Going to a theme park with a group is a lot like going to the movies; it’s more enjoyable when you can share the experience — your favorite parts, your least favorite parts, and all the highlights there are to dish about.
And there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to a visit to Universal Orlando Resort, home to some rip-roaring thrill rides. But what if you’re the only one in the group who isn’t a fan of those thrill rides?
When it comes to Universal Orlando, there’s no need to worry. In fact, it’s probably the best place to go for those who love the rush of roller coasters and those who aren’t quite so fond of them. Universal’s tagline of “ride the movies” makes it a perfect option for those looking for a variety of experiences within each themed land or movie homage.
There are many non-roller coaster experiences to enjoy while you share the fun with your family and friends at Universal.
But first, a public service announcement for those with family and friends who don’t like riding thrill rides: you shouldn’t pressure a family member or friend to ride something that frightens them.
So that settles it — teasing your little brother into riding a roller coaster is a bad idea.
Here are our top tips for enjoying a day at the theme parks without the shrieks and screams of roller coasters.
There are a variety of multi-generational ways to get up close and personal with some of Universal Orlando’s beloved characters.
Swing by Marvel Super Hero Island in Universal’s Islands of Adventure to meet a few of the iconic characters (Villains and Heroes alike!). Strike a pose, snap a photo, and enjoy a unique experience that will feel like you’re in the pages of a comic book.
For the young, a great place to start is the DreamWorks Destination. Located in the KidZone in Universal Studios Florida, this new destination opened in early 2021. Kids and kids-at-heart will squeal with laughter as their favorite characters from movies like Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Trolls, and Madagascar jump off the screen and right into your purview.
You can find a more nostalgic experience over in the Hollywood Character Zone, where characters like Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. Gang and Marilyn are known to roam. This is the perfect place to capture Instagram-worthy encounters with these classic movie and television characters.
A personal favorite is meeting the TRANSFORMERS near TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D. On a recent visit, my family and I got to pose with Optimus Prime, who is always camera ready. It was an 80s kid dream come true for my husband and myself.
Over at Islands of Adventure, your roller-coaster-loving friends can jump on Jurassic World VelociCoaster while you get up close and personal with everyone’s favorite Raptor, Blue, at Raptor Encounter. This is one of my favorite character encounters because it’s both unexpected and fun.
Take In a Show
Not only can you enjoy the theme parks without stepping one foot on a thrill ride, you can actually slow all the way down, grab a cool drink and a comfy seat while enjoying a show.
Experience some spectacular physical feats over at The Bourne Stuntacular in Universal Studios Florida. This live action stunt show is one of the park’s newest and includes watching movie hero Jason Bourne maneuver through some harrowing experiences like dangling from a helicopter and a fair share of shoot outs and fist fights. The Bourne Stuntacular will have you on the edge of your seat with its technical effects and audience interactions.
Another not-to-miss show is Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-up Show in the Hollywood section of Universal Studios. The show, which began in 1990, is an exploration of Universal’s legacy in horror movies which spans several decades. While there are tons of laughs to be had during the show, make no mistake the hosts aim to “gross you out, freak you out and scare the poo-poo out of you.” The great thing about this 25-minute long show is that it takes you behind the scenes of how several horror movies came to life. This is an interactive show, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to join them on stage to get in on the fun.
While you’re in Diagon Alley, be sure to check out Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, a swing-style live musical show where lovely ladies belt out show-stopping tunes in a live stage show. Celestina Warbeck just so happens to be Molly Weasley’s favorite singer.
For one of the most immersive experiences, head over to Ollivanders – makers of fine wands since 382 B.C. – in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This interactive wand-choosing ceremony gives aspiring witches and wizards the chance to test out their magical skills until the perfect wand chooses them. The show takes place at the Ollivanders locations in both Diagon Alley (Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade village (Universal’s Islands of Adventure).
PRO TIP: Download the Official Universal Orlando Resort app to check showtimes for any of the entertainment options in the theme parks.
Wet ‘N Chill
If adrenaline by land isn’t your thing, consider chilling by water.
The best place for this is Volcano Bay, Universal’s water theme park. The more than 50-acre park features Waturi Beach, which has a great view of the 200-foot tall Krakatau volcano. You can also take a chill journey on Kopiko Wai Winding River.
And did I mention yet that the food at Volcano Bay is among my favorite things to eat at Universal? Make sure to order the Jerk Mahi Sandwich and Coconut Fried Chicken.
PRO TIP: Enhance your experience by renting a cabana at Volcano Bay. It’s a great place to relax in between trips down the winding river.
Looking for other ways to get wet at Universal? Head to one of the best unofficial splash zones, right by the Jurassic Park River Adventure drop. While your thrill ride friends ride the ride, you can chill in the splash zone as the river adventure boat falls down from the adventure and gets you soaked!
After a long day in the theme parks, there’s nothing like a great meal. You can find just that for all three meals and plenty of indulgent snacks.
For breakfast or lunch, I recommend TODAY Cafe in Universal Studios for a meal that will fuel you for a busy, enjoyable day at the park. The Acai Bowl topped with strawberries, organic granola, bananas, toasted coconut and chia seeds is the perfect fuel for a great start to your day. For lunch you can choose from a variety of sandwiches named after notable NBC personalities like the 30 Rock Midtowner Platter or the Dylan’s Roast Beef & Boursin Platter.
There are tons of options to choose from for dinner, including my favorite restaurant in Universal CityWalk, Bigfire. This is the perfect spot for those with a hearty appetite. My family’s favorites are the Cowboy Ribeye and Colorado Lamb Chops.
Enjoy a sweet nightcap at the confectionary paradise that is The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. This 19th century steampunk-themed cafe features a full dinner menu, but the standouts are the gourmet chocolates, milkshakes, and sundaes.
Games We Play
More of the sporty type? There are plenty of opportunities to flex your athletic muscles at Universal Orlando. The first stop for this is Hollywood Drive-In Golf at Universal CityWalk. The two 18-hole courses combine the game of golf with courses based on vintage sci-fi or horror movies. Or you can get in a good game of bowling at retro styled Galaxy Bowl, located at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
A little known secret about Universal is that there are two rock climbing walls in the theme parks. There’s a 3-story rock climbing wall in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida, and a child-size wall to climb over in the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure.
Jump on the sticks at one of the arcade areas in Universal Studios New York section, where you can play air hockey, race car games, and more at the Palace Theater Arcade. At Islands of Adventure, play classic arcade games and racing at the Kingpin’s Arcade in Marvel Super Hero Island.
Enjoy the Resorts
There are eight incredible resorts, ranging from family-focused to luxurious spa accommodations, at Universal Orlando. And there are unique experiences to be had at each of them that can be just as — if not more — exciting than any roller coaster at the theme park.
After a long day at the theme parks, there’s no better way to unwind than a Fire & Ice Massage at the Mandara Spa in Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Or you can find your zen at the waterfall overlook at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. For the mature, Bar 17 at Universal’s Aventura Hotel features an ever-evolving cocktail menu. You can’t go wrong with the “Orlandos & Don’ts cocktail,” a mix of gin, lemon, cucumber and raspberry or the non-alcoholic “Pineapple Turmeric Lemonade.”
Are you ready to plan your next Universal Orlando Resort vacation?