Universal Rides Top 10

With Velocicoaster now hypnotizing the entire community, we figured now would be the perfect time to launch a Top 10 across all of Universal’s parks, like our Disney Rides Top 20 . There’s just one small problem: we haven’t made it to Universal Studios Singapore yet.

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Universal Studios Singapore, as well as the soon-to-open Universal Studios Beijing, are perched at the top of our park bucket list. We plan to someday visit both parks on the same trip, but for now we’ve decided to offer Universal Studios Singapore some honorable mentions, and then relaunch the list (possibly as a Top 20?) once we’ve returned from a future Singapore / China trip.

Full of unique attractions, Universal Studios Singapore should be on every Universal Parks fan’s to-do list. Signature rides include Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Race, a suspended E-ticket dark ride from Intamin, the dueling Battlestar Galactica Vekoma launchers, and a reimagining of Jurassic Park River Adventure into an elevator-lift River Rapids ride – any of these rides look like they would qualify for Top 10 material, but for now we’ll just have to appreciate them via YouTube POVs.

Courtesy: Universal

The other elephant in the room is Super Nintendo World, whose Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge looks amazing based on videos, but has received somewhat tepid reviews from ride reviewers. Again, we’ll have to wait-and-see if the ride is Top 10 material (at this rate, we’ll find ourselves on the Universal Hollywood one before we can get to Osaka again).

And so, without further ado, here’s the Coaster Kings Universal Rides Top 10!

10. Hogwarts Express – Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure

Hogwarts Express is a special place to start this list because it’s more than just a ride – a true Renaissance railroad, this funicular-turned-magic-locomotive is the ingenious marriage of transportation and dark ride. The use of a high-demand peoplemover to tell two different stories as it passes guests between the two chapters of The Wizarding World is nothing short of marketing nirvana:

“Want to ride this ride that’s integral to the experience? It’s actually two rides in one! AND it’s convenient. You want the entire Wizarding World at your wand-tips, don’t you? Buy a park hopper, even if you just have one day to work with – you won’t regret it.” It’s a sales tactic so sublime that it probably still has Disney blushing on the daily.

Courtesy: Universal

9. Hollywood Dream – Universal Studios Japan

While Universal’s game is largely about pummeling Disney in the dark ride wars, we’re nothing if not pleased at the way Universal always has room for a massive, unapologetic roller coaster (or two) in each of their parks. Hollywood Dream lacks theming almost entirely, but does feature a basic story/mood (think Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit! level, but with mild red-carpet-at-the-Oscars flavor), and as a roller coaster it’s thrilling, satisfying, full of airtime, AND you can ride backward!

8. Flying Dinosaur – Universal Studios Japan

Keeping with the theme of very little theming to speak of, Flying Dinosaur complements Hollywood Dream beautifully in its unabashed roller-coaster-y-ness. In a cue later followed by VelociCoaster, Flying Dinosaur’s angle is that you’re on a roller coaster at Jurassic Park that’s themed to – you guessed it – a flying dinosaur. It’s simple, to-the-point, and doesn’t concern itself with anything more than being an exceptional flying coaster that soars over Jurassic Park. For something a little less on-the-nose, there’s always River Adventure (or JAWS for that matter – ride it while you still can).

7. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Universal Studios Florida

An unlikely underdog story, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was a slow burn for most people. While the highly anticipated Diagon Alley expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was met with high praise for its commitment to detail and revolutionary degree of immersion, the area’s signature ride left guest feeling like they’d seen better before; a better Harry Potter ride at IOA, a better 3D ride elsewhere in town, or an indoor coaster some place that felt more “coaster-y.” With its sophomore-slump positioning now evolved into that of a quietly confident middle-child, Gringotts has now settled into the role of the resort’s most refined and sophisticated ride in terms of tone and subject (and arguably aesthetic, if the chandeliers in the bank lobby have taught us anything).

6. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Japan

It would seem that the turn of each decade has its respective dark ride icon: ten years before Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey helped usher in a decade of unprecedented success for Universal Orlando Resort, Islands of Adventure opened its doors offering (among other delights) the world’s premier dark ride experience. The Amazing Adventures Spider-Man feels no less amazing than it did in the 90s, except perhaps now the ride’s greatest strengths are its timeless appeal and graceful aging. Updated 4K projections offering arguably the crisp-est 3D glasses experience in the industry doesn’t hurt either.

