Are you planning a Universal Orlando vacation? We have visited many times and are sharing the best things to do at Universal Orlando resort with kids.
Universal Orlando resort is home to attractions, shows, water rides, three theme parks, and a dining area. There is so much to do, and we are often asked what are our picks for Universal Orlando must do for families.
For this list we picked our favorite food, attractions, shows, and things to see at the Orlando park to help you plan your best Universal Orlando vacation. To learn more about Universal check out this article that is a guide to the Universal Orlando parks and resorts.
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Best Things to Do at Universal Orlando Resort for Your Visit
1 Take Your Picture in Front of the Universal Globe (Universal Studios)
As you make your way through CityWalk you will head to your right to the entrance of Universal Studios Florida. On your left you will see the iconic Univeral Globe. Take your picture on the bridge or walk past it to get a closer view.
2 Take Your Picture Under “the Adventure Begins” at Islands of Adventure
This area is a bit tricky because you will almost always have busy crowds. This arch is after you go through the ticket turnstiles. I would suggest waiting until afternoon when crowds are lower to take a picture under the arch. There are photographers at Islands of Adventure that will take your photo. Then you can purchase the photo or ask someone to take one for you.
3 Open the Parks (Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure)
If you want to “open” the park be one of the first to arrive at the gates and ask a Universal employee. On a recent visit we were picked to open Universal Studios. They give you a script and it is a fun way to start your Universal visit.
4 Walk through a Forest of Truffula Trees at Seuss Landing
Seuss Landing is a must do at Universal Orlando but there are a few of our favorites at the land like the Truffula Trees. This is a small path next to the Carousel at Seuss Landing that is a fun little secret at the park. You can walk through the path along the trees. This area is bright and fun. You can also find the tree stump from the last Truffula tree here.
5 Curious George Goes to Town (Universal Studios)
This area is a splash area that the kids can wear their bathing suits at and run around. In the back area there is the Man with the Yellow Hat Ball factory which is indoors and dry.
6 Take Your Picture with E.T.
After you ride E.T. Adventure you exit through an E.T. gift shop. From here you can have your picture taken on the bike or with E.T. in the closet scene. You need to have the My Universal Photo Pass and must purchase it to get pictures here. Learn more about My Universal Photo Pass.
7 Character Dining at the Parks and Resorts
There are 2 regular character dining options at Universal. They are Despicable Me Character breakfast at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Here you can meet Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes, and the Minions during breakfast at the resort.
Marvel Character Dinner is at Cafe 4 at Islands of Adventure. There you can meet Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Storm and Rogue. Learn more about reservations for character dining.
Universal also offers seasonal Halloween Horror Night dining as well as Grinch Character breakfast during the holidays. Also note that the characters can be met at the park and often have short lines.
8 Explore If I Ran the Zoo Play Area at Seuss Landing (Islands of Adventure)
This is a fun area in Seuss Landing that kids will love. It is colorful and fun to explore with a few water elements. We always make a point to stop and explore If I Ran the Zoo.
9 Relax at Waturi Beach (Volcano Bay)
Universal’s Volcano Bay is an incredible water park. You would never believe it is off a busy road. When you are there you feel like you are at an island oasis. Waturi Beach is a sand beach wave pool with views of the volcano. If you have a few hours to relax Waturi Beach is a great spot.
Read More About: What to Know Before Visiting Volcano Bay
10 Watch for Kreacher at 12 Grimmuald Place (Universal Studios)
As you pass through London and are heading to the Simpson’s area of the park you will see a row of houses with doors. It looks like an ordinary London street but every so often Kreacher the house elf of Sirius Black will peak out the windows. I’m not sure the exact timing but we have never waited longer than 5 minutes to see him.
11 Explore Knockturn Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley (Universal Studios)
Knockturn Alley is down a dark alley way at Universal Studios-The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley. When you enter Diagon Alley walk until Gringotts and turn left. At the end of this street on the left in Knockturn Alley. My kids had to build courage to walk down here.
