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Best Rides at Universal's Islands of Adventure and Studios

Our family of four travels to Universal in Orlando often. Having experienced every ride, here's our ranking.

The Greatest Amusement Park in the World?

Orlando, Florida, is a mecca for amusement parks, and none achieves more with both experiences and rides than Universal Orlando. Even the bad rides, of which there are few, are worth experiencing. Despite some negatives here and there, there are always good times to be had.

The park is divided into two separate parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Both have good features and lesser features.

My rankings have a lot to do with how I experience the parks and who I experience the parks with. In my case, I'm always there with my family, so we're more likely to hit the family rides and a lot less likely to hit the coasters. So there's my bias. If you're a single adult, you may not agree with how I rank these rides. Feel free to comment!

Beginning with the best, here is my list of the rides at Universal Orlando's theme parks.

The Mummy

The Mummy

1. Revenge of the Mummy

I may change my mind about this and switch it with No. 2 eventually, but for right now, The Mummy is my favorite ride in Universal Orlando, Florida. I think the overall theming of this ride is among the best in the park. And still, it has the best moment of any ride in the park, which occurs just before the coaster begins going fast. I won't spoil it.

If I have any criticism of the ride, it's that it's too short. Being an indoor roller coaster, there's probably a bit of a limit as to how long it can really be.

Another great aspect of The Mummy is that because it's older, the lines for it tend to be short, so you can ride it many times in a day.

Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure

Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure

2. Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure

Let's just say that the above photograph really doesn't do Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure justice. It's among the best-themed outdoor roller coasters I've ever ridden.

Not only is Hagrid's fast, but it has a compelling story. It's a very exciting ride that is a phenomenal transition for kids between those kids' roller coasters and the bigger, badder coasters.

Like most of the Harry Potter rides, the line queue is really great too.

Men in Black Headquarters

Men in Black Headquarters

3. Men in Black: Alien Attack

While I wouldn't necessarily rank this as the best ride in the entire park, it's often my favorite ride.

In many ways, Men in Black: Alien Attack is more of a game than a ride, but that's what makes it so much fun. Each car fits six people and each person has a laser gun. You're supposedly battling a team on the other side, but really, you're trying to get your best score. The goal of the ride is to shoot various monsters that pop up along the ride and shoot them while the car tallies your individual score.

It's a bit hard to describe, but it's a lot of fun. It's also one of those rides you can ride over and over again as you try to improve your score.

Pro Tip: For your best score, fire your gun constantly, aim for things up high, hit the eyes in the bushes, after the scan, hit the other team's port as many times as possible, and be the one to get the bonus by pressing the red button (hold it down!).

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

4. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The queue for this ride is almost as good as the ride itself, which is a technical marvel. Everything about this ride speaks to the value of how a great experience can contribute to a great ride. From approaching the castle, to walking through its halls, to sitting down on the ride for the first time, everything is very magical.

To my mind, the ride is an updated version of a haunted house. Essentially, it's meant to simulate flying on a broom as you take off, fly through the castle, outside, it, through the forbidden forest and back to the castle.

I will admit that if I ride this too many times, it makes me a little queasy, I don't get sick very easily.

Gringotts

Gringotts

5. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Honestly, I probably enjoy this ride more than I enjoy Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. However, there's just something about approaching the castle and entering that ride that elevates it.

That said, this is also a great ride. It's a pretty gentle roller coaster, with the exception of the first drop (where I once got stuck for about 10 minutes, tilted and all). Also, the queue is fantastic. Everything from the bank to the elevator ride into the vaults is something else.

The ride itself employs 3-D, which works quite well. As opposed to other rides where it's all simulated, this ride uses the simulation to add to the ride and it does so better than any other ride.

Jurassic Park River Adventure

Jurassic Park River Adventure

6. Jurassic Park River Adventure

I'd be on this ride a lot more if somebody in my family would ride with me. Unfortunately, none of them will, so I'm often forced to ride it alone. This limits how often I ride it, so I don't think about it quite as much as some of the others.

Still, it's a great ride because it recreates a lot of feeling from the movie and the ride is nice and long with a great finish. Approaching the T-Rex right before the drop into the water is probably the second greatest feeling in the park (next to The Mummy's first hill).

Incredible Hulk Coaster

Incredible Hulk Coaster

7. Incredible Hulk Coaster

When I ride this ride, it's usually with friends. This is another where my family won't ride with me.

As of this writing, this is the best roller coaster in the park. The anticipation created being launched out of that tube is pretty intense. The ride itself has seven inversions. In fact, it turns upside down so much that you barely have time to catch your breath and orient yourself before the ride is over.

Dr. Doom's Fearfall

Dr. Doom's Fearfall

8. Doctor Doom's Fearfall

This is another one of those rides where the anticipation is everything. In fact, it entirely makes the ride because it basically just shoots you way up in the air. However, that shot makes for some great views. It's a thrill ride with a pretty great thrill. Other than that, there's not much to the ride. Still, a lot of fun.

