Top Things to Do at Universal Orlando You Don’t Want to Miss

Planning a trip to Universal Orlando? These are the top things to do at Universal Orlando with or without kids.

Visiting the Universal Orlando resort with or without kids is so much fun! As a family we have been visiting Universal since the kids were small and these are our picks for the best things to do at Universal Orlando.

If you want specific ride information for small children at Universal and if a ride is scary or kid friendly, check out these posts: Universal Studios Height Requirements and Scare Factor (A Guide for Families) and Islands of Adventure Height Requirements and Ride Scare Factor (A Guide for Families)

Universal Orlando resort is home to attractions, shows, water rides, three theme parks, and a dining area. There is so much to do, and we are often asked what are our picks for Universal Orlando must do for families.

For this list we picked our favorite food, attractions, shows, and things to do at Universal to help you plan your best Universal Orlando vacation.

If you are looking for detailed itineraries check out Universal Studios One Day Itinerary and Islands of Adventure Itinerary guides.

I suggest purchasing tickets before you arrive at the park when you are visiting Universal with kids or without, it will save a lot of time at the start of your day. If this is your first visit check out Universal Orlando for First Timers.

diagon alley at harry potter universal orlando.

Top Things to Do at Universal Orlando

There are lots of places to see the best attractions at Universal. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Universal On-site Resorts, Universal CityWalk, and Volcano Bay are all located at the Universal Orlando Resort.

There are some attractions that you can do at multiple places throughout the resort like character dining, trying Butterbeer, and having a water ride day, and some experiences are specific to a park.

When visiting Universal with kids you should plan your day around what works best for your family. There are a lot of things to do on this list and some may be good for this visit, and some might work best for your next visit.

If you are visiting during a special event at Universal like Halloween Horror Nights or Mardi Gras you should be aware of early closing times.

What age is the best for visiting Universal?

We started visiting when my youngest was 4 years old. He was tall enough to ride a handful of attractions and we knew he could handle the attractions. There are also a lot of play areas and shows that are great for small children.

It helps to introduce your child to some of the characters like Minions, Harry Potter, and Dr. Seuss. The Dr. Seuss area at Islands of Adventure is perfect for children. I share all the details in this post: Everything to Ride, Eat, and See at Seuss Landing at Universal Orlando.

We watched the movies of characters at the park before we visited and I read the first Harry Potter illustrated book to familiarize them with the story.

List of Best Things to do at Universal Orlando

Open the Parks (Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure)

If you want to “open” the park be one of the first to arrive at the gates and ask a Universal employee. On a recent visit we were picked to open Universal Studios. They give you a script and it is a fun way to start your Universal visit.

At the time of our visit they included a day pass for the Universal PhotoPass. This gave us copies of all the on ride photos.

Character Dining at the Parks and Resorts

There are 2 regular character dining options at Universal. They are Despicable Me Character breakfast at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Here you can meet Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes, and the Minions during breakfast at the resort.

Marvel Character Dinner is at Café 4 at Islands of Adventure. There you can meet Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Storm and Rogue. Learn more about reservations for character dining.

Universal also offers seasonal Halloween Horror Night dining as well as Grinch Character breakfast during the Universal holidays. Also note that the characters can be met at the park and often have short lines.

Related Post: 65+ Characters to Meet and Greet at Universal Orlando Resort

Holidays at the Parks

One of the best things to do at Universal is to visit during the holidays. They have special activities at Universal Studios with the Macy’s Holiday Parade as well as a Seuss Landing Grinch transformation at Islands of Adventure.

We visited during in December and share our full visit in this article, Everything You Need to Know About Holidays at Universal.

holiday parade is a universal must do
The parade at Universal Studios is so much fun!

Ollivander’s Wand Shop

There are two locations of Ollivanders Wand shop at Universal. One is at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and the other is at Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. They both offer shows where a lucky person in the audience will get picked by a wand.

At the end of the show you can then purchase the wand, it is not given to you. Learn more about purchasing a wand here. They are interactive wands that allow guests to cast spells throughout the parks.

Plan a Water Day

There are water rides at Universal Orlando at both parks, with the most being at Islands of Adventure. When we spend a week at Universal we will plan a water day where we wear flip flops and easy to dry clothes to ride the water attractions.

You can pack bathing suits in a backpack to let the kids play at the Curious George splash pad too. (This will be closing in January 2023)

If you are looking for water parks check out Universal’s Volcano Bay.

Act Like a Wizard at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

If you purchase a wand you have the opportunity to cast spells as various locations throughout Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. This is best on low crowd days because it there can be long lines to participate at each spell station.

