• What is... Universal Studios Orlando?

    What is... Universal Studios Orlando?

    Luiz Alberto H.

    Created: Dec 29, 2023

    Last Updated: Dec 29, 2023

    What is... Universal Studios Orlando?

    Welcome to the perfect theme park for those that love 3D motion simulators, movies, Scooby-Doo, Jason Bourne and indoor roller coasters that still manage to impress after twenty years. I like to call Universal Studios a slight mix between Disney’s Epcot and Hollywood Studios. It’s overall a very good place just to enjoy your day and see a bunch of characters walking around in costume.

    Universal is definitely less chaotic than its big brother Islands of Adventure, with less focus on intense rides and more love put into live shows, character interactions and the history of cinema. With that in mind, I am pleased to welcome you to this special article by Famvia, where we will talk a little more about Universal Studios and even give ratings based on different topics, from rides you can find here all the way to queue times and atmosphere.

    Ready? Let's go!

    Rides

    Rating: 7/10

    Universal Studios is the land of 3D motion simulators, really. I can count what, five of them? Some really good ones like Transformers 3D, and one that is really disappointing (I am looking at you, Vin Diesel). If you enjoy sitting down in a vehicle and wearing 3D glasses, then you are going to love this place.

    There is more than sitting down in a simulator, though! Revenge of the Mummy is one of the best, most fun indoor roller coasters in theme park history, and Men in Black: Alien attack is probably a tier above the competition when it comes to interactive dark rides in Florida. Both are old rides that have aged like fine wine.

    Universal Studios Transformers ride.JPG

    Let’s not forget The Bourne Stuntacular, a stunt show that is amongst the best of the best. Really, this is incredibly impressive, a complete mix of on-stage acrobatics with real actors and thousands of 4K screens in the background creating a great visual spectacle. Have you watched the Indiana Jones show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? It’s similar to that, but with digital screens in the background and even better action. Make sure to look at show times as soon as you arrive and come here at least once.

    There is also a little corner called the Diagon Alley that you might have heard of, featuring a young guy with glasses called Harry Potter. Only at Universal Studios you can join Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in an awesome indoor roller coaster as you fight the main villains of the franchise. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a great ride meticulously crafted for the Potter fans, putting guests face to face against Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort.

    Fans of horror might also enjoy Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up show, a comedic live presentation that explains how make-up and special effects artists work their magic on your favorite movies. Want even more horror? The Halloween Horror Nights is a separate, limited paid event held from September to early November with a bunch of amazing Haunted Houses inspired by movies and shows like Stranger Things and The Last of Us.

    Universal Studios does lack a single ride that I would call completely and utterly amazing, like the VelociCoaster in Islands of Adventure or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Disney’s Epcot. Not that it really needs one. There’s a little bit of everything here for the theme park enthusiast inside all of us.

    Park Atmosphere

    Rating: 8/10

    Lights! Camera! Action! Universal Studios is all about celebrating the beautiful history of cinema, so it’s no wonder that the theme park tries to make it look like you are inside a movie set. Some of the areas are even called Hollywood, New York and Production Central! Other than that, you can visit Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and experience a very colorful representation of Springfield, the classic city from The Simpsons.

    Remember I told you about the Halloween Horror Nights? Universal Studios looks just wonderful during September and October. There are live shows inspired by movies like Beetlejuice and you can really feel the spirit of Halloween kicking off during the evenings. 

    I’d say that Universal Studios is better than Islands of Adventure if you want to both enjoy good rides and also spend time strolling around snapping pictures. I mean, this is your chance to stop by and take a picture next to Homer Simpson. Speaking of Homer, we all know that Disney has Mickey, Princess Elsa, Goofy, Donald and weird cars that can talk. So, who can you spot at Universal Studios? Well, get ready to meet Scooby-Doo and the rest of the gang, the Minions, the Transformers, Doc Brown and even… Hello Kitty? 

    Universal Studios revenge mummy entrance.JPG

    You can find an assortment of movie characters walking around the park, with designated times that they will appear to take pictures. You won’t come across the Marvel superheroes like Captain America and Spider-Man here, since they are exclusive to Islands of Adventure, but expect to see Marylin Monroe and SpongeBob as you make your way down Hollywood Boulevard.

    There are a lot of fun live presentations all over Universal Studios, from a puppetry show at the Wizarding World to the Beat Builders in New York, where performers dressed as construction workers use buckets and wrenches to create a variety of catchy tunes. 

    Kid Friendliness

    Rating: 7/10

    Universal Studios is probably one of the best theme parks for kids around 8-14 years old. The thrill rides are great without being too extreme, and the roller coasters are the perfect entry point for young kids that want that feeling of excitement. More than that, the entire family can enjoy the huge assortment of motion simulators. Kids also love Men in Black: Alien Attack, a ride with some videogame DNA where you grab a gun, shoot aliens and compete for the highest score.

