13 reasons to vacation at Universal Orlando in 2024

13 things to experience in Universal Orlando in 2024

Edited May 2, 2024 to include additional experiences announced after initial publication for THIS Summer, beginning June 14, 2024 at Universal Orlando.

Right now, everyone is talking about Universal Epic Universe scheduled to open in 2025, and it is going to be a fantastic addition to the Universal Orlando Resort! But while we wait for Epic Universe to be finished, there is a LOT to experience right now on a Universal Orlando vacation in 2024!

We could very easily spend a 3-5 day vacation right now with what is open experiencing Universal Orlando Resort in Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay – and we plan 3-5 night stays for our MAT client families all the time!

Here’s a little Mom Approved tip – once you get over a 2 day ticket, there isn’t much difference to go to 3 and 4 day tickets! This pricing model is VERY Mom Approved because it gives you permission to go a little slower pace, have less “guilt” or remorse taking an afternoon break, sleeping in, or even taking a half break day instead of trying to cram everything into 2 days! You have the ability to actually RELAX on a theme park vacation. You won’t need a vacation from your vacation.

When Epic Universe opens in 2025, crowds will likely be a little higher with everyone trying to experience all of  the EPIC new lands. So right now, I think there is an incredible opportunity to experience Universal before Epic Universe, with lower crowds (and likely a lower price point!) 

So here are 13 things you can experience in Universal Orlando 2024:

kiddie Trollercoaster ride rendering at Universal Studios

NEW! Starting June 14 - DreamWorks Land (area)

DreamWorks Land opens June 14, 2024 in Universal Studios Florida theme park. This area is ideal for the younger crowd with interactive fun, music, characters, play areas and plenty of shade for Shrek, Trolls and Kung Fu Panda fans to keep cool the summer and beyond!

Trolls Trollercoaster is a brightly colored family-friendly coaster where guests over 36″ tall can hop on the Caterbus

Shrek’s Swamp Meet – We are SO excited for this area to return, not only does Shrek and Fiona finally have an immersive area to greet guests, but DONKEY is back! You really need to allocate some time to people watch guests meeting with Donkey, he will have you rolling with laughter!

DreamWorks Character Zone – air conditioned DreamWorks character meets with seating areas. Parents, that is all you need to know!

Your littles will also want to explore Shreks Swap for Little Ones (especially in the summer), the shaded playground of Poppy’s Playground (ideal for ages 1-3), Po Live for silly, interactive fun with your favorite Dragonmaster, the new INDOOR DreamWorks Imagination Celebration show and grab a bite to eat at Trolls Treats or Swamp Snacks soooooo much more!

NEW! Starting July 3rd - Universal Mega Movie Parade (parade)

Also starting on JULY 3rd, 2024, a brand new daytime parade will take place in Universal Studios Florida theme park.

Slated to be Universal Orlando Resort’s biggest daytime parade to date, with over 100 performers, stilt walkers, dancers, colorful floats, music, characters and special effects, this parade is going to have something for everyone.

The Universal Mega Movie Parade will showcase and celebrate some of the biggest movies in cinematic history and some of your favorite recent films, including:

  • Back to the Future
  • Jurassic World – watch out for a T-Rex, Raptors and a gyrosphere
  • ET
  • Trolls
  • Jaws
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Ghostbusters – we hope you are ready for a 16′ Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!
  • and many more
Tip: The parade will take the same route as the Christmas parade, so talk to your Mom Approved Travel Advisor about good shady spots!
Gringotts Dragon perched on top of the Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley breathing fire with excited guests taking pictures at Universal Orlando Florida

Diagon Alley - the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (area)

There is SO much more to Universal than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; but it is an absolute favorite among our MAT client families! Diagon Alley is home to the iconic DRAGON who sits perched high upon Gringotts Bank as he looks out over the entrance to the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride! This is a HP fan and Muggle favorite indoor coaster attraction to help you relieve some of your favorite film moments! 

