Guides and Tips

Ultimate Bucket List for Universal Orlando Resort

April 18, 2024
Two Caucasian women and a brown man smiling and riding the VelociCoaster.

Whether it’s your first time visiting Universal Orlando Resort or your millionth, there are some things you have to do. Sure, everyone in your group is going to be coming with a different agenda and list of must-dos, but these are the most quintessential Universal Orlando experiences. In my experience from visiting the parks for years, working with the company and bombarding my coworkers with emails in asking for their advice, I can assure you that these are the things every visitor has to do.

It doesn’t matter what season or what time of day you’re visiting, or even who you’re with — you can’t claim you’ve “done Universal” without at the very least crossing every item off this list.

A view of a full raft floating on Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges. Surrounding the raft, made to look like it was made of wood, which has netting between each pair of seats, a plastic circular center, and turquoise linings, are crashing waves. Behind a gate, made to look like logs of wood, is a pipe, spouting water onto the guests in the raft. The front of a boat can be seen on the far left of the photo. A wall made of blue rocks stands in the background. It appears to be sunny outside, where the photo was taken.
  • Get soaked on the Universal Islands of Adventure Water Rides
    • Orlando summers can get hot and I don’t doubt you’ll be walking around the park praying for an afternoon downpour. Lucky for you, at Universal Islands of Adventure, you can schedule that aquatic dousing at one of the three water rides! “You don’t get that wet,” your friend may  tell you. A word of warning: they’re lying.
  • Get a Churro
    • Is it even a visit to Universal Orlando Resort if you didn’t have this iconic fried treat? No! The smell alone will lure you to one of the many stands scattered around the theme parks, desperate for this  cinnamoney-sugary delicacy. 
  • Scream with all you’ve got on one of Universal Orlando’s immersive roller coasters
  • Smell the iconic E.T. Adventure Queue Line
    • If you’ve ever been to Universal with a frequent visitor, there’s no doubt they raved about the smell of the E.T. Adventure queue line. At first, you were probably confused, how could the scent of something influence a ride experience?, until you yourself take a deep breath and then everything just  makes sense.
  • Grab a perfectly-timed globe picture in Universal CityWalk.
    • It’s a struggle we’ve all had. You strike the perfect pose and find a lovely photographer only to get a picture of “ERSAL.” Half the fun is choosing another pose and trying again.
  • Escape from a shark attack
    • “There used to be this really cool ride,” your ‘in-the-know’ Universal friend will tell you by the San Francisco wharf. Pay homage to an attraction that once was with The Shark Attack at Chez Alcatraz, one of my favorite drinks in the parks.
  • Grab a Margarita from Margaritaville’s Lone Palm Airport
    • Sipping a water-side margarita while people-watching the theme-park-goers may be my personal heaven on Earth, especially when the margs are as delicious as these are!
Bar 17 Bistro at Aventura Hotel
  • Soak in the view at Bar 17 Bistro
    • Who knew one of Orlando’s best rooftop bars was at the Universal Orlando Resort? I did and now you do too! Sitting 17 floors above Universal’s Aventura Hotel, this incredible bar (with seriously delicious food options) has fantastic views of the Universal Orlando theme parks, Orlando’s International Drive and the expansive flatness of Central Florida. On a clear day, you may even spot Florida’s coast and its out-of-this-world sights.  
  • Match with your perfect wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop
    • Matching with a wand is an essential rite-of-passage for witches and wizards in the Wizarding World, so it’s only fitting for a wand to choose you at Ollivanders Wand Shop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Even better, with your wand, you can cast spells throughout the wizarding world!
  • Check out the current Tribute Store
    •  A relatively new addition to the Universal Experience, the tribute store is the place to stock up on seasonal merchandise during events like Mardi Gras, Halloween Horror Nights and Holidays. Each room is an experience in itself, exceptionally themed to the season it represents.
  • Score the highest in the vehicle on Men in Black: Alien Attack
    • One of the best parts of Men in Black: Alien Attack is the competition that always arises between my friends. Everyone has their personal secrets to getting the highest score, so suit up, push the red button and find yours!
  • Convert money with a Goblin
    • As Gringotts Bank is the centerpiece of The Wizarding World of Universal – Diagon Alley, it’s only fitting you can convert some of your money to Gringotts Bank Notes. A goblin will help you with the transaction and the notes can be used in select places around the Universal Orlando Resort.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure
  • Scream on the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster
    • Sometimes the classics really are the best and I’m sure you’ll agree as you’re launching 67 mph into a double-loop on The Incredible Hulk Coaster. For the non-coaster lovers, watching riders plunge  right under your feet is almost as exhilarating!
  • Sacrifice your fears on the Ko’okiri Body Plunge
    • Volcano Bay’s centerpiece volcano, Krakatau, is already pretty impressive, but imagine basically freefalling from the summit! Try to decipher your heartbeat from the pounding drums seconds before plunging over 100-feet back down to the tropical paradise of the water theme park.
