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Twenty Must Dos at Universal Orlando Theme Park

Must Do List for Universal Studios Orlando Hogsmeade

Universal Orlando has a lot to do, from nauseating motion simulators, to characters, to nauseating motion simulators, to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then back to nauseating motion simulators again for good measure. There is some great stuff that doesn’t require Dramamine. If your time is limited, there are some must dos at Universal Orlando that are not to be missed.

The resort has two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure Orlando. It also has Universal Orlando Volcano Bay water park, and CityWalk, Universal’s version of Downtown Disney and Disney Springs. If you want to see everything, one day is not going to cut it. You should make a good touring plan regardless of the length of your stay to maximize your time.

Universal Studio Must-Do Rides

What Are the Must Dos at Universal Orlando Parks?

20. Animal Actors on Location Universal Studios Orlando

19. Curious George Universal Orlando

18. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

17. Three Broomsticks Universal

16. Leaky Cauldron Universal

15. Universal CityWalk

14. Jurassic Park Discovery Center Islands of Adventure

13. Seuss Landing Orlando Florida

12. Marvel Super Hero Island Universal

11. E.T. Adventure Universal Orlando

10. Jurassic Park River Adventure Islands of Adventure

9. The Cat in the Hat Universal’s Islands of Adventure

8. MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack

7. Universal Mardi Gras Orlando

6. Universal Orlando Unlimited Express Pass

5. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts Universal Studios Florida Orlando

4. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

3. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Universal Orlando

2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Orlando

1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Orlando Diagon Alley

Must do rides Universal Studios Orlando

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Must Dos at Universal Orlando Florida

20. Animal Actors Universal Studios Orlando

Animal Actors Universal Orlando is a show starring domestic animals that are smarter than your domestic animals. The show features the best kind of lowbrow humor (dog with a bra). I usually feel icky about animal attractions, but these animals seem happy. It is a cute show and a great place to take a break. It is a must do at Universal Studios Orlando.

Location: Universal Studios Theme Park Florida

Animal Actors Show Universal Studios Height Requirement: None

animal actors on location universal studios florida orlando

19. Curious George Goes to Town Universal Orlando

Curious George Universal Studios is a unique play area. It is large enough to hold quite a few people, so it doesn’t feel crowded. It has a splash pad and an area where you can send balls through tubes. You can also shoot both water and balls into the air and at adults who aren’t paying attention. It is one of the must dos at Universal Studios for kids.

Location: Universal Studios Florida

Curious George Universal Studios Florida Height Requirement: None

curious george land universal studios

18. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

Universal Studios Jimmy Fallon Race Through New York is a motion simulator in Jimmy Fallon’s studio audience. This Universal Orlando ride is relatively new. The movie is cute, despite its unrealistic premise that you can race a car through an ocean. My kids have no clue who he is, but still really enjoyed it. It is a must do in Universal Studios Orlando.

This Universal Studios ride really wins the day with the Jimmy Fallon Race Through New York Universal Orlando queue. You enter a Universal Orlando virtual line with a return time, so you can do something else while you wait. When it is your turn, you walk through a building that looks like NBC studios with a ton of memorabilia. There are entertaining clips to watch while you sit on comfortable benches and wait for the ride. The whole experience is very chill.

Location: Universal Studios Florida

Height Requirement: 40″

jimmy fallon race through ny ride

17. Three Broomsticks Orlando

Three Broomsticks Harry Potter World is a quick service restaurant in the Universal Orlando Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The decor is awesome. Your child will feel he or she has entered one of the books. It is one of the must do restaurants in Universal Orlando.

Unfortunately, everyone knows this. The line for Three Broomsticks restaurant in Islands of Adventure gets long. Try to eat at an off time.

The Three Broomsticks food at this Universal Hogsmeade restaurant is just OK, but that should be expected at a theme park. The Three Broomsticks menu is limited. If you eat gluten free, the rotisserie chicken is safe. This restaurant is so deep into character that it does not serve Diet Coke. Get over yourself, Harry. If you need caffeine, you will need to find it elsewhere.

