Fun things you have to do when visiting Universal Orlando on your next family vacation! Here is a list of are our top things to ride, eat and stay at Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and City Walk.
10 Things you MUST do at Universal Orlando
My family loves Universal Orlando! We are annual passholders and have traveled to Universal Orlando dozens of times.
What are the Best Things to Do at Universal Studios Orlando?
People always ask me what they should do at Universal Orlando, so I thought I’d write an article for you and any of your friends who might be planning a family vacation to Orlando!
As a part of some travel and blogging influencer retreats I’ve attended here, we get the inside scoop about what’s new and what is coming soon. I hope you enjoy this list of exciting things to do at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Learn about some new attractions and also things that my family enjoys the best.
You might also like these ideas:
- 5 Reasons to Celebrate Christmas at Universal Orlando
- Easy Homemade Butterbeer Recipe
- Easy Minions Party Ideas
- Harry Potter Butterbeer Cake in a Mug
Originally published on March 17, 2018 – Updated September 8, 2021
Best Universal Orlando Family Travel Tips
To help those who have already traveled to Universal Orlando, I’ll start with what’s new to the park and what I’m personally most excited to tell you about!
I hope you enjoy these fun Florida family vacation travel tips.
1. Get a Milk Shake at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
For an extraordinary meal, you have to visit Toothsome Chocolate Emporium! Not only do they serve desserts to top all others, but also have delicious savory dishes. This new 19th century themed restaurant is right outside the park entrance in CityWalk.
Even if you don’t have time to eat a meal here, I recommend popping in to try one of their fantastic shakes.
You’ll be amazed by these treats that are full to the brim with homemade whipped cream, sprinkles, syrup and even a cupcake or brownie depending on which flavor you choose. I loved them all, but my favorite was the banana split shake topped with a whole chocolate banana!
Voodoo Donuts is also fun, so be sure to check that out as well. It’s fairly new to City Walk. The line was super long one day we were there, and then hardly any line the next time. So if the line is too long, skip and come back later.
2. Visit Volcano Bay
If you visit during the summer, you have to check out Universal Orlando’s new Volcano Bay water park! Probably one of the BEST wave pools ever. Our favorite ride was the Krakatau qua Coaster.
Beware… there are two lazy rivers and one is NOT lazy! It’s actually really fast with a strong current. Both were fun, but I wouldn’t go on the fast one with small children unless you hold on to them tight.
I hear since writing this article, they have added life jackets to the fast river, so that is good news! Check out Volcano Bay here for more details.
3. Do the VIP Experience
Before you start planning your Universal Orlando trip, I would highly recommend looking into the VIP Experience. If you can afford it, DO IT. I can’t say enough great things about this service. Being able to skip all of the lines with your very own tour guide is so worth it.
You will ride all of the rides in the first half of your day, and then enjoy the park at your own pace. New this year is a fantastic lunch and valet parking!
Bonus, your guide is always there to hold your bags during rides and take your family photos! We have done the VIP Experience two years in a row now and absolutely love it. Here we are with Jill from Kitchen Fun with my 3 Sons and her sweet family.
Here’s what you get with VIP:
- Priority Front of the Line access to all rides and attractions including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D and all of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions and experiences.
- Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tours
- Universal Express Unlimited ride access at participating rides and attractions throughout the rest of the day (during normal park operating hours)
- Exclusive VIP Experiences lanyard and credential
- Complimentary Valet Parking (1 Vehicle, Based on availability)
- Continental Breakfast and Lunch
- Reserved Seating at shows and special viewing areas at Universals Superstar Parade
- Discounts at select Universal Orlando owned and operated merchandise locations in the theme parks and CityWalk.
4. Ride The BEST Roller Coasters In Islands of Adventure
Definitely the must do things at Universal Orlando is to ride the BEST roller coasters ever! You can find our top 3 roller coaster picks in Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure is known as the Harry Potter World park, but it also has our favorite thrill rides that you can’t miss!
Jurassic World VelociCoaster
The Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the newest roller coaster and definitely worth waiting in the line. This has to be THE BEST roller coaster I’ve ever ridden. It’s a smooth thrilling ride that takes you upside down and all around land and water.
Is VelociCoaster Scary?
If you’re wondering if the Velocicoaster is scary, well that depends on your take of roller coasters. If you love a fast thrill ride, then no it’s not scary. It’s actually so fast, you don’t realize what is coming next. I was smiling and laughing the entire time!
I rode it with my friend who is terrified of heights and roller coasters. I’m not sure how I even talked her into coming along? She was more scared in the beginning before we started than during the ride. After it was over, she said she actually loved it!
When you compare the Velocicoaster to the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios, it’s not as scary in my opinion.
The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster
The Hulk Roller Coaster is newly designed and super fast! My daughter always begs to ride it over and over again. It is definitely her favorite ride every time we visit!
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
As for me, my favorite Universal roller coaster is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. This brand new Harry Potter ride is so amazing!
Be prepared for a very long wait in this line and there are two people riding together. One is sitting on the motorbike while the other in the sidecar.
How fast is Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure?
