• Universal Studios Ride Strategy

Universal Studios Ride Strategy

Ben A.

Created: Oct 31, 2023

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

Universal Studios Ride Strategy

Are you ready to explore one of the most charming theme parks in Florida? Hopefully you prepared your backpack the night before and managed to get plenty of sleep. Don’t forget to get to the parking lot about half an hour before the gates open! This way, you will be ready to explore every attraction in a single day, with ample opportunity to re-ride your favorite ones multiple times.

Let me remind you again to grab a park map as soon as you cross the gates. Check showtimes for The Bourne Stuntacular and also Animal Actors on Location. Usually these shows only happen about three times per day, so it’s important to keep track of them so we don’t miss anything. Our plan is to visit Jason Bourne right after lunch. Animal Actors on Location is also a very cool show, and definitely worth a visit even more so if you are accompanied by kids.

Universal Studios entrance ball.jpg

Just one last thing: this guide is mostly aimed at adults, although the optional rides section includes a nice list of attractions aimed at kids. You also will not need an Express Pass to make full use of this guide.

With that in mind, let’s get this show started. It’s time to say hi to Brendan Fraser!

Revenge of the Mummy

Rating: 9/10

Universal Studios revenge mummy entrance.JPG

Here is our plan: the gates open, most guests will head straight to the Diagon Valley or enter the queue for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, which is the first big roller coaster pretty much next to the entrance. We are in luck, because that means the queue for Revenge of the Mummy will be basically free. In fact, we are in double luck. This is one of the best rides in the whole park, even if it’s about twenty years old.

Before entering the queue, however, make sure to store your backpack, cellphone and everything in your pockets inside the lockers on the right side of the entrance and say goodbye to them for the next couple of hours. We will be heading to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit very soon, and they don’t let you carry anything with you on that ride.

Revenge of the Mummy is an indoor roller Coaster full of style, which I would split into two phases. The first one is a traditional dark ride where your vehicle travels through an old burial site, finds out about the curse of the mummy, escapes from murderous scarabs and comes face to face with the main villain. It’s very atmospheric and well done, with a good use of animatronics and special effects like smoke and fire.

The second part is where things get even better. You are launched into what I call the proper roller coaster, with a few drops and turns, while the Mummy is screaming over and over that your soul belongs to him. Now that is a classic villain line. I really wish this part lasted a little bit longer, but I still give it two thumbs up.

Once you are done, the queue should still be on the lower end, so why not face Imhotep again? You should definitely go a second or even third time. This is also an amazing entry point for your kids that enjoy roller coasters, just beware that some guests around the age of ten might get scared: the queue can be very, very dark and the ride is all about an undead creature that wants to rip our soul apart.

Finally done? Good. As I said, leave your backpack behind, there are still roller coasters waiting for us.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

Rating: 7/10

From an indoor roller coaster, we now face an outdoor steel giant. In fact, this is one of the largest roller coasters in the entire United States. Before entering the queue, know that there are metal detectors that scan each guest, so they won’t let you enter if you got anything in your pockets. Hopefully, you followed our advice and your belongings are still safely stored with our Mummy friend.

Rip Ride Rockit basically has two gimmicks: a vertical lift bringing your train to the first major drop and a small touch screen on each seat where guests can choose a song to play during the entire ride. It’s the gimmick we have all been waiting for: who doesn’t want to experience a 65 mph drop while “Bring me to Life” from Evanescence or “I Will Survive” rocks our eardrums?
Other than that, Rip Ride Rockit is just… fine. I definitely don’t hate it, don’t get me wrong, but compared to the great roller coasters we can find at Sea World, SheiKra in Busch Gardens or the VelociCoaster in Islands of Adventure, it is definitely a step below. Rip Ride Rockit is less about speed and more about twists and turns, which can be disorienting for some guests. Seriously, you will be spinning around a lot. Still, should you ride it? Yeah, definitely. It’s still a good time, especially if you are going in blind and can give it your own rating.

