These are the best rides at Universal Orlando — and the worst.

By Elizabeth Rhodes
July 25, 2020
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Courtesy of Universal Orlando

Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

Step into your favorite movies at Universal Orlando’s theme parks — Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure — for an unforgettable experience. Universal Orlando, founded in 1990, is the second-largest theme park resort in the Orlando area after Walt Disney World. Throughout its history, Universal Orlando has evolved to include new attractions based on successful movie and TV franchises like Shrek, The Simpsons, and most recently, Harry Potter. The addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter introduced a number of new rides to the park, bringing massive success and a new surge of popularity for Universal Orlando. Before your next visit to these theme parks, you’ll want to plan out which attractions you want to experience. To help, we’ve rounded up the best rides at Universal Orlando, so you know what should be at the top of your list.

In order to simplify this ranking, we’ve separated the rides by park. Here are the best rides at Universal Orlando — and the worst.

Best Rides at Universal Studios Florida 

Courtesy of Universal Orlando

1. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts 

The highlight of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley, this attraction is truly the best ride at Universal Studios Florida. The queue itself is wildly impressive, with goblins that look like they’re straight from the movies. The ride is also very unique, combining dark ride and coaster elements with 3-D projections to create a truly immersive and exciting experience.

2. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

This is, by far, the most thrilling ride at Universal Studios Florida. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster allows riders to choose their own soundtrack (with 30 song options including “Stronger” by Kanye West and “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys) before taking off on a vertical ascent for an exciting ride that gets up to a maximum speed of  65 miles per hour.

3. Revenge of the Mummy

A welcome break from other screen-based attractions at Universal Studios Florida, this indoor coaster based on The Mummy is thrilling without being too scary.

4. Men in Black Alien Attack

Enter the Men in Black training facility and shoot aliens in this interactive dark ride. With over 125 animatronic aliens, this ride is fun, engaging, and worth enjoying more than once.

5. E.T. Adventure

There's a good reason that E.T. Adventure is the only opening day attraction left at Universal Orlando. This ride is just as charming as it was in 1990 with its bicycle ride vehicles, and now, it offers an added dose of nostalgia.

6. The Simpsons Ride

Follow the Simpsons on their crazy antics during this funny motion simulator ride. Fans of the show will love all the references and details, and the movement is smooth and realistic (although it might be intense for those prone to motion sickness).

7. Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station

Climb aboard the famed Hogwarts Express and experience the magic of the Harry Potter movies in this attraction. King’s Cross station looks just like it does in London, and this is a quick and delightful way to get to Islands of Adventure. You can really imagine yourself boarding the train to Hogwarts, and arriving in Hogsmeade makes it even more magical.

8. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

Fans of The Tonight Show will like this Jimmy Fallon-led 3-D motion simulator ride that takes guests on a trip around New York City, but the well-themed queue made to look just like 30 Rockefeller is equally impressive.

Courtesy of Universal Orlando

9. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

As one of the first attractions guests reach when entering the park, this simulator ride can have long wait times. It’s cute and fun for families, so fans of the Despicable Me movies should check it out.

10. Shrek 4-D

Although it’s a little dated now, this simulator ride is fun for the whole family.

11. Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ’n’ Hurl

This Simpsons-themed spinner ride is great for kids, but it’s not the most exciting ride in this park.

12. Transformers: The Ride 3-D

Several recently debuted rides at this park rely heavily on screens and motion simulators, and while it works for some attractions, this one is a little jerky, although fans of the Transformers films are sure to enjoy it.

13. Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster 

This short family coaster is cute and fun, but it’s not worth a long wait (do kids today even know who Woody Woodpecker is)?

14. Fast & Furious – Supercharged

As one of the newest rides at the park, Fast & Furious — Supercharged was much-anticipated, but many argue that it didn’t live up to the hype. Fans of the film franchise may want to check it out, but there are better rides at this park.

