's resident film fanatic, Universal Studios Florida is one of my favorite parks. You feel like you stepped onto the set of a blockbuster movie every time you enter a new area! The amount of detail that you see is absolutely frogtastic. Since I'm a frequent hopper at Universal Orlando Resort, I've been lucky enough to experience it all. With so much to do and see, it can be pretty easy to hop over a few of the lesser-known gems that are scattered around the park. So I'm hoppy to share our Universal Studios Florida hidden gems ... most of which are inspired by marvelous movies and brought to life by the experts at Universal. Whether you're a first-timer or a frequent park-goer, it’s always fun when you discover a brand new detail or place. So keep an eye out for these extra special spots, especially if you need a break from all of the simulation and multi-dimensional rides.
We have something here for every age, but many of these spots are especially good if you've got young tadpoles. The best part about our Universal Studios Florida hidden gems is that they all typically require little to no wait! So let's hop to it!
Top 5 Universal Studios Florida Hidden Gems
Universal Studios Florida Hidden Gem #1: Horror Make-Up Show
When I think of horror movies, I imagine cowering behind a blanket and screaming during scary scenes. However, the Horror Make-Up show always has our whole Frog Family croaking with laughter. The two hosts hilariously demonstrate some of the classic props and special effects used in horror films, such as fake knives in the “Dawn of the Dead” or latex masks from “An American Werewolf in London.” We made sure Lily knew beforehand that everything was only pretend (and the hosts reiterate this fact), but the fake blood and movie clips that are shown could still be a bit frightening for the tadpoles.
Arrive at the show 15 minutes early, so you can take a look in the recreated Pantages Theater’s lobby area where there are multiple displays with behind-the-scenes facts and props from classic and modern horror movies.
Universal Studios Florida Hidden Gem #2: London Waterfront
While you may be in a hurry to get to Diagon Alley, take some time to explore the charming facade that hides the magical marketplace. The London Waterfront may not be so "hidden" but we absolutely believe it's "underrated". Burgeoning wizards will love all the fun Harry Potter Easter eggs just waiting to be explored — like Kreacher the House Elf peaking out from the window of 12 Grimmauld Place every few moments and the phone booth where you can dial 62442 (MAGIC) to hear a message from the Ministry of Magic. Additionally, take some time to chat with the Knight Bus driver and the hilarious Dre Head and don't froget to head toward the bus' rear to take a look at the impressive interior!
Beyond the Wizarding World treasures, the architecture of the Waterfront truly shines — especially come sunset! The centerpiece of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (aka the "Eros Fountain") from Piccadilly Circus with the backdrop of Wyndham's Theatre from the West End make for absolutely stunning photo ops. Not to mention, the whole area gets beautifully lit up upon nightfall. All the jaw-dropping details will make you feel as if you've taken the Floo Network straight to The Big Smoke.
Universal Studios Florida Hidden Gem #3: Knockturn Alley
In the Wizarding World, Knockturn Alley is the dodgy shopping area off Diagon Alley frequented by dark wizards and witches. At Universal Studios, the entrance can be easy to miss if you’re not looking out for it ... which is why it's one of our Universal Studios Florida hidden gems. Next to the Leaky Cauldron, there’s a small sign on the black brick wall that points you down a dark winding passageway. It might feel like you’ve made a wrong turn, but keep going!
At the end of the path, you’ll come across Borgin and Burkes — a sinister shop infamous for its dark magical objects and artifacts — as well as singing shrunken heads, skeletons and secret spells to perform with your interactive wand. For die-hard Harry Potter fans, you don’t want to miss the Vanishing Cabinet inside Borgin and Burkes. You can even hear chirping inside from the bird that Draco Malfoy used as a test to figure out a way to sneak Death Eaters into Hogwarts.
Universal Studios Florida Hidden Gem #4: New York Buildings & Alleyways
The New York backlot offers plenty to explore, yet its detailed buildings and alleyways are largely overlooked. While I wouldn’t blame you for speeding through to beat the crowds at Diagon Alley, I’d recommend coming back during a break in the day and spending some time strolling through the New York streets. Take a peek in the windows of places like the pet store or the tailor shop. See if you can spot the Hudson Street Home for Girls sign — a reference to the orphanage from “Annie.” If you're a Halloween Horror Nights fan, try to find the office of one Boris Shuster, P.I. (the famed detective of HHN lore). You can even watch a street performance with shows such as “Sing It!” or the Blues Brothers. Grab a slice of pizza or a gelato float at Guido's take-out window and take in the electrifying atmosphere!
Universal Studios Florida Hidden Gem #5: Tributes to Retired Attractions
The park’s former attractions may be gone but are not forgotten. These old fan favorites, like Kongfrontation and Jaws, still have a special place in the park. Here are just a select few of these sneaky tributes!
While riding Revenge of the Mummy, keep a close eye out for a small King Kong statue in the treasure room on the left side. You’ll likely see it best when the guards pop up and the lights come on. In the display windows outside of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, there are a couple references to the retired Twister...Ride it Out attraction: a blue shirt that Bill Paxton wore in the pre-show videos and an ad for “Twister Cola.” As for Jaws, there are many Easter eggs scattered about — ranging from a record featured in the window of London’s Record Store (the record’s title refers to the “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow legged women” quote from the movie) to the iconic hanging shark statue, which can be found behind Chez Alcatraz in the San Francisco area.
What do you think of our Universal Studios Florida hidden gems? If you have some of your own (and would like to share your secrets), leave them in comments below!
Related: Guide to Height Requirements at Universal Orlando