    Funny enough, Universal Studios used to be even more suited for our younglings. Unfortunately, the Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone closed down in January 2023, removing one of the coolest mini-roller coasters in Florida (rest in peace, Woody). This makes the theme park less attractive for children below the age of eight, but they can still have fun in chill rides like E.T. Adventure and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

    There are also live shows that children will surely enjoy, especially Animal Actors on Location, which features cats, dogs, pigs, monkeys, birds and a variety of animals being lovely (and mischievous) on stage. Guests are even invited during the live presentation to interact with some of the animals.

    Here is my general advice based on age range:

    • 0-5 years old: not much to do or see. There are a few colorful characters that can be fun to see and take pictures with, and a basic spinner ride with no height requirement that they can experience. It might be a good idea to check the Nickelodeon characters and take pictures with SpongeBob and friends.
    • 6-9 years old: a lot of good options if they are tall enough for the motion simulators and roller coasters. Some indoor rides might be too dark and scary for them, though.
    • 10-14 years old: probably the best age range for Universal Studios. They are probably tall enough to ride anything in the park and enjoy the huge selection of motion simulators and roller coasters, from Revenge of the Mummy to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.
    • 15+ years old: will love Universal Studios basically for the same reasons listed above. Make sure to take them to Islands of Adventure as well, since they are probably ready for a dose of extra-excitement. 

    Food

    Rating: 8/10

    Here is my big tip when it comes to food in theme parks: always bring your own snacks. This doesn’t mean that you can’t stop by the Diagon Alley to eat something and drink that frozen butterbeer, but there is a good chance you will be hungry by just walking around and want to eat something while you are stuck in a queue. Those Oreos you bought at Target? Perfect to trick your stomach while you don’t waste time and head to the next attraction.

    With that said, you will definitely find Theme Park Food™ here. Cheeseburgers, turkey legs, french fries and everything you (don’t) need to keep your body in top shape. You can also buy a butterbeer at the Diagon Alley and finally experience the true flavor of a Duff Beer at Moe’s Tavern. Expect also to find the traditional Starbucks next to the entrance, alongside a Häagen-Dazs for the ice cream lovers.

    Universal Harry Potter Butterbeer.jpg

    There are two very good options to sit down and have lunch if you are hungry. One of them is an Irish pub called Finnegan’s Bar & Grill, which offers a selection of steaks and even has live music. Probably my favorite restaurant from both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The other one is Lombard’s Seafood Grill, with a menu full of – you guessed it – seafood. It’s good and the atmosphere tries to make it like you are in the middle of San Francisco. 

    Another good choice is to eat at Mel’s Drive-In from the iconic movie American Graffiti (which was directed by some random guy called George Lucas) or sit down at the Leaky Cauldron and eat exactly what wizards have for lunch: Irish stew, chicken sandwiches and french fries.

    It’s also important to notice that, since a few years ago, most restaurants started offering a wide variety of healthy food and special vegan menus for guests. Definitely good to see!

    Ride Queues

    Rating: 8/10

    Good news: the waiting times to experience your favorite rides are not that bad in Universal Studios! The park is definitely less crowded than Islands of Adventure, and not having a single blockbuster ride that attracts lots of guests helps keeping queue times on the lower end. Honestly, even a single queue above 60 min is very rare here in Universal Studios. You won’t find something that makes you wait in lane for multiple hours like it might happen to the VelociCoaster in Islands of Adventure or Rise of the Resistance in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

    As expected, the busiest ride is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, but even that one isn’t that bad. Expect the queue to take around 30 to 45 min on a regular day, less than that if you arrive early on or if it is late into the day. The Minions 3D motion simulator is also relatively packed and queues can reach the 45 min mark, mostly because it is an attraction that young children can also enjoy.

    Revenge of the Mummy is probably my favorite roller coaster in the entire park and it rarely goes above 25 min, which is also the average queue for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. Want even less queues? Man in Black rarely goes above 10 min and The Fast & Furious – Supercharged sits around 15 min, but I wouldn’t recommend going to that one even if there’s no one waiting in the queue. More on that later.

    2023-03-09_11-43-27_000-poster.webp

    Universal Studios also has some of my favorite attractions to test my luck on the single rider queues. Men in Black: Alien Attack and Revenge of the Mummy usually have single rider queues that are lightning fast, and there is a good chance that you and a friend will share the same vehicle.

    Warning: these waiting times are for an average day. You might get lucky and re-ride Revenge of the Mummy dozens of times, or you might also get unlucky and sit in a queue for Gringotts for fifty minutes… and then it breaks down. Also, remember: the middle of July isn’t an average day, so even the line to buy an espresso at Starbucks will take you an hour.

    So, did you have fun learning more about Universal Studios Orlando? Now might be a good time to send us a message! Let us plan your next trip so you have a great time riding some of the best attractions in Florida... and, of course, we can give some extra tips for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. See ya!

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