The best rides at Universal Studios Florida
One thing Universal’s got going for it over that other Orlando theme park is that there are some pretty legit, thrilling rides for adrenaline junkies. Of course, there’s plenty of kid-friendly stuff too, plus some old classics -- yep, the E.T. ride is alive and well. Here are some of our favorites:
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit: This is definitely the most hardcore coaster at Universal. It reaches 65 mph and can be quite shaky and scary (especially if you sit in the back seats). It also has a terrifying 90-degree angle climb that leaves you thinking something along the lines of “My god, why did I do this to myself.”
A fun music feature lets you select your own personal background jam for the ride. Just make sure you’re quick about it, because once the coaster gets going, your music options disappear. Just click your favorite genre and pick the best available song, or else you may end up music-less and more terrified than ever.
Men in Black Alien Attack: Real talk, this is the most underrated ride in all of Universal. It’s easy to overlook, nestled somewhere between The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Springfield: Home of the Simpsons. But it’s surprisingly amazing with some cool stand-out features.
It’s a competitive ride -- there's really nothing else like this ride-and-shoot combo. Plus, there are a few secret tricks to get a higher score than your buds. You’ll score more points if you shoot the aliens that are “hiding,” like in windows or behind trees. And you can earn an extra 100,000 point bonus -- at the end, once you see the big monster, listen carefully to the speakers in your seat and press the red button before anyone else in your car. No bonus points, unfortunately, for knowing all the words to the Will Smith song.
Revenge of the Mummy: This indoor roller coaster is definitely not for the faint of heart, since it features a sudden plunge into total darkness that is downright terrifying. As you run away from evil Imhotep, your car will run into swarms insects, warrior mummies, and fire (yes, real fire!) Make sure you carefully listen to the video at the end, because you might hear Brendan Fraser say “Ooh, that feels good.” (And once you hear it, you can’t unhear it).
The Simpsons Ride: Maybe avoid this one if you just ate lunch. There’s a lot of twists and turns with an indoor simulator that features Homer and the gang from Springfield. It’s a super fun ride for fans, a less-fun ride for folks with weak stomachs.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts: It’s not a visit to Universal Studios without a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, amirite? This is another indoor/simulated roller coaster combo but it won’t disappoint. Here, you’ll join Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they attempt to navigate the bank’s tight security and escape from their nemesis’ grasp.
Plus, waiting in line for the ride is almost as exciting as the ride itself; honestly, this is one of the most intricate waiting areas I’ve ever seen. Once you venture outside after the ride is over, make sure to look up and wait (about 10 minutes) until you see the dragon roar and spit out fire.
Always ride the outdoor rides first
Among the many things non-Floridians don’t realize about the Sunshine State is there ain’t a whole lot of sunshine around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. In the summer months, Orlando’s tropical weather often results in a regularly scheduled afternoon downpour.
If your heart’s set on outdoor rides like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit or Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, then make sure you hit ‘em earlier in the day. The rides will shut down if there is lightning within five miles, so you may be impacted even if there isn’t any rain directly above you.
Not all rides are acceptable for little kids
Several rides in the park won’t allow children under 40 inches (about 3-feet) to ride. Luckily, Universal’s “rider swap” (or “baby swap”) program provides a nifty workaround for families. Basically, Adult #1 waits with the too-short kid (aw) in a designated area, while Adult #2 & Co. ride the ride. Then, Adult #1 can swap in once the other members of their group are done -- without having to wait in line again. Here’s the list of rides that currently offer rider swap.