With two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, the Volcano Bay water park, a bunch of hotels, the CityWalk complex, and other diversions, Universal Orlando may not be as large or diverse as its mousy neighbor up the street, but it's pretty darn huge and packed with fun in its own right.
Less cohesive and lacking the warm and fuzzy Disney touch, the Universal Orlando parks nevertheless feature some of the very best attractions of their kind on the planet, including the groundbreaking Spider-Man ride, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and Revenge of the Mummy. And its Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands have proven wildly popular and transformed the theme park industry with their deep immersion and mind-blowing rides.
Universal has a brash, in-your-face attitude. If the sweet "it's a small world" defines Disney World, the ominous, enormous Transformers set the tone at Universal. Things are always blowing up and out of control on its attractions. The CityWalk complex always pulsates with energy. Underwater speakers at the Hard Rock Hotel's pool ensure that guests never miss a lick of a searing guitar solo. If it's solace you seek, head to the Bahamas. If you want to pump up the action, head to Universal.
Universal Orlando Tickets
Note that the type of ticket you buy can have an impact on the attractions you will be able to experience. For example, if you want to ride the Hogwarts Express train that connects the two Harry Potter lands, you will need a park-to-park ticket.
The resort offers reduced prices for children, ages 3 to 9; 2 and under are free. Universal Orlando offers one- and two-park (with park hopping allowed) for the two theme parks as well as a-la-carte and 3-park passes to visit the Volcano Bay water park. For additional fees (which are quite high), Universal Orlando offers guided V.I.P. tours (reservations recommended).
The resort also offers Universal Express passes, which grant quick access to most attractions. (Unlike Disney's Fastpass program, Universal does not offer complimentary line bypass tickets.) Prices vary for Express Plus according to the time of year.
To purchase tickets in advance and learn more about the resort's passes, info is available at the resort's official site.
The Best of the Resort
If you are planning to visit, check out the best of Universal Orlando. Discover the best rides at the two parks, the best restaurants throughout the resort, the best hotels, and more.
- The 12 Best Rides at Universal Orlando- If you have limited time to spend at the resort, these are the rides you should try to experience.
- The 11 Most Thrilling Rides at Universal Orlando- There are plenty of thrilling attractions at the two parks. These are the most intense rides.
- 9 Best Universal Orlando Rides for Kids- Universal may have especially thrilling, in-your-face rides and attractions, but its parks do offer fun things to do for younger kids that won’t terrorize them.
There are plenty of places to eat throughout the resort, including inside the parks, at the on-property hotels, and at the CityWalk dining/shopping/entertainment district. Find out where you should be eating by discovering the best Universal Orlando dining.
- The Top 10 Best Universal Orlando Table-Service Restaurants
- The Top 10 Best Quick-Service Restaurants at Universal Orlando
- Universal Orlando's 10 Best Snacks and Desserts
What's New at Universal Orlando?
In 2021, Islands of Adventure will be welcoming its fifth coaster, Jurassic World VelociCoaster. Located in the Jurassic Park section and themed to the Jurassic World sequels, the themed ride will be the most thrilling coaster at the resort. Featuring two magnetic launches, it will hit a potent 70 mph and scale a 155-foot tophat tower. Among its four inversions will be a zero-G stall that will send passengers barreling along a 100-foot section of track upside down, yet somehow floating in the air. As if those stats aren’t frightening enough, agile dinosaurs will be on the prowl during the ride.
In June 2019, the Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure welcomed Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. The highly themed roller coaster replaced the Dragon Challenge (which was known as “Dueling Dragons” before it was given a cursory Potter overlay). Universal tore down the old coaster and built the Hagrid ride with a completely new layout. The family coaster (with a relatively low 48-inch height requirement) winds through the Forbidden Forest and delivers backwards as well as forwards track sections as passengers encounter Fluffy, the three-headed dog, Cornish Pixies, and other characters.
In July 2019, Universal Orlando opened a new hotel, Surfside Inn and Suites. It's located at the Endless Summer Resort, which used to be the site for the Wet 'n Wild water park. The seventh Universal hotel, the beach-themed Surfside is modestly priced.
When to Go and How to Deal with Lines
The general rule is to zag when everyone else is zigging. Avoid crowds, save money, and have a better, value-filled time by choosing the best time of year to visit Universal Orlando. If you want to eliminate, or at least minimize the wait times for attractions, you can learn how to skip the lines at Universal Orlando.
Operated in conjunction with Loews, the resort offers some great hotels. Learn more about them and determine which Universal Orlando hotel might be best for you. If you are wondering whether you should consider booking a room on the property, there are some great reasons to stay at a Universal Orlando hotel. Loews Universal hotels include the value-priced Universal's Cabana Bay Resort, the luxury-level Portofino Bay, and the mid-range Royal Pacific and Sapphire Falls.