At one point in the ride, the speed gets up to 50 mile per hour! Because you are riding a motorbike, there are no upside down thrills. It’s fun, fast and a great ride for all ages!
Is it more fun to ride the Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike or Sidecar?
When riding this coaster, riders can choose to sit in the moterbike or the sidecar. Everyone asks which seat is the most fun? Well, I’ve done both several times and they are both amazing!
If I had to choose, I prefer sitting on the motorbike and holding the handlebars. You will definitely feel like you are flying super fast as you sit up higher on the ride than the person in the sidecar.
Our other favorite Universal Orlando rides are:
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon– This new ride is so fun and is now in my top two rides!
- The Revenge of the Mummy – Hands down… this is my favorite indoor ride!!! We always ride this at least 3 times!
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – This is a must ride in Hogsmeade! Walking through Hogwarts Castle is just as fun as the ride itself.
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong – Fun for anyone in the family. Even my husband who can’t ride roller coasters, did it.
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – This ride is SO amazing and worth the wait!
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – a classic 4-D ride that will have your kids wanting to go again and again.
- Jurassic Park River Adventure – Just know you WILL get wet. Be sure to meet a dinosaur while you’re there!
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – This is one of the cutest rides in the park. If you get dizzy easy, don’t do the 3-D glasses.
- Fast & Furious Supercharged – This is one of the newest park ride and one you’ll want to grab a digital line pass for to skip most of the line.
- MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack – Always a great ride for anyone! If you do the VIP tour, you can sometimes get to walk on the floor of the MIB offices. We got to do this on our last two trips. So fun!
5. Do the Wand Experience in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley.
For Harry Potter fans, getting an interactive wand is a must! Before you purchase a wand, make sure to do the wand experience.
Your little one might get chosen as the wizard in the show! Then you’ll be whisked away to buy their wand, that of course chose them. We didn’t know about this the first year and had already bought our kid’s wands before doing the experience. Now you know!
6. Enjoy the Famous Harry Potter Butterbeer
While you are visiting one of the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter, you must make time time to enjoy some butterbeer! It’s very sweet, so one cup might be enough for two people to split. They have the best butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley. I highly recommend visiting the ice cream shop to try it.
Secret Universal Orlando Butterbeer Tip
Skip the long lines at the outside vendors by going inside the Hog’s Head tavern in the Isle of Adventure. This pub in the back of Three Broomsticks is the perfect place to get a frozen Butterbeer or pumpkin juice out of the heat.
Enjoy sipping your drinks away from the crowds on their patio with a magical view of the Hogwarts castle!
7. Meet the Characters
My kids have always LOVED meeting characters and getting autographs. If they had to choose between meeting a Minion or a ride, I’m not sure which they would want to do first.
From super heroes to your favorite comic book characters, there is someone fun to meet for both kids and adults!
What I love about Universal Orlando is the characters are very easy to find and there are often short to no lines.
My daughter’s favorite character is Sponge Bob. He’s hilarious and since we had such a great time meeting him, I brought this photo home. Even though we were soaked from the rain, it’s now framed in our home to remember our fabulous time!
8. Go to The Horror Make Up Show
While at Universal Orlando, you must visit one of the shows. Since my husband can’t ride roller coasters, we do a lot of shows. His favorite is The Horror Make Up Show.
This attraction is basically a comedy show with a theme around Hollywood horror movie make up. The actors are hilarious and even though I’ve seen it several times, I still laugh out loud every time!
I’d recommend getting there early to sit close to the front. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you the reason why… you’ll just have to trust me. This is a can’t miss entertaining show!
9. Explore Knockturn Alley
Experience the darker side of magic in Knockturn Alley! We could spend hours in this creepy and fun area of Diagon Alley. It’s especially great when you’re hot and need a break from the sun. It’s by far our favorite area to explore… we must be dark wizards!
10. Make Moving Photos at Shutterbutton’s
We haven’t had time to do the moving pictures at Shutterbuttons yet, but my friends did and it’s such a fun keepsake!
You can create your own moving photographs just like in the Harry Potter world at Shutterbutton’s located in Diagon Alley next to Madam Malkina’s Robes for All Occasions.
How much does Shutterbuttons cost?
The last we knew, the moving pictures DVD was $89.95 and $35 per print. Check out this video to see how Shutterbuttons works.
Get a Photo with a Dinosaur
If you don’t get family photos at Shutterbutton’s, be sure to take a photo with a dinosaur in Jurassic Park! It’s such a fun experience.
Where to Stay at Universal Orlando?
We have been to all of the Universal Orlando Resorts. They are all great, but my new favorite is the Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort. For one, it’s a gorgeous resort with a HUGE pool that makes you feel like you’re at the beach! It’s got lots of play areas for kids, sand and of course palm trees.
The rooms at Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort are beautiful and I really enjoyed the restaurants as well. It’s a pet friendly hotel, so if you have kids who are allergic to dogs, be sure to ask for a non-pet floor. Overall, my new favorite place to stay in Orlando!
Photo Credits: Amy Locurto and Melinda Johnson from Melinda Jae Photography.