Universal is Disney World’s cool, edgy little sister. She’s a little rougher around the edges, may not always pick up after herself and dedicates her life to “Hard Rock” and thrill rides. So of course, over the years I’ve become really attached to this park. As a kid, my family would ride E.T. multiple times and the old Back to the Future attraction was one of my favorites.
Despite some child-friendly aspects to this park, they always had an older demographic in mind. Pair the nightlife of CityWalk with a real Hogwarts castle and you got yourself an adult playground for any 80s/90s kid. To complete it all, there are references to cartoons and comics from the 70s and fine-dining restaurants that everyone can enjoy. When it comes to adult-friendly activities, Universal Studios Orlando is the ultimate destination!
Spend a Night-Out at CityWalk
When the park closes the day has just begun in Universal CityWalk. There are a number of things that grown-ups can do in this shopping/dining/dancing destination, so I’ve got a few suggestions for you. Plus, it’s totally free to enter!
Top 5 Things to Do at City Walk:
- Sing karaoke with a live band at Rising Star
- Indulge in creative dishes and desserts at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
- Go mini-golfing at Hollywood Drive-In Golf
- Go dancing at The Groove or Red Coconut Club
- Finish the night with a funky doughnut from Voodoo Doughnut (The Captain Crunch doughnut is my fave!)
Single Riders Line
The best way to make use of your time is to buy the Express Pass (skip most of the line for a daily fee) and/or take advantage of the Single Riders Lines. This line allows you to skip the general line and cut down on wait time. While this will move you past the lines quickly, if you are traveling with a group you should be comfortable with splitting up the group and riding next to a stranger or two.
Relive Your Childhood at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Whether you read the books or watched the movies, Harry Potter has most likely been a part of your life. Sure, Disney has the genius works of Composer Alan Menken, but Universal got the rights to something just as magical and nostalgic.
One thing to note: you need to purchase a park-to-park pass in order to see both sections of this land and ride the Hogwarts Express. The upgraded pass is completely worth if you ask me. Besides the Wizarding World, the
Top 5 Things to Do at the Wizarding World
- Try a ButterBeer: Take a sip and whisper to yourself, “You’re a wizard, Harry.” ButterBeer takes like cream soda with a dash of butterscotch and comes hot, blended like a slushy, or cold with a foamy topping. It’s non-alcoholic, sweet, and an absolute must-do. You can even find the ButterBeer flavor infused in fudge, soft-serve ice cream, and other sweets around the land!
- Exchange Your Muggle Currency at Gringott’s Bank: It’s silly, but I love immersive experiences like this. You can exchange your real money for wizard money and use it for purchases throughout the Wizarding World. If you have any money left over, they will happily exchange it back.
- Experience The Forbidden Journey: This is the popular motion-based dark ride located inside Hogwarts Castle. On the ride, you’ll fly through Quidditch fields, fight Death Eaters, and escape giant spiders. If you want to experience the castle, but prone to motion sickness, you can ask Team Member to give you a tour of the castle on foot!
- Plan Your Escape from Gringott’s Bank: This ride took 3D experiences to the next level when they added a roller coaster to the mix. It’s not incredibly intense, but there are a few drops that may surprise you. The detailing inside Gringott’s is worth the wait in line too.
- Unnamed Roller Coaster Coming in Late 2019! The land previously occupied by the Dragon Challenge roller coaster will soon be home to a newly imagined coaster. No details have been announced, except that the ride will contain characters and elements from the 7 part book series/movies and not the Fantastic Beast franchise.
- Grab a Pint at Hog’s Head Pub: On tap, this cozy nook has a Dragonscale lager, Hog’s Head Brew, and Wizard’s Brew. It’s located inside The Three Broomsticks, so you can grab a few beef pasties to accompany your beverage. Pay close attention to the friendly hog mounted on the wall!
Stay at an Onsite Resort
Most of Universal’s hotels are very adult-friendly and the themes are on point. The newest additions, Cabana Bay and the Aventura Resort, happen to be my favorite. Cabana Bay is inspired by 50’s and 60’s Florida beach parties with a bowling alley, a lazy river and an incredible view of Volcano Bay. The fun colors and recreations make the resort kid-friendly, but the grown-up’s absolutely loved the retro-future decor too. Aventura is classy with chic and sweeping interior design and a rooftop bar.
