When you come to Orlando to visit Universal Studios Theme Park, you can very easily spend a few days there to see everything. From the City Walk area that you come to before you reach the two parks, which is chock full of fun things to do, to just the amount of awesome things in each park, it takes some good planning to make sure you get to do and see the things that are most important to you. Here are some tips for your family trip.
Make the Most of Your Family Trip to Universal Studios Theme Park
I am going to offer you some tips for getting the most out of your experience in Universal Studios park itself, and my family’s recommendations for the things we love the most and that you won’t want to miss out on.
First of all, I highly recommend getting the free Universal app for your phone. It helps with many things you will need, like a map, information on restaurants and menus, plus keeps you updated on the current wait times for the ride lines.
They do have a ride time board at the front of the park that is constantly updated, but sometimes, by the time you get to the other side to a ride, the time has increased dramatically, so it isn’t always helpful.
Another important thing to mention is that they offer the option of a combination ticket that gives you entrance into both of their parks, or you can just buy entry to one park and not the other. Now, there are pros to buying the combo one, but also with that comes the con of not fitting everything in that day. Sometimes the park closes earlier than others as well when it’s the slower season, so for sure pay attention to that when you’re deciding.
If you are doing the combination ticket, A must do to ride the Hogwarts Express train that takes you from one park to the other one. You can’t ride it unless you have that type of ticket and you for sure will want to. It’s very enjoyable, and even more importantly, it will save from walking all the way around. My advice is to do it while you’re already visiting the Wizarding World area in one of the parks, and then come out in the Wizarding world in the other and continue that part of your day all together. It’s a different ride each way, so if possible, ride it back again too.
Entering the Park
Ok, so let’s enter the park and go from there. The park is set up as if you are really in California, in Hollywood, and there are streets all over it that lead to different areas. The beginning of the park has a great section that is very Old Hollywood, with the Hollywood Walk of Fame on the sidewalk. Ther are some awesome display windows right out of that era and some great shops, like the Brown Derby Hat Shop, a Camera shop, and Mel’s Diner is right there to eat at as well.
In this area there are a few places you can easily miss that for our family, are important ones. One is a shop that is right where the Terminator show lets out. It has some authentic movie memorabilia and a good sized section of Star Wars Collectibles, Comic Books, Superhero items and also even a Walking Dead memorabilia area. It’s one shop that carries items you won’t find anywhere else, and it’s very fun just to see inside of, even if you don’t buy anything.
They just opened a huge Hello Kitty store right across the street also, so if you have kids that love her stuff, this store is much better than the ones in the malls and has lots of cool items.
At the end of the first section of shops, there is a great show that is on horror films. It sounds like it’s may be too much for kids, but honestly, it’s not, as long as your kids aren’t little. In the lobby, there are lots of movie props from Hitchcock to current films, like one of the raptors from Jurassic Park. The show goes over makeup techniques and effects and is hilarious. They pull a volunteer from the audience to make it even better. If you sit in the front few rows you will get squirted, too, so just be warned. I won’t tell you what they squirt you with, though; I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Once you leave that area, there is a great amount in the back right corner of things for the kids to do. It’s easy to get sidetracked from this area with some of the bigger named rides, and so I like to make sure people don’t miss it.
If you have small kids, there’s a fantastic playground with slides, tunnels and room to run that is in the theme of Fievel and the America Tail movie. Everything is giant sized and really neat.
Next to that is a very fun classic coaster of Woody Woodpecker. It’s not a large one so the whole family can ride together.
There is also a fun Super Star Pet show back in there as well. They have pets from movies you’ve seen, like the bird from Ace Ventura, and the dog from the Men in Black movies, who do stunts. It’s a great show, and your kids will adore it. Plus it’s perfect for when you need to sit down and take a break.
If you have Sponge Bob fans in your household, don’t miss the Sponge Bob store. It’s so cool inside, and the characters come out a lot to take photos, and they are a riot!
