New for 2016
Skull Island Reign of Kong - Read about the wild new King Kong attraction at Islands of Adventure.
Coming in 2017
Fast & Furious: Supercharged Ride- Get up to speed about the new simulator attraction that will be based on the popular film series.
Volcano Bay - A highly themed water park is on the way to the resort.
Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon- Learn about the motion simulator theater ride coming to Universal Studios Florida.
With two theme parks, four hotels, the CityWalk complex, nearby Wet 'n Wild, and other diversions, Universal Orlando isn't 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 its groundbreaking Spider-Man ride, the Hulk coaster, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and Revenge of the Mummy. And its Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands have proven wildly popular and transformed the industry.
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 is in (duh!) Orlando, Florida
Universal Orlando Tickets
Note that the type of ticket you buy can have an impact on the attractions you will be able to experience.
To learn more, read my article, "What kind of ticket you would need to ride the Hogwarts Express?"
Reduced price for children, ages 3 to 9. 2 and under are free. Universal Orlando offers one- and two-park (with park hopping allowed) ticket options for one to seven days. Save money and time by getting discounted Universal Orlando tickets online in advance of your visit direct from Best of Orlando.
Are you planning to visit additional parks? You might want to consider the Orlando FlexTicket, which offers 14 days of unlimited visits to five parks including SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, and Wet 'n Wild as well as the two Universal parks. It's a good deal (if you manage to visit all of the parks at least once). There is also a six-park package deal that tosses in Busch Gardens Tampa, along with bus transportation to the Tampa park. Buy direct from Best of Orlando. For more discounts and special offers, see the latest Orlando theme park vacation deals.
For additional fees (which are quite high), Universal Orlando offers guided V.I.P. tours (reservations recommended) Info is available at the resort's official site, Universal Orlando.
The resort also offers Express Plus 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.
The Best of the Resort
If you are planning to visit, I've compiled a handy rundown of the best of Universal Orlando. Discover the best rides at the two parks, the best restaurants throughout the resort, the best hotels, and more.
Two Theme Parks
- Universal Studios Florida- Overview of the movie-themed park. Includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.
- Islands of Adventure - Overview of Universal Orlando's second park. Includes ride reviews. Includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade.
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.
Do you want to eliminate, or at least minimize the wait times for attractions? You can. Learn how to skip the lines at Universal Orlando.
- 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- Think Universal's parks aren't for pre-tweens? Think again.
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 in the Best Universal Orlando Dining feature.
- The Top 10 Best Universal Orlando Table-Service Restaurants
- The Top 10 Best Quick-Service Restaurants 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, read my article, "10 Best Reasons to Stay at a Universal Orlando Hotel."
Cabana Bay Beach Resort- Moderate and value hotel with many family suites
- Luxury with an Italian Accent- Portofino Bay Hotel overview.
- Portofino Bay Photo Gallery
- Compare rates for Portofino Bay Hotel at TripAdvisor.
Note that this hotel is the closest to Islands of Adventure.
- The Royal Treatment--at a Commoner's Price- Royal Pacific Hotel overview.
- Search for the best Royal Pacific Resort rates at TripAdvisor.
Hard Rock Hotel
- Search for the best Hard Rock Hotel rates at TripAdvisor.
Other Area Hotels
- Compare rates for Orlando-area hotels at TripAdvisor.
New for 2014
The Harry Potter land doubles in size with an expansion at Universal Studios Florida. Read about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
- Full review of Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
- Photo gallery of Diagon Alley
- Hogwarts Express train ride review
- Why the Hogwarts Express may change everything at Florida's theme parks. My editorial about the ride's likely impact.
New for 2013
The E-ticket Transformers ride opened in 2013.
- Review of Transformers: The Ride 3D
- Interview with Universal Creative's Thierry Coup about the Transformers ride
More Simpsons goodies are on the way as well with new Springfield restaurants, pubs, and shops.
New for 2012
Despicable Me, improved Spider-Man, Universal's Superstar Parade, Universal's Cinematic Spectacular, and Hollywood Drive-In Golf opened in 2012.
- The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride has debuted. See my review.
- The upgraded The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride is now open. Read my review.
- The new Universal's Superstar Parade has debuted. See photos and learn more about the colorful spectacle.
- Review of Halloween Horror Nights 2015
- Review of Halloween Horror Nights 2014
- Review of Halloween Horror Nights 2013
Other Things to Do
- The nearby Wet 'n Wild is part of Universal Orlando. Ticket packages are available that include admission to the water park as well as the two Universal theme parks.
- In addition to restaurants, the always-hopping CityWalk offers nightclubs, a stage with complimentary entertainment, retail shops, and a movie theater.
- The concert venue Hard Rock Live presents live music, and Blue Man Group has its own theater at Universal Orlando.
Getting to the Resort
- Airport Info:
- The primary airport is Orlando International Airport (MCO).
- You could also fly in to Tampa International Airport (TPA) or the smaller Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB).
- Driving Info
- Universal Orlando is located off I-4. The actual address is 6000 Universal Boulevard.
- From I-4 East: To Exit 75A and follow signs.
- From I-4 West: To Exit 74B and follow signs.
- From Orlando Airport: SR-528 W to I-4 E to Exit 75A and follow signs.