Unlock more magic: 16 Universal Orlando secrets to know before your next trip

Apr 27, 2022

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As a child, I had three goals during our family theme park trips — ride as many roller coasters, hug as many characters and eat as much ice cream as humanly possible. In all my (sugar) rushing around, I was missing out on a lot of the details and secrets that make theme parks so special.

The park that offers more of those details than any other, in my humble opinion, is Universal Orlando Resort. Now that I’m a bit older (and slower), I relish the opportunity to explore the parks and uncover the Easter eggs, little-known experiences and magic moments hidden in plain sight.

I’m not the best at keeping secrets, so I am going to share my favorites with you so that you can enjoy them during your next visit.

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In This Post

Universal Studios Florida secrets

Take a free behind-the-scenes tours

View of queue area at Men In Black Alien Attack ride at Universal Orlando
The immigration room at Men In Black Alien Attack. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Unlike the VIP tours, you won’t find these tours on Universal’s website or in any guidebook, but there are a few select attractions where you can get a behind-the-scenes tour from a Universal team member upon request.

On a recent visit, I asked for the “Immigration Tour” at the entrance to Men In Black Alien Attack. Unfortunately, nobody was available to give the tour during this visit — but the team member said it never hurts to ask and if you get a “no” at the entrance, try again at the unload area after you ride.

During the tour, a team member will escort you to an immigration room that looks straight out of the MIB films. You can take photos and get a close-up look at the aliens working the front desk. After your tour, the team member will typically escort you to the front of the line so you can get right on the ride.

I’ve heard of other Universal visitors having success getting a “backstage tour” on Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Revenge of the Mummy, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Skull Island: Reign of Kong and Jurassic World: VelociCoaster.

While the tours may not be available during your visit, it’s always worth asking — especially when the park isn’t too busy.

Rock to secret tracks on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

Entrance to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster at Universal Orlando
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is a music-themed coaster. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Coasters don’t usually have much interactivity, but on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, you get to choose the soundtrack for your ride. After you are secured in the ride vehicle, you’ll see a screen on the lap bar with a selection of songs you can listen to during your ride. But, there’s actually a separate list of hidden tracks you can access if you know the secret.

Related: How to use points to save money at Universal Orlando

Instead of choosing a music genre as instructed, hold your finger down on the Rip Ride Rockit logo for about 10 seconds and you’ll be prompted to enter a 3-digit code that corresponds to a song. Theme park news site Touring Plans has a full list of songs and their corresponding codes so you can rock while you roll.

If you see a pay phone, pick it up

Child on phone
Wait for the phone to ring, then pick it up. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

This tip applies to all of Universal Orlando’s parks, not just Universal Studios Florida. There are a handful of pay phones around the park that are silently begging for you to pick them up and see who is on the other end.

My son tried one out in the Simpsons area of Universal Studios Florida next to Cletus’s Chicken Shack. He picked it up when it rang and, from what I can gather, a girl told him she lost her purse, but her phone number was on a piece of paper in the purse and if he found it and saw any cute boys, please give them her number.

There’s also a message waiting for you at the phone outside of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in Islands of Adventure.

The final one is in the red phone booth in the London area of Universal Studios Florida. If you dial 62442 (MAGIC) from the black rotary phone in the booth, you’ll hear a “wizarding” message from the Ministry of Magic.

Discover real theme park props

Clothing on mannequins
Some of the clothing on display in the Prop Shop. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

The “prop shop” sign outside this Williams of Hollywood store in the Hollywood section of the park is not just a clever name. Inside the shop, you’ll find real props and memorabilia from Universal Orlando attractions, shows and special events.

Related: Is Universal’s Express Pass worth it? TPG tested how much time it really saves you in line

During my last visit, I saw 3D glasses and shields from the defunct Shrek 4D attraction and facades from last year’s limited-time holiday-themed tribute store. There’s also a large selection of jewelry, costumes and accessories that have been used by in-park performers and, yes, I do plan to purchase a few pieces for my own closet.

