My last visit to Universal Studios Florida was more than 15 years ago. And the time seemed right for a family visit with our three kids.
Universal Studios Florida is located at exits 75A and 74B off of I-4 in Kissimmee/Orlando Florida. Parking is in large parking garages that lead to Universal City Walk, a restaurant and shopping complex that joins Universal Studios Florida to Universal Islands of Adventure. Parking is $15 for cars with the option of preferred closer parking for $20.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate and go for about $82 for a single park, single day ticket for adults and $74 for children 3-9. Multiday tickets are also available with a three day ticket for both parks around $145 for adults as well as combinations with Wet N Wild Water Park. For an additional charger depending on the time of year you can purchase an Express Plus Pass that lets you skip the lines at most rides. Universal Studios Florida is laid out around a central pond with themed areas.
You enter the park at production central which includes the amazing Hollywood Rid Ride Rockit roller coaster which lets you pick your own song to ride to from a list of about 30 songs. This outdoor, looping roller coaster has a 51" rider height minimum. Also in this area is Shrek 4-D a 3-D movie in moving theater seats that continues the story of Shrek, Fiona and Donkey. Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast is a roller coaster simulator in a large theater.
New York has a couple of rides including a moving theater ride based on Twister and my personal favorite Revenge of the Mummy. This is a very large are of Universal with lots of fake store fronts to give it the feel of a city. During my first visit this was also the location of the now gone King Kong ride.
This is another large area that features Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue show, Disaster! another movie ride and the campy Jaws, which is one of the few rides I remember from my last visit. Recreating the summer beach town feel of Amity Village there are lots of games of chances in this area.
We spent a lot of time in World Expo thanks to Men in Black Alien Attack. This is an interactive arcade shooting ride where riders attempt to rid Manhattan of aliens. Next door is the Simpsons Ride which is a virtual roller coaster ride.
Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone
Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone is an area aimed at preschoolers. There are several shows, including an animal show and one featuring that lovable PBS dinosaur Barney. There are two play areas one featuring Curious George and another Fievel the Mouse. There are two rides, Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster which is a kiddie coaster and E.T. Adventure, which hasn't changed in 15 years.
This final area of Unviersal Studios Florida has a Horror Make-Up Show, Terminator 2: 3-D which is a combination live action and 3-D movie. There is also a tribute to Lucille Ball.
We were not terribly impressed by Universal Studios We arrived shortly after the park opened at 9 AM and we were done before 3 PM. Part of the reason we were done so fast was the number of simulator roller coaster rides. I can't ride them and my husband can really only do one or two before he starts to feel ill. We did the Simpsons and Jimmy Neutron because those were the rides the kids wanted to go on, meaning we decided to skip Twister and Disaster. My kids do not like to sit through any type of show so that eliminated the Hollywood Make-Up Show and Beetlejuice. And since none of us loves Lucy there was no need for that exhibit either. That left us with little to do in the park and had we been a little more focused and orderly we could have been leaving the park around lunch time, but we weren't in a rush.
Despite how crowded we found Universal Islands of Adventure that was not the case with Universal Studios Florida. Our longest wait was about 15 minutes for the Simpson Ride. Most rides had a wait of less than 10 minutes, and with several rides we just walked right on. Men in Black was the hands down winner, reminding our family of the Toy Story themed rides at the Disney theme parks. This competition ride of shooting aliens and working for the high score in the ride vehicle really appeals to my kids (and the adults too!) I really enjoyed Revenge of the Mummy a roller coaster that makes great use of special effects to intensify the fun roller coaster experience. My husband and nine year old were impressed enough with Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit to make a special trip back to Universal Studios Florida after a morning at Islands of Adventure to ride it a couple more times. They likened it to Disney's Rockin' Roller Coaster which we love not only being a great ride but how well it tells a story.
Beyond those few rides nothing really impressed my Disney raised family. Most of the rides are about thrills as opposed to telling a story. The exception is E.T. which in some ways is comparable to Disney with its recreation of the famous movie. Unfortunately my children have never seen the movie so the ride made little sense to them. Even though my kids aren't made ill by coaster simulators like I am, none of them were impressed by either The Simpsons or Jimmy Neutron, again not being familiar with the characters may have had something to do with that. Jaws reminds me of the Disney Jungle Cruise, its just a silly ride. My seven year old was really nervous about going on the ride, but ended up laughing because everything was so fake so she actually enjoyed the ride. I was surprised to find that my children were to big and/or old for a lot of the activities in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone (yet another character they don't know). Woody Woopecker's Nuthouse Coaster was a kiddie coaster that we all enjoyed and my younger two find a water ride in Fievel's playground (still another unknown character) most of this area was geared for preschoolers and toddlers.
We were not particularly impressed with the food offerings. Lots of fried food and typical amusement park fare: burgers, hot dogs, turkey legs, pizza and fries. There were not a lot of vegan options in the park but we did find Finnegan's Bar and Grill, a sit down restaurant that features English food like Bangers and Mash and Fish and Chips in the New York theme area. Here we found veggie burgers and fruit plates and sorbet for dessert which worked just fine for my family, giving us a much needed break from spaghetti. But Universal could take a lesson from Disney on offering a greater variety of food as well as more vegetarian/vegan options.
I would not bother with purchasing the Express Plus Pass. We were there during March on one of the less popular spring break weeks and certainly did not need it. And unless they make a lot of updates I probably wouldn't bother visiting again either. While we did enjoy a few rides, Universal Studios Florida, I wouldn't consider this a must do place for an Orlando vacation. A lot of the themes are outdated and in general the park feels tired. For the prices they charge I expected an experience more like Disney and less like Six Flags
Read all 250 Reviews
Write a Review