It really is no surprise that Universal Studios Orlando is rated time and time again as one of the world’s best theme parks. With 2 amazing parks, a wonderful themed waterpark (Volcano Bay), a lively entertainment complex (CityWalk), a special section dedicated solely to Harry Potter, fantastic on-site resorts, spectacular seasonal events (Halloween Horror Nights is a must!) and so much more, the Universal Parks really give the Disney parks a run for their money.

Universal globe at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida

The original park, Universal, opened on June 7, 1990, as a fun movie themed theme park where you could “Experience the Movies.” Steven Spielberg, director of endless Universal films, cut the ribbon! It’s crazy to think that since opening 36 rides have been replaced! Although some old favorites like Back to the Future and Kongfrontation are now demolished, there are a lots of great new attractions like The Mummy, several Harry Potter themed rides, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rock It, a super fast, music fueled coaster ride with the world’s 1st non inverted loop.

The classic Back to the Future DeLorean!

Back to the Future Delorean car at Universal Studios in Orlando FL
The old Delorean Car used for the Back to the Future ride (now replaced by The Simpsons ride), which closed in 2007.

A lot has changed since the 90’s, including the closing of the very popular Nickelodeon Studios, where the filming of various 90’s kids favorite game shows like Double Dare, GUTS, and Figure It Out all taped. Guests could tour the studio and even attend live tapings of the game shows and sitcoms.

Who else dreamed of being a contestant on Double Dare, Legends, or GUTS? – ah, the good old days! Sadly nothing like this exists today. 90’s kids would like to see a Nick themed attraction back so much that a Facebook page (“Re-open the Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios Orlando”) attracts thousands of members after all this time- talk about the power of nostalgia! Regardless, there are still plenty of fun themed rides, shows, & attractions to explore throughout both properties.

Islands of Adventure is home to great roller coasters, water rides, & the Hogsmeade section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Once Islands of Adventure opened later on in May 1999, Universal became more of a multi day vacation destination like Disney. With all the excitement and entertainment surrounding you in every direction at 2 massive parks, sometimes there just is not enough time to explore everything in a single trip, thereby making Universal a repeat vacation destination for many.

To make sure you enjoy the best Universal has to offer, I have compiled a list of 19 must-do’s during your trip!

1. Take your pic by the Universal sign

Universal Studios globe in Orlando, Florida

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the various entertainment offerings of Universal that we completely forget to stop for any photos, sadly leaving us with no photo mementos of our trip. The iconic Universal globe is the prime opportunity for a great family/couples vacation photo. Be sure to get your pic early on in the day. Do not wait until night when you are too tired and/or all raggedy from sweating/getting drenched on water rides all day!

2. Spend an entire day exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Diagon Alley - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida

For Harry Potter fans, an entire day exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an absolute must. As there are fantastic rides and attractions at both parks, you really need a full day to soak in all the excitement. With Diagon Alley at Universal, Hogsmeade at Islands, the Hogwarts Express, multiple rides, themed restaurants, butterbeer stands, wand shops, endless photo opps, and more, you can easily fill up a whole day with Harry Potter everything.

Honeydukes at Hogsmeade - the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida
Pick up a sweet treat for the train at Honeydukes!

Trying to cram all the attractions into a few hours simply is not enough time to enjoy all the fun. In fact, the wait for the new Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure ride is often several hours long, which is why I recommend heading here first thing in the morning. Plus, there are so many little hidden gems around both parks that you will be glad that you planned the extra time to take it all in!

Quidditch shop at Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida

3. Dine at Mythos Restaurant

Mythos at Universal Studios Orlando

The majority of the time when visiting theme parks, we just want to get something to eat really quick at some counter stand so we can get back to the rides! While this is mostly true for Universal, there is one exception –  Mythos Restaurant. This enchanting cave themed restaurant has been repeatedly voted as one of the best theme park restaurants in the world.

The setting here really is unique and there are some great views of the theme parks, so you really do not feel like you are completely leaving all the excitement behind. The food is also excellent (I recommend the Pad Thai!). Dining at Mythos will just take up about an hour or so of your time, but trust me it is worth it for the nice ambiance, not to mention much needed cool air conditioned break. So take some time to fuel up, enjoy the ambiance, and give your weary feet a break!

Delicious Pad Thai at Mythos Restaurant in Orlando, FL
The Pad Thai is excellent!