Relive the Jaws ride

Record store window display
One of these albums is a Jaws Easter egg. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Jaws opened in 1990 along with the rest of Universal Studios. The ride was surrounded by a replica of Amity Island that looked much like the backdrop for Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller.

The entire Amity Island area, including the Jaws ride, closed in 2012 to make way for the Diagon Alley section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Though the Jaws ride is long gone, references to the famed shark surround the area near The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The record store facade outside the entrance to Diagon Alley has a copy of “Here’s to Swimming with Bow Legged Women” by The Quint Trio displayed in the front window, a nod to shark hunter Quint’s toast with Chief Brody in the film.

In The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Knockturn Alley, if you use your interactive wand to cast a spell on the collection of shrunken heads, they will occasionally sing “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” a song that was featured in the “Jaws” film.

Islands of Adventure secrets

Decorative stone fountain
Watch out, this fountain spits water. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Beware of the fountain that ‘spits’ knowledge

At Islands of Adventure, the Lost Continent is based on ancient myths from around the globe. Within Sinbad’s Bazaar section of the land there’s an innocent-looking mystic fountain carved from stone. If you approach the fountain, though, you’ll find it’s not quite as innocent as it looks.

According to legend, a mischievous water spirit inhabits the fountain and enjoys engaging in playful banter with guests. Walk up and say hi next time you visit, but I must warn you that you may get wet. It’s called a mischievous water spirit for a reason.

Spot Stan Lee on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride

Entrance to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride
You can find Stan Lee four different times inside this ride. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Stan Lee, the Marvel comics founder and creator of dozens of comic book characters, cameoed in many Marvel films before his death in 2018 at the age of 95.

Today, he lives on through his characters and his cameos, including multiple appearances in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction in Marvel Super Hero Island. He can be seen four times during the ride.

You can first spot him driving a truck that almost crashes into your vehicle and he makes a few more cameos in the ride’s final scene after you (spoiler alert) save the day. 

Learn the backstory to The Incredible Hulk Coaster’s broken track

Hulk holding roller coaster track outside The Incredible Hulk Coaster
Before Hulk broke it, that was real roller coaster track. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

The original version of Universal’s The Incredible Hulk Coaster opened in 1999. It closed in 2015 for a major refurbishment and reopened in 2016 with a new storyline, paint job, trains and track sections. But not all of the old elements of the coaster were scrapped.

To enter the current ride, you pass under a large statue of The Incredible Hulk holding a roller coaster train car. He appears to be ripping it from a section of broken coaster track. That track is real track that was recycled from the previous iteration of the ride.

Skip the line with a certificate for meeting thrill ride height requirements

Mom and son at Universal Orlando
Growing tall enough for Hulk is a right of passage in our family. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

This next secret starts off sad, but I promise it has a happy ending. During a 2021 visit to Universal, my son was just a hair too short to ride The Incredible Hulk Coaster. He was devastated, but they gave him a certificate that would allow him to head directly to the front of the line once he reached the required minimum height of 54 inches.

Related: 5 Reasons Universal Studios Is Better Than Disney World for Families

We saved the certificate and on our recent visit, he proudly displayed it to the ride attendant who confirmed he was tall enough and escorted us through the ride exit so we could get on the ride with no wait. They even congratulated him for his accomplishment.

Other thrill rides at Universal offer similar certificates, so if your child doesn’t quite measure up, you can ask an attendant if one is available.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade secrets

Find a drain-dwelling visitor from the movies in the bathroom

Hogsmeade Village at Universal Orlando
Caution, these bathrooms may be haunted by Harry Potter characters. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

If you are familiar with the Harry Potter movies, Moaning Myrtle is a former student who was killed in the 1940s during her time at Hogwarts. Her spirit went on to haunt the second-floor girls’ bathroom at the school.

If you happen to find yourself in the women’s restrooms in Hogsmeade (they’re located across from the Three Broomsticks restaurant), don’t be surprised if you hear a familiar bathroom-haunting voice.

