While O-Town awaits the completion of Epic Universe (more about that upcoming attraction in a moment), Universal Orlando continues to beckon Central Floridians to visit in any season. On the heels of a successful Mardi Gras celebration that wrapped up in April, Universal feels like it’s getting back to normal. With more than 60 attractions—plus live shows, concerts, festivals and parades—spread across three parks, Universal is once again serving up a year-round buffet of entertainment.
“Locals should visit Universal Orlando Resort because there is always something exciting happening across our destination, whether it’s a new ride, our dynamic seasonal events like Halloween Horror Nights and our annual Holidays celebration, or new menu items within the theme parks and CityWalk that go beyond traditional theme park fare,” says Kristen Smith, spokesperson and Senior Manager of Public Relations at Universal Orlando Resort.
Case in point: Last summer, Islands of Adventure unleashed Jurassic World VelociCoaster—Florida’s fastest and tallest launch coaster. Based on the blockbuster Jurassic World movie franchise, VelociCoaster spans more than 4,700 feet of track, catapulting riders 155 feet into the air at speeds up to 70 mph. The ride’s theming and storyline expand on what flashed across the big screen, sending guests on a thrilling roller coaster adventure alongside a swift Velociraptor pack in an immersive dinosaur habitat, complete with a giant waterfall and lush jungle vegetation. In a series of extreme maneuvers, the thrill ride includes two pulse-pounding launches, a 360-degree barrel roll, and a zero-gravity inverted stall, and then plunges into an 80-degree drop.
Smith also points out that, while a lot of guests consider the rides the “must-dos,” she’d also add some underappreciated gems to see while in the parks.
What unique hidden gem do most park guests miss that they shouldn’t? “We have a ton of really fun character meet-and-greets that I think guests should make a part of their visit,” says Smith. “For example, we recently opened DreamWorks Destination, where guests can meet and dance along with multiple animated characters from the DreamWorks animated films in one, really cool themed location.” Another can’t miss park gem? Raptor Encounter! “You literally come face-to-face with a ferocious Velociraptor, which makes for a very entertaining photo opp,” Smith points out.
As for shows, If you love the Bourne movie franchise, then don’t miss The Bourne Stuntacular at Universal Studios. This cutting-edge stunt show artfully blends a fan-favorite film with high-tech stagecraft, immersing you in the Bourne universe, thanks to the massive LED screen measuring 130-feet wide by 28-feet tall. Follow Jason Bourne as he dangles from a helicopter in Dubai, leaps across rooftops in Tangier, and races on a motorcycle through Virginia—with plenty of action-packed fistfights and shootouts along the way.
Show-stopping entertainment comes in small packages, too. “Go see one of my personal favorites—The Horror Make-Up Show, which offers hilarious insight into how horror make-up and special effects come to life,” suggests Smith.
Of course, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter always deserves a top spot on your can’t-miss list. From a stroll through the feel-like-you’re-there Diagon Alley and photo opp in front of Hogwarts castle to a sip of iconic Butterbeer and a heart-pounding ride on a Hippogriff, the Boy Wizard and friends continue to charm Potter fans at this only-in-Universal experience.
If you’d like to get the red carpet treatment, consider splurging on a group or private tour as part of the park’s VIP Experience (group tour starts at $189 per person in addition to park admission). A Universal Orlando guide will escort the group through one and/or two parks, sharing park trivia and insider information along the way. You’ll also get exclusive backstage access, front-of-the-line access to all rides and attractions, free valet parking, complimentary breakfast and lunch and more.
On the horizon? Set to early summer 2025, the 750-acre Epic Universe theme park will open near the Orange County Convention Center just 12 minutes away from Universal’s existing parks. Based on intellectual properties from DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and Nintendo, Epic Universe will feature immersive experiences, themed lands, an entertainment center, restaurants, shops, hotels and more. In one of these themed lands, guests can explore Super Nintendo World (also scheduled to open summer 2025) where Nintendo’s games, characters and worlds come to life. Super Nintendo World opened to rave reviews at Universal Studios Japan in 2021, with a similar themed land set to open at Universal Studios Hollywood next summer, giving Orlando fans a sneak peek at what to expect when Mario and the crew hit Orlando.