19 tips and tricks to master Universal Orlando theme parks like a pro

Use the Hogwarts train wisely to to navigate between Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure to make the most of your stay at the parks. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

If you head to Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, you’ve probably spent time trying to figure out the best way to navigate and master both parks.

Any theme park can be overwhelming if it’s your first time or if you’re trying to tackle more than one park in a short time. If you’re just trying to get on all of the attractions during your stay, you may miss out on some of the gems the parks have to offer that can make your stay a lot more special.

Here are some tips I learned from the Universal team and from visiting the park over the years for you to make the most of your trip.

Access a secret playlist while riding Rip Ride RockIt roller coaster.

Why listen to one of the usual 30 songs on this coaster when there are so many more you can access? Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

If you’re tired of the same song options Universal Studios’ Rip Ride RockIt coaster offers for you to listen to during the 97-second ride, there are over 60 more songs you can listen to while you soar through the sky.

You can access a secret playlist by holding down the ride logo on the touch screen when you sit down.

The moment you get on the ride, hold down the ride logo on the touch screen to access the secret playlist. If done correctly, you should see a keypad appear. You can then enter a three digit code to listen to tunes ranging from Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” (Code: 306) to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” (Code: 113)

You just need to do some homework ahead of time and know the code you’ll want to use. You can view the full list of secret songs here and read detailed instructions on how to access the music list here.

If you’re a “Fast & Furious” fan, make your way slowly through the ride’s queue.

‘Fast & Furious: Supercharged’ opened at Universal Studios in Florida in April. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

The “Fast & Furious: Supercharged” ride, which opened in April, is full of a lot of nods to the movies and previous rides. One of our favourites is a tribute to Paul Walker, who played Dominic Toretto’s brother-in-law and race buddy. He died in a car crash in November 2013.

As you enter the queue, a Corona bottle lying on its side is knocked over in remembrance of Walker.

You can read about more Easter eggs you may miss on the “Fast & Furious” attraction here.

Go the single-rider route on the “Fast and Furious” ride to see some special Easter eggs.

Here’s a look at the full trophy case. The ‘Harry Potter’ key and title deed are in the lower right-hand corner. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

If you’re a “Harry Potter” fan, you’re going to want to make a pit stop at “Fast & Furious: Supercharged.”

On the single rider queue is a trophy case displaying title deeds and keys to famous fictional cars, including Bo Darville’s Pontiac Trans Am in “Smokey and the Bandit” and Doc Brown’s DeLorean keys from “Back to the Future.”

At the bottom right-hand corner of the display case is the title deed to Arthur Weasley’s 1962 Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe. That’s the car Ron Weasley and Harry Potter steal in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Next to the deed are the keys with a rubber chicken attached on the key ring.

You can read more on how to find the “Harry Potter” Easter egg here.

Try to avoid being in the very front or all the way to the left “Fast and Furious” ride.

It is not actually this dark in the loading dock room. Best of Orlando/YouTube, Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

A VIP tour guide told me the best seats on Supercharged were one of the last two rows of the first party bus and that you should aim to sit more toward the middle or right side.

You don’t get to pick the row you’re assigned to, but if you’re in the very front, the illusion of the ride starts to fade. You may be pulled out of the magic of the ride a bit as you’re able to see the edges of the large screens on either side of you and the roof of the warehouse building you’re inside.

If you sit too far to the left, you’ll find yourself craning and stretching your neck over other heads to try and see what’s going on. If you’ve been on the ride before, this isn’t so much of a problem, but if it’s your first time on the ride, that’s not where you want to sit to get the best view.

You can read our review of “Fast & Furious: Supercharged” here.

The best coaster to go on at sunset is the Hulk at Islands of Adventure.

Make sure you time your visit to the Hulk coaster right. Kirsten Acuna/NSIDER

This was what a Universal employee recommended to me because it hangs a bit over the water at Islands of Adventure. When you’re on the ride, you’ll face the direction in which the sun sets.

If you’re not riding a coaster at sunset, capture the perfect photo of the Hogwarts castle near the Islands of Adventure park entrance.

This photo was taken in late June at 8:30 p.m. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

Head to the edge of the Port of Entry near the park’s entrance to get this shot. You can find it on the park’s map here.

The best seat to ride Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the ninth or 10th row.

Sometimes opting for one of the last seats is better. Universal Orlando

Again, don’t go for the front. Why? I was told you’ll see the most of Kong at the ride’s very end of the Islands of Adventure ride.

If you need a break from some of the more intense rides, head to the Dr. Seuss area at Islands of Adventure.

If you’re older, you probably march straight through it on your way to the ‘Harry Potter’ part of the park. But you’d miss views like this. SoCal Theme Parks 360

If you can’t do roller coasters back-to-back or if the heat starts to get to you, rest your head and cool down on The High in the Sky Suess Trolley Train Ride. Yes, it’s a kiddie ride, but, honestly, it reminds us of Disney World’s PeopleMover. It’s a relaxing tour around the Seuss Landing area of the park.

The best part is that it’s kind of nestled away in the Seuss Landing area of the park and never really has too long of a wait. Plus, you get some good photo ops of the park. It’s worth noting that the trolley train moves along different tracks. So it’s worth heading back for different experiences.

Sometimes, the train heads through the Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous so you may get to head through a restaurant and look at guests below.

Don’t pay for the squirt guns to spray riders in Toon Lagoon. There are free ones if you know where to look.

Me Ship, The Olive has a few squirt cannons you don’t need to pay for. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

In Toon Lagoon, there are a number of inexpensive coin-operated squirt guns to spray water at unsuspecting riders on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.