Location: Three Broomsticks Islands of Adventure in Orlando Florida

Height Requirement: None

Three Broomsticks must do rides in universal studios

16. Leaky Cauldron Harry Potter

Leaky Cauldron Orlando Florida is a quick service, Harry Potter themed restaurant. The decor is very well themed, complete with a giant leaky cauldron. It is a must do restaurant at Universal Studios. You order at a counter, but the Universal Orlando food is brought to you, so you don’t have to navigate the restaurant juggling trays and children in this Diagon Alley restaurant.

It is expensive, but you are going to pay an inflated price anywhere you go on property. The ambiance makes it one of the best Universal restaurants and worth a visit.

The Universal Orlando quick service menu is limited, but there are gluten free options. They have Leaky Cauldron gluten free pancakes that are not listed on the menu. Be sure to ask what you can have. The Leaky Cauldron food is fine, which qualifies as good by theme park standards. Again, no Diet Coke.

Leaky Cauldron Location: Universal Studios Florida

Leaky Cauldron Restaurant Universal Height Requirement: None

leaky cauldron in harry potter

15. Universal CityWalk

CityWalk is Universal’s version of Downtown Disney and Disney Springs. It consists of Universal Orlando gift shops, restaurants, bars, and girls going to get their club on with eight inch heels and three inch skirts. The area is fun and high energy. The people watching is priceless. It is one of the best things to do at Universal Studios Orlando for adults.

Like Disneyland, you enter Universal’s theme parks from CityWalk. You also board the boats to be transported to your Universal Orlando on site hotel from this area. The convenient location makes for an easy stop before or after your day at the theme parks.

The restaurants are more expensive than a restaurant off property, but a lot of the choices are much better than those within the theme parks. Be aware that the restaurants get packed right after park closing. Some restaurants will accept Universal Orlando dining reservations. Call ahead.

Location: Universal Orlando CityWalk

Height Requirement: None

universal city walk

14. Jurassic Park Discovery Center Orlando Florida

Jurassic Park Discovery Center Universal Orlando is a play area with large dinosaur skeletons, interactive exhibits, and a center where you can watch baby dinosaurs come into the world. It is not crowded and a perfect break from the sun. Young children can entertain themselves for hours in this area. It is one of my kids’ favorite things to do at Islands of Adventure.

For a mental picture you will not be able to unsee, check out the exhibit that shows what your children would look like as dinosaurs. Things get really weird when siblings share a turn. Photographic evidence demonstrating why relatives can’t have babies together.

Location: Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure Height Requirement: None

jurassic park discovery centre orlando

13. Seuss Landing Universal

Seuss Landing Islands of Adventure is a heavily themed section of the theme park that is beyond adorable. It contains several Seuss Landing rides for small children and a show with Seuss Landing characters and a woman who missed her calling as one of Santa’s assistants. Even if your family is beyond this stage in life, you will appreciate the level of detail and fun colors. It is a must do at Universal Islands of Adventure.

Location: Islands of Adventure

Height Requirement: None

dr seuss landing orlando

12. Islands of Adventure Marvel Super Hero Island Orlando Florida

Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal Islands of Adventure is not a ride, but a section of the park that is heavily themed and crawling with Islands of Adventure characters. The lines are short to non-existent, the photos are priceless, and a few times a day, a bunch of superheroes ride to nowhere on motorcycles down the middle of the street.

The section also contains Marvel Super Hero Island rides including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, a ride that definitely gets an honorable mention on this list as a great attraction.

Location: Islands of Adventure

Height Requirement: None

marvel superhero island universal orlando resort

11. The E.T. Adventure Ride at Universal Studios in Orlando

E.T. Adventure Orlando is a slow moving Universal Studios Orlando ride on a bicycle through my childhood. The animatronics are extremely outdated. The sound is poor quality. None of that matters. This classic Universal Orlando attraction checks all the boxes for those who used a crimper.

It is slow moving with no spinning. Anyone can enjoy it without feeling sick. It is one of my favorite things to try at Universal Studios Orlando.

Location: Universal Studios Florida

E.T. Adventure Height Requirement: 34″ to ride with a supervising companion, 48″ to ride alone

E.T. Adventure universal orlando best rides

10. Jurassic Park River Adventure Orlando Florida

Islands of Adventure Jurassic Park River ride Orlando is 3-D glass free, which by itself gives this Universal Orlando water ride a boost. It has a classic theme park feel. You cruise down a river through animatronic dinosaurs. Everything is cool until raptors escape and a T-Rex tries to eat you, then not so much. It is one of the most fun rides on Islands of Adventure.

