Since it first opened back in 1990, Universal Studios Florida has thrown movie lovers right into the action of their favorite stories. From the streets of Hollywood and New York where showbiz lives and breathes, to the fictional lands of Diagon Alley and Springfield where beloved characters come to life, there's so much to see and do during a day (or half-day) at this park. Lucky for you, we've rolled out the red carpet and compiled the ultimate list of all the things you cannot miss while you're here. Hope you're ready for your close-up!
(SETTING THE SCENE: Ext. Universal Arches — DAY) You pass under the golden archway and hear those iconic scores from some of Hollywood's most beloved films. A team member scans your ticket and you supply your fingerprint. You pass through the turnstiles and prepare for a day filled with hair-raising thrills and marvelous movie magic. The only question is, "Where to first?" Aaaaaand ... ACTION!
OK, so while there, unfortunately, isn't a script to help guide you through a "perfect day" at Universal Studios Florida, this blog post might just be the next best thing. Universal Studios was Universal Orlando Resort's first theme park and has been transporting frogs through the silver screen and behind the scenes of their favorite films for over 30 years! From natural disasters to Nicktoons, from gorillas to ghosts, and from Terminators to time machines, a lot of memorable attractions have come and gone from this park, but one thing has remained the same: The ability to "ride the movies." However, while the attractions may be the headliners here, there's so much more to Universal Studios Florida that you absolutely cannot miss out on during your visit and we've compiled every must-try attraction, experience and food and drink item right here. So, once again, without further ado ... LIGHTS ... CAMERA ...
Not-to-Miss Universal Studios Florida Rides for Kids and Their Parents
Hogwarts Express - King's Cross Station in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
Harry Potter fans know its a rite of passage for Hogwarts students to dash through a solid brick wall onto Platform 9 3/4. Well, frogs with a Park-to-Park ticket can do just that at King's Cross Station located on the picturesque London Waterfront. Board the iconic Hogwarts Express and travel to the famed School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in complete comfort. On your journey from the outskirts of London to the Highlands of Scotland, you'll pass by the menacing Malfoy Manor and the merpeople-filled Black Lake. You'll also see Hedwig delivering a very important letter, Hagrid on his motorbike and a famous flying blue car. Anything can hoppen on the Hogwarts Express, though. Beware. Dementors may be lurking ...
E.T. Adventure in Woody Woodpecker's KidZone
"Welcome home! You've arrived!" As the park's sole remaining ride from its opening day back in 1990, E.T. Adventure is a must-do for frogs of all ages. Board a flying bike, evade the authorities and blast off into outer space as you help E.T. save his dying home planet. This ride is slow enough for tadpoles still getting their theme park legs and a wonderful dose of nostalgia for parents who remember watching the dressing-up, Reese's-loving alien when they were growing up. Be sure to give your name to the team member while you're in line. A special surprise awaits you at the end of the ride!
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem in Production Central
Have you ever wanted to become a Minion? Well, here's your chance! Gru has recruited you to be one of his new goggle and overall-wearing assistants and to help him enact his next great scheme. However, when his daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes take charge of your training, things don't really go as planned ... so strap in and hold on! This motion simulator is about to launch you into an unfrogettable trip through Gru's laboratory. Did someone say "banana"?!? (The motion on this ride is fairly smooth, but there is stationary seating available for tadpoles under 40 inches or frogs who might feel a little green upon their yellow transformation.)
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon in New York
On your mark! Get set! Go! It's you versus Jimmy Fallon in a high-speed, fun-filled race through New York City. Put your pedal to the metal as you drive through Times Square, into subway tunnels, over skyscrapers, into the East River and even on the moon! You'll even pass some familiar faces, including the Ragtime Gals, Sara and her stepdad, Gary, "Tight Pants" guy, The Roots and Hashtag the Panda. While this might sound like more of a thrill ride, it's actually a very tame motion simulator that frogs of all ages are sure to love. Now, hop aboard the Tonight Rider. You've got a race to win!
Springfield, U.S.A. Rides
Springfield, U.S.A. is not only home to America's favorite family, The Simpsons, but two equally enjoyable rides. The littlest tadpoles will love swooping up and down on Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl, an aerial carousel-style ride that puts you in control. Pilot your very own flying saucer and aim your laser at the unsuspecting citizens of Springfield. Taller tadpoles can come on down to Krustyland, the thrilling (and not at all sinister) theme park owned by the infamous Krusty the Clown. Join the Simpson family as they test-ride the park's new roller coaster. However, things go sideways when the evil Sideshow Bob takes control ... The Simpsons Ride is an over-the-top, non-stop exhilarating motion simulator tadpoles and frogs alike are sure to get a kick out of. If you have prior experience with motion sickness, you might want to sit this one out, though. You don't want those Bumblebee Man tacos coming back up ...
