Karyn Lock really summed a lot of the park up beautifully in her post below. I have a couple of things to add since there are some new attractions since 2014.
This was our first trip to Universal Orlando Resort and we loved it. We stayed onsite at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort which included the unlimited Express Passes for the parks which we found invaluable. The convenience of the hotel’s proximity to the park was fantastic and made going back and forth super quick and easy. It is a 5-minute walk or you can take the Water Taxi. The resort shuttle was less convenient, but it is there if you prefer that mode of transport.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the newest attraction and can be found in the Islands of Adventure. It is a 3-D action adventure ride with larger than life animation and a state of the art trackless ride system.
They have just reopened “The Incredible Hulk Coaster” with improved track, new ride vehicles, new onboard soundtrack, and a whole new story line/queue system. It was great fun! My son’s favorite ride was near the Hulk in the Marvel Super Hero Island. The “Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” is a 3-D ride with really cool animation, guest appearances by Stan Lee, and a really wild adventure which my kiddo wanted to do again and again.
We are big Harry Potter fans, so we spent a good deal of time in Hogsmead and Diagon Alley. Hogsmead is on the Island of Adventure side and is host to the “Dragon Challenge” roller-coasters. Start with the red side and move to the blue next (we think you “pull more G’s” on the blue track). Super fun! The height requirement is 48” and you can’t have anything in your pockets so make sure you use the very handy lockers as you head in the gates! In Hogwarts Castle you will find “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”, which is a super fun adventure where you soar through Hogwarts corridors and above the castle is a fun adventure featuring all of our favorite characters from the movies and a few others! Height requirements are also 48”. For smaller visitors Flight of the Hippogriff is a fun little rollercoaster next to Hogwarts castle that kids 36” and more can ride.
The Hogwarts Express is a nice way to move between the two theme parks and the story changes depending on which way you ride (so make sure you go both directions!). Also, when you are heading into the boarding area in London, you have to walk through the wall on to Platform 9¾, so watch for the mirror that shows you moving through the wall! The whole family can ride the Hogwarts Express, but you will need a 2-park pass in order to board.
Once you take the Hogwarts Express to the Universal side you can head into Daigon Alley which is chalk full of shops and host to “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” ride. This was one of our favorites! It is a 3-D thrill ride through the Gringott’s underground vaults that puts you in the heat of a battle and there are some unfriendly characters you will come across. Height requirement is 42”.
In both Hogsmead and Daigon Alley there are plaques on the ground where interactive wands can be waved and magic done. If you are lucky enough to be chosen to have a wand chose you at either of the Olivanders locations (they can be found in Hogsmead and Daigon Alley) you have the option to buy that wand. If you aren’t the chosen one, you can also browse the collection in the shop and chose your own. The wand choosing ceremony was such a fun thing to watch and be part of! Definitely check it out! In Daigon Alley we had lunch at the Leaky Caldron. This might have been our least favorite meal. With my food allergies they only had one thing I could eat, the children's portions are super tiny (my son was still hungry) and my English husband was upset with what they did to English cuisine (the cashier told me to tell him not to get his hopes up, but there you have it). It is a lovely space to sit in though. And butterbeer. That is all I have to say. We prefer it frozen (seems less sweet, which is a good thing) and most delicious! I was happier not knowing the caloric intake, but my husband spoiled that. I figure I walked and screamed it off so we are good. :)
A couple of notable mentions from us on rides that aren’t new. We would highly suggest going on the E.T. Adventure ride. This is the only ride remaining in the park that was there on opening day for Universal Studios. The ride was imagined and created by Stephen Spielberg and is such a wonderful piece of history and Americana…seriously, it holds up but takes you back to what indoor rides used to be. We loved it. Height requirements are 34”.
