Universal Studios is an extensive journey into the film and TV worlds that have been the cornerstone of Universal Pictures for more than 100 years. Originally the home of icons like King Kong, Jaws and Back To The Future, the park has evolved into a more dynamic offering with roller-coasters (Revenge of the Mummy, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit), special effects extravaganzas (The Simpsons Ride and Men In Black) – and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.
Single Rider Advice
A number of rides, notably Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy and Men In Black, offer single-rider queues and, if you don’t mind your group being split up, these can save you an hour or more in overall wait times.
What not to Miss
Like Disney, Universal has its cornerstone features like the ET Adventure, Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster and the Animal Actors On Location show, but the BIG draw in every sense is the spellbinding Diagon Alley area and a truly immersive experience into the world of Harry Potter. TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D, Shrek 4-D and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem have also become instant hits.
Character Meet And Greets
Universal has added a lot of character meet and greets throughout the park, from Diagon Alley's Knight Bus Conductor and the minions of Despicable Me to The Simpsons and Dora The Explorer, plus classics like Scooby Doo and the gang. Don’t miss the amazing Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee by the Transformers ride.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is the hot area of the park (where Jaws used to be), boasting the fab Harry Potter and The Escape From Gringotts ride, the Hogwarts Express, and live entertainment from Celestina Warbeck and the Tales of Beedle the Bard. The whole area is stunning and you shouldn’t miss the chance to dine at The Leaky Cauldron or try Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. The array of shops is also highly tempting!
Universal’s Superstar Parade
The park’s first full-time parade made its debut in 2013 and features Despicable Me, SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora The Explorer, and the characters from the animated film Hop, in a song-and-dance spectacular. Most recently, the characters from The Secret Life of Pets have been added to the line-up with two New York themed floats.
The best Parade viewing spots are along New York’s Delancey Street (by Revenge of the Mummy) and on Hollywood Boulevard, where the parade stops each time to do its party routine. You can also meet characters from the parade at the Character Party Zone in front of Mel’s Drive-In Diner in the Hollywood area periodically throughout the day.
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon opened in 2017, and was an instant hit. The ride pits guests against the famous Tonight Show host in an exhilarating race around New York City. You'll feel as though you're actually in the Big Apple, as you soar through the sky passing iconic landmarks along the way. You might even notice the smell of New York pizza wafting through the air!
Fans of the Fast & Furious movies will be welcomed into the ‘Fast Family’, as they venture into the world of underground racing in a new high-speed adventure called Fast & Furious Supercharged. This action-packed attraction will feature familiar faces from the movies and is expected to open in 2018.
An exciting collaboration between Universal and gaming giants Nintendo, will see fully immersive Nintendo-themed lands appear at the Universal Orlando parks in the years to come. While an opening date has not yet been revealed, guests can expect to see heroes, villains and snapping piranha plants when they step inside the gaming realm.
Diagon Alley is far and away the most popular area of Universal Studios and the crowds build up here quickly. If you’re keen to do the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride, you either need to be here first thing or wait until the last few hours of the day. There can even be a substantial queue for The Leaky Cauldron restaurant at main mealtimes.
Follows in the footsteps of the famous New Orleans carnival season, with Universal staging it’s own cavalcade of party fun on select nights. It features a fully family-friendly style, with a ‘French Quarter’ of food, music and other kiosks in the New York area of the park, culminating in a grand parade (from the Hollywood area through New York) of specially-themed floats that have dozens of riders throwing strings of beads to the audience, followed by a live concert. The latter takes place on the big stage in Production Central and features lots of well-known artists. In the past, acts like Kool &The Gang, Robin Thicke and Nelly have all performed.
- Dates: Every night from February to March.
- Tickets: Mardi Gras is free with park entry, but there is a fee for the Cajun Cuisine food kiosks.
- Costumes: Only on the floats - but you can collect as many beads as you can carry!
Children get their own private parade experience in the Little Jester's Parade Viewing Area. This area is available up to one hour before the Mardi Gras parade starts.
Halloween Horror Nights
A stunning autumn fright-fest of haunted houses, chilling scare zones, live shows and the chance to do most of the park’s rides at night. It is a separately-ticketed event after normal park closing and piles on the frights at every turn, with roaming zombies, chainsaw gangs and other horror characters from well-known films and TV series' (plus Universal’s own wicked creations). The main set-piece haunted houses feature elaborately detailed mazes where visitors run the gauntlet of all manner of horror experiences (think vampires, aliens, werewolves and other grisly ghouls) while the open-air scare zones are also peopled by ghostly scare-actors who lurk in dark corners.
- Dates: Halloween Horror Nights runs on select nights from around mid September to early November.
- Tickets: Booking tickets in advance for Halloween Horror Nights at the Universal Orlando Resort is advisable as soon as they become available, especially for weekend dates. You can save by booking your tickets in advance, and there is also a Frequent Fear pass that allows multiple visits. For an ultimate look behind-the-scenes, try an RIP Tour with your own 4-hour guided tour of each haunted house.
- Times: The event usually begins at 6.30pm and runs to midnight, 1 or 2am.
If you’d like a more detailed look at the amazing haunted houses of Halloween Horror Nights, you can book up a daytime, lights-on Behind The Screams tour (for a fee) that will take you around each one in all its grisly detail!
Halloween Horror Nights is most definitely a more ‘grown-up’ experience and not recommended for children under 15. Alcohol is widely available and it can get a bit raucous late in the evening.
Christmas (or ‘The Holidays’)
Another big season at Universal, and the Studios park boasts a wonderful daily Macy’s Holiday Parade, featuring an array of typically festive floats, giant balloons, marching bands, dancers and Santa Claus himself. There is a giant Christmas tree and ‘tastes of the season’ at a variety of winter-village-style kiosks. Rock band Mannheim Steamroller play festive concerts on select Saturday and Sunday evenings too.
- Dates: The Holiday season runs from early December to January 2/3.
- Tickets: All of the Christmas events are free with park entry.
- Times: Events and shows take place throughout regular park hours.
VIP Experience: Visit the park with your own expert guide and front-of-line access to many of the rides and shows with this small-group, red-carpet treatment. You’ll get exclusive backstage access, learn fun insider information and enjoy the park without waiting in line. Choose from a 5-hour, 1-park Experience, a 7-hour, 2-park version or an even more exclusive Private VIP tour for just your family.
Recommended Visit Time
Universal Studios: 1-2 days.