The lifeblood of any theme park is change. In a world that runs on the twin engines of technology and nostalgia, change is inevitable, but it is also dangerous.
Pick the wrong attraction to keep, pick the wrong one to go and you can affect your relationship with your guests for years to come.
And so, the idea that change is coming to Universal Studios Florida isn’t entirely accurate. It’s already there. It has been there, and it will be there even after the new projects are finished.
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What is the newest ride at Universal Studios?
New rides may depend on when you have last visited the park. There haven’t been many new rides in the past few years.
One of the things that really stands out as you start looking at opening dates for Universal’s attractions is that Universal has really fallen behind in the theme park race.
Epic Universe will make up for that in a big way. It’s expected to open in 2025.
And while Universal is likely focused on Epic Universe, their biggest competition – Disney – has opened TRON, two Star Wars rides, two Pandora rides, Slinky Dog Dash, Guardians of the Galaxy and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure all since 2017.
So, what are the newer rides at Universal? Let’s rank the newest rides.
13. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
This ride hasn’t been new for a while, but it was a big deal when it opened in 2010.
Located under Hogwarts Castle, it’s a ride that has aged well and still remains quite popular.
12. Flight of the Hippogriff
This Harry Potter ride opened the same year as the Forbidden Journey in 2010.
11. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
In July 2012, Universal unleashed the adorable yellow henchmen on the park, and things haven’t been the same since.
10. Transformers: The Ride 3D
Optimus Prime and the team joined the fight to save Earth from the Decepticons in Universal Orlando in 2013.
But unlike some of Universal’s other motion simulators, this ride still feels current.
9. Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
This carnival-style Simpsons ride opened in 2013.
8. Hogwarts Express
This ride is newer than some of its other Harry Potter counterparts. But I think it could use an update.
Back when the ride opened in 2014, it may have boasted innovative screen technology to make it seem like you’re steaming through the United Kingdom, but that technology is already quite dated.
Having seen other tech in the Walt Disney World theme parks, it’s clear that the technology is out there and doable.
7. Escape from Gringotts
This ride was the main attraction in Diagon Alley when it opened in 2014. It’s held up well and remains an excellent, immersive ride.
6. Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Skull Island opened in 2016.
It’s one of the skippable rides though, in my opinion.
For the record, when it comes to Kongs, we’re talking King, not Donkey here.
Donkey Kong will get his own space in Super Nintendo World – along with the Mario Kart new attraction – when Epic Universe opens.
Until then, this ride has a nice mix of state-of-the-art technology and practical ride effects.
5. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
This simulator ride opened in 2017 and replaced the Twister ride.
It will be interesting to see if the ride sticks around. Fallon has been the Tonight Show host for nearly 10 years now. Maybe he wants a Johnny Carson or Jay Leno-type run, but maybe he will want to do something different. Will they keep this ride if he’s not in the chair?
4. Fast & Furious: Supercharged
This Fast & Furious ride opened in 2018.
Even though it’s newer compared to other Universal rides, I think it could be the least popular attraction left in the park.
While the technology isn’t great, the franchise is going strong. I do think they could come up with a better ride, but we’ll see if they want to spend that kind of cash.
3. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
This is one of the most popular rides in Universal Studios Florida theme parks. It opened in the Wizarding World in 2019. It’s a great ride and definitely worth prioritizing when you visit the park.
2. Jurassic World VelociCoaster
This ride, which is maybe the best pure roller coaster in Orlando, opened in 2021.
With a top speed of 70 mph, it is arguably the best time Universal’s Islands of Adventure has to offer.
1. Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast (coming soon)
This ride is so new that it hasn’t opened as of this writing. This attraction will feature Vicious the 6 from “Minions: The Rise of Gru”. It replaces Shrek 4-D, which closed in January 2022.
The Minions are probably Universal’s most valuable IP that’s not Harry Potter related. But, we’ll see if that remains true when the Super Nintendo World opens in Epic Universe in 2025.
What Universal attractions are closing in 2023?
First of all, Poseidon’s Fury has gone the way of the dodo. The outdated and frankly lame attraction will be replaced.
Universal hasn’t announced yet what that will be, but there’s a lot of speculation that this will finally be an entrance point for Legend of Zelda and its hero Link into the Islands of Adventure Park.
Also gone is the Woody Woodpecker Kids Zone at the Universal Orlando Resort which featured the Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse Coaster, Fievel’s Playland, the Curious George Goes to Town play area and the Dreamworks Destination area.
What are some replacements? Well, there are rumors of an interactive animatronic attraction that allows guests to speak with characters from Kung Fu Panda.
These is also speculation about a Secret Life of Pets dark ride like the one in Universal Studios Hollywood. While this is purely speculation, both of these are perplexing choices to me – both as a consumer and as a father of children.
Kung Fu Panda’s cultural footprint is certainly bigger than Secret Life of Pets – but neither is particularly hot right now. Of course, I’d say the same for the How to Train Your Dragon Universe and they’re building an entire land dedicated to at Universal’s Epic Universe.
Is there anything else in danger of closing at Universal Studios Florida?
It’s hard to say. Universal is already pouring millions, if not billions, of dollars in investment into its Florida properties with the construction of its third theme park.
One would think with that kind of investment, the status quo at the other parks would be valued.
Still, there are some areas ripe for discussion of refurbishment, retheming or a complete overhaul based on outdated IP or complicated rights issues like was done with Revenge of the Mummy.
And we’re not talking about the annual winter shutdown to work on water rides like Jurassic Park River Adventure or Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
So, this list isn’t ranked by age, but this is a list of the rides and attractions that would get my vote for refurbishment or – gasp – closure.
4. Marvel Super Hero Island
Look, there are legitimate issues with everything that’s going on with Super Hero Island.
The restaurants aren’t great. The rides – except for the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster – are underwhelming.
Universal acquired the rights to these characters well before the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has changed the way these characters are perceived. It doesn’t help that Disney’s Avengers Campus in California is brand new and superior.
Certainly, three of the four Marvel rides could be easily rethemed. It wouldn’t take much to update the Hulk, Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall and Storm Force Acceltron.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man would be harder to change, but even if Universal keeps the status quo, it needs major work.
Ultimately, I don’t think anything is imminent in terms of change. Marvel is too valuable a property for Universal to just let go, and it seems unlikely that Disney would offer enough to make Universal consider it.
3. Men in Black: Alien Attack
I don’t think anything will happen with this good and popular ride. It’s one of the few Universal offerings with elaborate physical sets.
But Universal is saddled with dozens of fading IP options, and the last few attempts to reinvigorate the franchise have fallen flat.
2. ET Adventure Ride
It would be a sacrilege for Universal to touch this classic ride that was part of the park’s opening. It’s Universal’s only Disney-like chance for a nostalgia connection.
So when they started considering getting rid of the pine scent, (to simulate the forest smells), I worried a little.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is a classic movie that made a giant cultural imprint, but my kids hadn’t even seen it and barely knew who E.T. was. Of course, they absolutely loved the ride despite all that, so I do think E.T. is safe.
1. The Simpsons Ride
Springfield and its elaborate characters like Krusty the Clown are an iconic presence in the park. But – again – Disney owns the non-theme park IP rights.
Maybe there’s a trade down the line for something in the Marvel dimension but for now, you can keep doing the Bartman in security.
What do you think about potential changes at Universal? Let us know in the comments!