Best Rides at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Courtesy of Universal Orlando

1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

This incredible dark ride combines innovative technologies and a unique ride system to fully immerse guests in the Harry Potter story. Plus, it’s housed in the Hogwarts Castle, and the queue is absolutely amazing, with classroom replicas, a message from the Sorting Hat, and more. It’s worth riding again and again — you’re almost guaranteed to notice something new each time.

2. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Many laud this well-themed coaster as the best ride in the park, and it’s easy to see why once you experience it. Take a seat on Hagrid’s motorbike and soar through beautiful scenery while encountering some magical creatures along the way.

3. Jurassic Park River Adventure

What starts as a calming boat ride through Jurassic Park quickly turns into a thrilling escape ending with an 85-foot drop. Whether or not you’re a fan of the classic dino movie, this ride is worth experiencing at least once.

4. The Incredible Hulk Coaster

One of the most intense rides at Islands of Adventure, The Incredible Hulk Coaster — complete with inversions and a launch — is a must for all thrill-seekers.

5. Flight of the Hippogriff

This family-friendly coaster is another delightful addition to the Harry Potter-themed land. The ride is short, but it offers great views of Hogwarts.

6. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

Step inside your favorite comic books in Marvel Super Hero Island. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a 3-D simulator dark ride that immerses you in the superhero action.

7. Hogwarts Express: Hogsmeade Station

The Hogwarts Express allows visitors to travel between Universal Orlando’s two parks without leaving the magic of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which makes it a must-experience if you plan to visit both parks in one day. The Hogsmeade side of the Hogwarts Express is just as fun as its King’s Cross counterpart.

8. The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

Go for a scenic tour above Seuss Landing — the ride actually has two tracks, so you can enjoy a different story during your second time around. This is a fun, gentle ride that’s great for families.

9. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

A classic log flume ride with a cartoon twist, this ride is great for cooling off on hot Florida days.

10. The Cat in the Hat

This dark ride takes you straight into one of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved stories, and it’s fun for kids and nostalgic for adults who remember this story from childhood.

Courtesy of Universal Orlando

11. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges

Sail through the rapids on this bumpy water ride, but be warned: You will get very wet. Although it’s perfect for a warm Florida day, you might want to skip it if the sun isn’t out.

12. Caro-Seuss-el

The entire Seuss-themed land is whimsical, and this ride offers a fun twist on the classic amusement park attraction, with Seuss-inspired characters replacing traditional carousel horses.

13. Pteranodon Flyers

This gentle dino ride was created for kids, so adults can’t ride without a child between 36 to 56 inches tall. If you do have the chance to hop on, you’ll get great views of the park while soaring along.

14. Storm Force Accelatron

This hero-themed spinning teacup ride isn’t the most exciting option in the park, but it’s fun and worth checking out if there isn’t a long line.

15. Poseidon’s Fury

This walk-through attraction is one of the few not tied to a film franchise, making it a unique addition to the park. The show, based on Greek mythology, combines special effects, film, and live acting, but it’s not a ride — it’s an immersive, albeit a little cheesy and dated, experience. Plus, it provides a welcome relief on a hot summer day with extended time in air-conditioning.

16. Doctor Doom’s Fearfall

This exciting space shot-style ride isn’t for the faint of heart — expect thrilling drops. The villain-themed attraction is fun for thrill-seekers, but it’s not all that different than the drop rides you’d find at your local amusement park.

17. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Climb aboard a flying fish on this Dr. Seuss-themed spinning ride. It’s ideal for younger children who can’t yet go on the more intense rides in the park.

18. Skull Island: Reign of Kong

This trackless dark ride based on King Kong is a fairly polarizing attraction — the animatronics are incredible and the queue is well-themed, but the screen-based portion is a little lackluster, similar to Fast & Furious — Supercharged at Universal Studios Florida.

Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure who loves all things theme parks. Follow her adventures on Instagram @elizabetheverywhere