I recommend going to this roller coaster at night too, if you have the time. There are a bunch of lights all over the tracks and LED lightning on each train, making the entire ride look really cool. 

Let’s take a break from roller coasters for now. It’s time to check motion simulator #1 at Universal Studios.

Transformers: The Ride-3D

Rating: 8/10

Universal Studios Transformers ride.JPG

Have you been to the Amazing Spider-Man ride in Islands of Adventure? If you know what I am talking about, then let me tell you that the Transformers in Universal Studios is very, very similar to what you experienced with our friendly neighborhood arachnid. This is a 3D dark ride where you board a vehicle, put on 3D glasses and help the Autobots face the Decepticons in short story bits full of explosions and bad writing which would leave Michael Bay proud.

Is it fun? Absolutely. The 3D visual effects are an improvement over Spider-Man, even if I still think that Spidey does a better job with practical effects. Your vehicle moves across a set track as giant robots fight around you destroying everything in sight. How can this not be entertaining? A lot of the bits used in the Islands of Adventure attraction are repeated here, even the closing climax where the vehicle is falling off the top of a building and guests are saved at the last second by one of the Autobots. Both rides are so similar that there are multiple polls all over the internet comparing them and asking guests which one they prefer.

As for myself, I will stick to Spider-Man, mostly for nostalgia reasons and for being a Marvel fan. Still, there is nothing wrong with the Transformers. It’s still a good time that the entire family can enjoy, even if it doesn’t do anything really new.

Now it’s finally time to retrieve our backpack and belongings we left near the Mummy entrance. Just one last thing: sometimes you can spot the Autobots posing in front of the entrance to the Transformers. They are incredibly well made, so make sure to come back here later if you want to snap a picture.

We helped the Autobots defeat the Decepticons, now it’s time to help a friendly alien go home.

E.T. Adventure

Rating: 6/10

Is this the best, most thrilling ride in the world? No. Definitely not. But it is a classic. It’s like going to the Magic Kingdom and not riding the Splash Mountain… which you can’t do anymore, by the way, but you get what I am trying to say. Heads up: you might be allowed inside with your carry-on bag depending on the size of it, so it’s a good idea to ask a team member if you are good to go.

E.T. Adventure is a chill dark ride where you board a bicycle similar to the one seen in the movie. There’s nothing like sharp turns, launch pads or corkscrews here. The vehicle does leave the ground at one point, similar to the moment in the movie when the bicycle starts flying to escape the cops.  You will see a bunch of animatronics, including alien lifeforms that Steven Spielberg probably never thought about and a bunch of (creepy?) mini-ETs that are singing and playing around.

One of the coolest things in E.T. Adventure is that, before boarding the vehicle, you give a ride assistant your name (or any name, really). Then, close to the end of your tour, ET will address you by name and wave you goodbye. What a cool dude!

Now is probably a good time to have lunch and decide when you wanna go to The Bourne Stuntacular. The plan is to grab something to eat and then head to the show right after. If you are really hungry and want to sit down and stretch your legs a little, you can try Lombard’s Seafood Grille or Finnegan's Bar & Grill. You can also explore Springfield and go to Moe’s Tavern to enjoy a real Duff Beer.

Done? Let’s go.

The Bourne Stuntacular

Rating: 9/10

I love the Bourne movies. I really do. Matt Damon, Mini Coopers and shaky cameras make the perfect combination for an action juggernaut that consists of five movies and several novels. The good news is that The Bourne Stuntacular really captures the magic of the franchise. This is a stunt show that combines real actors with hundreds of 4K screens in the background to make a true visual spectacle. 

