Universal Orlando offers two theme parks with many immersive worlds to explore. While the shows, dining, and other unique experience are fun, the rides are what draw most people in. With dozens of rides to choose from and a limited amount of time, it is essential that you prioritize the best rides at Universal Orlando for your interest.
In this blog post, I am sharing the best Universal rides for thrill seekers, families, movie-buffs, and water ride lovers. The thrill seeker section is what I imagine most will be interested and I find these to be the top five rides in the whole theme park complex. However, if you are looking for a tamer ride experience, I have highlighted the best options for that as well. Read on to find out the best rides at Universal Orlando to experience in 2023.
Best Universal Orlando Rides for Thrill Seekers
Universal Orlando has close to a dozen rollercoasters that offer all the thrilling twists and turns imaginable. They also tend to have the longest lines, so you will want to ride them early in the day. These first five Universal rides are the best in the parks and should be prioritized above all for roller coaster lovers.
1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Currently, the best ride in the park is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbikes Adventure. Though it does not go upside-down, this is a high-speed ride with intricate animatronics and a fun plot. I am not the only one who thinks though as the line is almost always over two hours long.
This ride is located in Islands of Adventure in the Hogsmeade section of the park. You will want to ride in first thing when the park opens to avoid long midday waits. The height requirement of 48” is less than many of the other coasters, so it is a great ride for families as well. You do not even have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy the thrills of this new coaster.
Another rollercoaster I never miss is Velocicoaster, also at Islands of Adventures. This is a Jurassic World-themed coaster located of course in the Jurassic Park section. This is one of the craziest rides in the park with high speeds, tall drops, and many loops. Though it’s actually a lot smoother than many rollercoasters, it still is not ideal for those afraid of fast speeds and heights.
3. Incredible Hulk Coaster
My third favorite ride at Islands of Adventure is the Incredible Hulk Coaster located in Marvel Super Hero Island. This coaster has been here for years, but still delivers the same number of thrills. It starts out speeding up a giant hill and then proceeds to go upside down multiple times. Though it’s over in a couple of minutes, I always find it to be a blast. This is another ride that only thrill seekers will want to experience, especially because the lines can be very long. There is not much going on thematically, it is simply an exhilarating roller coaster.
4. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Over at Universal Studios Orlando, rollercoaster lovers will want to prioritize Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. This is a music-themed rollercoaster where you can choose what song plays while you are riding it. The songs are synced up with the ride making it an even more enjoyable experience. This rollercoaster also goes very high, very fast, and upside down, so it is not for the faint of heart.
5. Escape From Gingott’s
Last on my top five best rides at Universal Orlando is Escape from Gringotts. This ride is a favorite of many, as it is an immersive adventure through Gringotts Wizarding Bank. You can find this in the Diagon Alley section of Universal Studios Florida. Though this is the furthest ride from the entrance, it is also one of the most popular, so I recommend riding it first thing.
This coaster does not go upside down and much of the movement is simulated through screens. You wear 3D glasses throughout and it tends to be a very in-your-face experience. Though the height requirement is 42” people who get scared, claustrophobic, or don’t like fast rides will probably not enjoy it. However, thrill seekers will love experiencing the immersive nature of this ride.
Best Water Rides at Universal Orlando
With temperatures almost always above eighty degrees Fahrenheit, water rides are quite popular at Universal Orlando. I debated putting these in the thrill seeker section, but since not everyone enjoys water rides, I decided to make a separate category. All three are at Islands of Adventure, adding to why this park is preferred for thrill seekers over Universal Studios.
On a hot day, most of these will have at least a half an hour wait. I tend to ride these attractions midday, although the lines may be longer then. These three water rides are also great options for thrill seekers visiting Universal Orlando, but just make sure you are okay with getting splashed!