You’ll want to keep your eyes to the skies as the Gringotts Bank Ukranian Ironbelly Dragon makes sure EVERYONE knows she is there a few times each hour.

Olivander’s wand shop is a must-do stop for HP fans, as they can either participate in the show, or simply purchase an interactive wand to do spells at fun locations throughout the Wizarding World!

You will want to explore Knockturn Alley (especially in the summer), the silly fun of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for Butterbeer Ice Cream, grab a bite at the Leaky Cauldron and soooooo much more!

ride vehicle coming down from peak of VelociCoaster roller coaster at Universal Islands of Adventure

Jurassic World VelociCoaster (ride)

When you head over to Islands of Adventure, thrill ride enthusiasts RAVE about this Jurassic World themed ride nicknamed “the apex predator of roller coasters” which has you speeding through the jungle, scared for your life on a high-speed dash through the park’s raptor paddock.

    Warning – Jurassic World VelociCoaster is NOT for everyone. Especially me, ha!

All kidding aside, many of our MAT clients absolutely love this thrilling ride, and will ride it multiple times (hooray for Express Pass access), because they are obsessed with going 70 mph in 2.4 seconds, twisting upside down experiencing the ride’s top hat. NOPE.

I call this ride the VelociNOPEster; but if you love big coaster thrills, this is absolutely a ride you should add to your day. If you need me, I’ll be in one of the BEST people watching spots at Universal – as folks exit this ride. From the huge smiles, laughter, surprised faces and testimonials from my daredevil MAT Advisors brave enough to take one for the team, I know this is THE ride for thrillriders at Universal!

Jurassic World VelociCoaster does have a height requirement of 51″ and a test seat is available.

Universal Nighttime show
New in June 2024! CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular

New! Starting June 14th - CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular(show)

Universal’s Nighttime lagoon spectacular has been fully re-imagined and will be returning to Universal Studios Florida theme park with the brand new CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular on select nights beginning June 14, 2024.

Using 228 fountains to push water up to 131 feet, 4K projections, 600 drones  and original music compositions, the lagoon will come alive with the sights and sounds of: Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, Jurassic World, Jaws, Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, E.T., The Super Mario Bros. Movie, The Mummy and more!

colorful entrance of Seuss Landing at Universal Orlando

Seuss Landing (area)

From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere…. inside Seuss Landing at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

No matter if you are tall or if you are small, there is truly fun for all of yall in this immersive, colorful land that immediately transports you to back to your childhood. Oh there is gentle fun to be found on rides like:

  • The Cat in Hat
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
  • Caro-Seuss-el

But there are fun eats at places like the Hop on Pop Ice Cream Shop and Green Eggs and Ham Cafe! Character meets (which are beloved by ALL ages!), fun merchandise shops, playground and more. If you come during the holidays, Grinchmas is a whole experience unto itself where this land truly transforms into Who-ville!

Woman getting scared by the velociraptor Blue during character meet at the Raptor Encounter in Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando

Raptor Encounter (character meet)

The Raptor Encounter is one of my absolute favorite things to do at Universal’s Island of Adventure.

If your family is a fan of the Jurassic Park movies, you HAVE to meet Blue and her brave trainer in her natural habitat.  Don’t let this clever girl fool you – no matter if you know she is coming, no matter what you know about her, no matter how many people you saw meet her in front of you- she will surprise you!

Mom Approved Tip: make sure your party does a potty stop BEFORE meeting Blue. You’ll understand why and thank me later.

If meeting Blue is a little too intense for your crew, you can meet Sierra or Tango (baby raptors) as they trade out with Blue throughout the day.

Check with the Team Member at the Raptor Encounter entrance if you want to ensure meeting the raptor best for you.

Several yellow Minions stacked up playfully making silly faces in front of the Minion Land sign at Universal Studios Florida

Illumination's Minion Land (area)

This is such a fun, themed area which opened in the summer of 2023, where fans of the Despicable Me movies and Illumination’s Minions can enjoy a treats, rides and bit of mischief.

