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Universal on a Budget: Enjoying Free Attractions at Universal Studios Florida

Thrifty Theme Park Adventures

Welcome to “Thrifty Theme Park Adventures!” As an ardent theme park lover, I understand that fun-filled theme park adventures can sometimes strain your wallet. That’s why I’ve created this column to help you navigate exhilarating theme park lands without burning a hole in your pocket. Each column will unravel a world of budget-friendly secrets, free activities, and innovative spending strategies specifically tailored for different theme parks around the globe. Read a new “Thrifty Theme Park Adventures” every other Thursday. The goal is to make every penny count while ensuring your theme park experience is as enchanting and unforgettable as ever. ~ Samantha

Universal Studios Florida is where anyone who loves television and movies can come to see their favorite shows and films brought to life through rides, attractions, and live performances.

First opening to the public on June 7th, 1990, Universal Studios Florida, which is owned and operated by mass media giant NBCUniversal, was created as a competitor to their famous neighbor, Walt Disney World.

With the success of their sister site, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Florida was intended to give visitors an inside look into movies and television as they were being made. But, as opportunities to make films and TV shows in Florida waned, the park’s design began to transition into the park we know today.

Many rides and attractions since have been created in collaboration with the directors, producers, and actors who worked on the actual movies or television shows to give guests as authentic and thrilling of an experience as possible.

Eventually, the success of Universal Studios Florida led to the birth of two additional parks: Islands of Adventure, which opened in 1999, and Volcano Bay, a water park that opened in 2017.

Visitors to Universal Studios currently have three dynamic parks to choose from in addition to CityWalk, which has many options for dining, drinking, shopping, and entertainment. While CityWalk doesn’t cost anything to enter, the three main theme parks all cost between $80 to just over $200 per ticket depending on the day and type of ticket you purchase (one park admission or a park-to-park pass), and that doesn’t include the addition of the Express Pass or Unlimited Express Pass that allows you to bypass some or all of the lines for the most popular rides and attractions.

Don’t let the cost of tickets and upgraded passes discourage you from visiting this awesome theme park, though. Once inside, you will be treated to some of the most awe-inspiring rides and attractions you’ve ever experienced.

It is possible, however, to keep that wallet closed once you’ve entered the gates of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The rides are included in the price of a regular park ticket, and there are loads of other free attractions you won’t want to miss out on, some with no line at all!

Let’s discuss the free attractions and experiences you’ll find at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.


Universal Studios Florida

Dive into the Thrills: Bourne Stuntacular’s Unmatched Live-Action Experience

Based on the novels and films about Jason Bourne, the Bourne Stuntacular brings live-action to the stage like you have never seen before.

The production follows anti-hero Jason Bourne as villains pursue him while he dodges danger at every turn. You’ll be treated to wild chases, fistfights, acrobatics, and crazy stunts that will not only entertain you but teach you how they pull off amazing fight scenes and over-the-top stunts while maintaining the safety of everyone on set.

Buckle up, because the Bourne Stuntacular show is action-packed and guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Magic of the Hogwarts Express: More Than Just a Ride

The Hogwarts Express is part ride and part mode of transportation between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

You can board the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station in the London area of Universal Studios and get off at Hogsmeade Station at Islands of Adventure or vice versa.

Without spoiling any surprises, you and the other passengers will see familiar faces and places from the Harry Potter books and films just outside the window. You may witness your favorite characters get themselves in and out of some trouble, and, of course, there will be magic.

If you can, ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions. This may seem redundant, but what you see outside of the train window changes depending on which direction you’re going in.

Why walk from park to park when you can have a magical ride instead?

Hogwarts Express

Creating Chills: Dive into the Art of Horror Makeup and Effects

Have you ever wondered how movies and television create creepy characters, gory effects, and chilling costumes?

If so, you’ll love Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show, which is a horrifyingly hilarious live show that teaches guests how the experts make scary characters and spine-chilling effects.

