Orange County (Florida) > Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando Resort, located in Orlando, Florida, is a theme park resort containing two action packed theme parks, an entertainment district with non-stop nightlife and extraordinary restaurants, a waterpark, and three (soon to be four) world class Loews hotels. Many visitors describe it as a place of fun, action, magic, excitement, humor, wonder, fantasy and attention to detail.
When guests exit the parking garage, they are first welcomed into the Universal CityWalk Orlando entertainment district. Then guests can see the two theme parks Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Universal Orlando's waterpark is Wet 'n Wild Orlando.
Universal CityWalk Orlando opened in 1999. Guests arriving at the resort park in one of two multi-story parking structures, then travel via covered moving sidewalks over Universal Boulevard and into CityWalk. From there, guests can proceed into either of the theme parks, Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. CityWalk features shopping, nightclubs, and dining venues, and AMC Movie Theater. Universal Store has all the merchandise from both parks and Margaritaville has a gift shop. There are many night clubs at CityWalk most popular is the Groove, which has recently taken away 80's night. Red Coconut Club is the first club up the stairs on the right. Bob Marley-A Tribute to Freedom is both a night club and dining, Live Reggae & Jamaican Cuisine. Some notable locations are Hard Rock Cafe, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Emeril's, NBA City, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Antojitos, The Cowfish and Red Oven Pizza Bakery. There are also casual dining places at CityWalk: Moe's Southwest Grill, Burger King Whopper Bar, Panda express, Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar. CityWalk also features a Blue Man Group show at the Sharp Aquos Theater.
Universal Studios Florida is a movie and TV based theme park where there are an array of rides, shows, movie sets and attractions. Visitors also enjoy themed dining and shopping, a variety of special events throughout the year, and you might even catch a real film crew at work on the backlot. Universal Studios Florida, opened on June 7, 1990, is a theme park that lets visitors "Ride the Movies." The themes of Universal Studio's are targeted at making guests feel like they are in a movie set with rides, shows, and attractions that are inspired by popular film, television, and music productions. The park consists of eight themed areas – Hollywood, Production Central, New York, San Francisco, World Expo, Springfield, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.
Islands of Adventure, opened May 28, 1999, is a theme park composed of seven distinct "islands" that are themed to various forms of adventures. Visitors start off in the Port of Entry and make their way through the various islands – Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the popular Harry Potter franchise, is the only island added after the park opened; it opened to the public on June 18, 2010
Wet 'n Wild Orlando was founded in 1977 by SeaWorld founder George Millay. The park is considered one of the first major water parks. There are eighteen water slides and attractions at the water park divided into four categories: Thrill Rides, Multi-Person Rides, Kids Rides, and Other Attractions. Popular attractions include The Storm, Bomb Bay, Disco H20, The Surge, and more. Wet 'n Wild is located on International Drive in front of Sand Lake. In the mid 2000's the water park was acquired by Universal Parks & Resorts.
Universal Orlando's on-site hotels include: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Spa, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Hotel, and Cabana Bay Beach Resort. All four hotels are located in close proximity to the Universal Orlando theme parks. The hotels offer guests free water taxi or shuttle bus service to the Universal Orlando theme parks. Another benefit is that for all hotels but the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the guest room can get you "Express Pass" at a kiosk near the ticket desk in the hotels. Theme park guests who are not staying at the Universal official hotels are able to purchase "Express Passes" at an additional cost.
Like all of Central Florida, the climate at Universal Orlando is humid and subtropical. Summer (May–October) is hot and sticky and winter (November–April) is mild and drier. Visitors from higher latitudes are often surprised by the sheer intensity of the summer sun in Florida, which can rise to within a few degrees of straight overhead in June and July. In June through September, late afternoon thundershowers are very common; plan accordingly.
Inclement weather can often lead to the temporary closure of outdoor rides and live performances. In the case of rides, they will re-open after the weather improves. Live performances may be either delayed or canceled outright. On the other hand, inclement weather could work to your advantage, as it drives some visitors away from outdoor areas, or out of the parks entirely.
When to visit
There used to be some times of year when the parks were relatively deserted, but not so much anymore. Now they just vary from "moderately busy" to "completely insane". Still, deciding when to go remains a game of trade-offs: you must decide whether to favor lower crowds or longer park hours, and decide whether you prefer scorching days or chilly nights.
