This article was originally published in December of 2020 and then underwent extensive updates and editing in September of 2023 to remain current and relevant.
I love that moment when fear consumes me just before hopping on a ride, but is immediately met with the gratifying feeling of “wow, I just did that”.
As a self-proclaimed thrill seeker, I was recently craving an adrenaline rush, so I grabbed my best friend from college (we used to get into all sorts of crazy adventures) and her 5-year-old daughter (a thrill seeker in training) to go on all of the adrenaline pumping rides across Universal Orlando Resort. I’m talking: Universal Volcano Bay, Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure, and even your hotel can add to your thrills with water slides and adventurous eats!
Below you’ll find our itinerary for the ultimate 3-day Thrill Seeker’s Vacation at Universal Orlando Resort.
DAY 1: Volcano Bay All Day
A vacation at Universal Orlando isn’t complete without spending time at Volcano Bay, quite literally an adrenaline junkie’s paradise. We kicked off our day with Ko’okiri Body Plunge, which sits at the very top of the volcano…but feel free to ease your way into things.
The Biggest Thrills of Day 1: Volcano Bay
When the floor opens beneath your feet, you may or may not question why you live for an adrenaline rush, but by the time you hit the 125 foot drop, you’ll know this is the ride for you.
Let’s just say drums start playing before the floor is swept away… and the entire ride lives up to that dramatic start!
This is not a lazy river… (quite the opposite) and is perfect in between rides when you still want a fast paced experience.
This was an adrenaline rush that the whole group was able to enjoy and boy did we all scream.
This raft ride is like no other. You WILL be clinging to your raft as you fly through open tubes and across walls. Yes, I said fly!
Ride both. Our favorite was Ohno because the drop at the end was a little more intense!
For the thrill seeker in training:
The little one couldn’t get enough of TeAwa The Fearless River and there were plenty of raft rides that we could all enjoy together! Don’t miss:
- Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
- Taniwha Tubes
- Runamukka Reef
This was a dedicated area for kids! Within the Reef, there were various slides that your little one can work up the nerve to conquer, one at a time!
Pro Tip #1: Use your TapuTapu wearable to save your spot in line for Krakatau Aqua Coaster as soon as you enter the park. This one fills up fast!
Pro Tip #2: Stay at a Universal hotel to get Early Park Admission — this incredible perk allows you to enter the parks before other guests and scope out the best spot on Waturi Beach and ride a few rides before anyone else.
Photo Credit: Imani Miller
Foodie Finds: We also tried exciting flavors while we were there. Dishes like Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese and a Longboard Pizza from Whakawaiwai Eats definitely hit the spot.
Alas, after a full day in the sun we couldn’t wait to take the shuttle back to our hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel. Hard Rock was a fitting choice for us because it matched the energetic vibe of our trip, plus it put us in the heart of the action, as it is the closest hotel to the parks. Plus a stay at Hard Rock includes Universal Express Unlimited, which guaranteed we never had to wait too long for our thrills in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
Photo Credit: Imani Miller
Foodie Finds: We chowed down at The Kitchen, one of the restaurants at the hotel. We rounded out a great dinner with a feat of a dessert option — The Kitchen Sink. This giant slice consists of seven layers of brownie, peanut butter crunch, chocolate chunk cookie, pecan pie, vanilla cheesecake, devil’s food chocolate cake, vanilla chiffon, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.
And what better way to end the night than with a pillow fight?
DAY 2: Universal Studios Florida to Islands of Adventure
We kicked off Day 2 with the most thrilling breakfast we could think of…doughnuts covered in cereal! The Loop and Oh Captain, My Captain from Voodoo Doughnut in Universal CityWalk set the tone for an exciting day. Since we took the water taxi over from our hotel, breakfast in CityWalk was super convenient.
After breakfast, we spent the morning in Universal Studios, grabbed lunch in CityWalk, and then ended the day in Islands of Adventure.
The Biggest Thrills of Day 2: Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure
- Universal Studios – Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
What a classic! Nothing beats that vertical climb to the top as the ride begins. You’ll definitely have time to think to yourself “Oh snap, what have I gotten myself into?”.
- Universal Studios- The Bourne Stuntacular
I usually skip most seated shows because I have never found them to be a true adrenaline rush — until now. This live-action stunt show uniquely blends in insane special effects. I cannot even explain how shocked I was at how cool this was.