There are fun photo opportunities with Minions, and characters from Despicable me; but also many great insta-fun moments throughout the land.  Illuminations’s Villain-Con Blast and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem are family-friendly attractions that will have you laughing your way through the area!

This is a great spot to get a bite to eat, especially seated in the air-conditioning immersed in the silly fun of Minion Cafe! This is a favorite meal for kiddos and home of the sweet, tiny bananas! Bake My Day is another great little spot for a sweet bite, and Pop-a-Nana has banana-flavored popcorn, which sounds terrible but it’s weird enough to be good!

ride vehicles filled with excited park visitors riding on track of Hagrid's Motor bike adventure roller coaster in Universal Orlando

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Back over at Islands of Adventure, in Hogsmeade, you’ll find one of my personal top 3 coasters in all of Orlando – Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

There are 7 launches on this fun nearly mile-long ride through the Forbidden forest! At speeds of nearly 50 miles per hour you will twist and encounter some of your favorite magical beasts from the Wizarding World, and you will experience a 17 foot free-fall vertical drop (and is the first coaster in the U.S. to do so!). Note you must be 48″ tall to ride, but even if you don’t like drops (like me), this one is absolutely worth it.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is a wild ride you don’t want to miss, even if you are not a super fan of the Wizarding World. As this ride does not have Express Pass access and is the most sought-after ride in Universal Orlando, let your MAT Advisor show you how to minimize your wait time for this incredible ride.

entrance and front of building of Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at Universal Orlando shot at night

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen

This full service dining option in CityWalk is hands down my absolute do not miss dining recommendation in all of Universal Orlando Resort. This place is fun, funky and FULL of chocolate all the things, and tasty savory options! While there is an incredible shop on the first floor where you can grab a milkshake to go or grab some chocolate or macaron yumminess, I think it is worth sitting down for a table service to fully experience.

Let’s start with the atmosphere. Toothsome has an eccentric wonka-esque steampunk vibe with incredibly unique decor, textiles and music. The staff is fun and happy to share their favorites if you can’t decide what to order.

If you are seeking an adulty beverage, there is a full service bar upstairs with some very fun chocolate inspired libations, and you can order there or at your table. My personal favorite is the Chocolate Cherry Mule with Double Chocolate vodka, brandied cherry, ginger beer, and chocolate bitters.

There is a solid kids menu with typical American-casual options: Chicken tenders, burger, grilled chicken but also a waffle option if you want to do breakfast for dinner! 

As far as appetizers there are options from my favorite Roasted Brussels Sprouts to Avocado Bruchetta to Pork Belly Sliders you can easily find something you’ll love.

There is a diverse menu for entrees for every dietary desire from salads (even a superfood option) to soup, flatbreads, Sandwiches and burgers including my personal my favorite the Tour de France burger with half pound house made patty, bibb lettuce, roasted tomatoes, sunny-side up egg, avocado, crispy onions, French brie, on toasted brioche (YUM), to pasta, a signature Filet Mignon, Chicken Bourguignon, Risotto, Salmon, and Braised short ribs.

You can also order the Brunch menu all day and the Country Fresh brunch with Challah brioche stuffed with Gruyère cheese and smoky ham, sunny-side up egg, béarnaise sauce, and Lyonnaise potatoes is my absolute go to, but there are quiche, crepes and over the top waffle options as well.

The milkshake, sundae and dessert menu is simply insane. It’s all delicious and incredible. Usually when I take new folks, we all order something different and just keep sliding our desserts around the table to be able to try a little bit of all the things. The Triple Chocolate Bread pudding is worth not sharing. But whether you want a milkshake the size of your face or a sundae that looked like a 5 year old dreamed it up, or a sophisticated chocolate dessert, you are absolutely covered here.

I’m not ashamed to admit I have been known to eat here multiple times in the same trip., and you can with a wide menu full of all the things. I wish you the best of luck trying to decide what to order!

