Since opening, Universal Orlando Resort has built up a roster of rides and attractions that people from all over the world stand in awe of. By using animated characters, astounding soundtracks, set design, projected media and present-day tech, Universal parks have produced some phenomenal attractions that compete with Walt Disney World.
It seems, that everything they do – from Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, to Fast & Furious: Supercharged and Revenge of the Mummy – leaves every fan, rider, visitor and expert wanting more.
In this post, we will cover the best rides at all three Universal Orlando parks. If you only have limited time to spend at the Florida theme park, you must include these in your itinerary.
So let’s have a look.
Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios
Let’s kick-off with an experienced ride that has more than 15 years under its belt. Universal has never been shy of delivering in-your-face fun, something Revenge of the Mummy knows well. From special effects and impressive animatronics, to dark-ride elements and a drop into the pitch-black abyss, Revenge of the Mummy is a combination of everything great about a theme park attraction. It’s hardly slow either, reaching speeds of up to 45 mph.
This powerful coaster is great for tweens, teens and adults who want to get their adrenaline pumping, but also, first-timers who want to test their fear factor. Take it from us, it’s so scary, you’ll be screaming for your, um, mummy.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure
Want to take a journey into the jungle?
We hadn’t heard of immersion tunnel technology until Universal deployed it to two of their attractions, one being Fast & Furious: Supercharged, and the other being Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
This clever ride is a simulated journey through Skull Island aboard a self-driving transport vehicle, whereby you’ll think you are travelling at speed and falling through a ravine, when really, you’re as good as stationary. Though the ride never leaves the ground, its modern-day tech simulates movement using media and a motion base. The journey is intense and integrates both physical and digital effects into a family-friendly Kong extravaganza. If you don’t want spoilers, read no further.
Universal save the best and most impressive feature ’til last, and the ride climaxes during the finale; when a gigantic Kong animatronic appears. Here’s a top tip, if you want to see Kong up close, sit on the right-hand side of the ride vehicle.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure
And now; a different type of thrill entirely.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster is an adrenaline-fuelled attraction with several inversions, a 110-foot cobra roll and a top speed of 67 mph. Much of that speed is down to the launch, which drags you from 0-40 mph in two seconds flat and produces a whopping 4Gs. To put this into perspective, this is the same level of G Force a Top Fuel drag racer experiences.
Due to the rides exemplary build, the fear that seethes during the launch all but disappears for the remaining 3,500 feet of pleasurable; free-flowing coaster. The Incredible Hulk Coaster is one of Orlando’s top thrill rides, and rightly so cements a place at the top of many thrill-seekers lists of top roller coasters, including ours.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure
Like Mickey Mouse is to Disney, Harry Potter is Universal’s “baby”.
Now in its 10th year, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter continues to stun guests with its rich level of detail and immersive experiences. The highlight of the land is the incredibly imaginative Forbidden Journey, which transports guests into a fanciful realm of J.K Rowling’s creations.
As a Harry Potter fan, having the chance to journey through the gateway of Hogwarts Castle is a money-can’t-buy experience. So couple it with a high-flying quidditch match and close encounters with Death Eaters – you’ve got one heck of a popular theme park attraction.
To make this possible, Forbidden Journey uses advanced robotics that simulates flying. Fixed to a robotic arm, each ride vehicle is capable of pivoting, swooping and otherwise moving with an ample amount of flexibility. As you’re flying – and I mean flying – the ride fluctuates between filmed sequences and actual sets made up of iconic Harry Potter props. There are a few classic scare tactics that add plenty of “gotcha” moments along the way. The result of all this is a fun-packed adventure with the occasional aggressive twitch and plenty of “how’d-they-do-that?” thoughts.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Once you’ve managed to say its full name, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is pure joy – from start to finish. First, the attention to detail is simply mind-blowing, and unlike anything we’ve seen from a theme park attraction – let alone unique to Universal.
To set the tone, Universal expanded on the vast space formerly occupied by Dragon Coaster, and spent three years constructing Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure which involved planting 1,200 trees to form a forest specifically for the ride. This degree of detail doesn’t go unnoticed. Even the queue is a gallery filled with details from the books and movies. Nowhere on this ride do you feel the urge to look around or reach for your phone inside your pocket. (Apart from when you want to take a photo.)
