Orlando, Florida, is one of the great family vacation destinations anywhere. My family adores Disney World but we’ve developed a fondness for Universal Studios over the years as well. Let me take you through both Universal parks and its City Walk area and give you some tips that I hope help make your trip even better. I begin this two-part tour with Universal Studios Park.
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS PARK
Universal Studios was the original park built in Orlando. I remember my first time there. My wife and I parked no more than 50 feet from the main entrance. Times have changed and unless you have special parking, you can’t do that anymore. Still this park still has a charm to it and plenty to see so let’s get started.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
This is one of the newest attractions at Hollywood Studios and so worth your time. This coaster is unique in that you are given a catalog of songs to choose from and program into your car to listen to while you take your ride. There is music for every taste as classic rock, R&B, and country songs are all available to riders. The ride itself is awesome as you start out heading up a 167-foot hill staring straight up at the sky. While you don’t have any loops or inversions, it’s way cool and should not be skipped if your constitution can handle it.
If you enjoyed the films, you’ll enjoy this attraction. It’s simply a short Shrek-based film in 3-D with a few added surprises in your not-so-typical theater seats. We like it but it no longer makes our list of must-see attractions. We do suggest you keep an eye out for the star of the show hanging around outside the theater though. It makes for a great photo opportunity.
Twister…Ride It Out
There was so much potential for this attraction but they kind of missed the boat a bit. It starts with a little documentary on the making of the film then you are led into a room where you get to see a ‘mini-twister.’ We suggest you see this only if you’ve seen everything else and you have time on your hands.
Revenge of the Mummy
This is another really great roller-coaster style attraction at the Studios. While there are no big drops here, you get some awesome visuals as you ride through the Mummy’s tomb. No need to worry if you aren’t too excited when you get into the queue line because you’ll be ‘fired up’ in no time.
The Blues Brothers Show
There are plenty of ways to take breaks throughout your day at the Studios and this is a good one, especially if you grew up in the 80s. Sit back, relax, and let Jake and Elwood entertain you while you rest your weary bones.
Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Review
If the Blues Brothers isn’t your thing, maybe this ghoul-studded spectacular is more your speed. It’s music of the creepiest kind but still a fun way to take a break in your day.
A long time ago this attraction was called, “Earthquake!” The attraction really hasn’t changed much since those days and it’s still pretty neat if you’ve never ridden it before. The best description I can give here is take Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s Catastrophe Canyon ride, put it in a subway station, and you get Disaster.
Men in Black Alien Attack
Wanna hunt aliens? There’s no better place to do it than here. The Men in Black Alien Attack ride takes you on an alien-blasting mission with teams actually competing against each other to see what car has the best alien hunters. The vehicles are equipped with laser guns and everyone gets to be on the lookout for extraterrestrial invaders. It’s a video game taken to the next level. The ride is literally a blast and worth riding again and again.
The Simpsons Ride
I had waited a long time for this ride and in the end I had mixed feelings about it…along with a major bout with queasiness. When this was the “Back to the Future” ride, there was plenty of air circulating in the simulator area to keep the queasiness level at a minimum. Apparently when the ride underwent its transformation, that feature was removed. If you are a die-hard Simpsons fan (as I am), take the risk of intestinal discomfort and ride. Overall it is an awesome homage to the longest-running cartoon ever to air and the effects are fantastic. I don’t think I could ever ride it again but I’m so glad I rode it once.
Animal Actors on Location
Here’s another great spot to take a break in your day. It features several different animal ‘actors’ showing off their talents in this outdoor theater show. It’s amazing what they can do and worth seeing if you need to stop and sit.
A Day in the Park with Barney
This show is strictly geared to the preschool crowd. If you’ve got ‘em and they’re into big, purple dinosaurs, I don’t think you have much choice. If not, skip it and run as if a T-Rex was chasing you.
Curious George Goes to Town
Having a play area for kids in a park is nice. Having a water play area in a park is really cool. The Curious George Goes to Town play area is great for kids of all ages and it’s loaded with water fun. Word of advice though; make sure if you decide to visit that you have a change of clothes handy for everyone.
If you want a less-wet playground experience, this is for you. Fievel’s Playland is a lot like the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The kids will definitely enjoy feeling like a mouse but be aware that it does have some water and kids may get wet.
Another ride worth taking whether you saw the movie or not. You’ll feel just like Elliot and his friends as you soar through several of the movie’s memorable scenes on your bicycle. As you enter the ride, they’ll ask for your first name. If you listen closely at the end of the ride, you’ll understand why.
Terminator 2: 3-D
You’ll feel like you’re part of the movie when you visit the Terminator 2: 3-D attraction. This is more than just a 3-D film. They use live actors as well in this high-intensity show. If you are a Terminator fan, I’m guessing when it comes to this attraction, you’ll be back.
The Universal Studios park has plenty of places to grab a bite. Along with quick service spots strewn about the park there are also sit down options. Finnegan’s Bar and Grill in the New York section is a typical Irish pub style restaurant with salads, sandwiches, burgers and steaks as its primary offerings. My personal favorite stop in this park is Mel’s Diner. Parents who saw the movie, “American Graffiti” will probably appreciate this place more but the kids should get a kick out of it as well. Food options here are standard 50s diner fare (burgers, fries, shakes, floats, etc.) but the atmosphere is what really draws me in.
That pretty much covers this park. Keep your eyes peeled for part two where I’ll cover The Islands of Adventure and City Walk.
About the author: John Errico is a Disney travel enthusiast, devoted father, and an all-around good guy.
Thanks, John, can’t wait for part II and The Islands of Adventure and City Walk. Excited!
For everyone else, what is your favorite attraction at Universal Studios, Florida? Tell me in the comments!
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