Home » The Best Rides at Universal Orlando Resort: What You Got Right and What You Got Very Wrong

The Best Rides at Universal Orlando Resort: What You Got Right and What You Got Very Wrong

One of the great things about the internet is that everyone has the ability to chime in with their own opinions on lists and rankings. This fun diversion provides us all with a chance to think about happier subject matter during a trying (or boring) day. We can shut our eyes and reminisce about the last time we went to a theme park…or dream about our next vacation.

Recently, I took the opportunity to highlight the Top 100 Theme Park Attractions in the World as chosen by you, the loyal readers of Theme Park Tourist. I also offered my own thoughts about how you rank the ten highest ranked attractions at Walt Disney World. Today, I’m going to head over to the other side of Orlando, the one that’s more wizardly. What follows is a list of the top 10 attractions at Universal Orlando Resort as voted by all of you. I’ll also offer my feelings on what you got right and what you got very (very very) wrong. As a reminder, you always have the option to head over to the Top 100 page and vote, thereby shuffling the results a bit. When more people weigh in, the results are stronger!

10. Caro-Seuss-el (TPT Ranking: #99 overall)

The list is one second old, and you’ve already thrown me for a curve. Look, I love Dr. Seuss as much as anyone else with a pulse (and I include zombies in that). I was even at a children’s birthday party recently where a five-year-old boy received a copy of Yertle the Turtle. I showed more interest in it than he did. In his defense, there were giant balloons, some dinosaurs and a toy helicopter.

Anyway, the point is that even as a lifelong Dr. Seuss admirer, I see Caro-Seuss-el for what it is. This ride is the most basic carousel imaginable, reskinned with all the colors of paint required to give a Dr. Seuss feel. Plus, each horse…like…thingamabob is interactive. Levers empower children with the ability to make their creature blink and turn its head. When parents vote for Caro-Seuss-el, they’re saying that they love sitting down for a few minutes of peace and quiet. They’re getting to relish in one of the best things about being a parent: watching a kid laugh and smile. And that’s more than enough for everyone to understand this vote. It’s a nod to childish exuberance.

My only comment is that King Arthur Carrousel is more attractive in person, has a century more history, and is simply better. The fact that it’s unranked while Caro-Seuss-el gets a nod irks me a bit. Still, this isn’t the weirdest Seuss-ian vote on this list. So, stay tuned!

9. Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges (TPT Ranking: #94 overall)

If you’re unfamiliar with this attraction, it’s a variation of the river raft ride. Universal has added some colorful themed elements to tie it to Popeye and Bluto, one of the most popular intellectual properties of the 20th century, albeit one that’s fallen out of favor a bit over the past 20 years. This one isn’t for folks who hate to get wet, either. It’s an aggressive water ride that will drench a few unfortunate souls within the first minute.

Whether you’re intimately familiar with Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto or not, this attraction is still enjoyable. It’s extremely colorful, and I love the indoor element after the barge passes under a particularly mean-spirited waterfall. Seriously, the designers of this ride must have received kickbacks from the hair dryer industry. You’ll get soaked on it.

Universal clearly loves wet rides, and you do, too. To wit, three of them are on this list. To me, this one is underrated since it ties in the theme well. Popeye has to rescue Olive Oyl from Bluto for the umpteenth time, which gives Universal an excuse to pipe in the Popeye the Sailor Man theme song. Plus, it goes pretty fast for a river raft ride. I’m a fan.

8. Dragon Challenge – Hungarian Horntail and Chinese Fireball (TPT Rankings: #82 and #84 overall)

This entry is the oddity on the list. TPT lists both versions of Dragon Challenge as voting options. Our readers clearly see them about the same, but you do have a slight favorite. In the TPT Olympics, you root for Hungary over China!

Coaster fans know that the difference between the two sides of Dragon Challenge isn’t trivial. The Chinese side goes faster, 60 MPH as opposed to 55 MPH for the Hungarian portion. The Chinese Fireball actually features a steeper drop of 115 feet to 95 feet, too, but the Horntail offers more twists and turns including a zero-G roll. So, the twin attractions offer different ride experiences. I’d hoped that some enterprising YouTube videographer would have a split screen demonstration of the two versions, but I couldn’t find one. Get on that, internet!

While I consider the Harry Potter theming of Dragon Challenge quite lazy, both iterations of the ride are solid. While the Universal Orlando complex does offer better roller coaster options, this one’s still a lot of fun. If anything, it’s ranked too low here.

7. Jurassic Park River Adventure (TPT Ranking: #77 overall)

In the years prior to the introduction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, several Universal attractions could stake a claim as having the best theme. Jurassic Park: The Ride was my favorite since it was such a dutiful interpretation of the first movie. Yes, it’s a river ride akin to Popeye, but it’s also so much more than that.

On this ride, the raft literally drives up to the opening of Jurassic Park. Then, the gates open, the river pushes the rider downstream, and several Audio-Animatronic (AA) dinosaurs come into view. There’s even narration as if you’re a guest of Jurassic Park rather than Universal Studios, the closest thing in the theme park industry to Shakespeare’s play within a play. Also, without spoiling the surprise, something else unexpected happens that changes the dynamic of the attraction. You can watch the video above to see what I mean.

Jurassic Park: The Ride is a bit long in the tooth, and I suspect that hurts its voting. It’s a thematic masterpiece, though. Out of the ten entries on the list, it’s the one that I think you’ve lowballed the most. Only two or arguably three of the listings above are clearly superior to it.

6. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (TPT Ranking: #72 overall)

The third (and thankfully final) water ride on this list is another example that during its early years, Universal was willing to try any and all intellectual properties while developing their themed attractions. Dudley Do-Right is a cartoon character who somehow escaped from The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show to become his own thing. You may picture him as Brendan Fraser, who played the character in a movie that opened the same year as Islands of Adventure. Oddly, this isn’t Fraser’s only appearance on this list, which means that his career is in better shape in Orlando than Hollywood. But I digress.

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls tells an exaggerated story of villainy involving the dastardly Snidely Whiplash, who literally ties a woman to train tracks at one point in the ride. A silly tone permeates throughout the metics. Then, the word BOOM will tip you off that you’re about to need a change of clothing. Ripsaw Falls is too derivative for me to rank it ahead of Jurassic Park: The Ride, but I understand why you like it so much. As far as Splash Mountain knockoffs go, this one is a lot of fun.

5. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (TPT Ranking: #43 overall)

Okay, TPT is full of stoners. Good to know.

Seriously, if I were at a carnival, this ride wouldn’t impress me. How in the world did it wind up this *ahem* high? Is it the song?

4. Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride (TPT Ranking: #14 overall)

Okay, let’s take a moment to appreciate the actual TPT ranking numbers. Half this list includes attractions ranked #70 or lower. Then, there’s one in middle followed by another extensive gap. The top four rides at Universal Orlando Resort are all ranked in the top 14, indicating that you only feel strongly about them. So, there’s a line of demarcation between the rest of the list and the rides we discuss from now on.

The first of the Big Four, the one I would rank higher, is the second Brendan Fraser entry. He famously introduced the character of Rick O’Connell in the 1999 update of the classic Universal story, and he plays himself during the post-show. It…doesn’t end well for him.

Before Fraser dies horribly, Universal treats their guests to a kickass roller coaster experience. It goes forward and backward at times while offering a blazing amount of heat at a couple of unexpected moments. Revenge of the Mummy reminds me of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in that it’s the right combination of themed attraction and dynamic ride experience.

3. Incredible Hulk Coaster (TPT Ranking: #13 overall)


Yeah, I got nothing. The last time I was at Universal was two weeks before the soft launch of the updated version of Incredible Hulk Coaster. So, you have me at a disadvantage here. I’ll cede to your wisdom on this one. What I will say from watching ride videos is that the intro is AWESOME. The Stargate-ish setup prior to exploding into daylight is a design masterpiece.

2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (TPT Ranking: #10 overall)

In your eyes, the debate over the best attraction at Universal Resort Orlando comes down to two attractions. And you’re not the only one to think that way. At the Golden Ticket Awards, your twin favorites have absolutely dominated during the 21st century. Amusement Today has selected one of them as Best Dark Ride 15 out of the last 16 years.

The more venerable of the two is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, a ride so great that it became the de facto blueprint for Universal’s expansion. Think about all the popular motion simulation attractions at the park today. The reason Universal keeps making them is that they’re easy to do, the theming takes care of itself, and the ride throughput is tremendous. They learned all of these things thanks to the success of a simple story about Spider-Man saving the day once again. As I said in my Behind the Ride piece, it’s “one of the most influential rides of the 20th century, one whose impact is still felt today.” Personally, I would rank it ahead of the next title, but as you’ll see in a moment, it’s still not my favorite Universal attraction.

1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (TPT Ranking: #6 overall)

Your favorite ride at Universal Orlando Resort is the most obvious one. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey almost single-handedly reversed the fortunes of the company. Prior to its arrival, Universal was a struggling competitor who lacked any advantage over their more storied neighbor at Walt Disney World. Then, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter arrived. Suddenly, they had a selling point so remarkable that Disney has become the imitator, with Pandora and Star Wars Land introduced in the wake of its success.

While the entire Hogsmeade area is a triumph, it needed a central selling point, an attraction so good that it would sell tickets. And that’s the Harry Potter experience, a motion simulator employing the same premises from Spider-Man, only expanding them into the world created by JK Rowling. Universal ride designers contemplated all the recurring elements from the seven books in the series, eventually settling on a few key elements to implement.

Thanks to this technological, well, wizardry, riders fly over the architecture of Hogwarts, they interrupt a Quidditch match, and they come face to face with bone-chilling Dementors. In only four minutes, a person receives the full Harry Potter treatment. It’s the type of theming that transports a person to a faraway land. The strategy may have been invented by Walt Disney but Universal concocted their version in a witch’s brew. A true masterpiece, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the most important ride at any Universal theme park. I completely understand why you’ve declared it your favorite.

As for what you got wrong, let’s just say that if I were grading your paper, there’d be a lot of red ink. On the old school front, you left out Men in Black: Alien Attack, a terrible oversight. For more recent updates, this Simpsons fanatic simply cannot believe that The Simpsons Ride isn’t in the top five, much less completely excluded. For that matter, Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl would make my list. And while I’m being a fanboy, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem is a total joy from start to finish. I even love the pre-show line.

Also, while I personally hate the ride for repeatedly crotching me, I also feel like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at least deserves a mention. While I’m not a fan, it probably deserves a nod more than a Dr. Seuss carousel. Similarly, while I, like all good-hearted people, hate the collected works of Michael Bay, Transformers: The Ride probably deserves a mention.

Then, we move along to the most obvious exclusion. THE best thing at Universal Studios anywhere in the world right now is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. It should head this list and deserves a spot in the overall top five of TPT’s Top 100. Instead, it’s not even listed. I just don’t understand that at all. Do you people hate dragons? Are you all bankers and cops who loathe the idea of a robbery? The whole thing makes me want to break out my Harry Potter wand ($79.99 MSRP…I got the Sirius Black one if you’re wondering) and cast the Imperius Curse on you so that I can MAKE you vote for Escape from Gringotts.