Over winter break, my family took a trip to Orlando, Florida. We had never been to Universal Studios before, and we're all pretty big Harry Potter and Jurassic Park fans, so we were excited to say the least! We went during the absolute busiest time of year, so there were a few things we missed out on, but we still made the best of the trip! I chose some of my favorite rides and ranked them in order of how much I personally liked them, and provided a little summary of each attraction. Enjoy!
1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Side view of the Hogwarts Castle
If you're even slightly a Harry Potter fan, I'm sure you've always wondered what it would be like to join the Golden Trio on one of their many adventures. This ride gives you the chance to do just that! While waiting in line, you walk throughout the castle seeing Dumbledore's office, the talking portraits, and so much more. On the ride, you and three others are put onto a "flying bench" where you join Ron, Harry, and Hermione flying over the Hogwarts grounds on the way to a quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Of course, you encounter a few issues along the way, but the experience is absolutely incredible. A mixture of a 4-D experience and motion simulator, you really feel like you are a part of the world! If I'm being honest, I almost cried because I was so overwhelmed! You come face to face with Dementors, Aragog and his children, and even Draco Malfoy makes an appearance (I screamed, he's my favorite)!
2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
This ride was an incredible experience, and definitely left a mark as it was the first attraction we did in Islands of Adventure. In a similar fashion, this Marvel-inspired ride involves a motion simulator and 4-D effects, such as a spritz of water or heat from flames. You're put into a news vehicle to get the headlines for the Daily Bugle where Peter Parker is a photographer, and given special 3-D glasses made specifically for the ride. Somewhere in the process, you cross paths with Spider-Man himself, as well as the Sinister Syndicate, a group of villains who decided to steal the Statue of Liberty! Of course, in the end Spider-Man saves the day and if you look closely, Stan Lee makes four appearances throughout the ride!
3. Revenge of the Mummy
I had never seen any of the movies that inspired this ride, but I thoroughly enjoyed the world it creates. The attraction is an inside rollercoaster that sets up a fictional sequel to the trilogy, and mysterious things happen to the actors and crew members. The idea is that the mummy Imhotep wants to harvest the riders' souls to power him forever. The ride itself is not like a traditional rollercoaster where you are constantly moving, but you travel between different rooms in the archaeological site. There is even a fake unloading area where a woman welcomes you back before Imhotep sucks out her soul and sets the room on fire–and the room really does get very hot–before the dramatic 40 foot drop with twists and turns!
4. Jurassic Park River Adventure
Entrance to the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure
*DISCLAIMER*: this is technically a water ride. We were on a tour when we rode it, so our guide was able to get us rain ponchos and seat us in an area of the boat where we were least likely to get wet. Without this strategy, definitely prepare to get soaked. You begin the journey going through the herbivore area, where several creatures are lounging in the water and a few even blow water at you. Something happens and you get bumped into the restricted area where the carnivores and more dangerous dinosaurs are kept, but they've escaped and attacked the building. Suddenly, you're taken up into the building itself where a few Dilophosaurus jump out and spit "venom" at you, and raptors are everywhere shrieking and snarling at passengers. Finally, you come up to the Tyrannosaurus rex where he snarls at you and just before he has you in his jaws, you are thrown down an 85 foot drop into the splash zone before being let off. While we were relatively dry, many people get off the ride soaked from head to toe!
5. Skull Island: Reign of Kong
On an expedition to Skull Island, passengers are put onto a GPS controlled truck meant to deliver supplies to others in the temple. Each truck has one of five animatronic drivers who tell you about themselves throughout the ride. Once you reach the base where you are to drop off the supplies, creatures fly through and attack important members of the crew, which leads your driver to chase them in an attempt to help rescue. Dinosaurs and other vicious animals attack and antagonize the expedition trucks before a large ape (Kong, obviously) appears and even more chaos ensues. Also a 4-D simulation experience with glasses, as Kong throws dinos across the jungle, the trucks get tossed around until the ape has won the fight and you are free to go. As you drive off, you come face to face with the 27 foot animatronic where you no longer need the 3-D glasses to see. I rode this a few times, and it was really cool seeing it from both sides of the truck!
6. Men In Black: Alien Attack
A somewhat traditional blaster game, it is your job as Agent Trainee to help zap the aliens that are taking over New York. Every car has six riders, each with a laser gun and a score tracker. With every hit on an alien passengers receive points, and you're pitted against another car that turns out to be aliens in disguise! While the goal is to zap as many aliens as you can, you're also able to blast other cars, spinning them out to keep them from gaining points for their team. This being said, some aliens–not just the ones in the other car–can get you back, making you spin out. Will Smith's character appears to warn riders of an upcoming danger, and the giant cockroach-like alien from the first film of the franchise swallows you up with a gust of fog. I am not very good with my aim, so I didn't fair too well on my own. Luckily, the whole car's scores are pooled together and averaged out against the competition. In the end, everyone is neutralized and "made to forget," but somehow my memory is still intact!
7. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
My dad's favorite of them all: Not only is this a fast paced roller coaster that shoots you straight up and nearly straight back down, but you get to choose your own individual music for the entirety of the ride. My personal choice was always Glamorous by Fergie, but there is a variety of genres and artists to choose from. Another unusual characteristic that sets it apart is that the ride never actually stops–if it does, there's a problem! The track is constantly moving, and you're rushed on a conveyor belt to get into your seats. The initial chain life is a whopping 167 feet tall, and by the time you reach the bottom of the first drop you're going 65 miles per hour. Talk about a rush! Before getting in line they make you remove everything from your pockets, put your items in a locker, and then go through a metal detector to make sure there aren't any loose, metal items. While it is a quick ride, it is definitely worth the wait!
8. The Incredible Hulk
View of Incredible Hulk coaster across the water
General Thaddeus Ross, archenemy of the Hulk (and Dr. Bruce Banner) has been experimenting, trying to recreate Banner's work, and those waiting in line have submitted themselves to be test subjects in the early stages. Riders undergo gamma radiation, giving them Hulk-like superhuman strength as they race through the sky on a freshly built track, reopened in 2016. This rollercoaster is definitely worth all of the hype given to it, but after a long day is not good for those who get rattled easily. When it was one of the first rides I rode, I loved every second of it, as it is such a thrill. That being said, when it was one of the last rides we went on during the day, it amplified my already pounding headache and made me want to take a nap. Honestly, it is still one of my all-time favorite coasters, I would just suggest going on it early!
9. Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank
As a Harry Potter fan, I was super excited to experience the Wizarding World in such a real way. While I absolutely loved every second of it, this ride stressed me out because the regular waiting time for it at 9am when the park opened for everyone not staying at a resort was already estimated at 240 minutes. 4 hours. WHAT?! Luckily, we knew it was going to be super packed and planned for this: we got the express passes. This cut down our waiting time a TON, making the full wait approximately 45 minutes in total. We walked throughout Gringotts Wizarding Bank, got our picture taken, and even meet Bill Weasley, as well as many goblins. The ride is set in the eighth movie of the franchise when Harry, Ron, and Hermione break into Bellatrix Lestrange's vault to get the sword, so you are again immersed in the world. I enjoyed all of it but wish I would have taken my phone out of my bag before putting it in a locker, so I could've taken pictures! If I am being honest the ride itself was a bit of a letdown, because while it is called an indoor steel rollercoaster, it is mostly stopping and starting in areas with 3-D projections. The coolest part of it all was that they remade the scenes and altered them specifically for the ride, so it felt extra special and personalized.
Which are your favorites?