Introduction to Universal Orlando

Before you travel to Universal Orlando there are a few things you will want to know. Universal Orlando Resort is made up of two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and a water park, Volcano Bay, plus a shopping and entertainment district, City Walk, and several hotels. 

Universal Studios

This is the original park and is made up of rides and shows featuring various blockbuster movies. From Transformers, to the Simpsons, to The Mummy. This park also includes the London / Diagon Alley section of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Select nights there is a water and lights show celebrating cinema. 

Islands of Adventure 

This second theme park and right next-door to Universal Studios. You can walk between them, or take the Hogwarts Express. This park features several “islands” each themed to a pop culture property such as Dr. Seuss, Jurassic Park, and Marvel Comics. Here you will also find Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmead Village as a part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Each land includes rides and shows. Select nights there is a projection light show on the Hogwarts Castle. 

Both parks feature many characters meet and greet opportunities as well. 

City Walk

Walking distance from both parks is Universal’s City Walk a shopping and dining district. This is a great place to spend your evening after a day in the parks. There are many restaurant options, and for dessert check out Voodoo Doughnuts or Thoothsome’s Chocolate Emporium. There are many bars and clubbing opportunities for nightlife. You can also enjoy the AMC movie theatre, and a miniature golf course. You can even take in a show from The Blue Man Group.

Volcano Bay

Just down the road is Universal’s water park Volcano Bay. Volcano Bay features an all virtual queue system allowing you to sign up for rides you would like to ride and get a notification when it is your turn. Every guest will be provided a “TapuTapu” wrist band to utilize this system. Drastically cutting down on your wait time in line, so you can enjoy yourself in the pools or lazy river, or grab some food while you wait. 

Ticket Options 

There are many ticket options. They are based on the number of days you can visit and how many parks are included in the ticket. Make sure you have a ticket that includes the park or parks you wish to visit. 

If you plan to visit both theme parks in one day make sure you have a park to park ticket. The same goes if you wish to ride the Hogwarts Express and see both side of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

Universal often offers ticket specials if you are booking a package where you can get extra days on your ticket for free. 

Express Pass

Express Pass is Universal Orlando’s version of Disney’s FastPass+. Instead of making a digital reservation for a limited number of rides before your visit Express Pass means you can enter the special express line on all participating attractions. This significantly cuts your wait time in line and allows you the time to experience more rides. Unlike FastPass+ Express Pass is an additional purchase and costs extra money, sometimes almost as much as the ticket itself. 

Universal also has a virtual line system on select attractions. Once you are in the parks you can select a ride time from the provided options, then you will not have to wait in the full line when you return at the reserved time. 

There are two versions of Express Pass:

Universal Express – Where you are use the Express Line one time per participating ride.

Universal Express Unlimited – Where you can use the Express Line an unlimited number of time on each participating ride. 

Mobile App

The Official Universal Orlando Resort phone app is free and a must download before you visit. It has a lot of uses during your visit. 

  • Place mobile food and drink orders while in the park.
  • You can join virtual lines for select attractions, including all of Volcano Bay. 
  • Use it as your ticket and to make purchases. 
  • Review park maps and wait times. 
  • Make a personal to-do list at home and then check it off as you tour the park. 

Food

Universal Orlando features table services and counter service restaurants at both theme parks as well as plenty of snack opportunities and bars. Volcano Bay offers snacks, bars and several counter service restaurants. There are also many dining opportunities at the hotels. 

While character dining does not exist at Universal on the scale that it does at Disney World there are a few options. 

  • Despicable Me Breakfast at Loews Royal Pacific Resort on Saturdays
  • Marvel Character Dinner at Cafe 4 at Islands of Adventure – Select Days 
  • Seasonal 
    • The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast
    • Halloween Horror Nights Scareactor Dining Experience

Reservations:

Several popular sit-down restaurants in the parks and many in CityWalk take reservations. While I suggest making reservation if you want to eat at these restaurants at least a few weeks in advance they are not as desperately needed as they are at Disney World.

Make reservations at: https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/plan-your-visit/dining-experiences/reservations#theme-park-dining

Special Dietary Needs 

– When you arrive at a restaurant you can request to speak with a chef or manager and they will work with you to make sure your experience is to your needs. Menus are also available online for review. 

Photo Package

You can purchase a 1 day or 3 day photo package which will give you unlimited digital downloads of all your photos plus discounts on prints and photo gifts. There are photographers throughout the park particularly with characters. Plus many on ride photos. 

Transportation

Parking at Universal is very simple if you are driving yourself. As a resort guest you can book transportation to and from the airport on Universal’s shuttle. There is a charge to utilize the shuttle. To get between the parks and hotels there are complementary buses and some hotels also have boats and walking paths. 

Seasonal

Hollywood Horror Nights – This is Universal’s signature event. On many nights leading up to Halloween Universal Studios turns in to a horror show. With many haunted houses, and scare zones throughout the park. Perfect for Halloween fans who like to be scared. 

Mardi Gras – In the spring Universal Studios park celebrates Mardi Gras. With a French Quarter Courtyard area all decorated for the party. There are special food offerings, musical performances, and of course a parade. 

Christmas – The most wonderful time of the year at Universal Orlando features a special holiday parade. Plus Seuss Landing is filled with the Christmas charm and cheer of Who-ville including The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular stage show. Plus both sides of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are transformed by festive décor and special entertainment. Including a holiday castle projection show. 

Hotels

There are four tiers of Universal hotels each with their own price points and perks.

Value $

  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and Universal’s Volcano Bay one hour before the park opens
  • Complimentary Delivery Of Merchandise Purchased Throughout The Resort To Your Hotel
  • Enjoy complimentary club-to-club access to select Universal CityWalk venues
  • Complimentary Transportation: 
    • Shuttle Buses

Prime Value $$

  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and Universal’s Volcano Bay one hour before the park opens.
  • Complimentary Delivery Of Merchandise Purchased Throughout The Resort To Your Hotel
  • Enjoy complimentary club-to-club access to select Universal CityWal venues
  • Complimentary Transportation: 
    • Shuttle Buses
    • Walking Path

Preferred $$$

  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and Universal’s Volcano Bay one hour before the park opens.
  • Complimentary Delivery Of Merchandise Purchased Throughout The Resort To Your Hotel
  • Enjoy complimentary club-to-club access to select Universal CityWalk venues
  • Complimentary Transportation: 
    • Water Taxis
    • Shuttle Buses
    • Walking Path

Premier $$$$

  • Free Universal Express Unlimited 
  • Priority Seating At Select Restaurants Throughout The Resort
  • Complimentary Delivery Of Merchandise Purchased Throughout The Resort To Your Hotel
  • Enjoy complimentary club-to-club access to select Universal CityWalk venues
  • Complimentary Transportation: 
    • Water Taxis
    • Shuttle Buses
    • Walking Path 

The hotels in each category are: 

Value:

  • Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites 
  • Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites

Prime Value:

  • Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
  • Universal’s Aventura Hotel

Preferred:

  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Premier:

  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort

With all this information the next step is to makes some choices and decide what you would like to experience at Universal Orlando. That is where a travel agent can come in handy, to help you pick the best option for your vacation. I would love to be that agent. Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Follow me! https://linktr.ee/katiethemagicsyours

Published by katiethemagicsyours

I am in independent travel agent with The Magic's Yours Travel. Here to plan all your Disney adventures, at no cost to you! I am a wife, cat mom, Aunt, Marylander, traveler, runner, and Disney fanatic. I have personal experience with Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Disney's Aulani, and I am here to share it with you. Contact me today for a FREE quote at katiev@themagicsyourstravel.com www.themagicsyours.com

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