Are you wondering what to do at Universal Studios Orlando besides rides? If you don’t want to ride rides, there are plenty of fantastic things you can still do. In this video, I shared, my top ten favorite things to do, other than rides. From shows to shopping, food to photo ops, you can still have a ton of fun.
I even have a bonus trick you can use to squeeze even more out of rides (even when you don’t actually get on).
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When my family and I went to Universal Studios Orlando, I had a great time. My husband doesn’t ride any rides and there were rides that I didn’t go on. For instance, Rip Ride Rocket. No way was I getting on that sucker! But there’s still so much to do that it is definitely worth the time and money.
Don’t pressure yourself to go on rides if you don’t want to. Your vacation is not the time to push yourself outside your comfort zone. You’re there to relax and have fun. Don’t feel like you have to ride rides. It’s okay if you don’t want to.
Here are my top ten things to do at Universal Studios Orlando if you don’t ride rides.
10 Things to Do at Universal Studios That Aren’t Rides
#1 Wizarding World
The Wizarding World has become the number one attraction at Universal Studios. There’s so much to do in the Wizarding World that you could truly spend a whole day in the Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade areas.
Things not to miss:
- Talk to Stan Shunpike at the Knight Bus.
- Knock on the door at No. 12 Grimmauld Place.
- Visit Ollivander’s and watch the wand choosing ceremony.
- Shop windows. Be sure too look at every single one. Each shop or restaurant has its own magical surprises (especially if you bought a wand at Ollivander’s).
- Drink butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks.
- Eat at the Leaky Cauldron.
- Visit Borgin and Burke’s in Knockturn Alley (easy to miss if you don’t know to look for it).
- Send a postcard from the Owl Post.
#2 Hogwarts Express
You have to ride the Hogwarts Express. I know that you don’t like rides, but the Hogwarts Express isn’t a crazy ride. In fact, it’s quite comfortable.
The Hogwarts Express shuttles you between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (which are the two theme parks in Orlando that make up Universal Studios). You need to purchase a park hopper ticket to ride it. Make sure you ride it both ways, because what happens inside the car is different each way.
The Hogwarts Express was, by far, my favorite part of the whole park because you are completely surrounded by the world of Harry Potter. There isn’t anything that you can see, anywhere, that’s not Harry Potter and it’s phenomenal.
#3 New York City
When you’re at Universal Studios Orlando, a miniature New York City takes up an entire area. Walk around and take photos of yourself in front of all kinds of cool brownstones and storefronts.
You can go inside Louie’s Italian Restaurant and get quick service food to go. (That’s the restaurant from The Godfather.) Take in some of the street shows while you’re there.
Bonus tip: Starbucks is located in the lil’ New York City.
You must visit Springfield. If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, or even have a passing interest, you really should visit Springfield.
Go into Moe’s Tavern and ordering a Flaming Moe. (My kids did and it’s so much fun.) Get the big pink doughnut from Lard Lad. Eat tacos from the Bumblebee Man’s taco truck.
Make sure you take your picture with Chief Wiggum, Barney, Milhouse and Duffman. If you like beer, they serve Duff beer in a shady beer garden next to the lagoon.
Even if you don’t want to go on The Simpsons ride, there’s a ton of fun stuff to do in Springfield.
There are a ton of shows to see. Sometimes shows happen on the streets, sometimes they’re scheduled.
In Diagon Alley, you can see Celestina Warbeck. There’s also a puppet show of The Deathly Hallows story from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
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Recognize that gorgeous songstress? Why, that's Celestina Warbeck! I loved, loved, loved that she performed in Diagon Alley. "Hot Cauldron of Love" couldn't have sounded better and we had a front row seat. (Well, front row of asphalt, but you know, you do what you gotta do.) . #celestina #celestinawarbeck #geekgirl #harrypotterworld #deathlyhallows #fantasticbeastsandwheretofindthem #hogwartsexpress #potterheads #pottermore #newtscamander #quidditch #wizardingworldhogsmeade #harrypotterstudios #harrypotternerd #harrypotterfans #theboywholived #hogwartshouses #crimesofgriendelwald #hogwartscastle #housepride #fantasticbeasts2 #hogwartshouse #harrypotterfashion #plussizenerd #harrypotterforever #potterhead #jkrowling
In Hogsmeade, see the Hogwarts choir sing “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” You can also see the dancing and singing from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, performed by Durmstrang and Beaubatons. You can’t miss nighttime light show at Hogwarts castle. It’s beautiful.
