When planning for an upcoming vacation, I like to find the lesser-known things you can’t miss at that destination. It’s no different when it comes to theme parks. You probably know the highlights about Universal Orlando Resort: fun rides, hotels to stay at, delicious restaurants and entertainment, and — of course — The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s so much more you can do at Universal that you may not even be aware of. Like, did you know you can adopt a Pygmy Puff? Do you even know what a Pygmy Puff is!? Well, you’re about to find out.
I put together a list of my top picks for the lesser-known experiences you can do during your vacation here. Whether it’s your first visit you’re planning or your 100th, I hope these spark some inspiration.
1. Try a Can of Whoville’s Who Hash
One of my new favorite foodie finds is over at Green Eggs and Ham Cafe in Seuss Landing with the can of Whoville’s Who Hash. Munching on your can of Who Hash while strolling through the land will make you feel as if you’re right in the middle of a Dr. Seuss book. You can also get Green Eggs & Ham Tots, Buffalo Chicken Tots, and more.
2. Have a Chat with a Volcano Spirit
If you venture inside the volcano Krakatau at Universal’s Volcano Bay, you will come across Vol, the spirit of the volcano! This trickster fire spirit is great to chat with and can be a bit playful with water when they want to be.
3. Tour the MEN IN BLACK Headquarters
My first job here was at MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack and one of my favorite things was seeing people’s reactions when they got to explore the downstairs level of MIB headquarters. If you ask one of the agents nicely, they may have availability to take you down and meet a few of the aliens. *Note: This experience is not always available. Saving the galaxy can be quite time-consuming.*
4. Meet Characters From Your Favorite Movies
Did you know you can occasionally run into Men In Black agents, trade in your cash for bank notes with a Gringotts Goblin, or even practice your kung fu moves with Po from Kung Fu Panda? There are a ton of characters to meet that you may not even be aware of! Keep an eye out as you explore the parks to see who you can find.
5. Adopt a Pygmy Puff
And this, my friends, is a Pygmy Puff. They are one of the cutest creature companions in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and, when you adopt one, the shopkeepers will do a fun naming ceremony for you. You can find them at Magical Menagerie and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and you can adopt them in three sizes!
6. Bowl a Strike in Your Hotel
Even if you can’t bowl a strike (like me), it’s pretty sweet having a bowling alley in your hotel. Galaxy Bowl at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is small and intimate with only 10 lanes, which is part of its charm, but it does fill up fast. Don’t forget to make a reservation ahead of time and to bring your lucky bowling socks.
7. Snap a Pic with Your Favorite Shark
Our JAWs attraction will live on in our memories, but there is still one place you can get a taste of it. Quite literally — you can enjoy a Shark Attack drink at Chez Alcatraz. This little bar pays homage to the attraction and even has our favorite shark right next to it for pictures.
8. Brave a 125-Foot Drop Slide Called Ko’okiri Body Plunge
Your vacation is the perfect time to face your fears, right? Conquer the tallest drop slide in Orlando at Universal’s Volcano Bay. It also happens to have an awesome view… that is if you can keep your eyes open.
9. Try All Six Kinds of Butterbeer Treats
Yes, you read that right. There are six kinds of Butterbeer treats you can try in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including fudge, ice cream, potted cream and — of course — the three types of drink. #TeamFrozen all the way.
10. Dance with a Panda
Sometimes you just need an impromptu dance party with a panda. Have no fear, Hashtag is here! You can meet and dance with Hashtag the Panda before racing through New York with Jimmy Fallon. You can also see a performance by the Ragtime Gals.
11. Embark on a Rum-Tasting Journey
Take a break from the parks and unwind with a rum-tasting journey led by a Rum Captain at Strong Water Tavern at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. They also happen to have amazing empanadas.
12. Get Your Putt-Putt On
As a self-proclaimed mini golf extraordinaire, one of my favorite things to do is play a round at the Hollywood Drive-In Golf in Universal CityWalk. It’s the perfect low-key activity to end the day. Plus, the haunted and sci-fi themes of each course speak to my geeky heart.
13. See Your Favorite Movies On… Water Screens?
End your day at the parks with a front-row view of the nighttime show Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration in Universal Studios Florida. There’s something really epic about seeing a gigantic T. Rex from Jurassic World roaring in your face on MASSIVE water screens. *This show is available on select nights. Make sure to check the park map or Universal Orlando Mobile App for updates.*
14. Enjoy a Lunch Inspired by Dishes from Across the Globe
Right at the front of Universal’s Islands of Adventure is one of my favorite restaurants, Confisco Grille. This hidden gem (that just so happens to be in plain sight) features an eclectic menu with a mixture of global cuisines like Asian, Turkish, Mediterranean, Greek, Russian, Polish, and more. You can also find mysterious confiscated goods inside that you may recognize from the park.
15. Escape to Waterfall Cove
This is my kind of hidden gem when it comes to water parks. Waterfall Cove is a secluded area tucked away at the base of Krakatau (the volcano) in Volcano Bay. It makes for a peaceful escape from the crowds and has some gorgeous waterfalls that will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to an exotic location.
16. Explore Lost Continent
An enchanted talking fountain, exotic cuisine, a bazaar filled with trinkets and treasures, psychic readings, and more. Lost Continent is one of the most richly-themed areas of Islands of Adventure with stunning backdrops for photos, and the perfect place to relax and grab a bite to eat. I highly recommend having lunch at Mythos and enjoying the excellent views of the park from the outside seating.
17. Eat Burgushi – Where the Cow and the Fish Become One
Take the fixings of both a burger and sushi, put them together, and bam! Burgushi. Chow down on this land and sea fusion at The Cowfish in Universal CityWalk. My favorite is The High-Class Hillbilly-Southern Style Bar-B-Q-Shi (pictured).
18. Live Your Best Rockstar Life
I’m all about music, which makes Hard Rock Hotel one of my favorite places to stay. One of the fun things to do is the memorabilia tour. You can see priceless items from some of your singers and bands. Feel inspired? You can rent a guitar or record player to play in your room after!
19. Cast Your Own Spells
Create your own magic in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with an interactive wand. You have to try your hand at the Meteolojinx in Diagon Alley (pictured). My personal favorite spell is Incendio at Flimflams Lanterns in Diagon Alley. It’s so cool at night! You may even discover some hidden spells as you progress in your practice.
20. Sing Karaoke on the Big Stage
Even if you’re afraid of being in the spotlight, singing karaoke at Rising Star in Universal CityWalk is SO FUN. You get backup singers and even a hype man to help make you the star of the show. Plus, the lights are bright enough on stage so you can barely see the crowd — just in case you need a courage booster.
What are you looking forward to checking out? Add to the list in the comments below if you’re an experienced veteran of the parks!
Must be 21 years of age or older with valid identification to purchase or drink alcoholic beverages at Universal Orlando Resort.