'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 had 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: The Curious George Ball Factory
Tucked away in the back of Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, you’ll find the Curious George Goes to Town water playground. Since there aren’t any water rides in this park, it’s a great spot for anyone to cool down on a hot summer day. Lily loves squirting us with the water cannons!
But if you’d rather skip the splash pad, the tadpoles can still expend some energy in the two-story ball factory that’s well-hidden behind the main play area. Just follow the red footprints on the left (this path will keep you dry), and head through the plastic curtains to enter in front or walk up a ramp to enter on the second level. Once inside, you may be instantly bombarded by small foam balls launched from above. Bags are provided so that you can scoop up as many balls as possible. You can shoot them from blasters on the second level or suck them up with vacuum-like machines.
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.” You can even watch a street performance with shows such as “Sing It!” or the Blues Brothers. Lastly, there’s an opportunity to climb up a building’s fire escape ladder! The covert three-story rock climbing wall is between a narrow alleyway next to the Revenge of the Mummy. It does cost $10, though you get a second chance if you don’t make it to the top on your first try.
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 the 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 the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride, 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!