Getting to know Universal Orlando – a multi-part series


I’ve touched on Universal Orlando in a few really basic posts, but now it’s time to go in depth a bit more. Over the course of the next few weeks, there will be several posts dedicated to Universal Orlando, their hotels, on site benefits, and how you can enjoy this “other” Orlando theme park destination. (Don’t worry, Disney fans, I’ve still got info for you, too). Over the last few years, Universal has become a bigger player in the Orlando tourist market with the addition of Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which now spans both theme parks), immersive experiences, and spine tingling thrill rides. It’s a thrill seekers paradise but has something for everyone.  I have been noticing that it is becoming it’s own vacation destination and not just a quick 1 day adventure while you have a full Disney World vacation. I’ve also seen families split time evenly between Disney World and Universal. You can very easily spend 2-3 days in Universal parks and not see everything.

We’re going to start off easy today with the two theme park basics and go in depth with each park in a future edition of the series….

Universal Orlando is comprised of TWO theme parks (and a third water theme park is coming June of 2017). These theme parks are Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure. These two theme parks are seated right next to each other and you can go from park to park in an easy walk or a quick ride on the Hogwarts Express.

At Universal Studios, you can be a part of the movies or feel like you’re in the movies with amazing experiences from walking IMG_6865into Diagon Alley and having lunch at the Leaky Cauldron or help Harry and the gang Escape from Gringotts. This park also has the well themed Simpsons area with beer and donuts (would you expect anything else)? There are some very well themed rides like Revenge of the Mummy and Terminator (which are 3D/simulator rides by move on a track).

If you’re traveling with kids, there are a handful of family friendly attractions – Men in Black Alien Attack which gives you the opportunity to shoot at targets (and is insanely fun and competitive), Shrek 4-D, and an old favorite of my family: E.T. Adventure (not much left from the original attractions that many of you 30 and 40 sometimes probably remember from traveling as kids).

With younger kids who don’t meet height requirements of many attractions, are prone to motion sickness, or who might be scared by some of the experiences inside these major attractions, grab a wand and explore Diagon Alley and Knockturn alley to hone in your magical skills!

When you’re ready to take a trip over to Islands of Adventure, hop the Hogwarts Express where you’ll become a part of the adventure and be dropped near Hogsmede. Here you can enjoy a meal at Three Broomsticks, stock up on Wizard Supplies, IMG_6813and send letters from the Own Post (with a unique post mark). You can also explore Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts Castle (for those like me who are not the adventurous type, ask about a castle walk through so you can see the amazing attention to detail throughout the queue to make you feel like you are really inside Hogwarts). To show your inner Hufflepuff, check out the store at the end of the attraction for house gear from socks to scarves to robes. Before you leave Hogsmeade, explore Olivander’s and get your own wand, ride Dragon Challenge, and for kids of all ages, take the Flight of the Hippogriff.

This theme park has a little bit more kid friendly fun with Seuss Landing and with family friendly fun (and my style of attractions with no big loops, swoops or drops!)

If you’re looking to get wet, you’re in luck with THREE attractions inside this park with 3 different themes – my favorite is Jurassic Park! Remember to check height requirements for each attraction. While they are family friendly, a 42 or 44 inch height requirement applies.

For thrill seeking enthusiasts, The HULK is coming back this summer which will be an amazing update (the little teasers of the new ride vehicles are amazing and I can’t wait to see the updates). You can also experience the Amazing Spider Man (and notice that the track is the same as Terminator but the visual is very different), and free fall on Doctor Dooms Fearfall.IMG_6856

For families with younger kids, there are some great play areas here to let the kids run out their energy and create memories – Camp Jurassic, Jurrasic Park Discovery Center If I ran the Zoo, and Me Ship, the Olive.

Don’t forget all of the great shows available. Check upon arrival for show times and live demonstrations in BOTH theme parks!

That’s a great overview to get you familiar with each of the two parks. Next Universal post, I’ll review all things Wizarding World of Harry Potter to give you an idea of what you’ll need to know and how to get around the two theme parks for the ultimate Harry Potter day!

Did you know that in addition to being an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I’m also a Universal Orlando Resort Specialist so I’m here for your every need! Whether it’s reviewing resorts, finding the perfect package, or understanding Express Pass and how to maximize your experience, I’d love to talk more about your adventure! The benefits of using a certified travel agent like me is the comfort of Universal’s best price guarantee – if you find a better price outside of Universal web site directly, they will honor that price (and I’m here to help facilitate that experience) and the best part is everything I do for you is FREE! It’s a worry free vacation to know you have everything you need planned ahead of time but allowing you the flexibility and spontaneity in your adventure as well as insider tips and a way to tour the parks effectively! So what are you waiting for? Let’s plan today!


Adding a day at Universal to your Disney World vacation

Your family makes it all the way to Orlando for a Disney World vacation. A quick ride away is Universal Studios and the awesome and updated Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Is it possible to fit that in a Disney World trip? OF COURSE it is! Whether it’s shortening your park time at Disney World or adding one extra night to your stay, it’s feasible to enjoy even more of what the Orlando area has to offer.

How do I get there?

If you’re flying to Orlando and don’t have a vehicle, it’s no problem! Universal has a special travel agent ticket offer which allows us to book Disney World resort guests a one or two day park-to-park ticket (similar to the Disney World Park Hopper option) with round trip transfers. It sounds good on paper, but it’s $10 each way for the one day park to park ticket. Depending on the size of your family, it may be less expensive to charter a car or take a taxi for the 25-30 minute trip up to Orlando.

Check your budget

Many guests who think about adding Universal tickets end up not going. Why? Sticker shock! A one day park to park ticket for an adult is nearly $150 and children 3-9 is not much of a deal. Now that Harry Potter has expanded to both theme parks, it’s pretty hard to choose a single park ticket.

There are not as many attractions for younger kids. Gone are the attractions that I really enjoyed as a child – replaced by big coasters and thrill rides! Check the attraction list before you make your final decision to purchase tickets!

Staying at a Universal Hotel

Just like Disney World, there are advantages to staying at Universal hotel. Most importantly entry into Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour earlier than the general public. Some other hotels allow access to bypass the main line for many attractions (which can be a paid service for non hotel guests).

Check the fine print of what’s included before you decide on your package – not all hotels are created equal.

For those looking to extend their trip to the Orlando area – no free ground transport to and from the Orlando airport from these hotels although it’s a closer trip than Disney resorts.

Think about a travel agent!

Magical Vacations, LLC does have the ability to book Universal Vacations as well as Disney World packages. This can be neatly packaged with ground transportation into one simple reservation. No fuss, less confusion, and an exciting and fun trip!

Interested in a Disney and Universal vacation package? I’m happy to help find your perfect balance between all the best the Orlando has to offer. Work with a travel agent is free for both amazing destinations, so remove the stress and frustration of searching on your own and take advantage of the exclusive ticket offer with transportation for Universal. I can’t wait to hear from you!