The peak periods for attendance are late December, mid-June to mid-August, and mid-February to mid-April. Why? That's when kids are on break from school. If you have kids, you may have no choice but to go during these peak times. The bad news is that you'll be packed like sardines next to 50,000 of your new closest friends, you'll wait two hours to go on rides like Forbidden Journey, Rip Ride Rockit, and Transformers, and you'll be paying a premium for the privilege. In the summer, you also get to listen to the kids complain about the heat. On the bright side, you'll have plenty of company, the parks are guaranteed to be open late, and almost every ride will be up and running.
If your schedule allows any flexibility at all, you should avoid these peak periods. Attendance is lowest in October, November (pre-Thanksgiving), December (pre-Christmas), and January. These can be very good times to go; crowds are low and prices are too, but keep in mind that you may find that several rides are shut down for maintenance, and the parks have shorter operating hours. In the winter, it's often too cold to go to the water parks, and you'll need a jacket at night.
The weeks between Easter and Memorial Day are another slow period, as well as the months of August and September; both periods provide a good balance of price, crowds, temperature, and operating hours, but you may need to take the kids out of school if you're bringing them along.
Of course, you may want to coordinate your trip with a special event such as Halloween Horror Nights.
If your vacation dates are flexible, plan to arrive to the Orlando area on Thursday. Both Friday and Saturday are transition days for park visitors, especially in the summer months. Saturdays do draw in more Annual Pass holders to the park, but that is the major day that people either arrive or leave the area. This causes attendance figures to be down, making it a perfect day to visit the parks.
If you are planning to have a day of rest in your vacation, by arriving on Thursday you can enjoy two days of parks with reduced crowds and then use Sunday to rest. If during those first two days you are planning to visit the Magic Kingdom, plan to do it on Friday. Attendance figures pick up for that park on Saturday. You will be able to do more attractions in the first two days while you are revved up, and then it will allow you to relax and enjoy the park on the more crowded days.
As in most places in the United States, English is the default language throughout the Universal Orlando Resort. However, many team members throughout the property are bi- or tri-lingual, and they can be identified by language signs on their name tags, representing the languages they speak. Spanish is very common in Florida, and the US as a whole. Spanish speakers will not have any problems navigating the resort.
Guest Services locations are near the entrance of all the theme parks, water parks, and resort hotels. Team members, who usually are multilingual, will also be available there to answer any questions you may have.
For hearing-impaired guests, assistive listening devices and captioning (handheld, reflective, or video) are available for selected attractions. Cast Members with knowledge of American Sign Language can be identified by the appropriate symbol on their name tags, and interpreters are available by appointment.
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida features seven themed areas all situated around a large lagoon. This lagoon is the site of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories, a thematic display that showcases scenes from various Universal films, featuring lasers, projectors and fountains, and pyrotechnics.
The seven surrounding themed areas, clockwise from the entrance, are Production Central, New York, San Francisco, Springfield, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone and Hollywood; an eighth area, London/Diagon Alley between San Francisco and World Expo. Each area features a combination of rides, shows, attractions, character appearances, dining outlets and merchandise stores.
- Transformers: The Ride, a 3-D dark ride/motion simulator that puts you into a battle for Earth between the Autobots and Decepticons
- Shrek 4-D, which takes guests on a journey that occurs between the first and second Shrek films.
- Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit roller coaster offers a unique experience, since it allows riders to select a custom soundtrack to ride to, along with the ability to upload a video of your experience to the internet.
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem features a model of Gru's house, and the fun loving, slightly mischievous, minions.
- Revenge of the Mummy is a dark ride/indoor roller coaster based on the The Mummy movie series.
- The Blues Brothers perform a variety of classic rock and soul songs multiple times per day.
- Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You! puts guests in the middle of a new Disaster movie made by fictional company Disaster Studios.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a 3D thrill ride, with a amazing entrance to the ride via a replica of the lobby of Grigotts Bank.
- The Simpsons Ride is a motion simulator ride which takes you through the world of Krustyland with the Simpson family.
- Kang and Kudos' Twirl n' Hurl is an interactive hub-and-spoke ride in which the rider must aim the ride vehicle at targets to trigger various sounds and other effects.
- Men in Black: Alien Attack is an interactive dark ride adventure where you will join the ranks of the Men in Black to save New York City from a recent alien invasion.
- Fear Factor Live is a live stunt show featuring actual park guests partaking in stunts similar to those found on the show "Fear Factor".
Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone
- E.T. Adventure a dark ride in which you must help E.T. to return on "bicycles" to his dying homeland, where he can save the planet with his healing touch before giving a personalized farewell to each rider.
- Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster a junior roller coaster
- Fievel's Playland is a children's playground which includes a 30 ft spider web to climb and a 200 ft long water slide.