The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man

The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man

9. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

This ride bares a lot of resemblance to Transformers 3-D. In fact, they're almost the same ride aside from the theming. For me, I prefer Spider-Man, so I prefer this ride.

The ride is basically an 12-person cart on a track that spins and goes up and down. 3-D effects enhance the sense of movement. It's an advancement on The Cat in the Hat, effectively. Again, like the best 3-D rides, the effects enhance the ride.

What I also like about this ride is trying to find all of the Stan Lees. Stan Lee plays a cameo role on the ride numerous time. He's a garbage man. He's walking on the street. It's fun to try to spot him.

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls

10. Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls

Some water rides get you wetter than others.

This is one of the water rides that gets you soaking wet. So, as far as riding it goes, you sort of have to be ready with an extra set of clothing or be totally willing to spend the money to get into one of those human dryer machines.

Still, this is a really good ride. It's basically an expansion on the old-time water log ride, which is popular in amusement parks around the U.S. For instance, I know there's one in the Mall of America. However, this one has really great theming. And, once again, that last drop is a doozy.

And Your Favorite Ride Is...?

The Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express

11. The Hogwarts Express

More or less, The Hogwarts Express is just a way to get from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure.

Still, this ride is as much about the experience as anything. Not only are the queues going both ways really great, particularly the queue going out of London and going through platform 9 and 3/4, but the ride itself is different depending on which direction you go.

Basically, it's just a train, but within each car, a movie is projected through the window that gives the impression you're moving faster than you are. Since the train is actually moving, the effects add to the sensation.

Ultimately, there's just really a lot of wonderful stuff happening on this ride tied to Harry Potter that makes it a wonderful experience.

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem

12. Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem

This is probably the point where I have to start thinking about things a little bit more in terms of which rides I prefer. Don't get me wrong though, I really enjoy Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. However, it's more of a simulation than a ride, but that's okay. It used to involve 3-D, but they got rid of it, which I think was a good move.

It's almost as fun to go through the line queue on this ride as it is to actually be in the ride, which is a coaster simulation, more or less. Basically, you're taking a ride through an out-of-control minion training ride.

The Simpsons Ride

The Simpsons Ride

13. The Simpsons Ride

The Simpsons Ride is another simulation, but if you love The Simpsons, it's certainly a well-themed ride that has a lot of genuinely funny moments. This is virtually identical to Despicable Me: Minions Mayhem. So depending on which theme you prefer, pick your ride.

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

14. The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

Okay sure, it's a kid's ride located in Seuss Landing, but it's also a great way to get a look at the park from an elevated platform. While some rides require a certain amount of energy to ride, The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride is almost entirely a relaxing experience that allows you to see Seuss Landing from an entirely different perspective.

My only complaint is that I'm 6'2" and getting in and out of the trolley car isn't the easiest experience.

Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon

Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon

15. Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon

I know Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon isn't everyone's cup of tea, but like many other rides in the park, I enjoy it for the entire queue experience and the good air conditioning when the Florida heat gets to be too much.

The line winds through a replica of NBC studios and when you get to the lobby, there's a variety of entertainment, often including a live performance by The Ragtime Gals, Fallon's barbershop quartet.

The ride itself is a car riding simulation that has a lot of funny elements. I ride this ride more than I'd like to admit.

Rip Ride Rockit

Rip Ride Rockit

16. Rip Ride Rockit

Rip Ride Rockit is getting a little old.

Look, I like roller coasters, but I have avoided Rip Ride Rockit because I find that it hurts my thighs when the ride goes up to one of its various platforms. Still, as a thrill ride, it remains exciting, but it's being overtaken by a number of other rides in the park.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

17. Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Given that I ride Skull Island: Reign of Kong more than some of the other rides above it on this list, I should probably reconsider its placement, but I'll leave it here for now. That's partly because it's mostly a simulation ride and is most similar to Fast and Furious: Supercharged. Most people would agree you only need one Fast and Furious in any park.

That said, the integration between the moving parts of the ride and the simulation work together pretty seamlessly. The ride involves riding a moving bus that enters the interior of a mountain where the bus stops and then the 3-D effects begin. The ride ends in front of an actual replica of King Kong's head.

Among the best parts of this ride is the queue again, which include scare actors in the regular line sometimes. My son had a funny experience where he wasn't paying attention and climbed a post next to a window. Well, a scare actor jumped out at him right there and scared the bejeezus out of him.

The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat

18. The Cat in the Hat

We usually ride this ride every time we go to the park. Among the best things about it is that the air conditioning is among the best in the park. So, on a hot day, it's a great place to go and relax (also among the best air conditioned rides is Men in Black).

This is also a ride that reminds me of the first amusement parks I attended as a kid. Among the games you can play as an adult is trying to figure out which direction you're facing as the ride moves around.

