Exploring Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando has so many great experiences, but it can be pretty overwhelming. With three parks, a shopping area, and several hotels under their belt, Universal Orlando is certainly a destination. Today, I’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about planning a vacation at Universal Orlando Resort.

The Destinations

Universal Studios

Universal Studios is the original park, and the most well known. Marked by the same globe logo and arches that gate its sister park in California, Universal is pretty iconic. The park is themed to several sound stages and cities: New York, Hollywood, Amityville, Springfield, KidsZone, and Diagon Alley. This park also features some popular rides, like Hollywood RipRideRockIt, Revenge of the Mummy, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, The Simpsons Ride, and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Fast and Furious Supercharged is the newest addition to the park. Universal has considerably more thrill rides than Disney, yet, they still have attractions for everyone. If you want to meet some characters, Hello Kitty, Spongebob & Friends, the minions, Shrek & friends, the Gru family, and the Simpsons can all be found, as well as some Hollywood legends like Marilyn Monroe.

Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure is personally my favorite park. It is divided into several immersive themed lands: Seuss Landing, Lost Continent, Hogsmeade, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Superhero Island. The best known rides at this park are The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Jurassic Park River Adventure, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The park also features several family-friendly rides, like Flight of the Hipogriff, The Cat in the Hat, The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. In terms of character experiences, Islands is sure to satisfy, as you can meet your favorite Marvel and Seuss characters, as well as some characters from classic cartoons. My personal favorite is the Raptor Encounter, where you can meet Blue the velociraptor from Jurassic World, but trust me, it’s not for the faint of heart.


CityWalk is the gateway to Universal Orlando, as it is the first thing you see after bag check. Here, you’ll find dozens of restaurants, stores, and unique experiences, as well as a few nightclubs and a movie theater. CityWalk has a total variety of places to eat, from places like Panda Express to the NBC Sports Grill. My personal favorites are Toothsome Chocolate Emporium for meals and snacks, and Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast.

Volcano Bay

I have to be completely honest, I haven’t been to Volcano Bay yet, but from everything I’ve seen, it looks amazing. It is Universal’s third themed park, and their first water park. The park has a volcano as its centerpiece, and a water coaster built into it. The park also features TapuTapu, a new virtual line system with day-use wristbands that are included with your admission. Most of my knowledge of Volcano Bay comes from the Tim Tracker, so I’d highly recommend checking out his YouTube channel for more information.

Planning Your Trip

Universal Orlando is very different than Disney in terms of planning, and there’s a lot you need to know about your trip.

At the time I am writing this article, you can purchase your tickets to Universal Orlando for any day, and they do not have to be used on any specific day. It is very possible to do the two main parks in one day, however, if you have never been and want to experience everything, I’d opt for a two day three-park ticket (Universal’s ticket options range from 1+ days and 1-3 parks, but are park specific). Also, if you’d like to ride the Hogwarts Express between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, you’ll need to buy a 2-park ticket.

Universal also has a very unique “skip-the-line” system, known as ExpressPass. This system must be purchased, and can be for one-time, all rides, or unlimited all rides (pricing varies on day and season). Because the ticket is a purchase, there are less people in that line, and ride attendants are very attentive to ExpressPass guests, so the lines do move considerably quicker. If you’re going to ride all the rides, and you’ll be there during a busy season, you may want to consider an ExpressPass, as it truly does help to get a lot more done.

Universal Hotels also have a few benefits, dependent on the tier of hotel you stay at. The top tier boasts free unlimited ExpressPasses, early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay, priority seating at select restaurants, complimentary transportation, and charging and room package delivery services. For a full comparison, you can visit https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/places-to-stay/on-site-hotels/compare-features/index.html to learn more about all the resorts.

Finally, Universal Orlando has both metal detectors and x-ray scanners at bag check. If you bring a polaroid camera and film, you’ll need to hand it off to a security officer (who will just hand it back to you on the other side of the scanner) so it doesn’t develop from the x-rays. Also, the park has metal detectors at the entrance to most of the major thrill rides, meaning you can’t take any loose articles of any kind onto the rides, but you can either leave them in a ride locker or with a non-rider. Universal parks also have some rides with the options of making a virtual line reservation, which essentially gives you the opportunity to select a return time so you don’t wait in line, but rather, wait your turn by exploring the rest of the park.

I hope this post was helpful in understanding more about Universal Orlando, and provides a lot of information for planning your next trip! Remember to download the Universal Orlando app for wait times, details, and making virtual line reservations!

See ya real soon,

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