We prefer Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade when using the wands because there are more areas to explore including Knockturn Alley.

There are over 20 spells to cast throughout the parks and you are given a map with your wand purchase. Some spells are easier than others and there are people around that can help if you get stuck.

Related Post: One Day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Orlando

Try Butter Beer Frozen, Hot, or Cold at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Both locations of The Wizarding World have Butter Beer. It is a sweet drink and often a little too sweet for some. I prefer the frozen variety and like to share one with the kids when we visit.

universal with kids, try butter beer at islands of adventure

Best Things to Do at Universal Studios with Kids

Take Your Picture in Front of the Universal Globe

As you make your way through CityWalk you will head to your right to the entrance of Universal Studios Florida. On your left you will see the iconic Univeral Globe. Take your picture on the bridge or walk past it to get a closer view.

Curious George Goes to Town

This area is a splash area that the kids can wear their bathing suits at and run around. In the back area there is the Man with the Yellow Hat Ball factory which is indoors and dry. (All of KidZone is closing in January 2023)

playground universal studios orlando review

Take Your Picture with E.T.

After you ride E.T. Adventure you exit through an E.T. gift shop. From here you can have your picture taken on the bike or with E.T. in the closet scene. You need to have the My Universal Photo Pass and must purchase it to get pictures here. Learn more about My Universal Photo Pass.

Explore Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes

The Weasley twins are always getting into mischief and this “prank” shop is fun to explore. There are different things to purchase but we like looking around and seeing all the fun items.

Watch for Kreacher at 12 Grimmuald Place

As you pass through London and are heading to the Simpson’s area of the park you will see a row of houses with doors. It looks like an ordinary London street but every so often Kreacher the house elf of Sirius Black will peak out the windows. I’m not sure the exact timing but we have never waited longer than 5 minutes to see him.

Explore Knockturn Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley

Knockturn Alley is down a dark alley way at Universal Studios-The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley. When you enter Diagon Alley walk until Gringotts and turn left. At the end of this street on the left in Knockturn Alley. My kids had to build courage to walk down here.

If you enjoy the darker side of magic you will like the shop down Knockturn Alley. There are also a few places to cast spells. It is a neat area to explore and Harry Potter fans will love it.

Visit Diagon Alley Early

My favorite way to experience Diagon Alley is first thing in the morning when the streets are quiet. If you are staying on-site at Universal you may have early entry, if you are off-site try to visit this area first. The attention to details and places to explore in Diagon Alley are incredible and it is one of our favorite themed lands.

Visit Diagon Alley Late

If you are not an early riser plan to spend time at Diagon Alley an hour before park close. This is typically lower crowds and you will see the area in a new way at night.

Watch the Gringotts Dragon Breathe Fire

At the end of the entrance to Diagon Alley sitting atop Gringotts is a fire-breathing dragon. Throughout the day the dragon will breathe fire. It is awesome to see for the first time.

I suggest finding a spot on either side of Gringotts and listen for the growl. Soon after the growl you will see the fire.

gringotts dragon

Get a Pink Donut from Lard Lad Donuts (Universal Studios)

You can’t miss the giant statue of Lard Lad in the Simpson area of the park, Springfield U.S.A. Here you can purchase the “World Famous” giant Pink Donut.

This donut is huge and can feed a family. If you plan on bringing it home pick it up when you are ready to leave the park, this will help prevent it from melting in the Florida sun.

Make up a name on E.T.

This might not be for everyone, but my kids get a kick out of using a different name on the E.T. Adventure attraction. When you are in line for the attraction you are asked your name and given a boarding pass. As you board you give your boarding pass to the attendant and E.T. will say goodbye to you at the end of the ride.

Eat Like a Simpson at Fast Food Boulevard

If you have a Simpson fan in your family consider eating at Fast Food Boulevard at Springfield U.S.A. They have Clam Chowdarrr and other favorites from the show.

Order a Duff Beer at Moe’s Tavern

For the adults in your party consider stopping in at Moe’s Tavern for a Duff Beer. You can also purchase a Flaming Moe and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Watch the Blues Brothers Show

The Blues Brothers is a fun show featuring singing and dancing. It is in the streets near The Mummy attraction. If you can grab a seat on one of the stairs you will have a great view and be shaded a bit. This is one of our favorite shows to watch.

Meet the Transformers Characters

Meeting characters is always a fun way to spend your time at the theme parks. For a unique experience head over to the Transformer’s meet and greet where you can meet Bumble Bee, Megatron, and Optimus Prime. These characters are larger than life!