Send a postcard with a Hogsmeade postmark

Parcels stacked and waiting to be mailed
The Owl Post is located next door to Dervish and Banges. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

If you felt bad leaving your muggle friends behind when you matriculated to Hogwarts, you can send them a postcard with an official Hogsmeade postmark.

All you have to do is visit the Owl Post, purchase your postcards and stamps, pen a few kind words and add the send-to address and a team member will stamp it with a Hogsmeade postmark.

When your postcard is ready to go, drop it in the box at the outdoor Owl Post station and an owl will ensure it arrives safely at its destination.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley secrets

Follow the winding paths of Knockturn Alley … and learn dark magic secrets

Shrunked heads singing in a window at Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Knockturn alley is dark and seedy, but that’s the appeal. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t immediately know Knockturn Alley existed in the theme park version of Harry Potter. It was my second or third visit to Diagon Alley before I peered down the dark, foreboding walkway to discover an expansive (but still dark and foreboding) replica of Knockturn Alley.

Once inside, you can perform wand spells, peruse Dark Arts artifacts in Borgin and Burkes and indulge your Slytherin side.

Observe the Leaky Cauldron that actually leaks

Wrought iron sign outside a brick building
It’s easy to miss, but this sign actually leaks water. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

The Leaky Cauldron is a pub and inn that made multiple appearances in the Harry Potter books and films. It was a popular spot for witches and wizards, including Harry himself.

Inside, the Universal Orlando location serves traditional British fare, but if you look above the entrance before stepping inside, you’ll see a wrought-iron sign with a witch stirring a cauldron.

There is a small crack in the cauldron and, if you watch for a few seconds, you’ll see that water is actually leaking from the cracked cauldron. I love a restaurant that lives up to its name.

Uncover secret wand spell spots that aren’t on the map

Empty Diagon alley at Universal Orlando
Wands at the ready! (Photo by Sheri Lowen/Getty Images)

When you purchase an interactive wand at Universal (you can get them inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in some Universal hotels and in most Universal gift shops), there is a small, intricately drawn map inside the wand’s box. You can use the map to help you find the interactive wand spots in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but there are a few secret spells not noted on the map.

The easiest way to uncover the secret wand spots is to ask a team member (aka friendly Wizarding World witch or wizard) — but a few spots to try are the parchment in the Scribbulus window and the pot inside the window at Slug and Jiggers.

You can find a few more by viewing your map under the black lights in Knockturn Alley. It may be too dark to see them without the help of your magical map.

Pass through the wall at platform 9 3/4 just like Harry Potter

Hogwarts Express Train
Guests can ride the Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando Resort. (Photo courtesy Universal Orlando)

I don’t recommend testing your wizard skills by attempting to run through any brick wall you come across, but if you try it in the queue for the Hogwarts Express train that travels from the London area of Universal Studios Florida to Hogsmeade, you might find you are a real wizard after all.

When you reach the spot in the queue with a luggage rack between the signage for platforms 9 and 10, you can watch travelers pass through the wall to platform 9 3/4. You don’t actually pass through the wall, of course — a well-placed piece of glass in the luggage rack reflects a fake brick wall that makes it appear as if you are doing so. This “Pepper’s ghost” effect is a simple trick that’s been used for more than 100 years.

Listen to compliments (or a critique) from a talking mirror

There’s a mirror that may comment on your robe. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

When you are admiring yourself in the mirror with the robe you’ve just tried on at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, don’t be surprised if the mirror talks back to you.

Like so many things in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this mirror is magical … and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind. I’ve been lucky enough to have her compliment my taste in robes, but she won’t hold back if she thinks you might look better in a different style.

Bottom line

You don’t have to do and see every single one of these secrets on your next visit, but peppering a few of them into your trips will make your visits that much more memorable — especially when you come away as the in-the-know hero of your vacation.

Featured photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.

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