Universal Orlando Resort has SO much to offer for your family. I know you usually find me here, giving you my best Disney Parks advice, but today we are going to take a little side trip over to Universal Orlando Resort.
As a frequent Disney traveler, I was hesitant to visit Universal Orlando…I couldn’t fathom the idea of being in Orlando, so close to Disney, and NOT going to the Disney Parks!
But, my family and I took a trip to Universal Orlando for our summer vacation, and we loved every minute of it!
Today, I want to share my Best Universal Orlando Tips for First Timers with you.
What Makes Up Universal Orlando Resort?
Universal Orlando is composed of two theme parks, a water park, CityWalk, and currently eight on-site hotels.
Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure are your two theme parks.
Volcano Bay is their water park. CityWalk is the shopping and dining area of Universal property.
The current eight on-site hotels are:
- Loews Portofino Bay
- Loews Royal Pacific
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Loews Sapphire Falls
- Universal’s Aventura Hotel
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites
What You Need to Know About CityWalk
CityWalk is the primary “hub” of Universal. Whether you access the parks by boat, a motorcoach, or walking, you have to go to Citywalk first.
Buses and boats drop you off at CityWalk, and all walking paths lead here. From CityWalk, you walk over to Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios to enter your park of choice.
Universal Offers Both Park to Park and Base Tickets
While base tickets may be more economical, the park to park tickets at Universal are worth it in my opinion.
First, you are not losing a lot of travel time between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. You can literally walk out of one and into the ticket gates of the other.
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This ease between parks makes it so easy, and time efficient to visit both parks in one day. Secondly, to ride the Hogwarts Express, you need a park to park ticket. You cannot board the Hogwarts Express without it.
Express Passes are Offered Only at Participating Hotels
Only three of the onsite Universal hotels participate in Express Pass.
Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Portofino Bay, and Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando allow guests front of the line access, on an unlimited basis, to attractions during your stay.
This is essential if you want to see as much of Universal as possible during your time there. If you would like to use Express Pass, but you are NOT staying at one of those hotels, you can add it to your tickets for a fee.
A Universal Orlando Vacation is at Least a 4-5 Night Vacation
Ideally, three days of Universal park tickets is the perfect amount to see both parks. If you want to add Volcano Bay, then I suggest having 4-days of tickets.
The Universal parks, particularly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, are FULL of the most amazing details ever. Giving yourself plenty of park time is well worth it, to take in the details and attractions from your favorite movies.
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Take Advantage of Child Swap
I LOVE this aspect of Universal. Whether you don’t meet the height requirement, or you just don’t feel like taking on Transformers AGAIN, Child Swap is for you!
Anyone, regardless of age or “reason” why they don’t want to ride an attraction is allowed to wait for their party in the child swap room.
Your family stays together in line, and then those who don’t want to ride wait in the air conditioned Child Swap area, which is typically very close to the boarding area of the attraction.
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Express Pass, Coca Cola Freestyle Cups, and Park to Park Tickets Are Worth It
If I had to narrow down my “Top 3 Tips”, I would highly suggest those three aspects. Express Pass, you literally walk to the front of the line and board the attraction.
Now that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions accept Express Pass, this is huge game changer for touring the parks.
Secondly, LOVE the Coca Cola Freestyle Cups. These cups are convenient and we drank every penny’s worth of Coke products during our stay.
Park to Park Tickets are great for families who can spend all day at the parks. With Universal being a completely walkable property, you can easily navigate both parks in one day, plus have time for a pool break!
Universal Studios Orlando Parks are Geared Towards Families with Older Children
That is not to say that there isn’t something for everyone.
However, Universal has some fairly “tall” height requirements, and I feel as if older children are more interested in action movies, Harry Potter, and the overall cinema experience in general.
My opinion is that if your child is younger than 8, he/she may not get the full experience that you are hoping for out of a Universal Orlando vacation.
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Overall, Universal Studios Florida is a fantastic destination for your next Orlando vacation. If you are a movie fan, enjoy the magic of Harry Potter, and want to get up close with the Transformers, it is for you! Does your family enjoy some Dr. Seuss, the Minions, and even Shrek? If so, then it’s for sure worth your time to visit!
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