Insider’s Guide to Universal Orlando Resort™

November 14, 2021

Endless thrills and excitement based on your favorite characters from film, TV, and comic book lore are what’s on the menu at Universal Orlando Resort.

Enjoy an extraordinary escapade as you bounce between two action-packed theme parks and also discover the very best entertainment and adventure the sunshine state has to offer with our insider's guide to Universal Orlando Resort. 

From downing sugar-crusted churros to yucking it up with Jimmy Fallon or escaping some not-too-friendly magical creatures with Hagrid, there is no shortage of fun to be had in the Universal universe.

Therefore, let our Insider’s Guide to Universal Orlando coach you through over 500 acres of magic, fantasy, and cutting-edge rides.

Guide to Universal Orlando Park

Universal Orlando Resort has entertained visitors from around the world for over thirty years. 

The entire resort is technically made up of three separate theme parks:

  • Universal Studios Florida
  • Islands of Adventure
  • Volcano Bay (water park)

and a massive dining and shopping complex area called CityWalk.

Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida was designed to allow guests an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at creating their favorite films and TV shows. 

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Today, this park showcases classic rides such as E.T. Adventure and the Revenge of the Mummy, in addition to the Diagon Alley section of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Islands of Adventure™

Islands of Adventure™ is filled to the brim with high octane roller coasters and water rides, like Jurassic Park River Adventure™ and the Incredible Hulk Coaster™. 

This adrenaline junkie’s paradise is also where you can find the other half of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade™.

CityWalk™

Think theme park fun is just for the kids? Not at Universal Studios Orlando! Create your own adult-friendly night to remember at Universal CityWalk™. From movies to mini-golf and everything in between, CityWalk™ provides a fantastic escape. 

Pro Tip: CityWalk™ also serves up some salivating eats that can’t be found anywhere else. Check out the Burger King Whopper Bar, which assembles unique Burger concoctions not found on standard Burger King menus.

When to Go

Before you immerse yourself in this extraordinary epicenter of entertainment, you’ll need to pick the ideal time to visit Universal Orlando Resort. 

Related Post: 14 of the Biggest, Baddest Thrill Rides Orlando Has to Offer

Unless you enjoy staggeringly long wait times and heavy crowds, it is best to avoid weekends, major school holidays, and summertime. 

Additionally, foot traffic will always ramp up around Halloween due to the widely popular Halloween Horror Nights Event.

Slower times to visit include:

  • Labor Day through the first two weeks of November
  • First 2 weeks of December
  • Most of January (except the first week)
  • Most of February

people riding on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, USABuying Tickets

Now that you’ve picked the perfect date to fulfill your Universal Orlando Resort fantasies, you’ll also need to purchase your tickets.

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Cut out the guesswork of finding the best price by pre-purchasing your Universal Orlando Resort tickets ahead of time.

By buying online, you are guaranteed the best price and can choose from several ticket options ranging from 1-Park 1-Day base tickets to 3-Park 5-Day Park to Park tickets.

Pro Tip: Considering the size and breadth of Universal Studios Orlando, it is challenging to cover both parks in one day. 

Therefore, as theme park experts, we always suggest springing for at least a 2-Park 2-Day Park to Park Ticket, which allows you to bounce between both parks.

Close up photo to the entrance of the Non Skull Island ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Universal Orlando Resort via Facebook

Ticket Packages

Orlando is the theme park capital of the world, and it would be a shame not to turn your Universal Orlando trip into a full-fledged sun-soaked vacation!

Therefore, try combining your Universal Orlando activities with other nearby popular attractions like:

for a double dose of thrills and amusement.

Elevate your Universal Studios Orlando experience by bundling your theme park activities with our Universal Orlando Vacation Package

Hotels

With so many options for hotels by Universal Orlando Resort, it can be hard to choose! But luckily we have a variety of accommodation options, from budget-friendly comfort inns to more deluxe full-service resorts.

Pro Tip: If you can stay onsite at Universal Studios Orlando, we strongly encourage it! In addition to putting you in the middle of the action, staying onsite provides a host of benefits such as:

  • Receiving early entry to the park
  • Minimizing driving/commute time
  • Providing free boat or bus shuttles to the park
  • Lively character experiences
  • Utilizing resort-wide charging privileges

Park Strategy

We’re not going to lie; preparing for a day (or more) at Universal Studios Orlando sans park strategy is a recipe for disaster. 

Due to the vast nature of the park and the incredible number of rides, shows, and entertainment to participate in, you need to have a plan.

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Always arrive at least 30 minutes before the park opens (also known as rope drop). This way you can get a jump on any heavy lines at the park’s most popular attractions. Most especially if you're interested in Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure roller coaster and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts since they are the most popular.

Pro Tip: Your plan of attack will vary depending on which Universal rides and shows you wish to prioritize. 

Therefore, as a general rule, try to knock out longer wait times for bigger attractions early in the day.  Then take an air-conditioned reprieve from the hotter temperatures with a live show (like the frightening Fear Factor Live) in the afternoon.

Close up photo of the Velocicoaster sign in Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Kenny Sabugo via Unsplash

Apps & Passes

Constant connection, effortless navigation, and your custom Universal Studios Orlando itinerary are all within your mobile device. 