This Universal Orlando Jurassic Park ride ends with a steep drop and a bunch of water in your lap. Ride on a warm day and pack your poncho.

This ride may be scary for young children. A toddler should skip this one.

Location: Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure Jurassic Park River Adventure Height Restriction: 42″ to ride with a supervising companion, 48″ to ride alone

jurassic park river orlando

9. Seuss Landing Cat in the Hat Universal Ride

Seuss Landing The Cat in the Hat Universal Orlando has a Disney-like slow moving dark ride vibe. It is one of my favorite Universal Orlando kid rides. The animatronics are fun. The story is cute. There is a ton to see. While it is geared toward younger children, most people will appreciate it. It is a great Islands of Adventure attraction.

Location: Islands of Adventure Seuss Landing

Height Requirement: 36″ to ride with a supervising companion, 48″ to ride alone

cat in the hat ride universal orlando

8. MEN IN BLACK Ride Universal Alien Attack

MEN IN BLACK Univeral Studios is similar to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Disney World, but with more spinning. The movie and some of the alien targets are outdated, but shooting at things is good wholesome fun. You can also shoot at other cars. This causes more spinning, Universal’s favorite movement other than shaking. It is one of the best rides at Universal Studios Orlando.

Location: Universal Studios Florida

Height Requirement: 42″ with a supervising companion, 48″ to ride alone

universal orlando studios Men in Black

7. Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Mardi Gras in Universal Studios is a great Universal Orlando event. The area is well decorated. There is a lot to see and do. It features food booths and concerts from D-list celebrities.

The highlight is definitely the Universal Mardi Gras parade. It is super high energy with people on stilts as far as the eye can see. The Universal Mardi Gras parade music is upbeat, the floats are intricate, and beads are thrown liberally, even if you don’t remove your bra. People over age 18 can be a Universal Mardi Gras float rider. This parade is not to be missed. It is one of the must do things in Universal Studios.

Location: Universal Studios in Orlando

Height Requirement: None

universal studios orlando mardi gras beads

6. Universal Express Unlimited

Universal Express Pass Unlimited is like SeaWorld’s Quick Queue and LEGOLAND’s Reserve ‘N Ride. Is Universal Orlando Express Pass worth it? Yes. Buy it. This FastPass for Universal Orlando is definitely worth it. At this point, I won’t visit without it.

You get to enter the shorter Universal Orlando Express pass line on the vast majority of the rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme park as many times as you want.

Universal Express costs a small fortune. If you don’t want to purchase it out of pocket, consider staying in one of the premier Universal Orlando hotels with Universal Express pass. The choices are Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, or Loews Royal Pacific Resort. The Universal Express Unlimited ticket is included for the duration of your stay for everyone in your room with your Universal Orlando vacation package.

Location: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida

Height Requirement: None

universal express orlando Transformers

5. Harry Potter World Gringotts Ride

Harry Potter Gringotts ride Orlando is located in the Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The air conditioned Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts queue for this Diagon Alley ride has a ton to see, which makes the wait tolerable.

This Universal Orlando Harry Potter ride is largely a motion simulator with 3-D glasses, but it is on a roller coaster track. It is much more entertaining than just sitting in a shaking theater. The videos are very well done, but may be scary for some children. It is one of the must do rides at Universal Studios Florida.

Be aware you have to put your things in a free Universal Orlando locker before you ride. The small Escape from Gringotts lockers are free. The locker rooms are reminiscent of Target on Black Friday, so saddle up.

Location: Universal Studios in Florida

Harry Potter Escape from Gringotts Height Requirement: 42″ to ride with a supervising companion, 48″ to ride alone

harry potter and the gringotts ride

4. Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure Ride

Hagrid Motorbike Adventure is the newest roller coaster. Pre-COVID, Universal Orlando wait times regularly exceeded two hours.

We participated in the Hagrid Motorbike rope drop foot race one morning. We got there within a few minutes of opening (because seven year old children are slow). Our Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure wait time was a whopping 190 minutes. To add insult to injury, the Hagrid’s Motorbike queue is as interesting as a croquet match. It got all Girl, Interrupted in that line.

This Universal Orlando roller coaster itself is awesome. The Hagrid motorbike ride vehicle has a motorcycle and sidecar. The roller coaster goes backward for a good portion of the time. There are impressive animatronics. Is it worth a 190 minute Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure queue time? Nope. Is it worth a ride? Absolutely. Run faster than we did.