  • Stay in a Themed Kids Suite
    • You think riding the movies is a blast, try sleeping in them! Whether you go with Jurassic World at Royal Pacific Resort or Despicable Me at Portofino Bay Hotel, you’re sure to level-up your vacation with these hotel rooms.
  • Try the Waturi Fusion at Volcano Bay
    • A gorgeous mix of four ice cream flavors (orange, blue raspberry, strawberry and banana), the Waturi Fusion is as pretty as it is delicious. Grab this treat from Koka Poroka Ice Cream Kona in the Waves Village section of the theme park. 
  • Ride the Hogwarts Express…both ways
    • Take the legendary trip from King’s Cross Station in the London area of Universal Studios Florida to Hogsmeade Station in Universal Islands of Adventure and then back again for a completely different experience.
  • Score unique merch at the UNVRS store
    • Find some cool merchandise at the new UNVRS store in Universal Studios Florida! Full of trendy clothing items, like an incredible Jurassic Park cardigan, this is your one-stop-shop to buy the newest and coolest things from your favorite films.
Cabana at Volcano Bay
  • Rent a cabana at Volcano Bay
    • Nothing says vacation luxury quite like a poolside cabana. But have you ever experienced a volcano-side cabana? Make sure that next time someone asks you that you can say yes.
  • Meet the Raptors of Jurassic World
    •  You approach the Raptor paddocks; your guard’s high as the creature lunges and shrieks. Just when you let it down enough to snap a picture, it comes at you! Meet movie-star Blue or one of her siblings over at Islands of Adventure’s Raptor Encounter
  • Experience the wizarding world at night
    • If you thought it was magical during the day, just wait until the sun sets. A ride on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at night is one of the most perfectly immersive (and thrilling!) experiences in the whole theme park.
  • Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show
    •  One of Universal Picture’s defining qualities is its special effects. Laugh along with the cast of the show as you learn all about the backside of horror movie effects.
  • Get the high score on Illumination’s Villan-Con Minion Blast
    • If you have a competitive streak and dream of having your name broadcast for everyone to see, grab a blaster and take your chance. Good luck!
  • Hug your favorite character
    • Is there anything better than meeting your childhood — or let’s be real — adult hero? Whether that be SpongeBob, Shrek, or one of Illuminations Minions, don’t pass up the opportunity to say hi! Some of my favorite meet-and greets are at Illumination Theater in Minion Land and throughout the streets of the Hollywood area.
  • Talk with Vol or The Mystic Fountain
    • Almost like magic, these spirits talk back. Vol, hidden deep within Krakatau is my favorite (I used to guard the waters of Volcano Bay’s Waves Village), but the mischievous Mystic Fountain in The Lost Continent is just as fun and willing to get you wet!
  • Eat Green Eggs and Ham
    • I can almost bet you’ve been wanting to try the iconic food from the world of Dr. Seuss since you first read the book in first grade. The aptly named Green Eggs & Ham Cafe is your place to grab Green Eggs & Ham Who Hash.
  • Take the Water Taxi to your hotel room
    • Talk about rolling into the parks in style; Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Resort, Loews Royal Pacific and Lowes Sapphire Falls all offer water taxi service between the resort and CityWalk. It’s the perfect way to transition to a relaxing evening after a busy day in the parks!
  • Learn the spiel on the CityWalk moving walkway
    • If “The moving walkway exit is approaching please watch your step,” isn’t ingrained into your mind before you leave, then you haven’t spent enough time in the Universal Orlando theme parks. Back on the moving walkway!
Knockturn Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Acquaint yourself with the Dark Arts in Knockturn Alley
    • If I’m being honest, it took me multiple visits to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley before I stumbled into Knockturn Alley. Browse Borgin and Burkes and meet some of the shrunken heads in this spooky alley.
  • Try one of the six Butterbeer variations
    • Everyone has a favorite type of Butterbeer they will defend to the end. Which will be your go-to: hot, cold, frozen, fudge, potted cream or ice cream?
  • Get decked out in your Hogwarts house gear
    • Robes, scarves and everything in between… the wizarding world has everything you need to represent your house colors with pride. Head to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions to get the perfect outfits for — well — all occasions!
  • Grab a Pint at the Duff Brewery Beer Garden and a Krusty Burger from Springfield, U.S.A.
    • Many of our favorite treats from “The Simpsons” can be found at Fast Food Boulevard.
  • Take Center Stage at Rising Star
    • Fulfill your pop star dreams at CityWalk’s Rising Star. Trust me, this is karaoke like you’ve never done before.
Toothsome Milkshakes Cheers
  • Get one of Jacques’ Specialty Milkshakes at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
    • These shakes have to be seen to be believed, and boy have they been seen! With toppings as extravagant as slices of cake and an entire cookie, watching people devour them is half of the fun!

So there you have it! There’s a lot of Universal Orlando to explore, so jump on it!

How many of these have you done? What’s on your Universal Orlando Bucket List? Let us know on social media or in the comments below! Check out this article for more things to do around the resort!

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