Ride Hogwarts Express from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade

The Hogwarts Express is the train that takes you from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. At it’s basic form it is transportation between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Harry Potter fans will love to feel like you are part of the story as you enter King’s Cross and board the train to Hogwarts.

You will ride in a train car and a story will unfold out your window. To ride the Hogwarts Express you need a park-to-park ticket.

hogwarts express at hogsmeade

Walk “through” Platform 9 3/4

Every Harry Potter fan dreams of running through Platform 9 3/4 and at Universal Studios you have your chance! Universal’s creative team has done an amazing job and recreating this effect.

Watch The Tales of Beedle the Bard at Diagon Alley

This puppet and actor show from the Harry Potter films has been on our list to see for a few visits and we finally made it happen. The show is located on a stage in Diagon Alley and guests can sit and watch the story unfold. We all really enjoyed this show and would see it again.

tales of beedle the bard

Take a Photo with Chief Wiggum

For the Simpsons fan, head over to Springfield U.S.A. and have your photo taken with the statue of Chief Wiggum in front of the Duff Brewery.

Cool Off at Feivel’s Playland

Your kids may not know who Feivel is, but this play area will still be so much fun.

There are water features and a water slide. The slide has a tube you sit in but you still may get a bit wet. Kids and adults will enjoy this area. (This area is closing January 2023)

Explore the Spongebob Store (Universal Studios)

The Spongebob Store is located near the KidZone at Universal Studios. Here you can meet Squidward and Spongebob as well as explore the Spongebob themed store.

Watch or Become a Cast Member on Fear Factor Live

Update: Fear Factor Live has closed permanetly. Fear Factor Live is a show that tests your fear and allows visitors to the park to be part of the show. It runs daily at the park and you have to arrive early to be part of the show. My husband was a contestant on a recent visit! Read about what it is like to be on Fear Factor Live at Universal.

fear factor live at universal studios

Butter Beer Ice cream at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Butter Beer Ice Cream can be found at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour at Diagon Alley. The ice cream is very sweet and the size of the cone is enough to share. Check out all of our Universal Studios Orlando Tips for Harry Potter | Best Things to Do at Harry Potter Wizarding World for more.

Fish and Chips at Leaky Cauldron

A good fish and chips can be difficult to find but we love the one at Leaky Cauldron at Diagon Alley. The chips are potato wedges that are delicious and the fish is perfect! Click on this article about the Best Places to Eat at Universal with Kids.

Fish and Chips at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The Fish and Chips at The Leaky Cauldron at Diagon Alley.

Ride Escape from Gringotts to Walk through the Bank

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is one of the best rides at Universal. It is one of the indoor roller coasters at the park and has thrills and surprises.

It is an overall excellent attraction. The wow factor starts the minute you enter the line and make your way into Gringotts Bank.

The Goblins are counting their money and working. These animatronics will move and look at you as you walk through. The line of this attraction is so immersive and fun. Definitely a must do at Universal Studios.

Eat at the Minion Café

Minion Café is replacing Monster Café is 2023. More details to come.

Talk On the Phone at King’s Cross

When you are exploring London at Universal Studios you will see a phone booth. Step inside and dial MAGIC (62442) to be connected to the Ministry of Magic.

Talk to the Knight Bus Driver

The Knight Bus Driver is also outside London and a really fun and interactive meet and greet. He will talk to you about all different things and the kids always enjoy this one.

Meet Shrek and Donkey

Shrek and Donkey are another fun meet and greet at Universal Studios. They will talk to you and make jokes with the kids. This is a fun one to experience for kids of all ages. (Closing January 2023)

Watch the Superstar Parade at Universal Studios

The Superstar Parade has a few characters from Nick Jr like Dora and Boots but also the Secret Life of Pets and Despicable Me characters. It is a short and cute parade to do during your day at the park. The Superstar parade has been temporarily paused but still offers character meet and greets.

family vacation at orlando florida

Exchange Money at Gringotts Money Exchange

You can exchange U.S currency($10 and $20) for Gringott’s Bank notes at the Gringotts Money Exchange. Before you do make sure to talk to the bank teller and then use your money to purchase items at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. At the end of your visit you can exchange your money back to US currency.

Meet and Talk with Beetlejuice

This may be one of the most unpredictable meet and greets ever. If you see Beetlejuice walking around the park you should go and say hello. He is so funny and will engage with your family. He doesn’t have a specific place to meet guests but you will find him usually on Hollywood Boulevard at Universal Studios.

Update on Universal Studios attractions: KidZone, except for E.T. Adventure, is closing in January 2023. It will be replaced with yet to be announced attractions.

