Planning a visit to the Universal Orlando resort is easy with our Universal Studios tips and guide for families. This Universal Studios Orlando review will give you an idea of what to expect during your visit, where to eat and meet characters, best rides at Universal Studios and help you decide if a Universal Orlando vacation is a good fit for your family.
About Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios Orlando is one of two parks at the Universal Orlando Resort. This is not to be confused with Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. Universal Parks are not related to Disney Parks.
At Universal Studios Orlando you step into the movies with thrilling attractions, family fun characters, and awesome lands to keep your family entertained all day.
This post will go into tips for Universal Studios and what you need to know if you are planning a visit to Universal Studios Orlando with your family.
Read this post for an overview of the Universal Orlando parks and resorts.
Universal Studios Tips
Try to arrive at least 30-40 minutes before park opening to get on the most popular attractions with a short wait time.
A few attractions require the use of lockers. They are Escape from Gringotts, Men In Black, Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket and The Mummy. All items must be put in lockers. This includes bags, purses, sunglasses, phones, etc. I have seen people turned away from riding for having a wand in their pocket on Gringotts-after waiting in line. I always play it safe and put everything in the locker.
The lockers are free for the attraction wait time. Each attraction has a locker area and the “free time” is based on the ride wait time. The free lockers are small but we were able to fit a small backpack into it. If you need a larger backpack you will have to pay for a large locker. I honestly thought the lockers would be a much bigger deal but it ended up being easy.
Universal Orlando is a big park and you will do a lot of walking. Everyone that visits the Universal Resort parks in one parking lot. You then walk through CityWalk(the dining district) and go towards the Universal Studios entrance or the Island of Adventures entrance. Be prepared to walk a lot.
Early entry is available to guests staying at a Universal Orlando resort. They change seasonally and are often available for the Harry Potter areas at the parks. We have used this and it has saved us a lot of time! We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay and Universal’s Endless Summer Surfside Inn on previous visits and really enjoyed the perks of staying on-site.
Best Rides at Universal Studios
I always caution against saying what the best attractions are because every family is different and enjoys different attractions. With that being said I am going to share what we always ride when we visit. Our family favorite rides at Universal Studios are:
- Escape from Gringotts (42 inches)
- Men in Black (42 inches)
- Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon (40 inches)
- E.T. Adventure (34 inches)
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Diagon Alley has is an attraction in itself because there is so much to discover and visitors often spend hours taking it all in.
- Diagon Alley is the Harry Potter themed area inside Universal Studios. It is immersive and you could spend hours there. People visit and spend their entire day in this area. There are shops, restaurants, shows, characters, attractions, and places to explore and it is one of the best themed areas I have ever visited.
- At Diagon Alley you can purchase a wand, or watch the wand show and have the wand choose you, then explore Diagon Alley practicing spells. If you are a Harry Potter fan plan to spend a lot of time in Diagon Alley.
Universal Studios Orlando Characters
Almost every section of Universal Studios has characters to meet. Some have designated areas and others are randomly walking around the park. Read the 65 Characters You Can Meet & Greet at Universal for more information and in-depth details about the characters.
Universal Studios Dining
You have many dining options when visiting Universal Studios that range from sit down to quick service. We have experienced both and I prefer the quick service because the food is great and it takes less time.
- Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe (Quick Service)
- Leaky Cauldron (Quick Service) *One of our favorites!
- Finnegan’s Bar & Grill (Sit Down)
- BumbleBee Man’s Taco Truck (Food Truck-Amazing Tacos!)
- Beverly Hills Boulangerie (Quick Service)
- Richter’s Burger Co. (Quick Service)
- Lombard’s Seafood and Grill (Sit Down)
- Moe’s Tavern- Flaming Moe or Duff Beer
- Lard Lad Donut- The Famous Simpson Giant Pink Donut
- Mel’s Drive-In (Quick Service)
- Louie’s Italian Restaurant (Quick Service)
- KidZone Pizza Company (Quick Service)
- Cafe La Bamba (Sit Down and Character Meals)
- Simpsons Land Food-There are a few different options inside The Simpsons Land that range from seafood, to grab and go, healthy options, sandwiches, pizza, etc. They are cafeteria style and can be found by entering Moe’s Tavern.
Reservations are taken at Lombard’s Seafood and Grill and Finnegan’s Bar and Grill. You can make reservations here.
Universal Studios Orlando Review: Should You Plan a Visit?
I often get asked if Universal Orlando is worth a visit when you have young kids. My answer is yes and no…sorry!! We waited to visit Universal until my youngest was 42 inches tall. At that point we felt it was worth the cost to plan a visit. He was tall enough to ride everything except 2 rides.
With that being said, being tall enough and being ready and willing to ride some of the attractions can be different. My oldest kids are tall enough to ride the Mummy but are not ready and choose to skip it every time we visit. (It is a bummer because it’s an awesome ride!) I will never force my kids to ride an attraction they are not ready for and we skip it and enjoy something else.
There are many ways for younger kids to enjoy the park at the playgrounds, with shows, and with characters meet and greets but, it is not like visiting Walt Disney World. Your child will miss out on a lot of attractions if they do not meet the height requirements and it might be beneficial to wait.
Another thing to factor in is the scare factor and intensity of some of the attractions. If your kids are familiar with the Harry Potter franchise then a ride on Escape from Gringotts will not be a surprise. However if this is your first encounter with the Harry Potter characters, specifically Voldemort and dementors, it may be too intense.
You know your family best and can make the best decision for them. We started visiting Universal when my youngest was 5 and there were a few rides he didn’t want to do. We were okay with this and ended up loving our vacation. It depends on the ages and height of everyone visiting the parks.
I hope our Universal Studios tips help you plan your family visit to Universal. If you have questions please share them in the comments.