Get Extra with the Extras
- VIP Tours: The VIP Tour allows you front-of-the-line access to attractions, souvenir keepsakes, quick-service breakfast/lunch, and a backstage tour. The Private VIP Tour includes all this plus full-service breakfast/lunch/dinner and customizable itineraries. For either tour, you’re whisked away to experience rides and shows with a personal escort, so there’s no rush and no stress. The VIP Tours range between $189-$499, depending on the season. The Private VIP tour starts at a hefty $2899 for a one day tour. This is all in addition to your park ticket, by the way.
- Blue Man Group: This show has played at Universal Studios for the last 12 years. While I haven’t seen the group perform, I know plenty of people who have. This is a good date-night activity if you’re looking for something special to do on a non-park day.
- Spa Day at a Resort: Nothing like a relaxing massage and cocktail at a beautiful hotel. You can book full-spa services at Loews Portofino Hotel.
Get Your Drink On
You’ll find a libation station at every corner in Universal Studios. This theme park has no qualms with serving parents and childfree adults a ton of booze.
Guide to the Universal Studios Bar Hop:
- Duff Beer – Duff Brewery Garden
- Pot of Gold Coffee (Made with Kaluah & Baileys) – Finnegan’s Bar and Grill
- Rum Runner – Backwater Bar/Confisco Grille Hog’s Head
- San Francisco Mojito – Lombard’s Seafood Grille
- Spiked Orange and Raspberry Fanta Slushies – The Watering Hole
- Potion of the Gods – Mythos Restaurant
- Hog’s Head Brew – Hog’s Head
Spend a Day in Volcano Bay
Water parks aren’t always my forte, but I make an exception for Volcano Bay. The island theme and lanai-like structures are beautiful and there are plenty of island drinks to be had. You can plummet down a slide at a 90-degree angle or float leisurely on the lazy river. Even if you tan on the beach and drink mojitos all day, the atmosphere is worth it.
Character Meet n’ Greets
In most cases, adult guests are more excited to meet Universal’s characters than the children. The lineup consists of characters that were around for our childhood or from movies our parents grew up on. Some characters include Doc from Back to the Future, Scooby-Doo & the gang, Hello Kitty, and Spongebob.
Create a Nostalgic Itinerary
Universal movies may not stir up the same warm feeling a Disney movie does, but some of their attractions bring out that childhood nostalgia. E.T. is still standing and even though it’s looking a little worse for the wear, it continues to thrill 80s/90s babies everywhere. (The only way I would be fine with E.T. being replaced is if it’s for a Stranger Things to take it’s place.) You can also shoot some aliens on the Men in Black 3D attraction and long for whimsical, simpler days in Seussland!
The majority of Universal’s rides are intended for “mature audiences.” Even the sedated attractions have some sort of fear factor. From daunting roller coasters to 3D experiences, you’re sure to find something that excites you.
Top 9 Universal Orlando Rides for Adults:
- Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Revenge of The Mummy
- The Simpsons Ride
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (3D)
- Transformers: The Ride (3D)
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Hang Out in Springfield/Krustyland
This detailed land brings the Simpsons world to life and is the perfect place for those of us who refuse to grow up. You can hang out among the cheesy carnival rides in Krustyland, get a Flamin’ Moe at Moe’s Tavern, grab one of Officer Wiggum’s enormous pink doughnuts from Lard Lad, or hang out in the Duff Brewery Garden.
*does best Mr. Burns impression* “Eeeexcellent.”
Halloween Horror Nights
This horrifying Halloween party is definitely not intended for kids, at least not for those who spook easily. Every year, Universal transforms the park into a grueling terror with haunted houses dedicated to popular films. In previous years, the houses featured Stranger Things, The Shining, and The Poltergeist. To add to the ambiance, Scare Actors walk through the park “entertaining” the masses with chainsaws and severed limbs. This is a special-ticket event that starts at $60 per night during the Halloween season.
I understand wandering through a theme park as a fully-grown human can be a little odd. You may feel entirely out of place, but you should know there are a ton of adults who travel to Universal with their partners, friends, or even solo (*raises hand*). If visiting Disney as an adult makes you feel a little strange, Universal is a great alternative. Although, if you find yourself in Seussland feeling like an absolute weirdo, get out of there and head straight to Backwater Bar.
P.S. To encourage others to visit Universal as an adult, be sure to share this post on Facebook or Pinterest! Hover over my pin below and click on the “Pinterest P” to save this cheatsheet for later! Let’s get the word out, so the rest of us will stop feeling like outsiders, eh?
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