It’s similar to the past attraction Terminator 2: 3D, but even better. Looks a little bit like the Indiana Jones show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios too, but with a digital screen in the background interacting with real actors on stage. I’d probably call this one the best stunt show in all Florida theme parks, it’s really that good.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say that it’s definitely worth coming here at least once. You will see performers fighting each other, car chases featuring stunt doubles and projections on a massive screen, smoke, fire, gunfights, explosions… basically everything you would see in a Jason Bourne movie, right in front of your eyes. The entire show takes about half an hour, but it’s worth every second. I don’t see any downsides with it, really. The technology is very advanced and new, so sometimes there might be a glitch or two happening, but nothing that gets in the way of your enjoyment.

Now that the show has come to an end, it’s time for motion simulator #2.

The Simpsons Ride

Rating: 7/10

Universal studios simpsons ride.jpg

Welcome to Springfield! Enjoy your time taking pictures, browse the Kwik-E-Mart and get ready for the main attraction. The Simpsons Ride is a replacement for the defunct Back to the Future motion simulator, so it’s expected that they share many similarities. Just so you know, the Simpsons ride is almost fifteen years old, so the technology used and visual effects are a little bit old at this point. Your vehicle stays still the whole time and only nudges a little bit to the sides. You also won’t be wearing 3D glasses.

So, what’s good about it? First of all, the queue itself is very entertaining. The pre-show consists of two brand new Simpsons animations that set up the storyline for the ride, and they are actually funny, unlike the last few seasons of the show. Ouch. The attraction also lasts more than four minutes, which is a very generous time compared to most rides out there. Last but not least, we are talking about the Simpsons! Everyone loves them, right? The ride brings a lot of characters from the show, all voiced by the original actors, from Krusty the Clown to Abraham “Grandpa” Simpson.

This is also a very good ride for young guests under ten years old, with a height requirement of only 40". Everything is very colorful with well made animations, which is a sure way to keep children’s minds occupied. 

After our daily dose of Springfield, it’s time to shoot some aliens in the face.

Men in Black: Alien Attack

Rating: 9/10

Universal studios men in black alien attack.jpeg

We have arrived at what is probably the best shooting interactive ride in Florida. It beats out Toy Story Mania 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in the Magic Kingdom, at least for me. And you know what’s funny? This ride is almost twenty-five years old! It still manages to be incredibly charming and entertaining, featuring awesome animatronics, Will Smith and a score system that can really bring the competitive spirit buried deep inside all of us.

So, what exactly is a shooting interactive ride, you might ask? Well, remember the Transformers which you just left? You will also board a vehicle, but now you will be moving slowly across a set track while interacting with aliens that appear all around you. How exactly do you interact with them? By shooting them in the face, of course! Each seat comes equipped with a laser gun, and it is your job, as a newly appointed MIB agent, to hit the aliens in the head and reach for the high score.

There’s a lot going on in this ride. Some aliens are easy to spot, but a handful of them will be hiding between bushes or behind windows. It’s a very fun atmosphere with a lot to see, even if you don’t care about shooting aliens at all. There is also a short sequence where your vehicle will be put face to face with another car full of guests and you can shoot it to make their vehicle spin out of control and earn extra points.

MIB: Alien Attack is usually a pretty chill, fast queue, even if the pre-show can take a while. Here is a pro tip, though: this attraction has one of the fastest single rider queues across all theme parks in Florida. It’s lightning fast. You don’t stop to watch any pre-shows and can basically enter the vehicle almost immediately. There is a good chance that even if you enter the single rider line with a friend you both will share the same car. Try it for yourself if you plan on re-riding. 

Want to take a break from shooting aliens for now? Good. Now it’s finally time to explore the Diagon Alley.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Rating: 8/10

Universal studios harry potter escape gringotts ride vehicle.jpg

Welcome to the Wizarding World, muggles! There is a lot to see here, so make sure your phone has enough space for all the pictures you want to take, from the magnificent stores to that dragon that breathes fire and rests on top of the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Speaking of Gringotts, we are heading there now! You should leave your backpack in a locker, but feel free to bring your phone and keep it at the ready, since even the queue to this attraction is amazing with a lot of easter eggs for all us Potterheads.

