5 Mind-Blowing Universal Orlando Resort Secrets
All photos by Barry Kaufman
The sprawling acreage of Universal Orlando Resort’s twin theme parks — Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida — assure that there is no shortage of tucked-away corners concealing hidden gems for the curious.
Did you know that fresh citrus grows just outside Poseidon’s Fury, not far from a bridge hiding its own troll? Or that legendary comic book artist Adam Kubert hid his signature all over Marvel Superhero Island? Or that if you dial “MAGIC” (62442) in the phone booth outside Diagon Alley you can reach the Ministry of Magic?
But there are secrets at these parks that are far more alluring. Secrets that can, in fact, help you bypass the lines at some of your favorite rides, alter your experience and even go behind the scenes. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites.
The Secret Spells of Diagon Alley
The near-magical wands of Ollivander’s in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade work in conjunction with a slew of magic spells, marked throughout both Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter locations by brass plaques set into the floor.
But in Diagon Alley, the sharp-eyed witch or wizard will find that there are a few that have been left unmarked. Head over to Scribbulus Writing Implements and wave your wand across the enchanted parchment to reveal a hidden message (which varies depending on your wand), or enchant the vat of dragon dung at Slug and Jigger’s Apothecary to reveal a wonderful… earthy fragrance.
Keep an eye out for four red dots arrayed around the sensor to discover where to aim your enchantment on these secret spells.
Skip the Lines Out Front
Already have your ticket but don’t want to wait in line at the turnstiles out front? There’s a secret entrance to Universal Studios Florida just to the right of the Blue Man Group entrance. No lines, no waiting (and the attendant is generally pretty lonely, guarding a secret entrance and all; they’d probably love the company).
Check Out A (Literal) Chunk of History
And as long as you’re over by the Blue Man Group entrance, take a moment to head left and check out the section of the Berlin Wall tucked away in a back garden behind Hard Rock Cafe. Oh, you don’t think a piece of the Berlin Wall counts as musical memorabilia? Our friend David Hasselhoff would beg to differ.
Rip Ride and Rock Out However You Want
One of the unique features of The Rip Ride Rockit, apart from its gut-heaving vertical ascent, is the touchscreen on each seat that lets you customize the experience by selecting your own music. But if you’re just not feeling the 30 tracks that show up on the ride’s default menu, you can access hundreds of extra tracks by pressing on the logo at the top of the screen for around 10 seconds.
Once you release it, a number pad will show up, where you can enter a three-digit code to select the song of your choosing. You can see the full list here, but just to save you time, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” is No. 113 and if there’s a better song to ride a roller coaster to, we have yet to hear it.
Always Ask for The Tour
This is the most important secret there is — the secret to skipping the long lines at some of the busiest rides in the park. It’s actually very simple: just ask to take the tour. This tour varies by ride, but it always results in something amazing and, if you play your cards right, a direct walk onto the ride.
At Men in Black, for example, asking to take the immigration tour will let you poke around down below where Idikiukup and Bob are busy manning the controls. You can leaf through high-security MiB paperwork (including immigration papers for Star Wars’ Admiral Ackbar) or just wave to the people above wondering how you got down there. Then, if you ask nicely, you walk right onto the ride.
Where this really comes in handy is on the “Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey” and “Harry Potter and Escape from Gringotts” rides. Simply ask for the “Castle Tour” (Forbidden Journey) or the “Bank Tour” (Gringotts) and you will be ushered down the single riders line, regardless of how many are in your party. Sign says there’s a 45 minute wait? Not for you.
Now we can't always guarantee you'll be able to walk right onto the ride, we can only report that this is a sort of open secret among regular park devotees (and employees), and one for which we can provide first-hand confirmation. On a day when both rides boasted 30-plus minute waits, we were able to walk right on to both.
Now go forth, armed with the knowledge of these crucial Universal Orlando Resort secrets, and make the most out of your park visit.
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