Trigger Warning: Loud explosions and noises can be heard may not be suitable for young kids, veterans, or sensory sensitive folks.
- Universal Studios – Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
This ride is a combo-pack of all the things that make a ride great — story, thrill, excitement, and a touch of magic! It is non-stop fun.
- Universal Studios – Transformers: The Ride – 3D
Going on a wild adventure with the Transformers Robots left our whole group grinning ear to ear.
- Islands of Adventure – Jurassic World VelociCoaster
Let me tell you, this coaster is INCREDIBLE. It’s one of those experiences that leaves you in such awe from the minute you step foot into the queue, you can barely put it into words. 70 mph, four inversions and a 140-foot drop. The tallest and fastest roller coaster at Universal Orlando takes you through a thrilling tour of the raptor paddocks.
- Islands of Adventure – Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
This is without a doubt my favorite ride ever. It will keep you guessing and thinking “No way”! The entire ride is filled with a variety of thrilling moments — whether it’s an encounter with a magical creature or an unexpected horizontal freefall — this ride is on another level.
Photo Credit: Imani Miller
Foodie Finds: Chasing thrills can work up an appetite. Replenish your energy while keeping the fun going with some of your favorite themed-snacks like a big pink Lard Lad Donut or a refreshing, non-alcoholic Flaming Moe. Excite our taste buds at Fast Food Boulevard in Springfield!
Foodie Finds: We spent the first half of our day in Universal Studios, so naturally a 2-foot long hotdog for lunch from Hot Dog Hall of Fame in CityWalk was a logical choice before we headed into Islands of Adventure.
Foodie Finds: Since we ended the evening in Islands of Adventure, we decided to treat ourselves to The Great Feast at Three Broomsticks. This was an ambitious feat considering we only had 2 1/2 stomachs to fill, but boy did we do some damage!
DAY 3: Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios
We spent the majority of Day 3 in Islands of Adventure before hopping on the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios.
The Biggest Thrills of Day 3: Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios
- Islands of Adventure – The Incredible Hulk Coaster
Another classic! You’ll blast out of the tunnel and into too many twists and turns to count.
- Islands of Adventure – Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
Yes, it is terrifying as soon as you strap yourself in. Yes, you can hear the screams of people in the adjacent tower…but it’s fine. Remind yourself that you love the thrill, do it and you’ll thank me later.
- Islands of Adventure – Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
Be prepared to get really wet, but it’s worth it!
- Islands of Adventure – Jurassic Park River Adventure
The perfect blend of physical and mental thrill! You’ll feel the excitement of coming face-to-face with dinosaurs and the 85-foot-splash-filled drop.
- Islands of Adventure – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
This ride is a non-stop adrenaline rush as we adventured with Harry Potter himself. You’ll twist, turn, and truly be transported to another world.
- Universal Studios – The Revenge of the Mummy
Yet another classic Universal Orlando favorite, this indoor dark coaster never disappoints and always serves up an extreme adrenaline rush…with a dash of humor!
For the thrill seeker in training:
- Islands of Adventure – Flight of the Hippogriff
This outdoor coaster featured steep twists and turns around trees and magical forests. Our little passenger felt so accomplished once she conquered it!
- Islands of Adventure – The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
We swung into action alongside Spider-Man, every kid’s dream come true!
- Islands of Adventure – Pteranodon Fliers
No room for a fear of heights here! If your little one can brave this ride, they’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the park.
Foodie Finds: Think green when choosing snacks. We started the day with Green Eggs and Ham Tots from Green Eggs and Ham Cafe in Seuss Landing and mid-day we gave the Fishy Green Ale in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter a try and let’s just say, both did not disappoint!
The night ended on a bold note when we ate dinner at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, in CityWalk! When you order the fresh made Tableside Guacamole, you can choose your level of heat. We went for the highest level for an extra kick to the tastebuds. From the Pollo Fajitas to the Quesadillas to the Ground Beef Taco Salad, each dish we ordered took us on an exciting flavorful journey.
And what’s a trip to Universal Orlando without a huge milkshake from The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen to sweeten things up?
If you live for the thrills like we do, be sure to check off each of these rides and crazy culinary concoctions when you visit the parks!