I’d say that this ride is similar to Revenge of the Mummy, after all we are talking about an indoor steel roller coaster with lots of special effects that are used to tell a story. I don’t think that it’s as good, but Potter fans will probably disagree. The main difference is that Gringotts uses 3D glasses and a bunch of screen projections, featuring characters from the movies like Harry, Ron and Hermione.

I do wish that the 3D projections were just a little crispier with higher resolutions. Characters tend to look blurry, and I will never forget that one time when Daniel Radcliffe appeared on top of a dragon for a guest next to me to squint her eyes and ask “is this Harry Potter!?” On the bright side, Gringotts is a hybrid dark ride and roller coaster that lasts about five minutes, way longer when compared to Revenge of the Mummy’s two minutes.

Annnnd… we are done! Kinda. There’s a good chance you will spend the next few hours riding Gringotts again, checking nearby stores and buying your very own magic wand. Have fun! Now is a good time to re-enter your favorite attractions and check out some of the optional rides that you might enjoy.

Universal studios harry potter escape gringotts prop.jpg

Optional Rides

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

Rating: 5/10

Guess what? This is another 3D motion simulator! One of the “meh” ones, if I am being completely honest. You know what is really cool about this attraction, though? The pre-show, with a live performance from a quartet of singers and dancers, which are apparently well known to Jimmy Fallon’s fans. The performers are called the Ragtime Gals, or something like that? You can already tell that I am not too much into talk-shows, but if you love Jimmy Fallon then I bet you will get some enjoyment out of this ride.

The ride is similar to The Simpsons one, although now you will be wearing 3D glasses. Your vehicle will race through New York, going around landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building while Jimmy Fallon drives a car ahead of you. That’s it. It isn’t a terrible ride per say, but there is nothing really new here or charming to make it a must see attraction.
Wait, you actually want to see what a bad ride is? Okay. I usually try to keep guests away from it, but let me show you the true dark side of Universal Studios Florida.

Fast & Furious: Supercharged

Rating: 4/10

Universal Studios creative vice president Thierry Coup had this to say about Fast & Furious Supercharged: “the approval of the Florida attraction is the biggest mistake of my career”. Now we know we are in for a good time! Don’t go into Supercharged to have fun, but to learn what not to do when creating your very own motion simulator. Oh, also go in here just to have a laugh and wonder what the heck happened during the development of this ride.

As you probably already know by now, Fast & Furious: Supercharged is another motion simulator in Universal Studios, based on the multi-billion franchise of the same name. This was actually a reason for guests to already hate the ride. I mean, another motion simulator in a theme park that is already filled with them? Yep. The second reason is that, apparently, the Orlando version of the ride is way worse than the one in California, with the vehicle barely shaking. I haven’t been to that one yet, but online reviews for the Hollywood attraction are mixed, while the Florida version often receives overwhelming negative reviews.

Your vehicle will move across a set track with TV screens on both sides, featuring actors from the movie like Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and also The Rock. The main problem is that the resolution isn’t that great and the computer-generated effects are just lackluster. The ride also tries to invoke some sense of speed, but it fails to do so. Not good. And you know what, they even missed the opportunity to build a launch roller coaster as a drag race inspired by the Fast & Furious. The possibilities…

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Rating: 7/10

Universal Studios minions land.jpg

This is… *breathes in deeply* a 3D motion simulator. Good news, though, it’s miles better than the Fast & Furious one, but so are a lot of things in life. Let’s be fair here for a moment, the Minion Mayhem ride is definitely aimed at a younger audience, so you should bring your children to this spot if you have the time. It’s all very colorful and chill, without any sudden twists and your vehicle stays in place during the whole ride, similar to the one from The Simpsons.

Not much else to say about this one. There’s a pre-show featuring the Minions and Gru, voiced by the one and only Steve Carell.  The queue times tend to be pretty long too, around 30 to 40 min, since this is THE motion simulator for the entire family. Overall, it’s an okay time, but not a must go ride if you aren’t bringing your kids.