The ride itself is fast, action-packed, and despite being fixed to a track – often unexpected. For the most part, the journey consists of forward and reverse twists and turns at speeds of up to 50 mph. It might not seem that quick, but trust us, with your face and body exposed to the wind, it feels a lot faster. You can also ride in the sidecar, which has a lower centre of gravity and feels even quicker. If we were asked to choose between the two, we’d choose the motorbike seat. The feeling you get from zipping around holding the handlebars is surreal. Oh, and if you can, try to get the front seat with the feeling of steering the entire train.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem at Universal Studios
Would you enjoy being zapped with a weapons-grade laser and launched down an enormous slide onto a giant cactus? Sure you would! Both of these, and more, are motion-simulated calamities faced at Minion Mayhem.
The cheeky; slapstick humour of the Despicable Me films has had a widely enthusiastic response in the UK and US. Minion Mayhem does a wonderful job of conveying this through a truly engaging high-def story, consisting of mild motion simulator thrills, playful and cartoony coaster-like action, and stunning 4K technology. With plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, Minion Mayhem is enjoyable for all age groups. And if you’re worried because you haven’t seen the movies, don’t worry, a sense of humour and slight tolerance to motion sickness is all you need to have fun.
Minion Mayhem is in Universals ride film theatre, and of all the attractions found here, it is undoubtedly the best and most replayable.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Universal Studios
At home in Diagon Alley – the second Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando – Escape from Gringotts is a hybrid dark ride and roller coaster.
But what’s it like to ride?
Well, being as it travels on a roller coaster track, technically, it’s a roller coaster. Yet with no inversions (upside-down moments) and only one memorable drop, albeit, it’s a tame one. But Escape from Gringotts doesn’t aspire to be thrill-seekers fantasy land. More to the point, it’s a combination of enjoyable coaster thrills and Spider-Man-style ride-film trickery.
The story is set deep into the vaults, where guests travel alongside Harry, Ron and Hemione to face dragons and magical creatures. With this ride, fear of the unknown is what raises the anticipation and helps to ramp up the psychological thrills. Like all theme park dark rides, it’s not without an ample amount of surprises. Without giving too much away, keep an eye out for Bellatrix Lestrange.
Ko’okiri Body Plunge at Volcano Bay
Volcano Bay is home to the most thrilling waterslide you’ll probably ever experience. Ko’okiri Body Plunge is at the heart of the volcano, and begins with an anxious wait. After a long haul up, there’s only one way down, and that’s to enter the pod with a trapdoor. Below, a 70-degree fall down a 125-foot slide. After the initial drop – which literally does send your heart in your mouth – it’s a free-flowing waterslide for teens and adults that ends with a huge splash.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a high-tech theme park attraction that blurs the line between virtual and reality so well – that you’ll emerge slack-jawed or in a good way perplexed. The ride opened and impressed in 1992, but a makeover in 2012 enhanced the adventure with stunning 4K film animation, new 3-D glasses, and other production tweaks that get the spider senses tingling in a whole new way.
Despite all the technology, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman isn’t just a high-tech theme park attraction. Specifically, it’s a dark ride, which is an industry term for an attraction that sends guests through an indoor environment. In this instance, guests’ journey through the shattered streets of New York City aboard a 12-person simulator pod, before coming face-to-face with Spidey’s notorious villains. “The real magic of Spider-Man is creating an environment in which the boundaries of film projection are shattered,” says Mark Woodbury, Universal Creative. “This technology, ‘a moving point of convergence’, didn’t exist,” says Woodbury. “We had to create it.”
And create it they did. A combination of high-definition 3-D film sequences and multi-sensory effects tell a great story and kick up the excitement. The result being, the entire experience – including the (simulated) free fall off the top of a skyscraper – feels very, very real. Hence the countless number of “how’d-they-do-that?” moments you get with this ride.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a family-friendly ride. It’s not fast, or particularly scary, but with a ton of psychological thrills, it’s not for everyone. Having said that, if you’re travelling to Universal Studios and want the best experience, we highly recommend this high-tech masterclass.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios
Where thrills are concerned, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit holds the crown. It’s fun, fast, terrifying and, completely different to any other roller coaster. Not only is it the tallest thrill ride at Universal Studios, but it’s also the “most technologically advanced” coaster in the world, giving each rider the ability to choose a soundtrack during the ride. There are five categories of song to pick from, there’s classic rock/metal, rap/hip-hop, club/electronica, pop/disco, and country. You’ll find six iconic tracks in each category, but if you’re brave enough (or know) to hold the ride logo on the touch screen for 10 seconds after strapping in, you’ll have access to 30 “hidden” tracks. Once selected, your chosen track plays via the speakers built into the headrest on your seat.
