Universal Studios – found at 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando FL 32819
Universal Studios is made up primarily of two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, as well as a massive new water park, Volcano Bay, and a shopping, eating and entertainment district, CityWalk, which is located between the Studios and the Islands.
Let’s do a quick overview of the attractions at each park:
There are seven main areas to the Studios, starting with The Front Lot, which you walk through as you go in the main entrance plaza.
- Music Plaza Stage… an amphitheater inspired by the Hollywood Bowl, and used during Mardi Gras concert series and other events.
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem… a motion sensor 3D ride, where you join the Minions in a chaotic training session turned rescue operation. After a fun intro video, you sit in a large auditorium and zip through a crazy track to save the say!
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket… a high tech roller coaster that takes you up to 167 feet, with speeds up to 65 miles per hour. Plus, you can actually choose the genre of music you want to hear as you ride! You go straight up and nearly straight down and though its terrifying, the music and speed make this ride a thrill!! Height requirement of 51″ (note — you will be required to put everything you have on you into a free locker, including things in your pocket. This includes backpacks, purses, phones, keys or anything else. This locker will be free for at least a few hours)
- Shrek 4-D… an indoor 3D film with movie theater seats, you follow the adventures of Shrek, Donkey, and Dragon in a rescue of Fiona after Lord Farquaad kidnaps her.
- Transformers: The Ride 3D… a multisensory 3D dark ride. Guests will enter the Autobot headquarters under a 28 foot tall statue of Optimus Prime, then hitch a ride the Autobot EVAC to help defend the Allspark from the Decepticons. Get all that? Expect to be bounced around and dazzled by the effects, motions and sights of the attraction.
- Meet Optimus Prime & Bumblebee… Out in front of Transformers: The Ride 3D is the chance to meet one (or both) of the most popular Transformers in the movie. Note that neither are very interactive because of the nature of the meet up, but the photo op is pretty cool.
- The Blues Brothers Show… Jake & Elwood perform “Soul Man” and a few other songs from “The Blues Brothers” movie, and during Christmas, the show turns into the Blues Brothers Holiday Show.
- Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon… a 3D simulator ride that allows you to careen around the streets of New York City, in a race with none other than the Tonight Show host himself. This ride is surprisingly fun, so don’t pass it up because you think its a waste!
- Revenge of the Mummy… a hybrid indoor roller coaster mixed with a dark ride set up, as you join the movie production tour group visiting New York’s Museum of Antiquities, and the ride really kicks in when the Mummy wants to steal your soul. Begins slow to set up the story, then after you drop backwards a bit, you shot out at high speed down the track. Dark atmosphere, can be scary for young kids. Height restriction of 48″
Fast & Furious: Supercharged (will open in 2018)
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER – DIAGON ALLEY
Gringotts Wizarding Bank… You’ll likely notice the 40 foot fire breathing Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon (from Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2), then you’ll see the goblin bankers staring at you as in walk through the queue. You’ll have two preshows, first with Blordak (a goblin banker) and Bill Weasley (Ron’s brother) who tell you about the undergroup vaults. You’ll then enter the bank itself, joining Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Griphook as they try to break in to retrieve the Hufflepuff horcrux from Bellatrix’s vault. (Harry Potter fans understood all of that!). Height Restriction 42″
- Hogwarts Express… enter King’s Cross station, at Platform 9 3/4 of course, to board the famed Hogwarts Express. The train is extremely detailed to what you’d read in the books and see in the movies, and you’ll see images out of the window that will remind you of the Harry Potter universe. Note: This train runs between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and you can only board the Hogwarts Express with a park to park ticket. You can upgrade your base ticket at station kiosks.
- Ollivanders…located in both Diagon Alley and in Hogsmeade, Ollivanders is a wand shop — and a show. You can just go in and look around, finding trinkets and souvenirs and other things, but if you line up (and wait a while), you’ll get in with 23 other people at a time. And if you are lucky enough, you can be chosen… or the wand will choose you
- Don’t miss Celestina Warbck & the Banshees, performing on a regular basis with Potter themed songs like “You Charmed The Heart Right Out Of Me”, and don’t miss Tales of Beedle the Bard, a puppetry show recounting both “The Three Brothers” and “The Fountain of Fair Fortune” stories.
- Shopping includes Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes… Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment… Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions… Magical Menagerie… Shutterbutton’s… Quality Quidditch Supplies… Scribbulus… Borgin & Burkes and Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop.
- Fear Factor Live… a live version of the old reality show, with audience volunteers as contestants who do challenging and gross stunts to win a few prizes. A sample show features contestants hanging from a bar three stories high, throwing octopus and eels into a bucket while swinging on a harness, or climbing a rock wall building; in the meantime, audience members are challenged to do some of the more gross things (like drinking blended worms… I saw it happen). Show recommended for those 9 and older
- Men in Black Alien Attack… An interactive dark ride where riders board a spinning vehicle that allows you shoot the aliens, spin, shoot more aliens and spin. You’re also paired up with another car, so your vehicle and the opposite vehicle are in competition for who can shoot the most. Fun ride, but it has several instances of rapid spinning, so motion sick prone guests should beware. Height restriction 42″
SPRINGFIELD (THE SIMPSONS)
- Kang & Kodos’ Twirl n Hurl… Guests ride in little flying saucers, while Kang and Kodos, your alien hosts, shout out world domination slang and insults to the earthlings. It’s much like spinner rides like Dumbo or Aladdin in Magic Kingdom, just a little more snarky.
- The Simpsons Ride… It’s been described as a mega-simulator ride (as called by The Unofficial Guide). After the preshow, you board a vehicle facing a large curved screen, then you ride along as Krusty the Klown and Bart battle against the misdeeds of Sideshow Bob, and along the way, dozens of visual puns and sight gags and inside jokes. This ride is a hoot, even for only the Simpsons casual fan. Height Restriction 40″
WOODY WOODPECKER’S KIDZONE
- Animal Actors… a 25 minute show full of critters and animals and things performing in an outdoor stadium.
- Curious George Goes to Town… an interactive playground based on the curious little monkey, as kids will have fun getting to run and jump and play. It’s well themed, with lots of water play around (you can avoid this if you want). Also a big area full of fun ball shooters so you can shoot soft nerf-like balls at each other.
- A Day in the Park With Barney… a live character stage show that runs around 20 minutes, with a character meeting afterwards. Its Barney.
- E.T. Adventure… An indoor adventure where guests board a bicycle-like ride vehicle and soar through the sky; the only ride that is virtually unchanged since opening day and it’s a pretty fantastic trip down nostalgia lane. Height requirement 34″
- Fievel’s Playland… a large children’s play area with a waterslide, as you are shrunk down to the size of a mouse, and are let go to explore the Old West town you see in “Fievel Goes West”.
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster… A very short, low impact coaster to help kids experience their first coaster ride. It’s much like Disney’s Barnstormer, or Goofy’s Sky School. Height restrictions 36″
- Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show… a theater show on the art of makeup in Hollywood. You’ll see onstage demonstrations of makeup application, blood spurting, mechanical effects and more, interspersed with film clips from classic scenes. With interaction from the audience, the two hilarious hosts do a great job presenting this bit of movie magic. This is a great show, but not for the very squeamish.
- Costumed Characters… You’ll see several Universal stars wandering around, including Shrek & Donkey, Spongebob, Transformers, Woody Woodpecker, Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe, and more
- Superstar Parade… Simply, a parade with many of the favorite characters coming through, from Gru to Dora the Explorer
- Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories… the nighttime event shown on the lagoon, with film clips and music from a century of movies. All are shown on water screens, along with lasers, fireworks and lighting.