Universal Orlando: Everything You Need to Know About Attractions, Dining, and Entertainment

Updated 11/17/18. Universal Orlando is a top favorite family destination to visit in Orlando. Universal Orlando offers two full size theme parks and a water park to chose from during your visit.

Universal Orlando is also home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which is large enough that it includes two full size lands with the Hogwarts Express running between them.

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Universal Orlando is a popular destination and there is no reason to pay full price on Universal Orlando tickets. We broke down all the available Universal Orlando discount tickets you can find so you can get the best deal for your vacation. Check out our guide to discount Universal Orlando tickets here. 

Once you have your tickets, the next step is planning your itinerary! Universal’s two theme parks include Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Their water park, Volcano Bay, is home to many great water slides and attractions.

City Walk, similar to the idea of Disney Springs, is also located by the parks and offers plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment that does not require admission.

We have broken down the main must sees from each park to help you decide how to plan your day.

 Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida is home to many iconic attractions that folks associate with Universal Studios.

This is also where you can find one of the two Harry Potter themed lands- Diagon Alley. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not to be missed in either park! These immersive experiences are heaven for any Potterhead and breathtaking even for those that aren’t big fans. Don’t miss it.

Attractions

Mummies surrounded by fire

Here are the main attractions for Universal Studios Florida- listed in order of the most popular so you know which to prioritize in the morning when lines are short:

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Transformers The Ride 3D
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • E.T. Adventure
  • Men In Black Alien Attack
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse Coaster
  • Hogwarts Express (If you have park to park tickets)

Universal’s website offers a pretty clear explanation of each attraction including height requirement and thrill levels. You can also download the app and plan your day using the app in advance which can be pretty handy!

Entertainment and Shows

Ollivanders store front

There are plenty of Harry Potter themed entertainment options in Universal Studios Florida among other iconic options. Make sure to allow time for entertainment in your day- Universal does a great job with its entertainment options. If you have your heart set on Ollivanders, we recommend going there first thing in the morning as lines get quite long.

Here are your options for entertainment aside from rides:

  • Ollivanders
  • Knight Bus
  • Gringotts Money Exchange
  • Simpsons Games
  • Palace Theater Arcade

And it wouldn’t be Universal without a great selection of shows to take in! Here are a list of the shows you can find at Universal Studios Florida:

  • The Blues Brothers Show
  • Fear Factor Live
  • Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration
  • A Day in the Park with Barney
  • Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show
  • Studio Brass Band
  • Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees (Harry Potter themed)
  • The Tales of Beetle Bard (Harry Potter themed)
  • Animal Actors on Location
  • Universal’s Superstar Parade
  • Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macys (only during the holiday season)

There’s so much to see and do, it’s a bit overwhelming at first! This is why we recommend planning ahead and picking your priority stops in advance so you don’t miss out on anything you really want to see.

Dining and Shopping

Duff beer

When it comes to dining and shopping options, there are plenty go around that will leave your wallet feeling a little lighter. You can find Harry Potter themed dining and shopping in Diagon Alley. You can find Simpsons themed options near the Simpsons attraction.

Regular dining options, featuring a variety of American options, can also be found in Universal Studios Florida.

We recommend scoping out the website or the app prior to your visit to see what your strikes your fancy. Potterheads will likely head to Diagon Alley to get their Chocolate Frogs while Simpsons fans may head right to the Duff Beer Brewery!

Universal’s Island of Adventure

Aeriel view of Islands of Adventure

Universal’s Islands of Adventure is home to many thrilling attractions and is a popular theme park with many guests. So popular in fact, that it won TripAdvisor’s #1 Amusement Park In The World Choice Award the past three years in a row.

This is also where you can find one of the two Harry Potter themed lands- Hogsmeade along with the Hogwarts Castle! If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not to be missed in either park! These immersive experiences are heaven for any Potterhead and breathtaking even for those that aren’t big fans. Don’t miss it.