We also really loved the Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-It coaster on the Universal side. Super scary going straight up, super fast, super fun! This ride has been around for a while and we loved it. There is a play list where you get to chose your song and there are little hidden cameras so you can watch yourself ride it at the photo kiosks at the end. We found out on our last days (after leaving the park) there are secret hidden playlists! If you push and hold the Rockit Logo for 5-10 seconds on your little audio pad you can enter a 3 digit number from a list of songs and pick something different than they offer up front. The list can be found online, so check it out! Height requirements are 51” on this one.
There is a brand new resort onsite. Loews Sapphire Falls Resort just opened in July and is gorgeous. It is right next to where we stayed (Loews Royal Pacific Resort) and is on the Water Taxi loop. It is a Caribbean themed resort and boasts the largest pool onsite! They also have a waterslide. Like all of the onsite hotels, this one offers guests early admission to the Islands of Adventure. The only hotels that include the Express Passes in the hotel fee are Loews Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Orlando, and Loews Portofino Bay. Make sure you factor that into your decision making because the Express Passes can run as much as $99 per day per person!
There are all sorts of new things coming next year to be excited about. There will be a new ride on the Universal side called Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York. They weren’t telling us much, but they said it was a ride imagined by Jimmy Fallon and it should be good! Another really big thing coming…a THIRD theme park! Volcano Bay is currently under-construction and will be a South Pacific Themed water park due to open in summer 2017! We can’t wait for that!
We were visiting Universal Studios as part of Family Forward. We want to thank Mom it Forward, Universal Orlando Resort and Loews Hotels for making our trip more affordable and amazing. All opinions are mine and I was not asked to leave a favorable review.
Universal Studios Orlando has 2 theme parks that are side-by-side: Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Each park has themed rides that cater to families with children of all ages, making it a great option for every family!
My family loved the layout of Universal Studios Florida! With separately themed areas based on popular movie locations, walking through the park and finding our way around was a breeze! The park has thrill rides that adrenaline junkies will adore and an awesome play area for the wee ones.
My 12 year-old daughter wanted to head straight to Minion Mayhem first, the most popular ride at Universal Studios Florida at the moment. Based on the Despicable Me movies, the 3-D ride made us feel like we were minions for a few minutes, all the while shaking bouncing us in our seats. She loved the ride and would literally have ridden it all day.
The indoor roller coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, is another fun ride for tweens and teens! She loved the smooth drops and really cool effects, which at one point the ceiling caught fire. The coaster is not a super fast coaster, but it is does have a height requirement of 48”. We loved the lockers just outside the ride for our belongings so we didn’t have to worry about them flying out of the seat during the ride. The locker was free of charge while we were on the ride and there were plenty of them available so we didn’t have to wait in line for long to access ours.
Men In Black Alien Attack was, by far, my favorite ride in this park. It’s a spinning, alien-shooting ride that was super fun! We each got our own laser gun that tallied up our score at the end. Of course, my daughter won by a long shot! The ride is dark and loud, but is so much fun!
Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue is a fun, live show in the San Francisco area of the park. Beetlejuice and his ghastly friends sing and dance to popular tunes and, I have to say, I was truly impressed. The show lasts about 30 minutes and is just long enough to keep the attention span of kiddos. My daughter loved the show even though she doesn’t really know much about Beet… wait. I know what happens when you say his name 3 times!
Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone is another great spot for younger kids. The area contains a large playspace with cool-off stations, a huge climbing area, and a show where animals are the stars.
Islands of Adventure
This part of the park has become hugely popular for one reason- Wizarding World of Harry Potter! At park opening, most of the rope drop crowd headed straight for that area, and for good reason: it looks so authentic and beautiful! My daughter actually felt like she had been dropped right in the middle of the J.K. Rowling movies. Three fun rides: Forbidden Challenge, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Dragon Challenge allowed us to fulfill our need for an adrenaline rush. Forbidden Journey has a queue that travels straight through Hogwarts Castle, which, even during the longer wait times, is amazing! I actually enjoyed our trip through the second time around because the pace was a lot slower so we were able to see a lot more of the castle. There is a walkthrough only queue for fans that want to see Hogwarts but don’t want to ride the thrill ride.
