Universal Studios’ Race Through New York Adds Extra to Tour of NYC

Jimmy Fallon Universal Studios
Publicity image from Universal Studios for the Race Through New York ride.

When I was headed to Orlando, Florida last month, I instantly marked down Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure as a must-visit because of the Harry Potter attractions.

But when I asked the Universal press contact what was new at the Studio that might interest readers, she pointed to Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and thought we might enjoy it. I admit I was skeptical. A ride based on New York City when the city itself is basically the biggest, craziest tourist attraction there is? Hard to improve upon or surprise those who’ve been to the city, I thought.

My skepticism vanished. The Tonight Show ride is sheer fun, utilizing 3D video technology plus motion tech built into the seating to take riders all over New York City, and beyond, it offers a way you can never see the city, usually, and that’s by zooming through the air around the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. (There is more, but I would hate to spoil the whole ride.)

The ride was enhanced by the immersive presentation, with an entrance nicely disguised as part of a replica of the NBC studio building in New York City. Riders will feel like they are attending a taping of The Tonight Show, and spend time in a holding area with comfortable seating. This means that almost the entire wait for the ride is inside and air-conditioned, a not-insignificant factor when visiting Florida in the summer.

The Race Through New York ride was one of the highlights of the two parks for me, along with The Mummy ride, and, OF COURSE, the Harry Potter attractions, including Diagon Alley, where we had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron; Hogsmeade (over in Islands of Adventure); the Escape from Gringgots ride; and, our favorite ride of the trip, the “just like in the movies” Hogwarts Express.

Hedwig’s ready for the Hogwarts Express! Photo by Corrina Lawson

So here are five other things you should know about visiting these two Universal parks:

  • Hands-down, the most immersive experience at the park is the Hogwarts Express. It’s not an amusement ride, per se, it’s more properly called an experience. The Express runs between the two Harry Potter attractions in the two parks, but it feels exactly like riding the Hogwarts Express in the movies, complete with video effects of the English countryside out the window (and appearances by familiar characters/sights from the books) but also with voices inside the train on the outside of the compartment and silhouettes imposed on the interior windows. Outstanding. And ride it both ways, if you can.
  • Splurge for the Express Pass. So helpful, especially with younger children. It just makes the day smoother and less stressful.
  • If you’re going in summer, know that you will be doing a ton of walking, as both Harry Potter attractions are at the backs of their respective parks. There is no transportation to easily get back to the entrances of the parks. You have to hoof it. We walked over 7 miles one day in July, which just about did us in and will likely do young kids in big time. I would wish for more misting stations and more shade in the parks as well. Have water handy to hydrate.
  • Buy a wand because they’re equipped with the technology that allows wand-bearers to activate items all over the Harry Potter areas. Yes, you can wave your wand at the stores in Hogsmeade and the chocolate frogs will start moving.
  • The stores in Diagon Alley had some familiar items–like wands–that sometimes can be found elsewhere, but much of the clothing seems exclusive to the park. I left with a couple of excellent house shirts.

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Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.