Attractions

Marvel characters on the Hulk coaster

Here are the main attractions for Universal’s Islands of Adventure- listed in order of the most popular so you know which to prioritize in the morning when lines are short:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
  • Poseidon’s Fury
  • Storm Force Accelatron
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Pteranodon Flyers
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • Hogwarts Express (If you have park to park tickets)

One thing to note about this theme park is the abundance of small kiddo friendly attractions compared with Universal Studios Florida. Universal’s website offers a pretty clear explanation of each attraction including height requirement and thrill levels. You can also download the app and plan your day using the app in advance which can be pretty handy!

Entertainment and Shows

Hogwarts Lights

There are plenty of Harry Potter themed entertainment options in Universal’s Islands of Adventure among other iconic options. Make sure to allow time for entertainment in your day- Universal does a great job with its entertainment options. If you have your heart set on Ollivanders, we recommend going there first thing in the morning as lines get quite long.

Here are your options for entertainment aside from rides:

  • Ollivanders
  • The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
  • Raptor Encounter
  • The Mystic Fountain
  • Star Souls
  • Toon Lagoon Games
  • Jurassic Park Games
  • Kingpin’s Arcade

And it wouldn’t be Universal without a great selection of shows to take in! Here are a list of the shows you can find at Universal’s Islands of Adventure:

  • The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
  • Frog Choir (Harry Potter themed)
  • Triwizard Spirit Rally (Harry Potter themed)
  • The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad
  • Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear!
  • Poseidon’s Fury

There’s so much to see and do, it’s a bit overwhelming at first! This is why we recommend planning ahead and picking your priority stops in advance so you don’t miss out on anything you really want to see. We recommend making The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle a priority, they’re spectacular.

Dining and Shopping

Marvel character dining

When it comes to dining and shopping options, there are plenty go around that will leave your wallet feeling a little lighter. You can find Harry Potter themed dining and shopping in Hogsmeade. You can find Marvel themed options, along with Captain America character dining, in the park too. And don’t forget all of the fun Dr. Seuss themed dining options!

Regular dining options, featuring a variety of options such as grills, Starbucks, bars, and bakeries, can also be found in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

We recommend scoping out the website or the app prior to your visit to see what your strikes your fancy. Potterheads will likely head to Hogsmeade to get their Butterbeer while the Marvel fans will be dashing to see the Marvel themed dining options.

Character Meet and Greets in Both Parks

Two kids with transformers

There are a variety of characters waiting to take that awesome picture with you at both Universal Studios Orlando and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Some fan favorites are the Minions, Dr. Seuss characters, Marvel characters, the Simpsons, the Men in Black, and the Grinch even comes out to greet guests during the holidays.

Check out the app or ask the nearest Universal Studios employees to find out which characters are available.

Volcano Bay

Universal Orlando - Volcano Bay

Volcano Bay is one impressive water park with a large variety of water attractions, beaches, and lazy rivers to chose from. If you’re going to pick one water park during your Orlando vacation, this should be it.

There aren’t much in the way of entertainment, shows, or dining options at Volcano Bay but there are plenty of water attractions to keep you busy!

There are over 19 attractions to chose from, you can view them all in detail on Universal Orlando’s website here. 

Our top five favorite recommendations are:

  • Honu of the Honu ika Moana
  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Krakatau Aqua Coaster
  • Maku of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Raki of Taniwha Tubes

There are also options for a lazy float down a lazy river or some sunbathing in beach resort settings if you’re just looking for relaxation as opposed to thrill rides.

You can also find great options for toddlers and smaller children at Volcano Bay- not just thrill slides and water attractions.

Families also have the option of renting their own cabanas for the day to ensure some more relaxation with your own personal spot along with poolside service.

As for dining, there are a few options for drinks and dining in Volcano Bay but don’t expect as many as you would find in the other Universal Orlando parks.

City Walk

Universal Orlando City Walk at night

City Walk is a great place to spend an evening enjoying the Orlando night life and entertainment it has to offer.

You can see the Blue Man Group here along with other famous DJs as you dance the night away.

There are also plenty of family entertainment, dining, and shopping options as well. It’s a great stop to make when you first arrive to help get you geared up for an exciting vacation.

To get the full run down of all the current entertainment options (they will vary depending on the time of year) check out Universal Orlando’s website here. 

Plan Your Universal Orlando Vacation Today!

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Disclosure: We have used all the products recommended on Mickey Visit. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products featured.

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