6. Jurassic Park River Adventure
Of the three water rides here, the Jurassic Park River Adventure is my favorite. This is a ride similar to Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World, with animatronic show scenes leading up to a big drop. I find the dinosaur theme and the story of the ride to be very entertaining. It also is the ride you will get the least soaked on! However, it is the least thrilling of the three. If you don’t mind heights, this water ride is a fun experience.
7. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
For those who want to get extremely wet on a Universal ride, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls will do it. This is also a flume ride but has tons of water features throughout it. I find the theming to be lacking with only simple figures instead of animatronics. However, the one time I went on, I was more concerned with how soaked I was getting than the theming. If you like hills, drops, and lots of splashes, this one provides that and more. The final drop is down a multi-tier hill that will have even the bravest riders screaming!
8. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
My least favorite water ride at Universal Orlando is Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. It is a basic raft ride that goes down a few waterfalls. The drops are pretty big, so many thrill seekers will have fun. The main goal of the ride is to get you wet though and with fountains, people spraying water, and rapids everywhere, there is no avoiding it.
Best Universal Rides for Kids
I’ve shared the top eight thrilling rides at Universal Orlando for adults and brave kids, so now I want to share the rides that are best for a more relaxing experience. Whether you are traveling with your family of kids under 42” or you just don’t like hills and high speeds, these six rides are the ones for you.
9. ET Adventure
My favorite non-thrill ride in all of Universal Orlando is ET Adventure at Universal Studios. This is a classic dark ride that takes you on a journey to ET’s home planet. It is full of cute, animatronic aliens and interesting set designs. This is fun for kids and adults alike and usually has a wait of less than half an hour.
10. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
The most popular kids’ ride at Universal Orlando Resort is Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, also at Universal Studios. This is a simulator ride where your seat moves in flow with the screen. This makes it feel like a bit of a bumpy ride at times, but for the most part, is very tame.
With no track to speak of, there are no hills or loops for people to worry about. However, those with motion sickness may want to sit in one of the stationary chairs to avoid feeling ill. Kids and fans of Despicable Me will appreciate the silly nature of this ride, but adults who are sick of minions should stay clear!
11. Flight of the Hippogriff
For kids looking to test the waters with riding coasters, Flight of the Hippogriff is a great option. It is a simple kid’s coaster that is themed to the forest of Hogwarts where Hagrid is hiding his hippogriff, Buckbeak. It’s a quick ride with a few twists and turns, but definitely not waiting over an hour to ride, unless your child is eager to. Adults can avoid this one, but families should prioritize this early in the day.
12. Pteranadon Flyers
One ride I have never been on but would love to ride is Pteranadon Flyers. This is located in the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure and gives riders a birds’ eye view of the park on a quick, 75-second flight. Weirdly though, adults can only go on when riding with a child between 36” and 56” to go on. Since I have never visited with a child and it didn’t exist when I was that age, I sadly have not been on it.
I hear it’s fun and gives you a great view of the park. It’s not fast but does have enough turns to make it interesting. Most kids love it, but if they or the adult riding with them is afraid of heights, it may be too scary.
13. The Cat in the Hat
Another dark ride at Universal Orlando that families should prioritize is The Cat in The Hat. This tells the story of The Cat in the Hat on a whimsical ride through the book. It is slow and smooth so anyone can enjoy this ride. The wait is usually less than half an hour, so it can be done any time of day.
14. High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
Young and old will appreciate the Seuss Trolley. It’s a simple trolley that takes a relaxing ride around an elevated track, which offers awesome views. It’s similar to the people mover at Disney World and also has a cult-like following. The line can get up to an hour here, so families with young kids may want to prioritize it early in the day.
Best Universal Orlando Movie-Themed Rides
Lastly, I want to end this post with the six best movie-themed rides at Universal Orlando. These are the ones I ride after getting my fix of thrills. They usually have waits under an hour long and are a fun way to relive popular movies. Though some are thrilling, most are screen-based and not actual roller coasters. I will point out which ones are ideal for which type of riders.
