Universal Orlando: 25 Things You Must Do & See With Your Kids
Love theme parks? Love lists? Then you’re in luck because this is a list about theme parks! We’ve extensively reviewed the Universal Orlando resort in these four previous posts, but just to make your trip planning even easier, here are our Top Picks for everything Universal Orlando and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in a glance. Agree with our suggestions? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!
Top Picks at Universal Orlando
1. Hogwart’s Express –At Universal Orlando, ride this train from the Kings Crossing station in Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade just like Harry and his friends did. You sit in a real train car while surprises and action takes place both inside and outside.
2. Jurassic Park River Adventure – Who doesn’t want to plunge down an 85-foot waterfall to escape a T. Rex? Perfect for fans of dinosaurs and those who enjoy huge quantities of water drenching their faces.
3. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – On this 3-D thrill ride, you’ll help Harry, Ron and Hermione break into Gringotts bank. It’s super fast-moving with tons of cool features from the movies throughout.
4. Revenge of the Mummy – This is a crazy fast rollercoaster, in the dark, with mummy-type creatures jumping out at you. Yeah, eek! But teenagers love it.
Classics at Universal Orlando
5. Blue Man Group – With a theater right outside the Universal Orlando park gates and one or two shows nightly, this clever, fun explosion of music, color and crazy is a great way to end the day.
6. E.T. Adventure – This classic ride is very dated, but come on – it’s E.T. and you ride a bike with him in your basket. How can you pass that up?
7. Animal Actors on Location! – This overly-scripted live stage production features animal “actors” doing tricks with their trainers. But it’s always fun to see cats and pigs and dogs running around on stage, plus you can sit down for a spell.
8. Men In Black Alien Attack – On this ride, you “shoot” aliens with a laser gun as you move along in a cart. The high score is then announced at the end. The “aliens” are more silly than anything.
Must Dos at Universal Orlando
9. NBC Sports Grill & Brew – Great food like burgers, salads and wings, plus 100 HD TVs streaming sports? Sold. Plus the tables are also working Foosball or shuffleboard games. (located in CityWalk)
10. Transformers: The Ride 3-D – Put on 3D glasses, and sit in a cart that whips back and forth while robots, balls of fire come right at you. Intense and surprisingly fun.
11. The Simpsons Ride – On this ride, you sit in cart that moves up and down while you watch a 3-D movie on an 80 ft. diameter dome. Really funny animation, with Sideshow Bob as a homicidal maniac.
12. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – Clever and not scary, this “wear 3D glasses and watch a little movie while the cart moves up and down and side to side type ride” is a lot of fun for kids of all ages.
13. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – Not only is there a ton to see inside Hogwart’s Castle while you’re waiting in line, you’ll then join Harry in a Quidditch match on a fast moving simulator. Soar around with your feet off the ground while various images and characters come at you.
14. Leaky Cauldron Restaurant – This traditional British pub– located in Hogsmeade– offers cottage pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, Scotch eggs, stew, and a children’s menu. Your food is carried to the table by waitstaff, not yourself, so easier for those with little ones.
15. Butterbeer – Harry Potter and his pals love their Butterbeer. It’s not actually alcoholic, though, and there are two kinds, regular and frozen. It tastes like butterscotch and Cream Soda, and is very, very, very, very sweet. Then you will want some beerbeer, which is also available.
16. Flight of the Hippogroff – A roller coaster tailored to smaller Muggles, it’s still really fun and fast moving. Plus you pass by the famous Hagrid’s hut.
17. Magic Wands – Buy an interactive wand at Ollivander’s Makers of Fine Wands ($50) and then look for the gold medallion plates on the ground throughout the parks. Follow the symbols on the medallions to make “magic” happen right before your eyes.
Secret Discoveries at Universal Orlando
18. Knockturn Alley – This side street in Diagon Alley has a few opportunities for magic, and it’s also very atmospheric for fans of the Dark Arts.
19. Churros – Are these secret? Probably not, but they are found at kiosks throughout the parks and they are SO GOOD.
20. Animal Actors Show – If you loiter after the show, you can go up to the stage and take a picture with whatever dog happens to be there with the trainer.
21. Knight Bus Conductor – Take a pic of the bus, but make sure you talk with the conductor and the joking shrunken head hanging in the Knight Bus window.
22. Platform 9 ¾ – Before you walk onto the main platform at King’s Cross, you pass through a “brick” wall like Harry did. Have someone in your party stand by the fence just before the wall and get a video of the wall pass through. You’ll see how you disappeared.
23. Ukranian Ironbelly Dragon – It’s hard to miss this giant dragon hanging off a building in Diagon Alley. Every 15 or so minutes, it blasts out a ball of fire, and you can tell it’s about time for the flames by the whiff of propane in the air.
24. Gringotts Money Exchange – This looks like just another shop, but be sure to ask the cranky goblin behind the desk question because he’ll answer you. Not politely, of course. He is a goblin, after all.
25. Kang and Kodos’ Twirl and Hurl – This spinning ride in Simpsons Land is not exactly thrilling, but because it lifts you high into the air, it’s a really cool way to see brightly lit Universal Orlando at night.
Thank you to Universal Orlando for hosting me and my family during our stay and visit; as you read, we had a fantastic time! All opinions are my own.Published May 17, 2016. Last updated May 15, 2018.