Know Before you go: Universal Orlando Resorts

Are you ready for a full day of action-packed fun? Universal Orlando Resort is the place where you can be part of your favorite movies and experience rides that will leave you screaming for more. If you’re coming to Orlando, I’m sure your considering coming to this park. Here is everything you need to know before making those final decisions on your trip:

What is Universal Orlando Resorts?

Universal Orlando Resorts is the second largest theme park area in Orlando right after Disney World Resorts and has a collection of two theme parks, one Water Park, 5 on-site hotels, and one dining and entertainment complex:

  • Universal Orlando: Universal’s first theme park Composed of 8 themed areas and endless attractions based on the film industry.
  • Universal Islands of Adventure: features 6 themed islands and is the Trip Advisor travelers’ choice as the #1 Park in the world for the 3rd time in the world.
  • Volcano Bay: This new water park replaced Wet ‘n Wild in 2017 with a Polynesian themed attraction and its signature Volcano.
  • On-Site Resorts: Portofino, Hard Rock, Cabana Bay, Sapphire, Lowes Royal Pacific
  • City walk: Fun place for dancing, listening to live music and dining options such as Bubba Gump Shrimp, Bob Marley, and my personal favorite Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.

Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have attractions from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The two are completely different and the rides on each side are amazing.


If it’s your first time, I really would spend one day at each park. There is so much to do and if you go in high season, the lines will consume most of your day.

There are several price options and it can get confusing. The base price of a 1 day 1 park ticket runs approx. USD 110 plus tax. From there, depending on how many days you want to spend at each park, the price can vary. I believe the best value for your time at universal is to do 3-Day, 3-Park per day. On the Universal website, at the time of this post, this will run you 259.99 plus tax. This option does not include the Hogwarts Express. If you are a die-hard Harry Potter fan and need to ride the train for that fully Potter World experience, then go for the 3-Day, 3 Park Park-to-Park option for 314.99 plus tax. Personally, I feel it’s not worth spending the extra $55 for a 4-minute train ride.

If you want to skip Volcano Bay, then you’re looking at a 2-Day 2 Park per day for 199.99 plus tax or 254.99 plus tax with Hogwarts Express.

To make those lines go by quicker Universal has rolled out with a Universal Express Pass for you’re to skip the regular line one time per ride for 69.99 or you can opt for unlimited for 89.99. If you’re going during the summer months, this is totally worth it.

I’d skip on the Dining Plan. Go the supermarket and stock up on sandwiches, snacks, and water. You can buy beer in the park and one of those huge turkey legs and call it a day.

Best time to go:

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts about planning your trip to Orlando, May is a great month to come. The weather is nice and you won’t find very long wait lines. Same goes with the September, November, and February.

Special events:

Throughout the year, the park will host special annual events. Universal’s biggest event is Halloween Horror Nights. Its 30-plus nights filled with scare houses, chainsaws, and terror that will leave your voice horse by the end of the night.

The other big event is a Celebration of Harry Potter, which is a 3-day weekend event held on the last weekend of January at both parks. Special demonstrations, sessions, exhibitions are on display during this weekend. So if you’re a big harry potter fan, this would be a great weekend to go. Plus the weather is amazing around that time of year.

Staying on Property or not:

This question is really up to your budget. I will say that you get a 1-hour early access admission to the parks before it opens for staying on-site. I’ve never stayed at any of these hotels so I can’t recommend one but each is specially themed and they are beautiful.

My Favorite Ride:

If you click on the park name, you’ll be able to read my top 5 rides for each park. These are just my number one for each of the parks. Check them out!

  • Universal Studios Orlando: Hollywood’s Rip Ride Rockit
  • Island of Adventure: 
  • Volcano Bay: I haven’t been yet but I’m a sucker for lazy river type rides.

Not worth the wait:

  • Universal Studios Orlando: The Simpson Ride: hang out in the world if you’re a fan, the ride sucks
  • Islands of Adventure: Anything in the Lost Continent. I really don’t know why it’s still there. Waste of time

Other things to know:

  1. WIFI: There is free WIFI throughout Universal Orlando Resorts
  2. Download the Official Universal Orlando Resort App. You can plan your day, see actual live wait time for your rides and get alerts for shows.
  3. Bring food. You can save a bit by bringing your own sandwiches and snacks. You can’t bring a cooler but you can definitely fill your backpack with food.
  4. Be careful with discounts on tickets at your hotel or those booths you see in the outlets or malls. All discounts come with a price. And it usually will cost you half a day of sitting through a “90” minute presentation. I can’t tell you if it’s worth it or not but I will say that those salespeople are trained to turn your no into a yes. You’ve been warned.

I hope these tips have helped you planned your trip to Universal Studios. Let me know if you have any questions! If you have any additional tips to share please do!

Remember when you give good, you get good.


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  1. I would so like visit the celebration of Harry Potter . I have seen pictures and it looks so awesome. Thanks for this detailed post. 😀

  2. You are so right about the Lost Continent! When we went, my daughter was reading the Percy Jackson book series and was really into Greek mythology, so we were super excited about going there. We were so disappointed with that section of the park. They really need to figure out something to put in its place and start building ASAP.

  3. This is a great post with lots of information. As a huge Potter fan I really want to go but it is great to have information on the other parks. I agree with the high price for the train ride…. I will pass. Bringing food is always a great idea to keep the price down.

  4. We have Halloween Horror Nights on the west coast too! I didn’t know if Universal Orlando was doing it too. I lovved Islands of Adventure theme park! I can understand why it’s rated #1

  5. This is such a nice overview. I’ve never been to universal studios orlando before. Only Universal Studios Singapore

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