Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida opened June 7, 1990 and welcomed nearly 11 million visitors in 2019, making it the most visited non-Disney theme park in America. Its sister park, Universal's Islands of Adventure opened in 1999, creating an expanded Universal Orlando Resort. In addition to its regular lineup of attractions themed to popular movies and TV shows, Universal Studios Florida hosts Halloween Horror Nights on select evenings in September and October, closing early on those days for this after-hours, hard-ticket event.

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Our recommendations below come from our annual survey of Theme Park Insider newsletter subscribers. Locations with star ratings ranked especially highly among our readers. Click here to subscribe to our free, twice-weekly email of theme park news and to participate in the next ranking survey.

Certain locations may not be available due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Rides

Top 10

  1. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ★ ★ ★
    Indoor roller coaster dark ride located in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. Height requirement: 42 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
  2. Revenge of the Mummy ★ ★
    Indoor roller coaster located in New York. Height requirement: 48 inches
  3. Men in Black: Alien Attack ★ ★
    Interactive dark ride located in World Expo. Height requirement: 42 inches
  4. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit
    Maurer Rides X-Car roller coaster with on-board music you can pick, located in Production Central. Height requirement: 51 inches
    Check the "secret playlist" for Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit.
  5. ET Adventure
    Dark ride located in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone. Height requirement: 36 inches
  6. Hogwarts Express
    Railway in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. [Transports visitors one-way to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. Therefore, Park-to-Park tickets are required.]
  7. Transformers: The Ride 3D
    Motion base ride in Production Central. Height requirement: 40 inches
  8. The Simpsons Ride
    Motion base show in Springfield. Height requirement: 40 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of The Simpsons Ride.
  9. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
    Motion base show in Production Central. Height requirement: 40 inches
  10. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
    "The Tonight Show" museum, musical performance, and flying theater show in New York. Height requirement: 40 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Other attractions the Fast and Furious - Supercharged dark ride in San Francisco; Kang and Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl spinner in Springfield; and Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster, a Vekoma junior caoster, and Curious George Goes to Town water playground in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone.

Shows

Top recommendations

  1. Universal Orlando's Horror Makeup Show ★ ★ ★
    Comedic demonstration in the Pantages Theater in Hollywood
  2. The Bourne Stuntacular ★ ★ ★
    Live and mixed-media stunt show in Hollywood
  3. Universal's Cinematic Celebration ★ ★
    Nighttime projection show on the park's central lagoon
    Read Robert Niles' review of Universal's Cinematic Celebration.
  4. Tales of Beedle the Bard
    Puppet show on Carkitt Market Stage in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
  5. Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees
    Musical show on Carkitt Market Stage in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
  6. Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's
    Nightly parade running November through December
  7. A Day in the Park with Barney
    Live show and indoor play area in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone
  8. Blues Brothers
    Singers performing on the streets in New York
  9. Animal Actors on Location
    Live stunt show in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone

Other shows include Ollivander's Wand Shop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley and Shrek 4-D in Production Central

Dining

Top recommendations

  1. Leaky Cauldron ★ ★
    Counter service British pub fare in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
  2. Finnegan's
    Irish pub and table service restaurant in New York
  3. Lombard's Seafood Grille
    Table service seafood in San Francisco
  4. Fast Food Boulevard
    The Simpsons-themed food court in Springfield

Map

Universal Studios Florida is part of the Universal Orlando resort, located near the intersection of Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike in Orlando, about 17 miles from the Orlando International Airport.

Universal Orlando Resort hotels

Premier
Includes complementary Universal Express Unlimited line-skipping privileges, Early Park Admission, and access to the parks via Water Taxi or the Garden Walk pathway.

Preferred
Includes complementary Early Park Admission, and access to the parks via Water Taxi or the Garden Walk pathway.

Prime Value
Includes complementary Early Park Admission, and access to the parks via bus or the Garden Walk pathway.

Value
Includes complementary Early Park Admission and access to the parks via bus.

Strategy

Before you go: Get your tickets in advance, but note that you do not need to reserve a specific date for your visit. Note that you will need a Park-to-Park ticket (Universal's term for what Disney calls a Park Hopper) to ride the Hogwarts Express, which shuttles riders between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. If you don't care about Hogwarts Express, do the one park per day Base Ticket if you would prefer. Once you have your tickets, download and create an account on the Universal Orlando app [Apple | Android], which you will use for Universal's Virtual Line for select rides and Mobile Ordering for food.

We recommend visiting on a Monday through Thursday, if possible. With locals dominating the parks due to ongoing travel restrictions, weekend crowds can bring multi-hour waits for some attractions. Weekday waits are much shorter, with many attractions being walk-ons during the school year.

Universal offers a paid front-of-line ticket called Universal Express but the resort gives that access away for no extra charge to guests at its Premier hotels (listed above). With Universal Express Unlimited benefits starting at $90 per person per day for everyone else, you might find splurging to stay at one of Universal's top three hotels well worth the higher room prices. You get the front-of-line benefit from the day you check in until the day you check out, so a one-night stay at a Premier hotel gets everyone in your family (up to five people) free Universal Express Unlimited access for two days. Follow the links in the "Universal Orlando Resort hotels" section above to check prices and book.

Early Park Admission: If you stay at any Universal Orlando hotel, you will get Early Park Admission, which will get you into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley and often Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. If the line for Minion Mayhem is under 15 minutes, do that then head back to Diagon Alley to ride Escape from Gringotts before the park opens to everyone else.

Morning of your visit: If you are not staying at a Premier hotel, wait to make a decision about buying Universal Express until you get into the park and see what the day's crowd level is actually like. Look at the posted wait times on the Universal Orlando app, and if they seem reasonable to you, skip the upcharge. If you want the front-of-line access, you can buy Universal Express inside the park near the front gate and at designated shops. If you have Universal Express - whether from your hotel or through a direct purchase - you don't need to worry about strategy. Just ride what you want, when you want to.

If you don't have Express, when you get to the park, open the Universal Orlando app and book places in the Virtual Line for Fast & Furious or Jimmy Fallon, if they are available. Select a return time right around lunchtime if you can, so that you can use the early morning to go on more popular attractions before their lines get too long. Use Virtual Line again to reserve a time for the other attraction once your return time for the first has passed.

As you make your first Virtual Line reservation, head to Revenge of the Mummy, then to Transformers and then to Rip, Ride, Rockit before continuing around the park to ET, The Simpsons Ride and Men in Black. Pick up the shows in the afternoon and evening. If you did not have early entry, go the Gringotts first, then pick up the attraction order above, riding Minion Mayhem after Rip, Ride, Rockit.

Universal Orlando is not currently offering single rider lines due to social distancing requirements, but if that comes back, take advantage if you are visiting alone. To talk in more detail about visiting Universal Studios Florida, please visit our Universal Orlando forum.

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