- Curious George Goes to Town is a play area featuring two large water troughs that dump 500 gallons of water on its visitors every few minutes, and a ball area where guests can shoot soft, foam balls out of cannons.
- A Day in the Park with Barney is a live, sing-along stage show featuring Barney and his friends.
- StarToons Summer Jam is a live show featuring classic Universal cartoon characters performing to beach party songs.
- Lucy: A Tribute is a walk-through museum featuring the best of "America's favorite redhead", Lucille Ball.
- Universal's Horror Make-Up Show is a live stage show that shows guests how horror film special effects are created.
- Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time. The show is a live, 3D experience that combines a 3-D film with an actual stage show based on the film Terminator 2"'.
Islands of Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure features seven distinctly themed "islands" circling a central lagoon. The islands, going in clockwise order from the Port of Entry through which guests enter, consist of the Port of Entry, Marvel Superhero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing.
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Enter the world of J.K. Rowling's famed wizard, Harry Potter. Depending on the time of year, expect long lines, this part of the park is the most sought after and attracts visitors as soon as the gates open. Stroll through Hogsmeade and don't forget to grab a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans at Honeydukes. Try a frozen or non-frozen Butterbeer because this is the only section of both Islands of Adventures and Universal Studios that offers the one-of-a-kind treat. Since most of the attractions don't allow any carry-ons, make sure to use the free lockers outside of every attraction otherwise they may not let visitors on the ride. Three Broomsticks is one of only a few restaurants that offers breakfast and even offers a delicious and unique English style breakfast. A hidden find that no adult should miss is the Hog's Head Pub there, you can find a microbrew, made only for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Hollywood Dive-in Mini Golf is a 50's drive-in-movie-themed mini golf facility containing two mini golf courses.
- The Blue Man Group a live show with daily performances
Universal Studios Florida
The Universal Music Plaza Stage live concerts:
- Rock the Universe is the park's Christian music festival, featuring two days in September of concerts with leading contemporary Christian, Christian rock, and Christian rap artists live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central.
- Summer Concert Series occurs annually and features a variety of popular music acts performing live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central.
- Macy's Holiday Parade brings some authentic balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to Orlando in a month-long event in December that highlights the Christmas celebrations at the park.
- Mardi Gras Generally in February through to April, a parade and concert series inspired by New Orleans' Fat Tuesday party is held at the park.
- Universal's Superstar Parade is a daily parade at Universal Studios Florida; it features a lot of kid-friendly characters such as SpongeBob, Dora, Minions, etc.
Halloween Horror Nights turns the park into a giant haunted playground, including scare zones, numerous haunted houses and special themed shows. The event is run annually in late September and October.
|Seen in Hollywood
||Seen in Production Central
|Seen in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone
||Seen in World Expo
|Seen in New York
||Seen in San Fransisco
Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Florida allow guests to utilize the "Universal Express Plus" Pass on selected attractions. This pass admits users to a separate line for the attraction, which is given priority status when boarding. Guests of Universal's three on-site resorts may show their room keys for unlimited uses of the faster line for each ride.
Universal Express is not included in park admission. There are a limited number of passes available each day and they are often sold out in advance. The cost of the pass varies based on what parks are selected and even what day is selected, with higher prices charged on peak operating days during the year.
If staying at on-site hotels, Royal Pacific Resort or the Hard Rock Hotel, free Universal Express is available at kiosk in the lobby with your room key.
Your multi-day theme park ticket can also be used for free entrance to the Clubs and Bars of CityWalk. Other ticket options include single venue tickets or CityWalk Party Pass.
A park to park admission ticket is needed to ride the Hogwarts Express.
While everything at Universal Orlando is within a fairly short walking distance from any point in the resort, there are some additional options for getting to and from the on-site resort hotels. You can take a free water taxi boat or a rickshaw to get to all resorts except for the Cabana Bay Beach Resort; for the latter you can take one of their specially-themed buses that run between CityWalk and the hotel.
Universal Studios Florida
- Universal Studios Store
- Studio Sweets
- It's a Wrap!
- Super Silly Stuff
- Shrek's Ye Olde Souvenir Shoppe
- Sahara Traders
- Rosie's Irish Shop
- MIB Gear
Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone:
- The Barney Store
- E.T.'s Toy Closet
- SpongeBob StorePants
- Cyber Image
- Theatre Magic
Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
- Beverly Hills Boulangerie
- Universal Studios' Classic Monsters Cafe.