Seuss Landing is one of our favorite areas of Islands of Adventure. The beautiful colors straight out of the Seuss books combined with the whimsical characters make this section so much fun! The Caro-Seuss-El let us sit on a Seuss animal and rest our tired feet for a few minutes. The Cat in the Hat is a slow-moving ride that takes you through the famous book. My daughter’s favorite ride in this area was The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, which took his high above Seuss Landing. Actually, it tends to be a long line due to its popularity, so make this one a priority!
Jurassic Park has its own dinosaur themed area as well. There’s a gliding roller coaster ride, Pteranodon Flyers, which is very popular for young children. The climbing area, Camp Jurassic, is a fun area for kids to run and play. Then there’s Jurassic Park River Adventure. If you are looking for a ride to cool off on, this is the one! It’s a river raft that drops you long and fast, guaranteeing you’ll get soaked. If you choose not to ride it and still want to cool off, there’s an area directly beside the drop that will do just that!
Regular parking is $17.00 per day, per vehicle. If you are a Florida resident, hitting the parks after 6:00pm will get you free parking. Preferred parking, which will get you closer to the parks, will cost you $22.00. Taking into consideration how tired our feet were at the end of the day, I would have spent the extra 5 bucks in a heartbeat to not have to walk farther!
Good to Know
We did a bit of research before heading to the park, which turned out to be a great plan! My family pulled up the online map and decided which areas we definitely wanted to visit and mapped them out. A good idea is to make a plan and hit all of the rides and shows in a particular area before going on to the next section. You really don’t realize just how big both parks are until you get there, and our few minutes of research saved our feet and legs a lot of steps!
Purchasing park tickets ahead of time will save you a lengthy wait in line and will give you a discount on multi-day tickets. Also, there is a go-to-the-head-of-the-line option called Universal Express Pass that allows you to bypass the crowds on most of the rides. If you can swing it, I highly suggest purchasing the pass to save valuable time, especially if you are only visiting for a day. Cost starts at $29.99 for a single park pass or $35.99 for 2-park express access, depending on the day you’ll be visiting. Check Universal’s calendar before you purchase to see if the day you visit is cost effective.
Small, soft cooler bags are permitted in the parks and is a great option for budgeting families. Bottled water is expensive in the parks, so if you don’t mind carrying around a bag, loading up with water and snacks will save you money that you can spend on souvenirs!
Disclosure: My family and I received complimentary passes to Universal Studios Florida for the purpose of this review. I was not asked to state a particular point of view and, as always, my views are my own!
Please do not just go there for one day and leave. Universal is so big you will need more than one day to try out all the rides that are available. The rides are so much fun. I would recommend the simpson ride which I really enjoy and I think even the children would enjoy this ride since it's not that scary. Also check out the Shrek one my little cousins really enjoyed that since it was 4D.
Universal Studios and Universal's Islands of Adventure are adjacent theme parks with shared parking facilities. Both are excellent outings for preschoolers, but this review focuses on Universal Studios. As the park is vastly entertaining, one day just isn't enough. Shoot for two if you're a first time visitor.
If you can afford them, purchase Express Access Passes. All day long I watched families with express passes breeze through lines. TIP: Express Access Pass prices vary dramatically depending on the day of your visit. Universal Orlando provides an online calendar which lists daily Express Access Pass prices. I advise planning your visit on the days where the pass is selling for $29.99. On-site hotel guests receive free Universal Express Unlimited ride access passes with each park admission ticket. Children under 3 get in free!
To save money and hassle, purchase your tickets online. (Universal provides the lowest prices online.) You’ll also save time if you print your tickets at home and go straight to the front gate of the park. My tickets were at Will Call and the line to pick them up was 45 minutes long.