Keep your eyes open near the entrance to the Minion Mayhem, since there is a good possibility that you might spot Gru and some of the Minions to take a quick picture. There are also characters from Nickelodeon like SpongeBon and Patrick that walk from this attraction all the way to the major stores nearby.

Animal Actors on Location!

Rating: 7/10

Dogs, birds, cats and even a pig performing live on stage. What’s not to like about it? Animal Actors is a live stage show where our furry friends are the main stars, performing a bunch of tricks in a presentation that lasts about half an hour. This show happens about three times a day, so make sure to check show times before coming. If you have a soul, you will probably get a chuckle out of it. Kids love it, especially since some of them are invited to interact with the animals and have a great time doing it.

I also love how unpredictable the show can be. The actors are, well, animals, so even if they don’t get a trick right the first time, we can’t help but clap loudly and cheer them on. This reminds me, however, of one time when I attended a similar show in California and two dogs shared the stage. Suddenly, one of them started barking and tried to bite the other one, which was enough for both of them to start jumping and going crazy at each other. Fortunately, neither dog got harmed, as the showrunners acted quickly to break up the fight. They became friends again right after, aww!

Well, before I say goodbye, I’d like to talk a little bit about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida. This is a limited time event that attracts many horror fans from all over the world and might be just what you need to get your blood pumping.

Halloween Horror Nights

Are you a fan of jump scares? Of old horror slashers like Friday the 13th, Freddy Krueger and the Chuck franchise? The Halloween Horror Nights is basically a scare-a-thon full of Haunted Houses and scare spots throughout the park, as well as the addition of special live shows based on our favorite horror franchises.

Two things you need to know, however:

This is a limited time event that usually happens around halloween each year. In 2023, the event goes from September 1st all the way to November 4th, starting at 6:30pm and ending only at 2am. 

You need a separate ticket to enjoy the Haunted Houses and stay in the park after normal operation hours. The cost starts at $84.99, increasing slightly day by day until October 31. You also have the option to buy a special Express Pass to cut line in a Haunted House of choice, and Universal Studios even sells special passes that go behind the scenes of each attraction.
I’ve never been to this event myself, but I’ve read a lot about it and spoke to friends that have been there. They all loved it. It’s no wonder that a lot of people online say this is one of the best Halloween events out there, and a must see for horror fans. Each Haunted House looks incredibly well made, like a real movie set, with actors, props and special effects creating an amazing atmosphere.

Each Haunted House works similar to a traditional ride at Universal Studios. This means they have their own queues and waiting times. Speaking of that, you can stay in line for quite a while. It’s not uncommon to see queues reaching the 50 min waiting time, and close to 2 hours during packed nights close to Halloween. It’s certainly a good idea to arrive at the gates at least thirty minutes before you can actually explore the park, or you can always add an Express Pass to your ticket and skip lines for every Haunted House one time.

It only takes about five minutes or so to go through a Haunted House, but they seem well worth the time with an exquisite amount of detail. In 2023, Universal Studios brought ten Haunted Houses to the park, most of them inspired by some of the biggest names in horror: Stranger Things, The Last of Us, The Exorcist and more. And you know what else is cool? You can even take a break from all the horror and ride some of the attractions that stay open all night, like Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Revenge of the Mummy and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

Universal studios harry potter escape gringotts prop.jpg

Closing Thoughts

We hope you had a great time reading about motion simulat--- I mean, reading our amazing guide. Hopefully, we were able to help you plan your next trip to Universal Studios. As you probably noticed, Universal is heavy on simulators and indoor roller coasters. It’s definitely a theme park that is less chaotic than Islands of Adventure, but maybe that’s a good thing. You can take things slowly and one full day is more than enough time to see everything Universal Studios has to offer.
We wish you a good time and until next time!

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