To get to the top, guests face an impressive 17-story; 90-degree lift hill – climaxing at 167-feet before dropping at speeds of 70 mph. Like the Incredible Hulk Coaster, the opening 30 seconds are simply terrifying, but then it calms down and there’s chance to enjoy your chosen soundtrack. It’s not the most complex attraction on my list, but Rip Ride Rockit will stun guests in a way that no other attraction at Universal Studios can, with brute power and force.
Jurassic Park: River Adventure at Islands of Adventure
You guessed it; Jurassic Park River Adventure is a water-based attraction at Islands of Adventure. In 2018, the ride closed for renovations, before reopening in 2019 as a spruced-up version with more technology. It takes inspiration from the Steven Spielberg franchise, and replicates the fictional Central American island: Isla Nublar. The fun-packed journey takes place on a floating water vehicle, but it’s not ‘til your boat goes off course and you come face-to-face with Dilophosauruses, that you see the true breadth and depth of the upgrade. Towards the end of the ride, you’ll ascend a steep hill to the finale. Brace yourself for an 85-foot plunge into a lagoon that gets you soaked!
Krakatau Aqua Coaster at Volcano Bay
Thrill rides and water parks don’t often belong in the same sentence. That is, until Universal Orlando Resort got involved. Known as the flagship attraction in Volcano Bay, Krakatau Aqua Coaster is a fast, fun and enjoyable coaster with plenty of drops and some serious airtime. Partly, this is down to Universal powering the Krakatau Aqua Coaster with the same technology used on Revenge of the Mummy. In fact, at times, the motion resembles a land coaster so much so, that you forget you’re riding a water ride entirely. This feeling intensifies the longer the ride goes on, before climaxing during the final drop. Not to give too much away, hold on tight.
Besides the thrills, it gives you a great view of the parks as you pass through the expansive volcano and its colourful lava and water effects. You won’t get this spectacular view unless you ride Krakatau, so it’s worth it for this alone.
The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios
Who doesn’t love The Simpsons? And simulated coaster drops for that matter? Just like the TV show, The Simpsons Ride is loud, proud and in-your-face. The action combines simulated coaster drops and crashes in Krustyland – a theme park built by Krusty the Clown. Because this is the Simpsons, calamity ensues, hilarity too.
Guests enter the ride by walking along Krusty’s “red carpet” and into the Krustyland building, complete with retro amusement lighting, eye-popping colours and, a giant head of Krusty the Clown. After many laughs, you’re ready to board. The actual ride takes place on an eight-person vehicle with wild animated footage. Though there are scenes of free-falling and mild-air collisions, the ride vehicles never actually move more than a few inches. If we were to compare it to another popular attraction, Star Tours at Disney Parks springs to mind.
Hogwarts Express at Islands of Adventure
Travel back and forth between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley aboard the Hogwarts Express. More than a conveyance, it is a heavily themed and redolent experience that offers a seamless transition throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Essentially, the Hogwarts Express is a train ride with a few dark elements to immerse guests.
Platform 9 ¾ looks just like the movies – one of the benefits of using members of the movies creative team to work on the design of the parks. The vast station with its vintage-style luggage, conductors in uniform and, groups of passengers waiting to board the train, looks like it was lifted intact – straight from the film and into Islands of Adventure.
The train travels in both directions, offering two separate experiences that both last around four minutes. Unlike Escape the Gringotts and Forbidden Journey, there are no thrill ride features or clever animatronics, but the Hogwarts Express is a sophisticated attraction that will delight both dedicated Potter fans and casual riders. For the best experience, we’d recommend mimicking the story and making the London-to-Scotland trip your first.
What is your favourite?
With our list of the top attractions at Universal Orlando Resort finalised, it’s over to you. We’d love to know your favourite rides and attractions, and there’s no better place to share them than our “Destination Florida” Facebook group. This unique group is home to thousands of Florida-lovers from around the world. Follow this link to start conversation.