When Universal Studios Florida first opened its gates on June 7, 1990, it offered visitors the chance to “Ride the Movies.” Before IP-hoarding became a necessary practice at all of Orlando’s biggest theme parks, Universal Studios Florida was the original destination for thrill-seeking film buffs. Now, nearly 32 years later, there are 10 movie-based attractions at Universal Orlando Resort’s original park. Who would we even be if we weren’t going to rank them?
Disclaimer: Awesome though it is, we cannot count the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit in this list, because it appears to be based on nothing more than a general 2009 sense of radness. Kang & Kodos’ Twirl n’ Hurl and Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster also did not make this list, though they are likely lovely. We’re here today to focus on the big guys.
10. Fast & Furious: Supercharged
Ah, the party bus. You know, everyone’s favorite vehicle from the Fast&Furious movies! This ride is such a missed opportunity and is a classic example of theme park executives misunderstanding what’s actually appealing to guests about a beloved franchise. Obviously, the dream of participating in the world of Fast&Furious is to be behind the wheel alongside Dom Toretto and the Family. Instead, Fast & Furious: Supercharged places guests frustratingly adjacent to the action instead of inside it. In terms of ride practicality, it makes sense to load more guests into the aforementioned party bus than into a much smaller ride vehicle, but it just doesn’t make for a very exciting movie-based attraction.
9. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
Is it weird that this ride exists at all? Sure! But corporate synergy means that NBCUniversal needed an honest-to-goodness NBC property to take center stage at the Universal parks. (There’s even a TODAY Café at Universal Studios now, helping everyone realize their dreams of eating eggs with Al Rocker.) This ride itself is a 3D motion-simulator, so a lot of your enjoyment of it might come down to how fatigued you are over this sort of theme park ride. If you’ve already done a lot of these – three more are going to come up on this list alone – then Race Through New York might feel very “been there, done that.” That said, this ride gets some points for the queue. If you’re going to be waiting over an hour for any attraction, it helps a lot if you have something cool and immersive to look at. Race Through New York offers non-New Yorkers the chance to step into a replica of 30 Rockefeller, which has the benefit of being an interesting place regardless of how you feel about Jimmy Fallon specifically.
8. The Hogwarts Express
The Hogwarts Express isn’t just a standalone attraction, but also an alternate means of transportation for guests with park hopper abilities to go back and forth between Universal Studios and the neighboring Islands of Adventure. And, let’s be clear, if you’re a former or current fan of Harry Potter, the Hogwarts Express is worth the long line at least once purely for the joy of watching the train pull into Station 9 ¾ for the first time. The reveal of that scarlet train really is like walking into the pages of the book. And then the ride itself is… fine! You get to enjoy clever silhouettes of Hogwarts students walking down the train corridor outside your compartment, including a distractingly not-voiced-by-Emma Watson Hermione. Otherwise, it’s just kind of like riding any other train. This attraction ultimately ranks so low on this list due to a lack of replay value. After you’ve experienced it once, it never really feels worth it to wait when you could walk from park to park much faster and therefore get in line sooner for the Velocicoaster.
7. Transformers: The Ride 3D
Another 3D motion simulator! So, this author confesses here and now to never having seen an entry in the transformers film franchise, but I gather they are known for being very big and very loud. In that regard, and I truly mean this as a compliment, Transformers: The Ride 3D smashes it out of the park. The “stakes” of this ride just feel so appropriately large, so it’s really easy to get swept up in the storyline. Your mission is to get the AllSpark to safety, but, of course, the Decepticons aren’t going to make it so easy for you. Optimus Prime commands enough gravitas that a mission briefing of any kind from him will definitely make you feel inspired and ready to leap into battle, even if you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.
6. Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
As yet another 3D motion simulator, this ride gets the slight edge over Optimus Prime based on its queue. A good queue can really make or break a theme park attraction experience. Depending on your patience with Minions, the queue is a really fun, kid-friendly chance to learn all about what it takes to become a Minion. It’s all big, fun, and colorful, and there are screens playing profiles of all the main characters from despicable me. The ride itself is an exciting adventure through Gru’s laboratory without ever being a true “thrill ride.” Minion Mayhem is a good palate cleanser of an attraction, especially for anyone traveling with kids. Because it’s all well and good to save the day multiple times a day, but sometimes you’ve got to relax and let the fart gun do its job.
5. The Simpsons Ride
Has there ever been a pop culture family more suited for their own theme park attraction than the Simpsons? Likely not, which is why it’s ultimately a bummer that the Simpsons didn’t really get their “own” attraction. A ride can suffer based purely on comparison, and it’s hard not to ride The Simpsons Ride and wish you were on the original attraction occupying that spot, Back to the Future: The Ride. Another motion simulator, The Simpsons Ride is, again, fun, but not mind-blowing. This ride gets a boost from the land surrounding it, however. How Universal transformed this entire area of the park into Springfield is incredible and makes it a blast. The Simpsons Ride on your own is just okay. The Simpsons Ride knowing you have an actual Lard Lad Donut awaiting you on the other side? That’s awesome.
4. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Quick personal aside: As a trans theme park enthusiast, it’s obviously tough now to really enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If this is a section of Universal you forever skip now, that’s okay; there’s still a lot to do. I personally still let myself enjoy a frosty Pumpkin Juice as I stroll down Diagon Alley, which is truly a work of modern theme park design genius. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is an exciting indoor steel roller coaster, made even more enthralling by a meticulously recreated Gringotts Bank queue as well as a never-phoning-it-in performance by Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange. As with several other Universal Studios attractions, an iconic John Williams score is also doing a lot of heavy lifting here. It’s impossible not to hear those themes and feel instantly transported to a magical world.
3. Men in Black: Alien Attack
This attraction gets it! What’s the most exciting daydream to walk away with after watching Men in Black? What it would be like to be a member of the agency yourself, of course! Men in Black: Alien Attack does such a good job of capturing each necessary stage of the MIB rookie experience. You first enter a retro World’s Fair-style exhibit called “The Universe & You – Are We Alone?” only for Rip Torn‘s Zed to interrupt the proceedings and let you know that you’re actually a new recruit! There’s a secretive elevator ride and everything, and there you are within the agency, surrounded by human and alien co-workers alike. The ride itself is a shooting dark ride, based on the premise that you’re doing a MIB training module only for a real alien attack to go down. And even though Will Smith‘s Agent J neutralizes all riders at the end of the attraction, this is absolutely an unforgettable experience.
2. Revenge of the Mummy
Based on the well-beloved Stephen Sommers run of the mummy films, this indoor roller coaster is unique in its ability to capture not just the excitement of living the mummy movies, but also the excitement of making them. This queue starts outside of a huge facade of the Museum of Antiquities, and then you descend through dark corridors full of props and concept drawings. The premise behind the attraction is that you’re on set for the upcoming sequel: Revenge of the Mummy. Queue videos express the fears of several crew members regarding the Mummy’s curse. franchise star brendan fraser is on hand to be both skeptical and also an absolute delight. The coaster begins only for guests to have the curse confirmed, and then you’re in Imhotep’s clutches for launches, drops, fire, and an excellent fake-out ending.
The only remaining opening day attraction at Universal Studios Florida, the ET Adventure is a dark ride based on steven spielberg‘s 1982 classic. The ET Adventure is somewhat magical even if you haven’t seen the source material in a while, which is the true power of all the best and most lasting theme park attractions. You don’t necessarily have to have done the “required viewing” to get a kick out of the experience. The opportunity to board a bicycle with ET is both thrilling and very earnestly gentle. As Steven Spielberg himself tells guests in the pre-ride video, “ET needs your help.” And, again, if I may get personal for a moment, I truly can’t think of any words more motivating. I will die before I fail you, ET This is another amazing queue, dark and cool and scented like the forest. If you haven’t had the chance to experience this attraction, I won’t spoil the ending, but it remains an absolute marvel of early theme park technology and never fails to put a smile on my face.
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