Shrek 4D and Monsters Café have also closed to make way for Illumination Lane. What has been announced so far: Minion Land will arrive in summer 2023 and will include Villain-Con Minion Blast attraction and Minion Café.

Best Things to Do at Islands of Adventure with Kids

Take Your Picture Under “the Adventure Begins” at Islands of Adventure

This area is a bit tricky because you will almost always have busy crowds. This arch is after you go through the ticket turnstiles. I would suggest waiting until afternoon when crowds are lower to take a picture under the arch.

There are photographers at Islands of Adventure that will take your photo. Then you can purchase the photo or ask someone to take one for you.

islands of adventure entrance

Listen to a Favorite Dr. Seuss Story Read by the Dr. Seuss Characters

In Seuss Landing you can stop by for Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! to see characters helping in a musical retelling of Dr. Seuss stories.

Walk through a Forest of Truffula Trees at Seuss Landing

Seuss Landing is a must do at Universal Orlando but there are a few of our favorites at the land like the Truffula Trees. This is a small path next to the Carousel at Seuss Landing that is a fun little secret at the park.

You can walk through the path along the trees. This area is bright and fun. You can also find the tree stump from the last Truffula tree here.

truffula trees at seuss landing at universal orlando
This small path at Seuss Landing is a cute area from Dr. Seuss The Lorax.

Explore If I Ran the Zoo Play Area at Seuss Landing

This is a fun area in Seuss Landing that kids will love. It is colorful and fun to explore with a few water elements. We always make a point to stop and explore If I Ran the Zoo.

universal orlando vacation for families

Send a Postcard from Owl Post at Hogsmeade

Harry Potter fans will love receiving a post card from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guests visiting Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure can send postcards to family and friends at home. At the Owl Post they have stamps and postcards available for purchase.

Mystic Fountain at the Lost Continent

Tucked away in the Lost Continent is the Mystic Fountain. The Mystic Fountain is an interactive fountain that will talk and splash guests that get too close.

Explore Camp Jurassic

Camp Jurassic is not only for kids. Spend some time during your visit to explore the caves and caverns of this area. You may hear the dinosaurs rumble or discover an amber mine.

If you visit be sure to stay close with your kids. It is very easy to get lost in the maze of tunnels. Luckily there is only one exit to this area.

Ride Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley

The Hogwarts Express can be taken to and from both parks. The best part is you will have a totally different experience going from Hogsmeade back to Diagon Alley.

We like to go both ways during our visits to fully enjoy the experience. You do need a park to park ticket to experience this attraction. Check out this post on How to Plan Your Universal Orlando Vacation for tips on tickets at the park.

Walk through Hogwarts Castle in the Forbidden Journey Line

You may not be up for riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey but that shouldn’t stop you from touring Hogwarts castle. Tell the ride attendant at the entrance that you would like to go through the line but not ride and they can assist you.

Watch a Dinosaur Hatch at Jurassic Park Discovery Center

This area allows guests a place to cool off and a few interactive dinosaur exhibits to play with. If you are lucky you can catch a dinosaur being hatched and be chosen to name it. This is a super unique experience and I suggest asking a scientist at the Discovery Center.

Meet Super Heroes and Villains at Marvel Superhero Island

We always enjoy meeting the heroes and villains at Superhero Island and you can usually find them a few times a day walking around the area.

Experience the Raptor Encounter

This is one of character meeting we have never done. The kids have never wanted to go meet the Raptor but it looks like a fun experience. You will meet “a real live” dinosaur and interact with it at this unique meet and greet.

Ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure to Check out All the Details and the Preshow

This is the most popular attraction at Universal right now, and for good reason. The story and ride is so much fun! If you want to ride arrive before park opening to be one of the first on.

If you don’t want to ride you should still consider walking the line, if it is not too long. There are many elements during the pre-show that are really cool, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan.

There is also a virtual line option for Hagrid’s. You can find this on the Universal App.

Listen for Moaning Myrtle in the Women’s Bathroom at Hogsmeade

The women’s bathroom at Hogsmeade is haunted by the ghost of Moaning Myrtle. When you visit you can hear her moaning and making crying noises.

Ride the High in the Sky Trolley in Seuss Landing

To see a birds eye view of Seuss Landing take a ride on the High in the Sky Trolley. This has two different tracks with two different stories. When riding look for the Sneetches on the beaches and in the lagoon. Seuss Landing has so many fun things to see and do. Check out this article about all the must see things at Seuss Landing.

high in the sky trolley seuss landing
The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride will take you on an tour of Seuss Landing.