You need to use the free lockers for Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure Universal for this ride as well.

Location: Islands of Adventure Harry Potter

Height Requirement for Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure Islands of Adventure Park: 48″

hagrid motorbike coaster

3. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal

Hogsmeade Universal Florida is part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This Universal Harry Potter World is amazingly detailed and immersive. It contains amazing rides. Even without them, the land can hold its own. You could kill hours in this area without riding anything, particularly if you are into Harry Potter (which I am not).

Shops in Hogsmeade Universal Orlando include Ollivanders, a store where a wand chooses a child and said child’s parents get stuck with an expensive purchase. The Universal Harry Potter wands can be used throughout Hogsmeade Wizarding World’s interactive attractions in Islands of Adventure Florida. They didn’t work all that well. If you want to avoid the shakedown, avoid the store.

This. Area. Gets. CROWDED. It is most enjoyable first thing in the morning. Consider going here first if you have multiple days at the theme parks.

Location: Islands of Adventure Universal

Height Requirement: None

hogsmeade universal studios castle

2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Universal Orlando

The Forbidden Journey Harry Potter ride is easily in the top ten on which I have ever been. This Universal Orlando Hogsmeade ride is relatively new, so everything is modern and updated. The ride does come with screens and 3-D glasses, because it is Universal after all, but it is not just another motion simulator. It is a must do Universal Orlando attraction.

This Islands of Adventure ride Orlando has slow twists and turns, some of which turn you almost upside down between screens and shaking. You may experience some Forbidden Journey ride motion sickness. It is also dark, so it might be scary for some kids.

The queue is entertaining in its own right because of the heavy theming. Like the other Universal Studios Harry Potter rides on this list, you need to put your things in a free Forbidden Journey locker to ride.

Location: Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure in Florida

Universal Orlando Ride Height Requirement: 48″

forbidden journey universal studios

1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Florida – Diagon Alley

The Diagon Alley Harry Potter World is amazing. When you enter this land, you no longer feel you are in a theme park. It should be on your must do Universal Studios Orlando Florida list.

The amount of detail is insane. From a fire breathing Diagon Alley dragon to the Knight Bus, there is no shortage of things to see. The area has lots of storefronts, some real and some decorative. Diagon Alley Universal Florida even has its own Harry Potter Gringotts bank.

Universal Orlando Ollivanders is also in this section, as are stations to use the Universal Orlando interactive wands purchased in this Diagon Alley wand shop. Pack the Black Card or distract the kids.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Florida draws a big crowd. You will enjoy this area most first thing in the morning. If you are there multiple days, consider going to this area first.

Location: Harry Potter World Universal Studios Florida

Universal Orlando Height Requirement: None

diagon alley at universal studios

Final Thoughts – Must Do Things Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando packages have a ton to offer. The theme parks are no longer just afterthoughts to Disney World. You really need more than one day to enjoy them. Download the Universal Orlando app before you go so you can watch wait times. Make a touring plan to hit everything you want in the most efficient way possible. Consider a vacation to the Universal Orlando Resort. You will not regret it.

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Twenty Must Dos at Universal Orlando

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  1. Cant wait to visit Wizarding World of HARRY potter there! Loved the one in California, but know the one in Florida is supposed to be even bigger and better!

  2. An ET Ride! Now I must go, so nostalgic to my childhood (even if outdated and slow). I always wanted a crimper, but sadly I had to rely on my friends to provide me the iconic look.

  3. We are big Harry Potter fans and ABSOLUTELY LOVED Universal Orlando. They do such a good job of making you feel like you are actually in Hogsmead or Diagon Alley. We made a once in a lifetime splurge and booked the VIP Experience tour and it was SPECTACULAR. We went on 12 rides in 7 hours and got to go into a special part of Men in Black. It was an experience we will never forget. We also had a guide who held all of our stuff… and warned me if I would barf on each of the rides. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter almost killed me, but my kids didn’t even get dizzy. I don’t handle as much in my old age. Great post. It brought back memories of our best vacation ever!

  4. Great article! So much has changed since I went there as a kid😂 This article makes me want to go back and take my kids. I will definitely keep this in mind for when we get a chance to go.

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