- Finnegan's Bar and Grill
- Louie's Italian Restaurant
- Starbucks Coffee
- Ben & Jerry's
- Lombard's Landing Seafood Grille
- San Francisco Candy Factory
- Richter's Burger Company, a burger bar with a Coke Freestyle machine.
Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone:
- Kidzone Pizza Company
- Mel's Drive In
- Schwab's Pharmacy, ice cream shop
- Cafe La Bamba, operates seasonally.
Islands of Adventure
Port of Entry:
- Confisco Grille & Backwater Bar serves foods from various cultures around the world.
Marvel Superhero Island:
- Café 4 offers Italian foods such as pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and meatball subs.
- Comic Strip Café is a counter service restaurant serving chicken, fish & chips, burgers, and more.
- Thunder Falls Terrace serves foods such as burgers, turkey, and ribs, and gives a great indoor view of the "waterfall" as well as the large splash from the Jurassic Park River Adventure.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade:
- Three Broomsticks. Hours of Operation Vary.
- Mythos, an elaborately-themed full-service restaurant serving a variety of different types of foods. It has been voted the world's best theme park restaurant seven consecutive years.
- Circus McGurkus Café Stoo-pendous is another counter service restaurant serving chicken, pizza, burgers, spaghetti, etc.
- Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food serves Mexican food.
- Red Oven Pizza Bakery sells pizza.
- Starbucks sells coffee, tea, muffins, etc.
- Cold Stone serves ice cream.
- Jimmy Buffet's serves seafood, steak, burgers, etc. in a beach-style restaurant.
- Hard Rock Café Orlando is the world's biggest Hard Rock Café; it sells typical American foods, such as burgers, chicken, and ribs.
- The Cowfish Sushi, burgers, and bar.
- Vivo Italian Kitchen.
- Hot Dog Hall of Fame.
- Emeril's Restaurant Orlando Creole-inspired dishes.
- Pat O'Brien's Bayou specialties and bar.
One of the best perks to staying on site is that shuttles and ferry transportation to and from Universal Studios, Islands of Adventures and Universal's CityWalk is available free of charge! And another great perk of staying on the grounds, as part of your room key, you receive Universal Express Unlimited, which allows you to skip the lines (great for when you have little ones) and early park admission (so you can get on the rides before the parks open to the rest of the public).
- Loews Portofino Bay, 5601 Universal Blvd Orlando, Florida, 32819, toll-free: . Portofino Bay is a beautiful Italian style-hotel, however it can be a bit pricey, depending on the season. Out of the places to eat at this hotel, a particularly good option is Mama Della's Ristorante. The eatery offers great food and great service; however beware of the dim lighting, so you may need your reading glasses to get a look at the delicious menu. Don't fret about getting there before check-in, they allow guests to pre-register as soon as they arrive, and will even activate the Universal Express feature before you check-in so you can get the most out of your vacation. $$$.
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort, 6300 Hollywood Way Orlando, Florida, 32819, toll-free: . The Royal Pacific Resort is another dynamite resort on the Universal Studios grounds. One thing to not miss out on while staying at The Royal Pacific offers is the chance to experience authentic Polynesian cuisine and entertainment at Wantilan Luau. Unlike the Portofino Bay, the Royal Pacific Resort only offers one pool, but as an on-site guest you can travel to any of the other on-site hotels and are allowed pool access. The fan favorite pool... the one located at the Hard Rock Resort (it plays music under water!). $$$.
- Hard Rock Hotel, 5800 Universal Blvd Orlando, Florida, 32819, toll-free: . The Hard Rock Hotel is the third of Universal Orlando's upscale resorts, featuring theming that makes it resemble a sprawling mansion of a rock star in Hollywood. There is a hip, music-oriented theme inside; at the pool, you can actually listen to music underwater. $$$.
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort, 6550 Adventure Way, Florida, 32819, toll-free: . The Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which opened March 31, 2014, is a retro-themed resort, and is also Universal Orlando's first moderately-priced resort. It offers both motel-style family suites and, starting mid-June, standard interior-entrance rooms. Despite the price, it offers some unique elements, like a bowling alley, a special Jack LaLanne fitness center, and, also coming in June, a lazy river! When it's finished, it'll have two large pool areas; both pools are zero-entry. Like the name suggests, you can get a cabana at the pool! The main entrance building also has a large food court-like restaurant called the Bayliner Diner, as well as a Starbucks, the Swizzle Lounge, and a Universal Studios Store. At the currently available pool, there's the Atomic Tonic bar; in the lazy river area, there'll be the Hideaway Bar & Grill.