It's not super-exciting, but who doesn't love listening to Dr. Seuss. Also, notice in this ride one of the key components in the park for creating consumer experiences—everything is timed so that you never see another car. It feels as though you're on the ride by yourself.

Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

19. Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

There are a few things that make this a really fun experience.

First, it always seems that some people on the ride get completely soaked while others remain completely dry. So sometimes you'll get on the ride with a couple who don't seem to expect to get wet and they end up completely drenched. So that's pretty amusing.

Another aspect to this ride that's fun is that people can squirt you from offshore at various points in the ride. So there's some observer interaction involved. Watching the ride is also pretty fun. It's one of the few rides where you can watch people on the ride.

It's a fun ride where you have to assume you're going to get wet. I always wear a poncho on this ride.

Flight of the Hippogriff

Flight of the Hippogriff

20. Flight of the Hippogriff

Sure, it's a kid's coaster, but it's a good kid's coaster, better and faster than Woody Woodpecker.

What can be a little disappointing about the ride is that sometimes the line can be super-long and the ride itself is extremely short, so it's all over very fast.

Among the best things about the ride are the views of the castle and the views of Hagrid's. When Hagrid's was being built, we used to ride this ride all the time to check out the progress on Hagrid's.

Transformers: The Ride

Transformers: The Ride

21. Transformers: The Ride

This ride is perfectly fine. I'm just not a big Transformer's fan.

This is almost the same ride as Spider-man, just with different theming. It's a moving car integrated with a number of 3-D effects that improve the sensation of movement.

Pteradon Flyers

Pteradon Flyers

22. Pteradon Flyers

Another really good ride that provides great views mostly meant for kids. The disappointing part of this ride tends to be the long wait and the short ride. However, Universal has solved this problem to some extent by creating a virtual queue so that the line isn't as long. Kudos to Universal for recognizing a problem and solving it.

Once the Velocicoaster is finished, this ride might provide some really great views. However, remember this is a kid's ride and you need to be with a shorty to ride it. Adults can't ride alone.

Shrek 4-D

Shrek 4-D

23. Shrek 4-D

This is more of an experience than a ride, but since the seats in the theater do move, I'm going to reluctantly classify it as a ride.

The queue is a lot of fun, but the ride itself is basically just watching a short 3-D film in seats that move. So, when you're following on a horse, the seats simulate that movement.

Over the years, the 3-D effect on this ride has deteriorated, so perhaps Universal will upgrade the projection at some point.

Fast and Furious: Supercharged

Fast and Furious: Supercharged

24. Fast and Furious: Supercharged

Get on the party bus!

Fast and Furious: Supercharged is probably the most reviled ride in the entire park. It replaced Disaster! which was a simulation/experience ride about disaster movies that I would have preferred they just left given how disappointing Fast and Furious turned out to be.

To be honest, I ride this somewhat regularly because it's relaxing. However, the story of the ride is just really bad. From the party bus, the 3-D dancing scenes, to the team members acting out the parts, it just seems particularly amateurish and not up to the standards of the park.

There are still things I enjoy though, particularly the simulation of the bus speeding through the dark tunnel. For some reason, I always find that entertaining.

Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster

Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster

25. Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster

This is your basic kid's coaster.

It's not as high or fast as Flight of the Hippogriff, but it's usually not nearly as crowded. There's nothing wrong with this kid's coaster, there's just not much to it. If you're going to take your child on his or her first coaster, try this one before Flight of the Hippogriff.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

26. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Like Cat in the Hat, this is another of your classic amusement park rides. It's a series of tubs connected to a central arm. The ride spins and the cars go up and down, movement controlled by the individual rider.

There's water on this ride, so you can get wet or you can avoid it depending on who is controlling the ride—you or your child.

Caro-Seuss-El

Caro-Seuss-El

27. Caro-Seuss-El

This is just your standard carousel, so it's the most basic of amusement park rides. However, it says something about Universal Orlando in Florida that even one of it's so-called "worst" rides is still a good ride.

My kids loved this ride when they were young and it's an objectively beautiful ride. There's just not much to it. It's almost as much a piece of art as it is a ride. But that's still something.

Storm Force Acceletron

Storm Force Acceletron

28. Storm Force Acceleetron

And the final old-time amusement park ride. Storm Force Acceletron is located near the entrance to The Incredible Hulk coaster. Before I knew the park well, I'd often miss where this ride was entirely. It's not like there's room over there for much more than this ride, but one assumes they will replace it with something else at some point.

This is your basic large, spinning platform with cars that also spin. As the platform spin, the cars kind of sail across and spin at the same time unless centrifugal force slows your spin down. You spin the cars via a large, silver wheel in the middle of the car.

The ride is fine for kids, but few others.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 crankalicious

Comments

Liz Westwood from UK on October 17, 2020:

This is a comprehensive and well-illustrated guide. Your article would be especially helpful for anyone planning a first visit.