A few times a day there is a great parade that you won’t want to miss, especially if you have your kids with you. Be sure to check the times for it and unlike being at Disney, you don’t need to save a curbside spot an hour in advance. There are places all over to view it from. The Minions are in it, Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob and the characters from Hop. They dance, and they are very nice and entertaining, stopping for photos and to play with the kids.
Now, there are a few rides I have to mention that are worth riding. For the whole family, Men in Black is great. It’s one where you are shooting at aliens as you go through it, and you can compete with each other. The Simpson’s section has a classic octopus type ride that you all can ride as well as another indoor ride.
If you have older kids or adults who like roller coasters then you for sure, have to ride the Mummy ride, which is an indoor coaster that is fast and so much fun. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-it is so fast and unlike any other coaster. You can choose the music you want to listen to while you ride, which is cool.
Transformers is also a fantastic ride, and if you have boys, they will probably ask to ride it again. Mine will split up into single riders and then they can go more than once and be on and off quickly.
There are a few great shows you should try and see while you’re there, and a couple are not long and are right in the back streets close to each other. One is a Fish market theme, where they do jumping, flipping and fish throwing. It’s super fun to watch, and you will all be impressed with their skills. The other is a drumming show that takes place on the side of a building by a group of 4 “construction workers”. They play popular pop songs that everyone knows, and they do a great job!
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Back near that area is the largest draw in the park, and that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You will see a few things to let you know you’re close by, and that is the Knight Bus from the movie and the London train station, which is where the Hogwarts Express lets you off from the other park, or you can board to ride it over to Islands of Adventure.
Diagon Alley is hidden behind this area. You have to find its entrance but be sure to see the whole front street as well. Grimmauld Place is there, and the subtle details are great on the building. Once you head into Diagon Alley, you will be completely amazed by the transformation between the rest of the park and it. They have truly done a magnificent job on it. The buildings, décor, and paint are all very much in that world and unlike ours.
There are lots to see back there, like the great shops, where you can buy Potter themed clothing, souvenirs, and collectibles. Go into Ollivander’s Wand shop and see the show if you can. It’s great and inside the building, there are some awesome details, like all the wand boxes and brooms that are sweeping on the ceiling.
The most jaw-dropping thing back there though is easily the Escape from Gringott’s ride. Outside the bank is a massive dragon on the roof, who periodically breathes some serious fire. Be prepared to watch that, as it is amazing. The ride itself is spectacular, too. Our family loves it the best out of the whole park. It’s a coaster, but not in the classic sense and its inside.
One other thing to mention for sure is that they offer interactive wands for purchase. They do have the standard, replica type wands as well. But for not much more money, you can get the magic ones. They can be used in both parks to cast spells in different places. You are given a map to help guide you, as well as the ground being marked with medallions to help you cast the spells, too. It is fun just to stand back and watch people who have a wand, completing the spells.
Make sure to have a butterbeer or a treat from one of the candy shops too.
Front of The Park
Now, back up towards the front of the park on the opposite side are a few other shows worth mentioning. One is the Shrek 4D one. It’s very funny and well done. The other is right across from it, and it’s the Minions show. It’s kind of a ride, but it’s more of a 4D show. The line itself is even entertaining and decorated like you are in Gru's house. Your whole family gets turned into Minions, and you’ll all love it.
The last thing I want to mention is that if you have time, hang out in City Walk. There are great places to eat. Many of them cater to food allergy issues, and every one of them is very good. Red Oven Pizza is fantastic, and it’s faster than some of the sit-down types. Cow Fish is wonderful inside and has the best sushi. If you don’t want to spend much on food, there is also a good sized food court upstairs also.
One more tip. If you want to check out the non Universal or Disney park attractions you can get discount admission with the Orlando GoPass. You can save up to 55% off admission prices buy building your own pass. Locations to choose from including Legoland, Sea World, Bush Gardens, The Titanic Museum, The Kennedy Space Center, Gatorland, many water parks and more! You can also buy an all-inclusive pass for up to 5 days and get into as many attractions as you can fit into your schedule for 5 days!