My first visit to Universal Orlando Resort two years ago was a little like discovering a magical portal to another world. I hadn’t really known much about the park, so the rides, attractions and restaurants were all completely new to me, and I loved every one of them. After visiting, I shared my 7 Must-Try Unique Experiences at Universal Orlando Resort. And this year, I had the chance to introduce my boys to the fun of Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the first time too! So a few weeks ago, my husband, his parents, the boys and I packed up a few snacks and got ready to spend a day of fun and excitement at the two parks that comprise Universal Orlando Resort. Wondering what rides you won’t want to miss? These were our family’s top 10 picks!
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
1) The Incredible Hulk
Our family loves roller coasters, and The Incredible Hulk is definitely a new favourite for all of us! Unlike a classic coaster with a slow climb followed by a speedy ride down, The Incredible Hulk launches the cars out at top speed right off the bat! Zackary was so excited to try this roller coaster for the first time and was grinning ear to ear when he stepped off at the end. He loved the speed, thrills and spins of the bright green coaster, and insisted on riding multiple times.
2) The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
This ride was one of the first 4D attractions at Islands of Adventure and personally, it’s still one of my favourites. I knew my boys would love it just as much and expected Benjamin especially to be a big fan. I wasn’t disappointed. From avoiding the heat of the flames shot by villains to feeling the spray of water when splashing into a lake, travelling with Spider-Man was nonstop excitement and the boys couldn’t get enough of it.
3) Skull Island: Reign of Kong
This newest addition to Universal’s Islands of Adventure debuted last July, just in time to get people excited about the new Kong: Skull Island movie…and it did its job! The ride takes you on a bumpy journey through Skull Island, complete with dinosaurs, giant insects and, of course, the mighty Kong himself! Personally, the battle between Kong and a Tyrannosaurus Rex was my favourite part of the ride, though there were plenty of harrowing and exciting moments to choose from!
4) Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Believe me when I say that it doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies or not…you will LOVE this ride. Flying over Hogwarts, interrupting a Quidditch game and even facing off against dragons and Dementors has never been more fun thanks to the newly upgraded 4K-HD projections that lets you feel even more like you’re a part of the action. Both boys loved this ride, but 7-year-old Benjamin was the biggest fan and I was more than willing to take another trip through Hogwarts with him too!
Universal Studios Florida
5) Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Just as The Incredible Hulk provides unique thrills with its rocket-fast start, the Rip Rockit roller coaster has its own unique twist…a 180-degree uphill climb to start off the ride with heart-pounding suspense and thrills! Even better, you can choose a soundtrack to listen to as you make the climb and then zoom around the twists and turns. In my opinion, this is the most intense ride at Universal Orlando, but also the most fun!
6) Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
Kids and adults alike love the adorable and mischievous Minions that first appeared in the hit family movie Despicable Me. And if you’ve ever wished you could join their ranks, you’re in luck! This fun-filled ride takes families through the Minion Academy so that they too can properly serve an evil master in true minion style. This 3D adventure is a great choice for younger kids, though parents are sure to love it too!
7) Revenge of the Mummy
Half roller coaster and half 4D adventure, this ride is all fun as you journey through an ancient tomb and try to escape a blood-thirsty mummy that wants to keep you trapped forever! I love the special effects in this ride, from the bugs crawling on the walls to the sudden shooting flames. And the thrilling ride through the dark at the end is always the best part!
8) Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
While Universal’s Islands of Adventure is home to Hogwarts Castle and the wizard town of Hogsmeade, Universal Studios Florida holds the entrance to Diagon Alley, hidden just past platform 9 3/4. And of course, the biggest building on the street is the imposing and opulent Gringotts Bank! We headed inside past the goblin bankers and boarded the ride, where we had the chance to sneak into the bank and face off against Voldemort himself. Lucky for us, Harry and his friends rode in on a dragon just in time to save the day and carry us away!
9) The Simpsons Ride
My husband and I are die-hard Simpsons fans and have gradually been introducing our boys to some of our favourite classic episodes as well. So even just walking through Springfield, U.S.A. is a treat for all of us. But for even more fun, The Simpsons Ride is a must-experience adventure that’s sure to have you laughing as you ride. From shooting off a broken roller coaster to being picked up by a mutated giant baby (Maggie), this 3D ride highlights The Simpsons at their wildest and wackiest!
10) E.T. Adventure
This classic is the only original ride left since the park’s grand opening back in 1990. But while the technology and special effects might not be as fancy, this ride has an appeal that’s stood the test of time. After a short mission briefing by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, we hopped on our special bicycle space machines and helped E.T. escape earth and travel back to his home planet, just in time to save them from a strange sickness that threatened their lives. This ride is sweet, charming and, in my opinion, a must for the whole family.
BONUS: Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
During our visit to the park, my husband, mother-in-law and I were lucky enough to have the chance to be part of the test audience for this brand-new 3D experience set to open April 6, 2017. Fans move through different levels of a mock studio to get to the main attraction, and there was plenty of interesting memorabilia and even some fun games to check out along the way. Once inside, we faced off against Jimmy and his “Tonight Rider” in a race through New York! While the ride was lots of fun, I have to say that this is really more an adult-themed experience in my opinion. (In fact, I’m pretty sure neither of my boys have any idea who Jimmy Fallon is.) But if you do take the kids, the race itself is sure to keep them entertained even if the jokes go over their heads!
Of course, there’s a lot more to the Universal Orlando Resort than just rides! We also spent some of our time watching a few shows, enjoying the unique food choices and taking pictures at the top photo spots in the parks. (I highly recommend the monstrous and delicious Brain Freezin D’oh-nut Sundae in Springfield, U.S.A. if you’re in the mood for a treat!) But if your family is as ride-crazy as mine is, these attractions are ones that you’ll want to add to your schedule. Just make sure to wear comfy shoes, and try the wildest rides before you eat instead of after!