If you enjoy the darker side of magic you will like the shop down Knockturn Alley. There are also a few places to cast spells. It is a neat area to explore and Harry Potter fans will love it.
12 Go Bowling at Cabana Bay Beach Resort
If you are planning a day off from the parks but still want a family fun activity head over to Cabana Bay Beach Resort to Galaxy Bowl for a few rounds of bowling. This is open to any guest, you don’t need to be staying on-site.
Related Post: Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Review with Kids
13 Send a Postcard from Owl Post at Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)
Harry Potter fans will love receiving a post card from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guests visiting Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure can send postcards to family and friends at home. At the Owl Post they have stamps and postcards available for purchase.
14 Holidays at the Parks
One of the best things to do at Universal is to visit during the holidays. They have special activities at Universal Studios with the Macy’s Holiday Parade as well as a Seuss Landing Grinch transformation at Islands of Adventure. We visited during in December and share our full visit in this article, Everything You Need to Know About Holidays at Universal.
15 Visit Diagon Alley Early
My favorite way to experience Diagon Alley is first thing in the morning when the streets are quiet. If you are staying on-site at Universal you may have early entry, if you are off-site try to visit this area first. The attention to details and places to explore in Diagon Alley are incredible and it is one of our favorite themed lands.
16 Visit Diagon Alley Late
If you are not an early riser plan to spend time at Diagon Alley an hour before park close. This is typically lower crowds and you will see the area in a new way at night.
17 Watch the Gringotts Dragon Breathe Fire
At the end of the entrance to Diagon Alley sitting atop Gringotts is a dragon. Throughout the day the dragon will breathe fire. It is awesome to see for the first time. I suggest finding a spot on either side of Gringotts and listen for the growl. Soon after the growl you will see the fire.
18 Get a Pink Donut from Lard Lad Donuts (Universal Studios)
You can’t miss the giant statue of Lard Lad in the Simpson area of the park, Springfield U.S.A. Here you can purchase the “World Famous” giant Pink Donut. This donut is huge and can feed a family. If you plan on bringing it home pick it up when you are ready to leave the park, this will help prevent it from melting in the Florida sun.
19 Make up a name on E.T.
This might not be for everyone, but my kids get a kick out of using a different name on the E.T. Adventure attraction. When you are in line for the attraction you are asked your name and given a boarding pass. As you board you give your boarding pass to the attendant and E.T. will say goodbye to you at the end of the ride.
20 Eat Like a Simpson at Fast Food Boulevard
If you have a Simpson fan in your family consider eating at Fast Food Boulevard at Springfield U.S.A. They have Clam Chowdarrr and other favorites from the show.
21 Order a Duff Beer at Moe’s Tavern (Universal Studios)
For the adults in your party consider stopping in at Moe’s Tavern for a Duff Beer. You can also purchase a Flaming Moe and other non-alcoholic beverages.
22 Go See the Blue Man Group
The Blue Man Group is a family friendly show that is concert, comedy, and theater on stage. This show has a permanent residence at Universal’s CityWalk. Check ticket prices here.
23 Listen to a Favorite Dr. Seuss Story Read by the Dr. Seuss Characters
In Seuss Landing you can stop by for Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! to see characters helping in a musical retelling of Dr. Seuss stories.
24 Watch the Blues Brothers Show (Universal Studios)
The Blues Brothers is a fun show featuring singing and dancing. It is in the streets near The Mummy attraction. If you can grab a seat on one of the stairs you will have a great view and be shaded a bit. This is one of our favorite shows to watch.
25 Meet the Transformers Characters (Universal Studios)
Meeting characters is always a fun way to spend your time at the theme parks. For a unique experience head over to the Transformer’s meet and greet where you can meet Bumble Bee, Megatron, and Optimus Prime. These characters are larger than life!
26 Ollivanders Wand Shop
There are two locations of Ollivanders Wand shop at Universal. One is at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and the other is at Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. They both offer shows where a lucky person in the audience will get picked by a wand. At the end of the show you can then purchase the wand, it is not given to you. Learn more about purchasing a wand here.