Then in New York, you can see the Blues Brothers, as well as Marilyn Monroe and the Diamond Bellas. Depending on when you visit, there may be even more shows and parades. We were there during Mardi Gras and the parade was amazing.
There are so many wonderful shops! Each shop is themed to match the part of the parks you’re in. For instance, in Seuss Landing, all the shops have Dr. Seuss merch and in Marvel Superhero Island all the shops carry, of course, Marvel merch. The Wizarding World is full of shops, as you can imagine: Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Ollivander’s, Honeydukes, etc.
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The best shop in Knockturn Alley! (Watch out for the boggart!) . #harrypotterworld #deathlyhallows #fantasticbeastsandwheretofindthem #hogwartsexpress #potterheads #pottermore #newtscamander #quidditch #wizardingworldhogsmeade #harrypotterstudios #harrypotternerd #harrypotterfans #theboywholived #hogwartshouses #crimesofgriendelwald #hogwartscastle #housepride #fantasticbeasts2 #hogwartshouse #harrypotterfashion #plussizenerd
Make sure you hit all the shops, even if you don’t buy something. There are magical things happening in all the shops of the Wizarding World. I bought a Borgin and Burke t-shirt at the Borgin and Burke store in Knockturn Alley and it’s one of my most favorite things of all-time.
#7 Special Events
Universal Studios does a great job of celebrating all the different holidays and seasons. Like I said, my family and I were there during Mardi Gras and, trust me, they did it up right with special parades, shows and food. They even had a pop-up Mardi Gras shop.
Halloween Horror Nights has become huge at Universal Studios, especially because of the popularity of The Walking Dead. They decorate the park and there’s a really scary haunted area for the zombies.
I mentioned that October was the Dark Arts month in the Wizarding World. Christmas is a wonderful time to visit, with holiday themed shops, parades, characters and lots of decorations.
#8 Meet the Characters
Get your picture taken. That’s one of my favorite things to do at theme parks is have my photo taken with different characters. Universal has a lot of characters who walk around on a regular basis, and then they have characters who only show up for special occasions.
Depending on when you visit, you might see Shrek and Fiona, or Captain America and Spiderman. You might see the Green Goblin or Doctor Doom. You might see the Simpsons’ family or Dr. Seuss characters. For example, I got my picture taken with Sam from Green Eggs and Ham. Gru and his Minions are sometimes there, as well as SpongeBob and the animals from Life of Pets.
Plus, there’s a special experience in the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure where you can get your photo taken with Blu, the velociraptor.
Be sure you meet them all and snap a photo.
#9 Water Taxis
Universal has water taxis that take people back and forth between the hotels and the theme parks. Even if you’re not staying on an official property, you can still get on one of the boats. Ride it to the end of the hotels and back. It’s a lovely, relaxing ride. The scenery is beautiful and the captains are can be pretty funny.
We stayed at Portofino Bay, which is at the very end. It has a big lagoon where the boat docks. I actually really enjoyed the water taxi rides because you saw all the properties, some wildlife and some gorgeous landscaping.
And don’t forget: you don’t have to stay at a hotel to ride the water taxis.
#10 CityWalk Dining
There are a lot of fun, themed restaurants along the Universal CityWalk outside the parks. We ate at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. They have the giant milkshakes with the cupcakes on top. They were so good!
There are all kinds of themed restaurants: Margaritaville, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., VIVO Italian Kitchen, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Hard Rock Cafe and more.
If you’re visiting the parks for more than one day, pick a different restaurant for dinner and really live it up.
Here’s a bonus tip for you. Even if you don’t want to ride a ride, you should still stand in line. Why? For most of the big rides like Escape from Gringotts, or Forbidden Journey or Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, Universal has created experiences along the way to keep people from getting bored. Frankly, some of the stuff you see standing in line is better than what’s in the parks.
When you stand in line at Gringotts, you see all the bank goblins and their offices and other neat stuff. At Forbidden Journey, it’s as if you’re wandering the corridors of Hogwarts. You’ll see the Mirror of Erised and the Sorting Hat. At the Transformers Ride and at the Hulk ride, the line takes you through high-tech labs that look like they dropped right out of a science fiction move.
When you get to the actual ride at the end of each line, just duck out the side door. No biggie; nobody cares; nobody has to know. Truly. The ride operators do not care at all. But meanwhile, you’ve seen even more of the park than you would have if you hadn’t stood in line.
Skip the Rides and Still Have Fun
There’s a ton of fun stuff to do at Universal Studios theme parks even if you don’t ride the rides. What sounds like the most fun to you? Let me know in the comments!