The Best of Universal Orlando

Visiting the Florida Resort? Discover What to Do Before You Go.

It wasn't all that long ago that Universal Orlando consisted of one place: Universal Studios Florida. Folks who visited the movie-themed park generally considered it an add-on to their Disney World vacation. There really wasn't much of a need to determine the best features about the park, because most visitors typically got to experience most, if not all, of its limited rides and attractions.

Planning a visit got a bit trickier in 1999 when the park expanded to a resort and opened a second theme park, Islands of Adventure, along with its first hotel, the Portofino Bay, and the CityWalk dining/shopping/entertainment district. Since then, Universal has continued to grow and now features many new rides and attractions, multiple hotels, a slew of restaurants, and enough other diversions to seriously challenge Disney World's supremacy in central Florida.

This poses a challenge to people (like you?) who try to figure out how to divide their time between Disney World and Universal (not to mention Legoland Florida, SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, International Drive Rides and Attractions, and other enticing things to do in the area). Now, more than ever, visitors need to know the best features about Universal Orlando so that they can make informed decisions and get maximum fun and value.

We're not just talking about the resort's best rides and attractions. We're talking about all that Universal has to offer -- and it offers a lot. What are the best places to eat at the resort? Which of its hotels might make the most sense for you? When should you plan to visit? I cover all that and more below.

But make no mistake: Universal Orlando does have some spectacular rides and attractions. Since it opened the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands, Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, the resort has really upped its game and now occupies quite a few spots at and near the top of my picks for the best theme park attractions. (By the way, if you want to experience one of the Harry Potter-themed rides, you're going to need a special ticket. To know before you go, read my article, "What kind of ticket you would need to ride the Hogwarts Express?")

OK, on to the best of Universal Orlando.