27 Mystic Fountain at the Lost Continent (Islands of Adventure)
Tucked away in the Lost Continent is the Mystic Fountain. The Mystic Fountain is an interactive fountain that will talk and splash guests that get too close.
28 Act Like a Wizard at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you purchase a wand you have the opportunity to cast spells as various locations throughout Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. This is best on low crowd days because it can get busy. We also prefer Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade when playing with the wands.
There are over 20 spells to cast throughout the parks and you are given a map with your wand purchase. Some spells are easier than others and there are people around that can help if you get stuck.
29 Explore Camp Jurassic (Islands of Adventure)
Camp Jurassic is not only for kids. Spend some time during your visit to explore the caves and caverns of this area. You may hear the dinosaurs rumble or discover an amber mine.
Related Post: Best Rides at Islands of Adventure
30 Luau at Royal Pacific Resort
Royal Pacific Resort offers a Wantilan Luau dinner show. This Luau themed show has a buffet style dinner and Luau stage show that is a lot of fun. The food was delicious and it was family friendly.
31 Ride Hogwarts Express from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade (Universal Studios)
The Hogwarts Express is the train that takes you from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. At it’s basic form it is transportation between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Harry Potter fans will love to feel like you are part of the story as you enter King’s Cross and board the train to Hogwarts.
You will ride in a train car and a story will unfold out your window. To ride the Hogwarts Express you need a park-to-park ticket. Click here for deals on Universal Orlando tickets.
32 Ride Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley (Islands of Adventure)
The Hogwarts Express can be taken to and from both parks. The best part is you will have a totally different experience going from Hogsmeade back to Diagon Alley. We like to go both ways during our visits to fully enjoy the experience. You do need a park to park ticket to experience this attraction. Check out this post on How to Plan Your Universal Orlando Vacation for tips on tickets at the park.
33 Walk “through” Platform 9 3/4 (Universal Studios)
Every Harry Potter fan dreams of running through Platform 9 3/4 and at Universal Studios you have your chance! Universal’s creative team has done an amazing job and recreating this effect. Check out the video below to see how it is done.
34 Watch The Tales of Beedle the Bard at Diagon Alley (Universal Studios)
This puppet and actor show from the Harry Potter films has been on our list to see for a few visits and we finally made it happen. The show is located on a stage in Diagon Alley and guests can sit and watch the story unfold. We all really enjoyed this show and would see it again.
35 Take a Photo with Chief Wiggum (Universal Studios)
For the Simpsons fan, head over to Springfield U.S.A. and have your photo taken with the statue of Chief Wiggum in front of the Duff Brewery.
36 Cool Off at Feivel’s Playland
Your kids may not know who Feivel is, but this play area will still be so much fun. (Feivel is from An American Tale movie that you can order here.) There are water features and a water slide. The slide has a tube you sit in but you still may get a bit wet. Kids and adults will enjoy this area.
37 Explore the Spongebob Store (Universal Studios)
The Spongebob Store is located near the KidZone at Universal Studios. Here you can meet Squidward and Spongebob as well as explore the Spongebob themed store.
38 Butter Beer Ice cream at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios)
Butter Beer Ice Cream can be found at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour at Diagon Alley. The ice cream is very sweet and the size of the cone is enough to share.
39 Try Butter Beer Frozen, Hot, or Cold at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Both locations of The Wizarding World have Butter Beer. It is a sweet drink and often a little too sweet for some. I prefer the frozen variety and like to share one with the kids when we visit.
40 Fish and Chips at Leaky Cauldron (Universal Studios)
A good fish and chips can be difficult to find but we love the one at Leaky Cauldron at Diagon Alley. The chips are potato wedges that are delicious and the fish is perfect! Click on this article about the Best Places to Eat at Universal with Kids.
41 Mini Golf at Hollywood Drive-In (CityWalk)
MIni-golf is perfect for families of all ages and at Universal’s CityWalk there are two different mini-golf courses at Hollywood Drive-In. Both are themed for family fun. Click on the link to learn more about Hollywood Drive-In at Universal.