You’ll be shocked at the laughs that come with learning how to make fake blood look authentic.

There is also a treasure trove of props and costumes from classic horror films that you can check out and grab pictures.

While all ages are welcome at this show, some images and themes may not be appropriate for younger viewers or anyone with a queasy stomach, so viewer discretion is advised.

Become the Ultimate Villain at Universal Studios’ Newest Attraction: Villain-Con Minion Blast

Muggles Welcome: Hogsmeade’s Triwizard Spirit Rally Lights Up The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In the summer of 2023, one of Universal Studios’ most anticipated attractions finally opened; Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast brings to life despicable villains like Jean Clawed and Belle Bottom from the film Minions: Rise of the Gru.

When you enter this attraction, you’ll be tasked with rising through the ranks and becoming the top villain. As you move through the line, you’ll see cool gadgets, vehicles, and costumes straight from the film.

You’ll then be given your E-Liminator X blaster, and the mayhem will begin.

You’ll be placed on a moving conveyor belt that takes you to different lairs, each belonging to a separate supervillain. Using your blaster, you’ll shoot Freeze Rays, Explosive Nunchucks, and Banana Bombs as you compete to be the biggest baddie there.

If you want to take your life of crime to the next level, you can sync your blaster with The Official Universal Orlando Resort App and track your score, participate in special missions, and enjoy many other perks.

So, what is “Gru” waiting for? Check out Illumination’s Villian-Con Minion Blast and learn just how good you are at being bad!


Universal Islands of Adventure

Muggles Welcome: Hogsmeade’s Triwizard Spirit Rally Lights Up The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Over at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade is the Triwizard Spirit Rally, where the schools of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang lead a procession for the Triwizard Tournament.

The rivaling houses compete and treat the audience to stunts, fight scenes, and dancing in a variety show that will even dazzle the Muggles who aren’t Harry Potter fans.

Which school will you root for to take it all?

Discover Dr. Seuss, Dinosaurs, and Ships: Kid-Friendly Play Zones

Inside the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, you will quite literally discover our planet’s prehistoric past through hands-on activities and educational exhibits.

Step inside this interactive museum, where there are no height restrictions, and you can explore at your own pace, as the Discovery Center is one of the few places in Islands of Adventure where you are unlikely to encounter any lines.

You and your family can help with DNA sequencing, dig for dino fossils, and check out the dinosaur eggs in the nursery. You may even witness the birth of a baby dinosaur!

Of course, there are also full-size models of various dinosaurs and fossils to marvel at, with plenty of chairs and tables for you to take a load off and enjoy the air conditioning.

You won’t be dino-sorry to visit.

The castle transforms at night.

When Night Falls: The Sinister Magic of Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle Show

When night falls over Islands of Adventure, sinister creatures come out to play.

Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle is a light show with music that is projected onto the façade of Hogwarts Castle in Hogsmeade. Find a good spot and watch the Dementors, Death Eaters, and Lord Voldemort himself wreak havoc on the castle.

Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle has replaced the previous show, The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, which focused on celebrating the Hogwarts Houses Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Whether the show you catch celebrates the heroes or villains of Harry Potter, this stunning spectacle of light and music will leave you absolutely enchanted.

That’s a Wrap!

With so many things to do and see at Universal Studios Florida, you will undoubtedly be looking forward to your trip to this famous theme park. What you may not be looking forward to, however, is the cost that comes with enjoying Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of thrilling things to do that won’t have you worrying about having to carry some extra coin.

Whether going behind the scenes, fighting bad guys, being the bad guy, or witnessing magic, you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time.

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Samantha Goldberg

Samantha Goldberg is a freelance writer and the co-founder of WriteNow Freelancing. She enjoys writing about theme parks, traveling, and dining around the world. Her content is aimed at helping audiences learn more about the places they are planning to visit as well as discovering new and unexpected locations that are worthy of a vacation.

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