15. The Simpsons Ride
Over in Universal Orlando, The Simpsons Ride is a must for any fans of the famous Springfield family. Though the graphics are getting a little dated, I still enjoy the jokes and Simpsons references. This is a theater-style ride where twists, turns, and drops are simulated by the screen and your chair moving. Some kids might find the premise scary and those with motion sickness may struggle, but otherwise, I think this ride is a safe bet for most.
16. Revenge of the Mummy
I was tempted to put Revenge of the Mummy in the best Universal rides section, but newer additions to the park have this one beat for me. Regardless, the Mummy is still a fun coaster with all sorts of high-speed thrills through the dark. The mummy theming is 100% on point from the queue to the ride, although I don’t know if that movie still has a lot of fans. I would prioritize other coasters over this one, but it is still worth at least half an hour’s wait if you have time.
17. Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey
The original Harry Potter ride, Harry Potter, and the Forbidden Journey is a mixed bag. The visuals and the immersive nature of the ride still make it one of the best movie rides in my opinion. This ride first takes you through Hogwarts Castle in line and then on to a robotic arm ride vehicle. This is supposed to simulate riding on a broomstick, which can be extremely nauseating.
I rarely get motion sickness, but this one is way too much for me. Between the twisting movements, the in-your-face dementors and spiders, and the long duration, I find it too intense. It does do a great job of telling the story of Harry Potter. If you are a fan, I recommend trying it or at least going through the usually short line to see the cool Hogwarts effects.
18. Men in Black Alien Attack
For an interactive ride through the ’90s, Men in Black Alien Attack is part ride, part video game. You ride in a spinning ride vehicle equipped with a gun to shoot aliens. Similar to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Disney, you also get a score and ranking at the end! Even without the speed, thrill seekers love it, as well as those who want a more tame experience.
19. The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
Another ride movie buffs should prioritize is the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This ride used to be my favorite, but there are a few others with more impressive effects now. Still, it’s a fun dark ride that uses screens and 3D to make it feel like you are swinging from buildings with Spidey Boy himself. Kids must be over 40” to ride but may find some of the villain themes too scary. Definitely prioritize it if you are a Marvel fan though!
20. Hogwarts Express
Lastly, I think everyone who has a park hopper should ride Hogwarts Express. This train ride takes you between the Wizarding World of Harry Potter sections of both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Each side has a different experience, so Harry Potter fans will want to take the train both ways during their visit!
The line does get lengthy at midday, so try and ride it before lunch or after dinner to avoid hour-long waits. Everyone in the family can ride it and use it to avoid walking from park to park. You can’t ride it without park hopping abilities, unfortunately, but this is the only attraction at both parks that presents this issue.
Know Before You Go: The Best Universal Orlando Rides to Prioritize
I hope this guide helped your figure out what rides at Universal Orlando to prioritize on your visit! Whether you like fast coasters or relaxing dark rides, there is plenty of fun to experience here. In addition to the rides, do not forget to check out CityWalk, Volcano Bay, and the Universal resorts for a full experience.
Before you go, keep these tips in mind for experiencing the best Universal Orlando Resort attractions!
- To ride the most popular rides at Universal Orlando, you will want to rope drop the theme parks. This means getting there at least half an hour before the park opens and rushing to the most popular ride. It is the easiest way to have a short wait for popular rides.
- Another alternative is to get in line for a popular ride just minutes before the park closes. They will continue to let people on the right who were in line at closing, so you can maximize your park time this way.
- If you really want to avoid long lines, most of these rides offer a paid Universal Express Pass.
- One other way to cut down on wait times is to ride the single-rider line. These are common on roller coasters and though you have to ride next to a stranger, the line can be much shorter.
- For those looking for hotel options, here are my picks for the best theme park hotels to stay at.
For more theme park tips, be sure to check out my posts on the best Disney World rides for adults and my ranking of the best theme parks to visit. If you need help planning a trip, I am partnered with Kelly’s Magical Vacations and highly recommend her services. Find out more here!