Consider purchasing Meal Deal Tickets online. Once inside the park, Meal Deal tickets are exchanged for Meal Deal wristbands. The wristband entitles its wearer to unlimited food all day long at any of three participating restaurants. One entrée platter and one dessert may be selected per trip through the food line, but you can go through the line as often as you want. 1 Day/1 Park Meal Deal Ticket costs:
• Ages 10 & up: $21.99
• Ages 9 & under: $10.99
Without a wristband, I spent $11 per day on food for my 4-year-old, so the wristband is a great deal for kids! TIP: Small, soft insulated cooler bags are allowed in the park as are bottled water and small snacks.
DAILY PARKING FEES
• Regular Parking $15.00
• Florida residents free after 6:00 pm
• Preferred Parking $20.00
• Valet parking is available
I purchased Preferred Parking which entitled me to park in the enclosed parking garage. From the garage, it was an easy walk to the moving sidewalks leading up to Universal’s Citywalk and then on the park. I’d guess it was a 15 minute walk from the car to the park. (Strollers are not allowed on moving sidewalks.)
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA
I became a huge fan somewhere between Universal’s Superstar Parade featuring characters from Despicable Me and Hop and meeting Patrick and SpongeBob for photo ops. The section of the park featuring Curious George’s watery town center is magical. I'm not sure who had more fun, me or my son. You'd be wise to pack swimsuits for the kids.
Highlights of the day include watching the Shrek 4D movie, filming my son as he scaled a wall in a climbing harness, the ball pit and 200 ft. waterslide in Fievel’s Playground, and E.T’s adventure (a bike ride across the stars).
GOOD TO KNOW
A Character Breakfast is available from Cafe La Bamba. Adults $26.99, Children $10.99. Reservations are required.
Before each parade, character meet and greets occur outside of Mel’s Drive-In and Battery Park.
I could go on and on but this review must end at some point. If you've been holding off on visiting until your kids are older, don't. Go now; the parks are delightful for little ones.
My family received complimentary tickets to facilitate this review. My opinions are my own.
On our last trip to Orlando, we spent a day at Universal. We had their equivalent of a "fast pass" and made it through both parks in a day. It didn't hold our daughter's attention, mostly because she was too small to ride the larger coasters. She did really enjoy the Dr. Suess section. We also caught the Blue Man Group there at Universal and that was a blast!
Universal studios is my ultimate favorite part about being in Orlando. It is literally fun for the whole family! I myself loved every part of Islands of Adventure. Just going on the Dr Seuss ride about 10 times in a row was a blast just to see how much my little girl (5) enjoyed it so much! There is so much to see and do and a 2 day pass is probably the best way to go! I can't wait to go back!
My family loves Islands of Adventure! The two main roller coasters there, Dueling Dragons and The Hulk, are two of our favorite roller coasters of all time. The Spiderman ride is also very fun. It's like a virtual reality ride, but then you also move along a track. It is unlike any other ride we've been on--very innovative! The Seussland part of the park is really fun for the little kids. It is covered in whimsical decorations inspired by Seuss' books and has mild rides that even toddlers will love.
This is one of the best places for thrill ride.I definetly recommend buying the 2 park pass. You will be able to only enjoy one park per day,because they are so big.I think that Islands of adventure has way more attractions for smaller kids( Dr Seuss) and the Univeral is more for adults and teenagers.
Universal studios is a fun park with a lot of great rides and attractions. I think they had more for older kids and adults than the younger kids. There was a cute area for small children based off of Dr. Suess with some rides. We also really enjoyed the 3D shows.
Very clean parks, lots to do. We loved universal city- great shops and restaurants. The Dudley Do-Right ride is really fun but got us totally drenched. There is so much to do that it would be impossible to do it all in one day. It's also helpful to know that you can us the same ticket to be admitted to both parks.
Universal Studios provides a unique experience unlike some of the other major amusement parks. We thoroughly enjoy Universal because they provide rides and experiences based on some of the hottest movies and events that are going on. The only thing I would warn against is going to this park during the summer time because it is extremely hot here in FL from June-September. The best time to go is in the Fall or Spring, but either way your family is sure to have a blast.