42 Sample the Unique Treats at Voodoo Doughnuts (CityWalk)
Arrive early or in the late afternoon for smaller crowds and to sample the unique doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnuts. I loved the maple bacon doughnut and there were so many different flavors to choose from. If you are saving your doughnuts for later be sure to keep them away from the heat, because they will melt.
43 Walk through Hogwarts Castle in the Forbidden Journey Line (Islands of Adventure)
You may not be up for riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey but that shouldn’t stop you from touring Hogwarts castle. Tell the ride attendant at the entrance that you would like to go through the line but not ride and they can assist you.
44 Order a Milkshake at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen (CityWalk)
Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is a steam punk themed restaurant at Universal’s CityWalk. They have a wide variety of specialty treats and milkshake options, as well as a full menu. Check out our full review of Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium.
45 Ride Escape from Gringotts to Walk through the Bank
Escape from Gringotts is my favorite ride at Universal. It has thrills and surprises and is an overall excellent attraction. The wow factor starts the minute you enter the line and make your way into Gringotts Bank.
The Goblins are counting their money and working. These animatronics will move and look at you as you walk through. The line of this attraction is so immersive and fun. Definitely a must do at Universal Studios.
46 Watch a Dinosaur Hatch at Jurassic Park Discovery Center
This area allows guests a place to cool off and a few interactive dinosaur exhibits to play with. If you are lucky you can catch a dinosaur being hatched and be chosen to name it. This is a super unique experience and I suggest asking a scientist at the Discovery Center.
47 Meet Super Heroes and Villains at Marvel Superhero Island (Islands of Adventure)
We always enjoy meeting the heroes and villains at Superhero Island and you can usually find them a few times a day walking around the area.
48 Ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure to Check out All the Details and the Preshow(Islands of Adventure)
This is the most popular attraction at Universal right now, and for good reason. The story and ride is so much fun! If you want to ride arrive before park opening to be one of the first on. If you don’t want to ride you should still consider walking the line, if it is not too long. There are many elements during the pre-show that are really cool, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan.
49 Explore Horror Movie Artifacts at Monster Cafe(Universal Studios)
Monster Cafe is a restaurant at Universal Studios that serves quick service BBQ food. The sitting area is themed to Frankenstein, The Thing, and other monster characters. You can also find memorabilia throughout the restaurant.
50 Experience the Raptor Encounter (Islands of Adventure)
This is one of character meeting we have never done. The kids have never wanted to go meet the Raptor but it looks like a fun experience. You will meet “a real live” dinosaur and interact with it at this unique meet and greet.
51 Watch or Become a Cast Member on Fear Factor Live (Universal Studios)
Fear Factor Live is a show that tests your fear and allows visitors to the park to be part of the show. It runs daily at the park and you have to arrive early to be part of the show. My husband was a contestant on a recent visit! Read about what it is like to be on Fear Factor Live at Universal.
52 Meet She-Ra (Islands of Adventure)
She-Ra is the latest meet and greet at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and she can be found in the Lost Continent area of the park.
53 Talk On the Phone at King’s Cross (Universal Studios)
When you are exploring London at Universal Studios you will see a phone booth. Step inside and dial MAGIC (62442) to be connected to the Ministry of Magic.
54 Talk to the Knight Bus Driver
The Knight Bus Driver is also outside London and a really fun and interactive meet and greet. He will talk to you about all different things and the kids always enjoy this one.
55 Meet Shrek and Donkey (Universal Studios)
Shrek and Donkey are another fun meet and greet at Universal Studios. They will talk to you and make jokes with the kids. This is a fun one to experience for kids of all ages.
56 Watch the Superstar Parade at Universal Studios
The Superstar Parade has a few characters from Nick Jr like Dora and Boots but also the Secret Life of Pets and Despicable Me characters. It is a short and cute parade to do during your day at the park.
