My Top 6 'Must Do' Theme Park rides in Orlando - and Why

The King Kong ride at Universal Studios

This week I thought I would count down my favourite rides from both Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, Orlando. To make it on this list, it had to be a ‘must do’ ride in Orlando. Reasons varied on why it was a ‘must do’ – but it was either unique, incredible fun or used amazing technology (or had all three criteria!). So here are my top 6:

6. King Kong - Skull Island (Universal Studios - Islands of Adventure)

The ride starts in the queue, which I thought was far scarier then the actual ride. The queue is in a long narrow dark cave. I would not advise this ride if you are claustrophobic - just because of the queue. There is also someone who is hidden in one of the cave 'holes' that comes out every so often to successfully scare people.

The ride starts when you get in a truck and enter the world of King Kong (you enter via giant gates seen in the movies). It is inside the gates that you meet King Kong and the Dinosaurs. All really good effects and I rate this ride more highly than the Universal Studios Los Angeles version (which involves King Kong and dinosaurs too, but is also different in storyline. The theming is also better in Orlando). This ride just seems more ‘real’ with a possibility you could fall over the edge and be eaten by dinosaurs and never be seen again…

Verdict: Unique (differs from Universal Studios Los Angeles), incredible fun and amazing technology.
5. Jimmy Fallon - Race through New York (Universal Studios)

Race through New York with Jimmy Fallon

I was going to skip this ride as I knew nothing about it, and the online reviews did not sound appealing (they said its not a thrill ride). However, standing in line we found the people surrounding us loved this ride and deliberately head straight to this ride – and we now know why. 

The Virtual line experience is a ‘green room’ where you are given a piece of coloured card and you wait in a ‘green room’ until your colour is called out to go in to the ride. The ‘green room’ was very comfortable as you had lounges etc to sit on and games to play whilst you waited for your turn in the ride.

We managed to sit in the front row of this ride, and it did not disappoint. It was so much fun as you ‘raced through New York’ with Jimmy Fallon at top speed dodging cars and buildings, subway stations and more. Do you need to know whom Jimmy Fallon is? No not at all. He’s just the guy you try and keep up with in your car!

Verdict: Unique and an incredible fun plus ride.

4. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom)
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

This ride in Magic Kingdom has new technology where each carriage ‘swings’ from left to right’ as you go around corners to make it a curvier ride. There are roller coaster elements to this ride, but they are not big drops at all. It is really fun doing this roller coaster to the soundtrack of “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, its off to work we go”. Work seemed a million miles away at that moment. 

In the middle of the ride, you pass through a cavern where the Seven Dwarfs are mining for gems. It is quite colourful. You zip through the cavern and then its back to the rollercoaster part again, passing the Seven Dwarfs house, before coming to a complete stop at the end.

The Roller coaster is very smooth, the Seven Dwarfs in the cavern is quite colourful. I would not miss this ride at all –it does require a Fast Pass (FP), as the lines were over an hour long all day. The magic bands also automatically take a video and photo of you on the ride alone – the video is wonderful and a great souvenir to watch at home.

Verdict: Unique, incredible fun and amazing technology.

3. Escape from Gringotts (Universal Studios)
The Escape from Gringotts ride is pretty easy to spot - its in the Gringotts Bank underneath the dragon

This ride is pretty easy to spot – as its directly underneath the Dragon in Diagon Alley! Once in line you go inside the Gringotts bank. There are about 7 animatronic goblins that ‘observed’ you as you entered, and continued to weigh their gold bullion. The enormous chandeliers were a highlight of the room! It was quite a fantastic sight. You then went through a series of rooms with different things to look at until you got to the main ride entry point.

The ‘Escape from Gringotts’ ride was really good. There is a very steep drop at the beginning of the ride (very steep like your stomach and head have separated), but after that, the ride is akin to the Transformers/Spiderman ride as you go from room to room – with fire breathing dragons and more! It’s a great ride with heat and water included! This ride has been said to be the best ride ever in any theme park. Did I think so? No, it is in my top 3 though. 

Verdict: Unique, incredible fun and amazing technology.

2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Universal Studios- Islands of Adventure)

Inside the Hogwarts castle is the Forbidden Journey Ride. This is my second favourite Orlando Ride of all time.

As my daughter A.J refused to do this ride, we did the ‘child swap’ arrangement – where there is a separate room for waiting parents (this room was very well organised, where the kids can watch a Harry Potter movie whilst the adults ride!)

The scenery inside the castle is amazing with huge knights, statues of Dumbledore, an appearance by Harry, Ron and Hermione, animated picture frames and more. The only thing missing was the moveable stairways!

Once you get to the front of the line you get strapped into this harness seat. You cannot see the person next to you very well unless you stick your head out (and you are told not to do that - you need to keep your head back at all times as some times during the ride you are literally moved on to your back laying down!) so this ride is not good if your young children need to see you on the ride for comfort. You are then moved from scene to scene, lots of 3D-like motion simulator moments and then lots of the more traditional dark ride elements with animatronics. I felt this ride had ‘everything’ a ride should. The ride reminded me a lot of ‘Soarin’ at Disney World as you ‘flew’ with Harry on broomsticks at Quiddich and through forest scenes. It was quite a wild ride at times (very steep descents etc), use of fire etc in the dark part of the ride – we rode this ride twice we loved it so much! The second time with my eyes open throughout! Ha ha.

Verdict: This ride can be found at Universal Studios Japan and Los Angeles. It is an incredible fun ride though with amazing technology.

Hogwarts Castle

This leaves us with my number 1 ‘must do’ ride in Orlando:

 1. Flight of Passage, Avatar ride (Disney's Animal Kingdom)

World of Pandora - Animal Kingdom - the ride queue overlooks the waterfall scenery

We had a FP for this ride, so we missed the long queue in the standby line. In the standby queue however there is a jungle trek with views over Pandora, caves and a few rooms of ‘props’ all to keep people amused for a potentially long (3 hours) wait.  As we had a FP, we unfortunately missed that part. The total wait time with the FP was 20 minutes.

On this ride you get to fly on a mountain banshee as part of a 3D ride. You hop on to vehicles akin to motorbikes and put on some 3D glasses. There are some bright lights through the glasses and then bang- you are flying on a Banshee in the land of Pandora. The Banshee you are riding on moves beneath you. Your entire vision was flying down mountains, valleys, dense forests and more. One word: Breathtaking. There is wind and mist on this ride. My hair had all frizzed up in the end and was wind blown ha ha. 

My dear husband D.H said it was also ‘breathtaking’. My daughter A.J said it was beautiful, but scary at first until you adjust to the fact your flying on a Banshee.

One Cast member we spoke to said he had been on the ride 61 times!! This is the most amazing ride I have ever been on ever. It certainly feels 100% like you are flying all over the planet – missing waves, down steep mountain terrain, high speed through forests etc.

I do find after experiencing this ride, that all other Disney and Universal rides now are unfairly compared, it is such a ‘step up’ with technology (it is that good). Some people have waited 3 hours in a standby queue for this – they would not be disappointed!

Verdict: Totally unique in the world, incredible fun and amazing ‘off the scale’ new technology.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my top 6 ‘must do’ rides at Orlando Theme Parks. I would love to read any comments below on your must do rides.

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June/July 2018: has alot of Disney merchandise on sale here including Snow White. It also includes a $10 voucher!!

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Until next week,

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