Not-to-Miss Universal Studios Florida Rides for Thrill Lovers
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit in Production Central
If you're looking for thrills, look no further. You're the star of your very own music video in this rip-roaring, open-air roller coaster. Hold on tight because this ride begins with a 90-degree angle climb up a lift hill and immediately sends you falling down a 167-foot ferocious drop. Reaching top speeds of 65 mph, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit never actually inverts but it does feature an onboard stereo system that allows you to choose a song to rock out to during your ride. (My go-to is "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven.) You got this, rockstar! Hasta!
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
Join Blordak the goblin and Bill Weasley as you make your way nine miles underground to the brand-new vaults below Gringotts Wizarding Bank. However, your trip is, well, derailed (for lack of a better word), when Bellatrix suspects you of breaking into her vault. (If you've seen "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," you know who it really was.) This multi-dimensional, multi-sensory 3D track-based ride is half-simulator, half-roller coaster, all-magical mayhem. You'll come face-to-face with He Who Must Not Be Named, Nagini the snake, trolls, a dragon and more on this thrilling and winding adventure through Gringotts' subterranean vaults. No need to be alarmed, though. After all, it's the safest place on earth, right?
TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D in Production Central
If you're a fan of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, this might just be your new favorite ride in this park. It takes all the aspects you love about the Marvel Super Hero Island ride and amps it up to 11. The evil Decepticons and their ruthless leader, Megatron, seek to take control of the AllSpark and enslave human- (and frog-) kind. Optimus Prime is counting on the Autobot Evac to keep the AllSpark out of Megatron's hands and you, the newest N*E*S*T* recruit, to help navigate the sacred artifact to safety. This 3D simulator dark ride is ultra-immersive, sending you through the screen, careening and brawling through the streets in an explosive, intergalactic battle. Remember, Freedom Fighter — your bravery can help save the planet. Roll out!
MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack in World Expo
Make sure your trigger finger is warm because an alien spaceship has crash-landed in New York, and extraterrestrial beings are running rampant around the city! As the MEN IN BLACK's newest trainee, it's your mission to blast these suckers into oblivion. Keep a lookout and aim high. These aliens could be hiding anywhere ... disguised as anything. Rack up points by keeping your finger on the trigger, hitting high point targets multiple times and, of course, hitting the red button when the time comes. Will you be a Galaxy Defender, Cosmically Average or Bug Bait? (Oh, and aim for your "fellow recruits'" exhaust port to ... um ... throw them off guard ... )
Revenge of the Mummy in New York
"The curse! It's real!" Yikes! Looks like you've stumbled into the wrong tomb. The evil Mummy Imhotep has awakened and he has no intention of letting you leave. This high-speed, indoor roller coaster has you evading swarms of insects, warrior mummies and blazing fire and while you'll never go upside down, you will be plunged backward into a pitch-black abyss. This coaster may be less intense than Rip Ride Rockit, but it does include plenty of thrills and surprising special effects that make for some spine-tingling terror. Enter if you dare (and don't froget to bring a cup of coffee)!
Not-to-Miss Experiences at Universal Studios Florida
Meet the TRANSFORMERS in Production Central
Universal Studios is filled with fun meet-and-greets but the best ones are, without a doubt, the heroic Optimus Prime, the courageous Bumblebee and the nefarious Megatron. These auto-organic lifeforms are truly out of this world. Only one Transformer comes out to meet at a time but all of them provide fun and unique experiences that are sure to leave tadpoles in awe. Channel your inner Freedom Fighter with Optimus, jam along with Bee or bow in front of the mighty Megatron. Be careful, though! The powerful Decepticon might just scare you when you least expect it.
Animal Actors On Location! in Woody Woodpecker's KidZone
What's better than meeting celebrities? Meeting four-legged, furry celebrities, of course! Animal lovers will enjoy this show where the stars are adorable critters and creatures straight from the sets of some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters. In a hilarious mix of video segments, live skits and audience interactions, winged wonders, mangy mutts, curious kittens and more perform impressive tricks for delicious treats. This show is just as entertaining as it is educational and a truly not-to-be-missed experience.
The Bourne Stuntacular in Hollywood
The newest attraction at Universal Studios, this stunt show blurs the lines between stage and cinema as you follow Treadstone operative Jason Bourne's every move in his attempt to evade capture and expose the mysterious Project Rubicon. Traversing three continents, you're tasked with observing and evaluating Bourne with the help of a prototype enhanced virtual surveillance room as part of the situation analysis team. This production is truly cutting-edge in every way imaginable. It features:
- A 3,640 square foot LED screen
- Pinpoint-accurate projection mapping
- Principal stunt trainers that have doubled for A-list actors
- Two free falls
- Practical effects such as fire, smoke and wind
- Eight moving set pieces, including a three-wheeled motorcycle, a 20-foot wide lift that rotates two vehicles 280 degrees from 7 feet beneath the stage and automated vehicle-tracking systems
This authentic, action-packed experience will leave your jaw on the floor.
Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration
Universal Orlando pulled out all the stops when its creative team conceived this nighttime extravaganza. This epic show lights up the night sky with 40-foot wide water curtains, 120 water fountains, fireworks and state-of-the-art projection mapping to fully immerse you in your favorite films. Travel back to a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, get behind the wheel with a team of street racers, get an alien back to his home planet, take flight with a dragon and his trainer, train alongside the Dragon Warrior, dance and sing with colorful trolls, battle the Decepticons, cast spells with The Boy Who Lived and party with Minions, pets and a troupe of talented performers. This show always leaves us with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes and is truly the best possible way to end the night at this park.
If there's one thing Universal Studios is known for, it's the seasonal events. From the terrifying Halloween Horror Nights to the magical holiday offerings in the Wizarding World and beyond to the loud and wild festivities of Mardi Gras, no one throws a celebration like Universal Orlando Resort. HHN is the nation's premier Halloween event for a reason. Ghouls, goblins, monsters and menaces lurk around every corner from the scare zones in the streets to the intricately and magnificently crafted haunted houses. If scary isn't your style, visit November through December to bask in the joy of the holiday season or February through April to let the good times roll at Florida's biggest party. Both the holidays and Mardi Gras are celebrated during normal park hours and offer delicious seasonal treats and frogtastic parades. Don't froget to visit the Tribute Store which changes themes every few months for the latest and greatest merchandise!
Not-to-Miss Food and Drink Items at Universal Studios Florida
Butterbeer Ice Cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour
If I had to choose my variation of Butterbeer ... I think I would have to go with the magically delicious soft-serve ice cream in Diagon Alley. Now, while this may sound overly sweet, Universal crafted this creation in a way that won't make you feel like you're about to get a cavity. It's more like plain vanilla soft-serve with a Butterbeer accent so the vanilla really helps to lighten the flavor. You can get this sweet treat in a souvenir glass or waffle cone, but if you choose the latter, make sure to eat it quickly since it can melt pretty fast in the Florida sun. If Butterbeer isn't calling your name, you can also try other wonderfully unique ice cream flavors such as Earl Grey & Lavender, Strawberry & Peanut Butter, Toffee Apple or, for the really brave frogs, Chocolate Chili!
Flaming Moe at Moe's Tavern
Pull up a seat at Moe's and order the signature specialty drink of Springfield. Tadpoles are going to love this nonalcoholic version of Homer and Moe's infamous concoction! While the sole ingredient might just be orange soda, what makes this a can't-miss beverage is how it's presented — in a specialty, souvenir cup over dry ice making it seem as though a bubbling pool of steam has settled on top. This drink is all of the fun of a more potent beverage with none of the tequila, crème de menthe or schnapps present in the original. (Oh, and no cough syrup, too!) Make sure to get your camera ready!
Smoked Brisket Crepe at Central Park Crêpes
Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of the crepes at this easy-to-miss booth in Central Park across from Cafe La Bamba, but my favorite variety just might have to be the Smoked Brisket. Filled with smoked Brisket, pepper jack cheese, coleslaw and golden barbecue ranch, it's a savory and delicious mix of flavors and perfectly filling! Oftentimes I forego a regular sit-down lunch or dinner and just grab this crepe. (If you want to come back here for dessert, opt for the Lemon Blueberry which is filled with lemon mascarpone, fresh blueberries, lemon curd, whipped cream, lemon pound cake and powdered sugar. Ooh, la, la!)
Smoked Salmon Lox Bagel at TODAY Cafe
TODAY Cafe has been a very welcome addition to Universal Studios since it opened in 2019! Serving delicious baked goods, freshly prepared salads, hearty sandwiches and specialty coffees, our family always heads here if we feel like we need something a little more on the "leafy greens" side. The Smoked Salmon Lox Bagel is a toasted everything bagel served with smoked salmon, dill cream cheese and red onions with fresh fruit on the side. While it might not seem that exciting, it's a tried-and-true breakfast item that never disappoints and leaves me feeling energized and ready to conquer the day ahead! (Other winners here are the Park Avenue Avocado Toast, the Ham, Egg & Cheese sandwich and the 30 Rock Midtowner Platter.)
Fishy Green Ale at The Hopping Pot
OK, bear with me on this one. For those with an adventurous palate, head on over to Diagon Alley and order the Fishy Green Ale. This drink consists of smooth and creamy notes of mint and cinnamon and is filled at the bottom with popping blueberry fish eggs (aka boba). If you're brave enough to try this, you might be surprised at how much you like it! It's on the minty side, but the cinnamon gives it a surprising kick, plus you get those deliciously fruity notes from the boba. Don't let the aquatic theming scare you! (And if it does, there's always safer and equally delicious options such as the Fire Protection Potion, the Elixir to Induce Euphoria or the Draught of Peace.)
And roll credits! Have you been to the park before? Did we miss any must-dos at Universal Studios Florida? Let us know in the comments below!
Related: What Not-to-Miss at Universal's Islands of Adventure