57 Listen for Moaning Myrtle in the Women’s Bathroom at Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)
The women’s bathroom at Hogsmeade is haunted by the ghost of Moaning Myrtle. When you visit you can hear her moaning and making crying noises.
58 Ride the High in the Sky Trolley in Seuss Landing (Islands of Adventure)
To see a birds eye view of Seuss Landing take a ride on the High in the Sky Trolley. This has two different tracks with two different stories. When riding look for the Sneetches on the beaches and in the lagoon. Seuss Landing has so many fun things to see and do. Check out this article about all the must see things at Seuss Landing.
59 Projection Show on Hogwarts Castle (Islands of Adventure)
Every evening at Islands of Adventure you can see Hogwarts Castle come to life in a projection show. This runs continuously from dusk until close. During the show crowd traffic can get busy so keep that in mind for your visit.
60 Take Your Picture in Horton’s Nest (Islands of Adventure)
This little photo-op is outside the Cat in the Hat gift shop in Seuss Landing. You can sit on the eggs that Horton protected in Horton Hatches an Egg story.
Related Post: Best Rides at Universal Studios
61 Photo-Op Speech Bubbles at Toon Lagoon (Islands of Adventure)
Toon Lagoon is where the Saturday morning comics come to life. It is a bit nostalgic and has some fun places to take pictures and explore. The speech bubbles are my favorite. Check out this post for more fun photo-ops at Universal Orlando.
62 Explore the Me Ship, The Olive (Islands of Adventure)
Me Ship, The Olive is a boat themed play area for kids. It also offers great views of the park and lagoon. There are a few exits to this play area so be sure to keep the kids close.
63 Consider Staying at an On-Site Resort
Universal Orlando is becoming a vacation destination in itself and staying on-site can offer you early entry into the park as well as other great perks. As a family of five we have really enjoyed Surfside Inn and Suites as well as Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
64 Movie at Universal’s Cinemark in CityWalk
If you are looking to cool off and rest your feet you may want to visit Universal’s Cinemark. With the latest movies this is a great place to relax after a busy day at the parks.
65 Exchange Money at Gringotts Money Exchange (Universal Studios)
You can exchange U.S currency($10 and $20) for Gringott’s Bank notes at the Gringotts Money Exchange. Before you do make sure to talk to the bank teller and then use your money to purchase items at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. At the end of your visit you can exchange your money back to US currency.
66 Meet and Talk with Beetlejuice (Universal Studios)
This may be one of the most unpredictable meet and greets ever. If you see Beetlejuice walking around the park you should go and say hello. He is so funny and will engage with your family. He doesn’t have a specific place to meet guests but you will find him usually on Hollywood Boulevard at Universal Studios.
67 Play at Barney’s Playland
Our kids are a bit older for Barney’s Playland but it is still a favorite to cool off. This air conditioned play area is located in the KidZone of Universal Studios. It is often overlooked and has lower crowds. The kids can play in the treehouse and meet Barney.
68 Plan a Water Day
There are water attractions at both parks with the most being at Islands of Adventure. When we spend a week at Universal we will plan a water day where we wear flip flops and easy to dry clothes to ride the water attractions. You can pack bathing suits in a backpack to let the kids play at the Curious George splash pad too.
69 Explore Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (Universal Studios)
The Weasley twins are always getting into mischief and this “prank” shop is fun to explore. There are different things to purchase but we like looking around and seeing all the fun items.
70 Visit Honeydukes for a Treat (Islands of Adventure)
Honeydukes is a treat shop located in Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It has wizard themed treats from the books and movies. Our favorites are the Chocolate Frogs and Sherbet Lemon.
There are so many things to do at Universal Orlando resort. From the shows and themed lands, to the amazing attractions and dining options, Universal Orlando has something for every family.
Plan Your Universal Orlando Vacation
- What You Need to Know to Plan Your Universal Orlando Vacation
- Universal Studios Height Requirements and Scare Factors for Kids
- Islands of Adventure Height Requirements and Scare Factors for Kids