Projection Show on Hogwarts Castle

Every evening at Islands of Adventure you can see Hogwarts Castle come to life in a projection show. This runs continuously from dusk until close. During the show crowd traffic can get busy so keep that in mind for your visit.

Hogwarts at Islands of Adventure

Take Your Picture in Horton’s Nest

This little photo-op is outside the Cat in the Hat gift shop in Seuss Landing. You can sit on the eggs that Horton protected in Horton Hatches an Egg story.

Photo-Op Speech Bubbles at Toon Lagoon

Toon Lagoon is where the Saturday morning comics come to life. It is a bit nostalgic and has some fun places to take pictures and explore. The speech bubbles are my favorite. Check out this post for more fun photo-ops at Universal Orlando.

Explore the Me Ship, The Olive

Me Ship, The Olive is a boat themed play area for kids. It also offers great views of the park and lagoon. There are a few exits to this play area so be sure to keep the kids close.

Visit Honeydukes for a Treat

Honeydukes is a treat shop located in Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It has wizard themed treats from the books and movies. Our favorites are the Chocolate Frogs and Sherbet Lemon.

Ride Velocicoaster

If you are looking for thrill rides you have to experience Velocicoaster. This launch coaster is intense and coaster enthusiasts will love it!

Explore Jurassic Park

After Velocicoaster take some time to explore Jurassic Park. Here you can find Jurassic Park River Adventure, a water ride with an 85 feet drop. Then stop for lunch at Thunder Terrace Falls.

This area is often sped through but there are some great areas to check out. Even Camp Jurassic is great to walk through.

Best Things for Kids to Do at Volcano Bay

Relax at Waturi Beach (Volcano Bay)

Universal’s Volcano Bay is an incredible water park. You would never believe it is off a busy road. When you are there you feel like you are at an island oasis. Waturi Beach is a sand beach wave pool with views of the volcano. If you have a few hours to relax Waturi Beach is a great spot.

Ride Krakatau Aqua Coaster

Krakatau Aqua coaster is a water slide roller coaster that takes guests up and down on a thrilling water adventure. This is a fun family ride that is really worth checking out!

Ride TeAwa The Fearless River

This lazy river is anything but lazy. All guests put on a lifejacket and race along the rapids and waves. This is for kids that are comfortable in the water and a really unique and fun experience.

Read More About: What to Know Before Visiting Volcano Bay

Best Things to Do at Universal Orlando Resorts

Go Bowling at Cabana Bay Beach Resort

If you are planning a day off from the parks but still want a family fun activity head over to Cabana Bay Beach Resort to Galaxy Bowl for a few rounds of bowling. This is open to any guest, you don’t need to be staying on-site.

Related Post: Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Review with Kids

Luau at Royal Pacific Resort

Royal Pacific Resort offers a Wantilan Luau dinner show. This Luau themed show has a buffet style dinner and Luau stage show that is a lot of fun. The food was delicious and it was family friendly.

luau food at royal pacific

Consider Staying at an On-Site Resort

Universal Orlando is becoming a vacation destination in itself and staying on-site can offer you early entry into the park as well as other great perks. As a family of five we have really enjoyed Surfside Inn and Suites as well as Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

surfside inn and suites at universal orlando resort
The pool at Surfside Inn and Suites at Universal.

Best Things for Kids at Universal’s CityWalk

Mini Golf at Hollywood Drive-In

MIni-golf is perfect for families of all ages and at Universal’s CityWalk there are two different mini-golf courses at Hollywood Drive-In. Both are themed for family fun. Click on the link to learn more about Hollywood Drive-In at Universal.

Sample the Unique Treats at Voodoo Doughnuts

Arrive early or in the late afternoon for smaller crowds and to sample the unique doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnuts. I loved the maple bacon doughnut and there were so many different flavors to choose from.

If you are saving your doughnuts for later be sure to keep them away from the heat, because they will melt. Guests can also mobile order on the Universal App to save time.

voodoo doughnuts at univeral
Our sampling from Voodoo Doughnuts.

Order a Milkshake at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen

Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is a steam punk themed restaurant at Universal’s CityWalk. They have a wide variety of specialty treats and milkshake options, as well as a full menu. Check out our full review of Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium.

the toothsome chocolate emporium milkshakes

Movie at Universal’s Cinemark in CityWalk

If you are looking to cool off and rest your feet you may want to visit Universal’s Cinemark. With the latest movies this is a great place to relax after a busy day at the parks.

There are so many things to do at Universal Orlando resort. From the shows and themed lands, to the amazing attractions and dining options, Universal Orlando has something for every family.

Read Next: How to Plan Your Best Universal Orlando Vacation

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