Universal Orlando Resort Theme Park’s Top Eight Thrill Rides

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Do you love roller coasters? Do motion rides make you giddy? Then this post, which is part one of a four-part series called "How to Plan the Perfect Universal Orlando Resort Family Vacation," is for you.

Universal Orlando Resort boasts two theme parks in Florida: 1) Islands of Adventure, which is best known for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and its famous frozen Butter Beer, which our family likes to drink while crossing our eyes, and 2) Universal Studios, which is a lot like its west coast counterpart in that it used to be the locale for movie sets. But this east coast version adds the thrill factor.

Collage of Harry Potter Land and Family with Frozen Butter Beer Mustaches

Before I begin with my recommendations of the theme parks' top thrill rides, let's first define thrill ride as not necessarily a "scary" ride, but just a ride that makes your stomach drop, surprises you, makes you scream or hang on for dear life, etc. Sound good?

Top Five Thrill Rides to Check Out at Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure is known for its big roller coasters. So, those will be obvious. The others fall into my definition of thrill rides and you should definitely check them out if adventure is what you're after.

  1. The Incredible Hulk. As you can see in the pictures below, this ride is breathtaking. Literally. It goes from 0 to 65 in seconds and from there, there seems to be constant loop-to-loops. The thing I love about this ride is that it is so fast moving, you literally don't have time to get scared. Take a breath at the beginning, hold on tight, and breathe again once it's over through your cries of victory.
    Age Alert! I recommend taking a daring tween and teen on this ride. Check height requirements before getting in line.
    The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster
  2. The Dragon Challenge. This coaster has two lines: red and blue. I hear red is scarier, but I've gone on both and they both scared me to death, so take your pick and hold on tight. Your feet dangle on this ride, so be sure to sit on your flip flops if you're wearing them and leave EVERYTHING with a friend at the bottom if you want to hang onto it. This ride heads straight up and then swings your feet from the sky to seemingly the water below while corkscrewing and going upside down. Remember to keep your eyes open. The view from this ride is amazing!
    Age Alert! I would only take the most daring of tweens and teens on this ride. I think it's the scariest ride in the park!
  3. Harry Potter. Simply said, this is a motion ride that has you flying high and low on various Harry Potter adventures. But there is really nothing simple about it as it is supposed to be one of the most technically advanced theme park attractions out there.
    Age Alert! Most children will put up with being scared just to get the chance to walk through Hogwarts. That said, keep in mind that in addition to the fun aspects of Harry Potter, like the train ride to Hogwarts, flying cars, and quidditch, the dark side of the books also abounds in this motion ride. There is a height requirement and watch out if you're sensitive to motion rides.

    Hogwarts inThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter


  4. The Amazing Spider-Man. This is a motion ride that covers more than a mile of track. It was updated in the past year and is true to it's name: "Amazing!" Like any Spider-Man movie, this ride has heroes and lots of villains all in 3-D. I include it in the thrill ride category because of the surprise factor and how intense the motion is. If you get motion sickness at all, this ride will do you in.
    Age Alert! My 11-year-old son, who has issues with loud noises, getting startled, and overall being scared, did fine on this ride. If your children are afraid of the dark, villains, or get spooked easily, you may want to go on it first before exposing them to it.

    The Amazing Spider-Man Ride Entrance


  5. Jurassic Park River Adventures and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (both water rides). Islands of Adventure has the best water rides of any theme park I've ever been to. That said, two of them fall into the thrill category—Jurassic Park, due to the scary nature of the ride (dinosaurs, loud noises, and tragedy oh! my!), and Ripsaw Falls, due to the significant downhill fall at the end that not only causes your stomach to drop, but gets you completely soaked!
    Age Alert! If your children are good with the drops, I for sure recommend Ripsaw Falls. It's a light, fun ride with no scary factor whatsoever. Jurassic Park is another story. Think of the movie. If that would scare your child, I recommend NOT taking him or her on this particular water ride. Head over to Popeye & Bluto’s Rat River Barges ride instead, which is fun and gets you just as wet.

Top Three Thrill Attractions to Check Out at Universal Studios

While Universal Studios doesn't have as many rides as Islands of Adventure, the thrill attractions it does have are scary and fun all at once. 

  1. Rip Ride Rockit Ride at Universal Orlando ResortRip Ride Rockit! This ride is a blast. Literally! You jump in and are instructed to pick a song. You have your choice of hip hop, disco, house music, and more. My personal favorite? "I Will Survive." Why? Check out the incline on the picture to your right and you'll understand. Scary vertical incline with a 90-foot drop and 65 MPH speeds! The song blares from speakers in your seat during the ride all while you are being video recorded. Be sure to put on your brave face. Your clip, including your song, is available for purchase at the end of the ride.
    Age Alert! Children do not have to be as tall as they do on other thrill rides to enjoy this attraction. Perhaps it's because the harness goes across your lap. Or, maybe it's because the ride never goes upside down. Either way, encourage your adventurous tweens and teens to give it a shot. It's fun for all ages who meet the height minimum.
  2. The Simpsons. How could someone like little Maggie be scary? Just you wait. The Simpson's motion ride makes you feel like you are on an actual roller coaster.
    Age Alert! Entire families can enjoy this ride. However, I'd recommend those who get motion sickness wait on a park bench below.
  3. The Revenge of the Mummy. For those who are familiar with Disney rides, The Revenge of the Mummy reminds me of a combination of Space Mountain and Indiana Jones. With this one, though, you get two for the price of one. It is based on the movie complete with bugs and fire, moves forward and back, and goes between light and complete darkness.
    Age Alert! This ride is great for kids with a sense of adventure. I don't recommend it for those who aren't, my kids included. Check the height requirement before waiting in line.

How to Plan the Perfect Universal Orlando Resort Vacation

For recommendations on planning the perfect Universal Orlando Resort vacation, including what to ride, where to stay, how to eat healthy, how to entertain a baby and toddler, how to celebrate the holidays, how to receive VIP treatment and more, please check out these posts in this series:

What are your favorite theme park rides?

Disclosure: I was provided with an all-expenses paid trip to Universal Orlando Resort. No follow-up promotion or publicity was requested or required. All opinions are my own.

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


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