Our Guide to Universal Orlando Resort has hints, tips, and tricks for planning your vacation, plus information on all the resort’s attractions. The guide is an essential resource for both first-time and returning visitors to Universal Orlando. The guide has been updated for 2021 with all the latest reopening information.
Our Guide to Universal Orlando had its last major update in February 2021. We have updated the guide with all the latest information. At the time of writing, Universal Orlando is in the process of reopening following the coronavirus pandemic. While most attractions are open, several hotels and shows are closed. Also, there are restrictions on capacity and additional safety measures in place. We will guide you through all the essential information you need to know to have a great vacation at Universal Orlando Resort.
Jump Right Into Our Guide to Universal Orlando
Are you looking for specific information about Universal Orlando? We have created some handy page jumps that will help you find information in our 2020 Guide to Universal Orlando.
- Universal Orlando Basics. Just what is Universal Orlando like and how does it compare to Walt Disney World?
- Important 2021 Universal Orlando Information details on the changes in place to keep you safe during 2021
- Coming soon to Universal Orlando Resort. Everything we know that is arriving in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure during 2021 and beyond. Including the new Universal Orlando theme park Universal’s Epic Universe.
- Planning your Universal Orlando vacation. Tips and tricks if you are visiting Universal Orlando Florida. Includes information on Express Pass, parking, tickets, transportation, and a host of additional information to have a great vacation.
- Transportation at Universal Orlando all about how to get to the resort and to get around it.
- Universal Orlando Useful Information answers to your most common Universal Orlando questions. If you have a question about the resort you will probably find the answer here.
- Universal Studios Florida everything you need to know about the original park at Universal Orlando Resort.
- Islands of Adventure the 2nd park to open at Universal Orlando is full of big thrills.
- Volcano Bay all about the water park at Universal Orlando.
- CityWalk is the entertainment and shopping district at Universal Orlando.
- Universal Orlando On-Site Hotels information on all the outstanding resorts at Universal Orlando. Plus details on the newest resort Universal’s Endless Summer Resort opening in 2019.
- Dining at Universal Orlando Details about dining at Universal Orlando. Plus information if you are visiting with a food allergy or intolerance.
Universal Orlando the Basics
While Universal Orlando Resort remains smaller than Walt Disney World, it has undergone massive expansion in recent years. The introduction of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has made Universal Orlando top of many guests must-do list when visiting Orlando. Attendances at the parks have risen in recent years and in 2017 Universal Studios was the 10th most visited theme park in the world & Islands of Adventure the 14th.
Universal Orlando a Brief History
Universal Orlando Resort, commonly known as Universal Orlando, opened in 1990. The resort opened on June 7, 1990, with one theme park Universal Studios Florida. Since then, it has developed into a multi-day attraction with 2 Theme Parks (Universal Studios Florida & Islands of Adventure), a new water-park in 2017 (Volcano Bay), City Walk a nighttime district & 7 hotels. This expansion isn’t due to stop any time soon; Universal has recently announced a new park. Universal’s Epic Universe will open in the future.
What is Universal Orlando like?
Universal Orlando is loud, flashy & bold in comparison to Walt Disney World. While there are fewer attractions, the majority are big E-Ticket experiences. Universal does not do small filler attractions & finds little room for keeping sentimental, historical attractions. What this means is attractions in Universal Orlando are usually an outstanding experience.
Universal Orlando will appeal more to families with teens & young adults or those with a sense of adventure. While Walt Disney World probably offers a better overall experience for families with young children, there is enough for people of all ages to enjoy a couple of days at Universal.
Universal Orlando will usually take a minimum of 2-3 days to experience both theme parks. However, the parks are growing, and in busy periods you will struggle to complete both parks.
Should I visit Universal Orlando or Walt Disney World?
If time allows you should visit both!
Both Walt Disney World & Universal Orlando offer unique experiences. While both resorts are better at some things, overall, they both provide an excellent experience.
We have completed a comparison between Walt Disney World & Universal Orlando which might help with deciding which to visit if time is tight. However, you should remember at the current time both resorts are offering a different experience than usual.
Important Universal Orlando 2021 Information
While, it is exciting new that Universal Orlando is now open there are a number of procedures in place to keep you safe. However the experience being offered by Universal Orlando is closer to normal in comparison to Walt Disney World:-
- Guests and team members are required to wear face coverings
- Guests and team members are required to undergo temperature checks. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be able to enter
- Staggered parking within the parking garage.