Hogsmeade Snowman wearing a Hufflepuff scarf with Hogwarts castle in distance in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Hogmeade - the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (area)

It’s worth saying again, there is SO much more to Universal than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; but you simply can’t make a list of what not miss in Universal Orlando and NOT include Hogsmeade! Located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the snowy peaks of Hogmeade lead you to the most iconic location in all of the Wizarding World… Hogwarts castle.

Not only will you want to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts, but Flight of the Hippogriff and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Thankfully, Olivander’s wand shop is also available in Hogsmeade so those with an interactive wand can do spells at fun locations!

You will also want to meet the Hogwarts Express Conductor, send a letter home from the Owl Post, check out Honeydukes, watch the Hogwarts Frog Choir, grab a bite at the Three Broomsticks and so much more! There is also something to be said for going to Hogsmeade in the peak of summer with its snowy tops, you can dream it feels a little cooler for a few moments!

Also, starting June 14th on select nights, from dusk to close Hogsmeade will be home a new Hogwarts castle light show, “Hogwarts Always.” This 7-8 minute show will continuously run transoforming Hogwarts Castle with spectacular projection mapping, special effects, music and celebrating beloved scenes from the Harry Potter films.

lush tropical entrance to pool area of Universal's Volcano Bay with Krakatau Volcano in background

Volcano Bay

Typically, water parks are generally not my thing; but one of my exceptions is Universal’s Volcano Bay. I love the theming, the layout and its four themed areas with a nice mix of thrill and chill.

I am a sucker for a chill winding river, and while I can’t pronounce it- Kopiko Wai Winding River allows you to relax and float away as much time as you’d like. There are so many incredible beach, pool, lagoon and dry spots to chill and relax, and even private cabanas available to rent.

There are water attractions like the Krakatau Aqua Coaster which is part coaster, part water slide and you can drag up to 3 friends to do it with you. Then there are raft slides like Honu ika Moana where the family can enjoy a group ride.

There are thrilling options too like the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, and Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides which all get a big ol NOPE from me. I’ll stick to the raft rides like Tonga and Raki of Taniwha Tubes which are more my level of thrill!

Entrance to Jurassic Park River Adventure in Universal Orlando Islands of Aventure with Team member ready to greet park visitors

Islands of Aventure thrill rides

Sorry, but I simply can’t pick just 10 things to see at Universal Orlando right now. I did try, but there are too many great options for rides that are not mentioned above! So, my number 10 feature will be a three way tie of some of the thrill rides found in In Islands of Adventure!

First up, The Incredible Hulk Coaster is a favorite for thrill seekers who love high speeds and rides that invert. This one is above my threshold for thrills, but it is well loved by other MAT Advisors and many of our client families!

A favorite of mine, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a ride for those who love to have fun on the ground while encountering your friendly neighborhood super hero. The Jurassic Park River Adventure is a great way to cool off with a splash after an 85 foot plunge, and while I’ve mentioned I do not love drops, I tolerate it because I love this ride!

There are so many more fun attractions in this park, but these are 3 fun attractions your family can experience right now in Islands of Adventure.

More to see at Universal Orlando Resort

These are only 10 of the exciting things to see and experience RIGHT NOW at Universal Orlando Resort in 2024. I could literally write a book about the fun… and we have in our own way.

When you book your Universal Orlando trip vacation with Mom Approved Travel, not only do you have the assistance of a U-Preferred Travel Agency and Professional Travel Advisor to craft the perfect trip for your family, you also get our Mom Approved guide to Universal customized for your people to guide your Universal days.

Our guides are make with both skim readers and detailed oriented folks in mind, so no matter how you want to roll, we will be rolling right there with you. You won’t have to do anything but pack, we will handle the details!

As I said above, I think there is a great opportunity to sneak in before Epic Universe opens to enjoy what is there RIGHT now with a great value on your vacation dollars utilizing some of the great promos out there whether you want a long weekend or a longer, 5 days of fun – we can help your make it happen, simply click here to start the conversation!

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Christy Slavik, CTA

Agency Owner, Travel Advisor
Mom Approved Travel

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