The Universal Orlando Resort App is here to take the struggle out of managing your theme park schedule. This comprehensive and newly updated app now allows you to:

  • Check ride wait times and showtimes 
  • Navigate using GPS enabled interactive maps
  • View dining menus so you can plan your next meal
  • Place mobile food & drink orders
  • Select your place in the Virtual Line
  • Pay with Universal Pay, i.e., your own virtual wallet
  • Curate your own personalized list of favorite rides and attractions
  • And so much more!
Close up photo of Optimus Prime at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Universal Orlando Resort via Facebook

Universal Express Pass

Does your Universal Studios Orlando visit happen to coincide with a surge in park attendance? Then kiss unnecessarily long lines goodbye with the Universal Express Pass

Depending on your patience, or lack thereof, you can choose from:

  • The Universal Express Pass:  which allows you to skip the lines 1x per participating ride at both parks
  • The Universal Express Unlimited Pass:  which enables you unlimited skips at participating rides at both parks

Family riding Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Orlando - Orlando, FL USAAnnual Pass

Debating whether or not you’ll want to catch up with Shrek, Spiderman, and the Simpsons cast on a more regular basis? 

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If so, you can seamlessly upgrade your one-day general park admission ticket to an Annual Pass on the day of your visit.

Close up photo of the entrance to Jurassic Park in Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Aditya Vyas via Unsplash

Can’t Miss Attractions

Obviously, we wish we could cover 100% of Universal Studios Orlando during every visit. But, unfortunately, due to time constraints, this isn’t always possible. 

So for you to make the most out of your Universal Studios Orlando trip, we’ve narrowed down our top tier, can’t miss list of attractions in both parks:

Universal Studios Florida™

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem™
  • Revenge of the Mummy™
  • Men In Black Alien Attack™
  • Fast & Furious Supercharged™
  • Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon™

Universal Islands of Adventure™

  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure™
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong™
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman™
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster™
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™
  • Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle™
Wide shot of the Hulk roller coaster at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Universal Orlando Resort via Facebook

What’s New

It turns out there is something new under the Florida sun! Universal Studios Orlando is constantly innovating and upgrading both their parks to generate a more pleasurable visitor experience for all.

The Buzziest new rides, shows, and attractions include:

  • DreamWorks Destination™ - character encounter
  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster™ - ride
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ - ride
  • The Bourne Stuntacular™ - show

Can you keep a secret? If so, rumor has it that Universal Studios Orlando has resumed construction on building a third park, named ‘Universal’s Epic Universe.'

Related Post: Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure

This new venture promises to ‘forever change theme park entertainment’ and deliver magic and laughter-filled memories beyond your wildest dreams. 

No official opening date has been slated. Meanwhile, optimistic fans hope doors will open sometime in 2023. 

Food & Drink

Magical ice cream, massive burgers, and Butterbeer, oh my! Universal Studios Orlando is bursting at the seams with so many culinary delights. In addition, it has over 100 different dining locations within its three parks. 

Whether you are in the mood for a quick snack, a magical elixir, or a fancy surf and turf dinner, there are various delicious dining options to choose from inside the park.

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As certified grade A foodies, we can never pass up our favorite park noshes:

  • Traditional English Breakfast washed down with pumpkin juice from the Three Broomsticks
  • An ice-cold frozen Butterbeer from the famous Leaky Cauldron
  • A Krusty Burger combo piled high with secret sauce from Krusty Burger
  • Zesty spanakopita dip from Mediterranean eatery Mythos
  • NY inspired deli sandwiches from the Today Show Cafe
  • A double scoop of magical Butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
  • A decadent chocolate artisanal milkshake from Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
  • The infamous ‘dirt doughnut’ or maple bacon bar from Voodoo Doughnuts
external view of Harry Potter's Castle at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Universal Orlando Resort via Facebook

What to Bring

Nothing can throw a wrench into a day of vacation festivities faster than a pair of pinching shoes or an unexpected rainstorm. 

Therefore, ensure that all of your bases are covered by consulting our official non-negotiable list of must-have theme park items:

  • Portable phone charger
  • Water bottle + small snacks
  • Any necessary medications
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Poncho/raincoat/umbrella (weather dependent)
  • Swimsuit/change of clothes (if you plan on enjoying any water-based rides or splash zones)
  • Bandaids
  • Stroller (if required)

No vacation to the sunshine state is complete without a stop at Universal Studios Orlando. 

This renowned theme park has attracted over 11 million visitors a year and has created its galaxy of exhilarating magic, fantasy, and merriment.

Related Post: The 6 Best Orlando Theme Parks for Adults

Whether you are a diehard Potter-head, a classic movie junkie, or just wish to cozy up to Kung Fu Panda, there are eons of one-of-a-kind adventures to be had at Universal Studios Orlando. 

So are you ready to experience your own ‘woah’ moment with Universal Studios Orlando? 

Begin planning your own epic Universal Studios Vacation today!

What Did We Miss With our Guide to Universal Orlando Resort?

Anything we missed? Whether you are an expert visitor or have just taken one trip, share your stories, suggestions, and favorite insider guide to Universal Orlando in the comments below!

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