5. Jurassic World – The Ride – Universal Studios Hollywood

The ride reskinning game unequivocally belongs to Universal: what was already a well-loved signature attraction for the Hollywood park has been upgraded beyond all comprehension (we’ll try to avoid spoilers). While original Jurassic Park River Adventure remains must-ride at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Japan, the mosasaurus and indominus rex scenes alone are enough to make us want to trade in all the originals for the blue and silver phenom that now rules the Lower Lot.

Courtesy: Universal

4. Studio Tour – Universal Studios Hollywood

Studio Tour is what we have to thank for any and all things Universal Parks, so there’s not enough good things to be said about this once-in-a-lifetime attraction. Often imitated, never replicated, and once again the only such advertised ride of its kind, Studio Tour takes you on an actual tour of Universal Studios’ actual Hollywood film operation, (which happens to include several iconic sequences that you might’ve seen dissected and replicated at other Universal parks). For 45 minutes, passengers are treated to – not a recreated or themed experience – but the very real Universal Studios. The actual “studios” part. For real. There’s honestly nothing cooler – we refuse to be convinced otherwise.

Courtesy: Universal

3. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – Islands of Adventure

Edged out of the #2 spot by the newcomer is none other than the sweetheart of the Universal Orlando Resort operation, Mr. Hagrid himself. This one boils down to taste – not everyone will agree on the VelociCoaster vs Hagrid debate, but Top 3 billing for both was inevitable. Hagrid’s rapid fire sequencing and unmatched arsenal of trackwork tricks is surpassed only by its impressive visuals: animatronics, landscaping, set design, lighting schemes, rolling stock – you name it. It’s all a feast for the senses in a way that few coasters could ever hope to relate.

2. Jurassic World: VelociCoaster – Islands of Adventure

Yes, the very reason we felt compelled to compose this Top 10 at this particular point in time manages maid-of-honor billing – and it’s not even officially open yet. After just a few laps with the raps, it’s clear to us there’s no exaggerating praise for VelociCoaster – We’re not ones to get too wrapped up in the romantics of a new love at our home park, but we’d be remiss to say that the ride’s aesthetic, tone, design, and execution aren’t practically best-case-scenario for film fans and coaster junkies alike.

1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Beijing

It’s been over a decade since the uncanny dream team of Universal Creative, Warner Bros Recreation Group, and J.K. Rowling, along with Dynamic Attractions, KUKA, and Robocoaster Ltd. gifted us the world’s most advanced dark ride – and we still can’t believe it.

As the ride ages, initial impressions of amazement haven’t waned, but rather accrued strength as newer dark rides fail to satisfy on the same levels. So-called exhibitions of advancements in ride design (Rise of the Resistance, we’re looking at you) only continue to highlight the ways Forbidden Journey still outshines its contemporaries: a single bench of riders eliminates the “bad seat blues” and “second row syndrome” of higher capacity vehicles (while still achieving unmatched hourly capacity thanks to the ride’s busbar track system and swift, continuous loading), and a peripherals-obscured, floating seat block inserted into the action (with the help of a two-story robotic arm with three elbows) ensures that each individual rider feels like they’re nothing less than the star of the experience.

It’s easier to chalk it all up to magic, but what Forbidden Journey does is somehow even more magical when you unpack what the ride achieved on a mechanical level in 2010 – not to mention what a consistent, high-capacity, and beautiful experience it is.

That concludes our first ever Universal Rides Top 10! We hope you enjoyed it, and we look forward to making changes once we can travel to our remaining un-visited Universal parks. As always, please weigh in on our social media accounts and check out our Coaster Kings Radio Podcast for lots of Universal content and much, much more!

3 Replies to “Universal Rides Top 10”

  1. Great list. I’ve ridden all but VelociCoaster. Loved riding Hollywood Dream backward (aka Backdrop) much more than expected. Whoever came up with the idea of connecting the two Orlando parks with Hogwarts Express is a genius. The concept is executed flawlessly.

  2. My daughter Mary is going there tomorrow for her birthday happy birthday to you happy birthday to you my baby girl love mommy

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