If you don’t have some coins on you, head over to the Me Ship, The Olive and you’ll find some non-stationary water cannons you can use for free.

Need a place to get away from all of the noise? Head to Sweethaven in the Popeye area of Toon Lagoon.

Here’s the view from the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

It’s easy to pass by the Popeye area in Toon Lagoon. The main road will take you straight to the Skull Island attraction. But if you stay in Toon Lagoon, there’s a little walkway tucked deep in the park just behind Me Ship, The Olive.

It’s not a spot where you would think to go. The giant ship is a playground for kids. Head on past that and there’s a nice lookout spot where you can view the rest of the park.

There’s a nod to the old Twister attraction outside Jimmy Fallon’s ride.

This is easy to miss since you wouldn’t have much reason to walk past the entrance door to the Jimmy Fallon ride. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

When Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon opened at Universal Studios in 2017, it replaced the park’s Twister ride. Before you head into the attraction, walk past the door to a display window showcasing a bunch of old knick-knacks.

Eagle-eyed fans may spot an ad for Twister cola to the far left on a back wall.

While you’re on the ride, look for Fallon’s family.

Jimmy Fallon and his wife, producer Nancy Juvonen, attend the 2013 Time 100 Gala. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

During the first checkpoint of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, look to the left and you’ll see Fallon’s wife and kids off to the left. It’s a quick moment and easy to miss if you don’t know where to look.

There’s a giant interactive element on The Mummy ride queue to spook guests.

Here’s the box where you need to place your hand. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

Early on in the Mummy ride you’ll come across a giant chest in the middle of a room. It’s not obvious in the dark room, but there are two different locations to place hands.

A sign nearby reads, “Evil By One Hand Protection By Two.” If a park guest places one hand out of curiosity on the box, you’ll “unleash evil” in the room. That evil consists of a burst of air spraying from the ground at some unsuspecting people in line.

If two people place their hands on different parts of the box at the same exact time, a symbol of the Medjai, protective warriors, appears on the ceiling. It may take a few times to get just right. No one seemed to know about this when I visited, so it’s a good one to try out.

Head to the red telephone booth outside of King’s Cross station and dial 62442 (MAGIC) on the phone inside.

That booth isn’t just for taking photos. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

You won’t get to have a conversation, but you will get a voicemail from the Ministry of Magic.

There’s another pathway to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that isn’t always open.

Head there to snap a different angle of Hogsmeade. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

A lot of guests head over the bridge from the “Jurassic Park” section to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and snag the perfect castle photo, but there’s a parallel bridge across the way that’s usually less crowded.

You can get to it from behind the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, but there’s a catch.

It’s usually accessible to park employees, but when the area becomes too crowded it’s opened up to guests. It’s one of those pathways that’s good to know about because the bridge doesn’t even show up on the park’s official map.

If you have a postcard or letter handy, you can get a stamp of Hogsmeade on it for free.

Here’s how the postmark looks. And, yes, you can drop your mail off right there to be sent off. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

In Islands of Adventure, head underneath the owl post in Hogsmeade. Right outside the Dervish and Banges store, there’s a table set up with a Universal employee where you can go to get a special Hogsmeade postmark. All you have to do is ask.

Head to the bathrooms in Diagon Alley and you’re guaranteed to get a kick out of the lock on the doors.

I usually try to avoid the public restrooms at theme parks, but this small detail made me smile. Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

The amount of attention to detail in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so immense that we shouldn’t have been surprised to find the locks on the bathroom doors are tiny vault handles. It’s the perfect nod to the enormous Gringotts bank a few doors down where wizards head to visit their bank vaults.

That’s not it. The best part is that the tiny spokes actually turn.

How to get into Diagon Alley faster: Stay on Universal property to get into the parks an hour earlier and ride the Hogwarts Express during the 7 a.m. hour.

This may seem like an obvious decision, since staying on Universal property allows you to get into the parks an hour earlier, but there’s a twist.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is scattered across two of Universal Orlando Resort’s parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (IOA). Universal Studios, which houses the Hogwarts castle, Hogsmeade, and Flight of the Hippogriff, opens daily at 8 a.m. IOA opens one hour later and is home to Diagon Alley and the popular Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts attraction.

If you’re staying at a Universal resort, you can access those parks at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., respectively. However, if you know your way around Universal Studios, you can get into IOA before 8 a.m. You just can’t go through the main entrance.

The Hogwarts Express connects the two parks and guests can ride the train as long as they have a two-park ticket. This is your key to getting into Diagon Alley earlier.

What to do: Get to Universal’s IOA at 7 a.m. and head right to the Hogwarts Express. As long as you have a park-to-park ticket, you’ll be able to ride the train over to Universal Studios, which doesn’t open for another hour. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to line up to wait to get into Diagon Alley before most other parkgoers.

I tested this out on a family trip in 2014 right after Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts opened in Universal Studios. Right at 8 a.m., we were allowed inside Diagon Alley as others were just entering the park’s main entrance. It was still a 90-minute wait for me at this time, a few short weeks after the attraction opened, but it was much better than the six-hour waits the ride had during its busiest times of day.

You’ll want to keep these tips in mind as a new Harry Potter attraction is set to open at Universal Islands of Adventure in 2019.

If you want a sneak peek at the new Harry Potter coaster coming to the parks, head to Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall in Islands of Adventure.

Sorry for no photos of the view. I valued my phone! Universal Studios

Ask a park worker if you can sit on a side with a park view. Not only do you get a nice bird’s-eye view of Islands of Adventure, but if you look toward the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it’s the best view of the construction taking place on the park’s new coaster.