Complete Guide to Universal Studios Orlando

Universal Resort Orlando is made up of 3 parks. Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay water park.

Universal Studios Orlando is the original theme park. But it's changed a lot over the years. Here is your complete guide to this park at Universal Resort in Orlando.

Universal Studios Orlando Rides

Today you'll find a total of 8 lands in this park:

  • Production Central
  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley
  • World Expo
  • Springfield U.S.A: Home of the Simpsons
  • Woody Woodpeckers Kidzone
  • Hollywood

The idea of each land being that you are walking through the movies.

Rides and Attractions at Universal Studios

  • Animal Actors on Location!
  • The Bourne Stuntacular
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • E.T Adventure
  • Fast & Furious: Supercharged
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Hogwarts Express: Kings Cross Station (To Islands of Adventure)
  • Hollywood Ripe Ride Rock-it
  • Kang and Kodos Twirl 'n' Hurl
  • Men in Black Alien Attack!
  • Race Through New York Staring Jimmy Fallon
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Transformers: The Ride 3D
  • Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration
  • Universal Orlando's Horror Makeup Show
  • Woody Woodpeckers Nuthouse Coaster

Universal Studios park map

Single Rider Attractions

Many of the rides at Universal Studios offer a single rider line option. You'll find a separately marked line for any guest who is willing to ride solo. A Team Member will seat you in any empty seat available to fill out a row. Single rider is a great way to cut down on standby wait times. Just know that if you stand in the single rider line with your group, you will be separated when it's time to ride.

The rides that offer a single rider option include:

  • Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Men in Black Alien Attack!
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Transofrmers: The Ride 3D

Touring Universal Studios Orlando

When touring this park I tend to group areas of the park together in 3 groups.

The first area is the entire front of the park. This will include the rides in Production Central, New York, Hollywood, and San Francisco. This area has several rides that often hold higher wait times. When touring the park, start here and work your way back to knock out these higher wait times early in the day.

Second, is the Wizarding World area. This is located towards the back of the park. While this area will often have higher crowds, there is only one ride in this land. So unless Harry Potter is your only (or number 1) goal, I would save this area for later in the day when touring the park.

The third group is World Expo, Springfield, and the Woody Woodpecker Kids Zone. This is usually my last stop on any Universal touring plan. You'll find lower wait times, lots of photo opportunities, food, and shopping.

Touring will depend on a few factors that I will break down below.

Guests With Express Pass

Express Pass is an upgrade you can add to your ticket that allows you to jump the line on almost every attraction at the park. You simply head to the ride queue marked as Express Pass and a team member will ask you to scan your park ticket.

Typically wait times with Express Pass are walk on or close to walk on. During the busiest times of year the more popular rides may see a 20-30 minute wait, but this will only be on busy days at the most popular rides.

That being said, if you are planning on purchasing Express Pass or Express Pass Unlimited, or if you are staying at one of the Deluxe Resorts that offers free Express Pass for guests (Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel) a touring plan will most likely not be necessary.

With Express Pass you are paying a premium for convenience and flexibility. So showing up at the parks at your leisure and hitting rides at your own pace is much easier.

Guests With Early Entry

My number one rule with theme park touring is always to start early.

So if you are a guest at any of the Universal Resort Hotels, I suggest you take full advantage of the one hour of early park entry that you get as a perk for being a resort guest.

At Universal Studios the park will open an hour early so that guests can enjoy The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There is only one ride in this area, Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringots. Even if you aren't a huge Harry Potter fan, this ride is blast and has such a unique ride vehicle, that you'll want to check it out during this time.

Gringotts at Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando

If your priority at the park is Harry Potter, this is your chance to check out the show at Olivander's and purchase a wand, cast spells around Diagon Alley, take photos, and enjoy a Butterbeer.

If Harry Potter is not a priority I would head back over to the front of the park after Gringotts. Often one other ride toward the front of the park will open during early park entry. So this will be your chance to knock out another ride before more guests are able to enter the park.

Once the park officially opens, start at the rides toward the front of the park. Despicable Me, Rip Ride Rock-it, and the Mummy will all see wait times climb quickly and stay high throughout the day. So knocking those out will be your best bet early on.

I would then move to New York and Ride Race Through New York. The ride is cute, but the queue is the best part if you are a Tonight Show fan.

San Francisco is an amazing stop for photos, but I wouldn't waste your time on the Fast & the Furious unless it's no wait and you have time to kill, you want a good laugh, or you are genuinely curious about the world's worst theme park attraction.

If you were not able to finish touring the Wizarding World, I would head over there next. Even if you don't plan on riding Escape From Gringotts again, there are tons of shops to explore and lots of amazing photo opportunities in this area.

I would then hit Men In Black Alien Attack! followed by Springfield U.S.A. While there is only the one ride in Springfield, there are lots of fun photo opportunities, food options, and some shopping in that area.

Finally I would hit E.T and the Woody Woodpecker KidZone.

Guests Without Early Entry (Not Harry Potter Focus)

The true perk of having early entry is that you can knock out Harry Potter before the park even opens. Then you can head back towards the front of the park and still experience lower wait times. So the only difference in the plan for guests without early entry, is that they will instead start at the front of the park.

The nice part about Universal Studios park is that there is very little "zig-zagging" through the park. Rides towards the front of the park tend to high wait times, so this is where you would want to start your touring plan.

I would suggest arriving to the park at least 30 minutes before park opening. Keep in mind that you'll have to walk from the parking garage area to security and then through City Walk. So give yourself ample time.

Start with rides in Production Central. This includes Despicable Me, Rip Ride Rock-it, and Transformers. Move to New York and Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon and Revenge of the Mummy.

After that you can head over to Diagon Alley and ride Harry Potter Escape From Gringotts.

From there continue around to World Expo to ride Men in Black before heading over to Springfield U.S.A. for The Simpsons Ride. If you have time, there are so many photo opportunities in this area. Be on the look out for characters and photo props!

Lastly I would head to E.T. for a cheezy Universal Studios classic ride.

If you have little guys with you, you'll find Woody Woodpeckers Kidzone right next to E.T. There are several play areas here. Plus character meets and a Curious George splash area.

Jaws and Universal Studios Orlando

This will cover the major attractions in the park, and from here you can enjoy shows (my personal favorite being the Horror Makeup Show). There are also endless photo opportunities. You can find a replica of Jaws hanging in San Francisco, amazing shops in Diagon Alley, characters from Despicable Me and Shrek, and more.

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