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure Orlando are geared more to Older kids and adults. Thrilling roller coaster rides (if you like that kind of thing), behind the scenes look at movies, loud music etc. Definitely not for the teeny tiny tots. Disney theme parks would be a better bet. But for the older kids UNIVERSAL ROCKS!!!
Universal and Islands of Adventure has fun rides and attractions for everyone! Dr. Suess for young ones, the comic heros are really cool, behind the scenes movie shows, amazing roller coasters, audience participation shows, rides from the movies like Jaws and Earthquake.
The prices of the tickets are pretty expensive. It is a lot of fun but sometimes the price may keep families from being able to go.
This is such a fun place! I would definitely recommend this as a family outing or a great day to spend with the kids - or even without the kids! There are great rollercoasters at Islands of Adventure if you are into that... and a fun-loving spirit throughout the park. The Hulk coaster is great, as is the Fire and Ice. Dr Seussland is adorable for smaller kids and there is a cool bakery with some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. A wonderful, magical place!
Universal Studios is a great park! It features rides from lots of different movies, so it's a lot of fun, especially if you've all ready seen the movies. I'd consider this park to be more a teenager-adult park. It is very expensive though, just like any of Disney's amusement parks. It's worth spending the money on 1 time.
Universal studios orlando is the best vacation package.There is a lot of fun here.They are the most thrilling rides.Its really a heavenly feeling to see this universal studios.My kid also enjoyed the 3d movies.Its really speechless experience.Water park in resorts is enjoyable for the whole family.The live music here is really rocking.Its a wholesome package for all age groups where they enjoy together.
I would say this park is more for the pre-teen-adult crowd. There is really not a lot to do for the under 10 scene. The rides are mostly thrill rides, roller coasters, and shows with noises and themes too loud and adult for the kid-o's. The only area geared towards kids is the "Dr. Seuss" area. In that small corner of IOA there are roughly 2 rides and 2 exhibits, and one show. Not enough to keep the kids happy ;0(
The main Universal park is a little better with a few more options, but for the most part, if you have babies, toddlers, etc. stick with Disney. The customer service is better as are the activities!
I found Universal to be pretty neat. I still think that the California Universal is better, but this is definitely worth the trip. Prices are a little high, but there is a considerable amount to do. I didn't do the Islands of Adventure because my husband was a little intimidated by the rides (I know I know) but the Mummy ride was still thrilling and worth the time. If you are traveling with toddlers and preschoolers skip it and do Disney, however if you are traveling with preteens and teens, the Nickelodean attraction and the rides are going to appeal to them. The Mummy ride is probably the highest thrill in Universal, but from what I can see inside Islands of Adventure, that park seems to have more attractions, including a new Harry Potter attraction.
This place is so much fun! The rides that go along with the movies are incredible. It is like you are in the movies experiencing what they are except you are having fun while doing it! I have not been in the past few years so I am sure they have added several rides and shows since I attended last. Now that our kids are older I think it is time to make a trip soon!
I'm sort of a comic book geek so this park was my personal favorite on our trip to Universal Studios. They have a whole section of the park devoted to Marvel Comic characters. There aren't many rides for the kids in this specific section but when you get to the Dr. Seuss area and the cartoon areas in the park there are more kid friendly rides. In the Marvel area they had the Hulk rollercoaster which is crazy and everyone should ride. The best ride hands down though was the Spiderman ride because it was 3D and was so realistic.
The kids loved the Dudley Do-Right log ride and this whole area was pretty kid friendly. I suggest bringing the older kids to this park because it's geared more towards them and adults. Younger kids can still have fun but they just won't have as many rides.
My tips: 1) Get to the park somewhat early so you can ride the rides your family wants to ride.
2) Research the park map online before your trip so you won't have to fight too many crowds as you know where you're going.