- Limiting and reducing daily park attendance and attraction capacity. Unlike Walt Disney World, Universal is not offering a park booking system. This has meant that the parks do reach capacity on certain days.
- Increasing cleaning and disinfection of food locations, ride vehicles and other frequent “touch points”
- Social distancing at all locations through the parks,
- Having Virtual Line experiences available for select attractions
- Offering contactless payments and “no touch” policies where possible
What is open
The majority of attractions are open at Universal Orlando. However, Volcano Bay did close for the winter season. Also, several resort hotels are currently not welcoming guests.
Parades are currently not operating, including the legendary Mardi Gras parade. Also, although characters are in the park, a minimum of 6-feet is maintained in any greets.
The following attractions are not operating in the parks:-
- Fear Factor Live
- Poseidon’s Fury
- Storm Force Accelatron
Also, children’s play areas such as Camp Jurassic, Jurassic Park Discovery Center, and Fievel’s Playland are currently closed.
Available attractions are subject to change and Universal recommend you check the Universal Resort App for the latest information.
What is new at Universal Orlando Resort in 2021 and beyond
There have been several new attractions in Universal Orlando in recent years, but 2020 was planned to be a quieter year. However, The Bourne Stuntacular did open once the parks reopened to guests. Universal’s Endless Summer Resort –Dockside Inn and Suites had a delayed opening in December 2020.
The big news for 2021 is the opening of the Jurassic World VelociCoaster. The attraction is scheduled to open in summer. The attraction will consist of a high-speed adventure through the park’s raptor paddock.
Universal’s Epic Universe
Universal has confirmed that they are building a new theme park, and it is going to be called Universal’s Epic Universe. No opening date has been confirmed, but we can’t wait. While construction is continuing, we expect the opening to be significantly delayed due to budget cuts after the COVID pandemic. It is also likely that the introduction of the new park will be more phased than initially planned.
The development will be on a new 750-acre site a few miles away from the existing Universal Orlando Resort. The new development will be south of Sand Lake Road and east of Universal Boulevard. The new site will almost double the total acreage available to Universal in Florida.
In addition to the theme park, Universal has announced there will also be an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants, and more on this new site.
While there are no new attractions or themes announced, there have been plenty of rumors. Rumored properties for Universal’s Epic Universe include:
- Super Nintendo World
- More Harry Potter…likely to be Fantastic Beasts
- Classic Universal Monsters e.g. Dracula
- How to Train Your Dragon
- Lord of the Rings
- Star Trek
You can follow all the latest news on Universal’s Epic Universe on our dedicated page.
Universal Orlando Rumors
Unlike Walt Disney World, Universal keep details of new attractions low key. Often Universal only confirms the opening of a new attraction close to the opening date. Universal Orlando traditionally opens at least one new attraction each year.
We will keep you up to date with the latest news on this page, including Epic Universe.
Planning your Universal Orlando Vacation
Planning your visit to Universal Orlando is an essential activity. While the resort is smaller than Walt Disney World, it is still big, and you do need to plan your trip. The planning process usually does not have to be as rigorous as a trip to Walt Disney World but should not be ignored. We have created several guides to help you plan an incredible journey to Universal Orlando.
Check the Latest Safety Information
Not everything is business as usual at Universal Orlando. Everyone over the age of three must wear a face covering, and all guests will have their temperature checked. If your temperature is over 100.4 degrees, you will not be admitted. Be prepared to social distance, follow more signs than usual, and follow team member directions. Make sure you check the Universal Orlando website for the latest information.
Also, if you are an international visitor make sure you check the latest information on travel prior to booking your vacation.
Universal Orlando Tickets
Tickets for Universal Orlando are always cheaper to purchase in advance of your vacation. Universal Orlando has several ticket options, but the most significant decision is whether you want to buy a Park to Park Ticket. Guests who do not buy this option cannot ride the Hogwarts Express.
The Hogwarts Express takes you from Universal Studios to Islands of Aventure and vice versa. Each direction is a unique adventure. We recommend most first-time visitors should purchase a park to park ticket.
To learn more about Universal Orlando Tickets and how to get the best value for your money visit our Guide to Universal Orlando Tickets.
Both Islands of Adventure & Universal Studios Florida have a system for priority boarding of attractions. At Universal Orlando, the system is called Express Pass, and unlike FastPass+ at Walt Disney World, it is not free. Also, unlike FastPass, Express Pass is currently operating.
Guests who buy Express Pass present their pass at participating attractions to bypass the regular lines. They join a shorter Express pass line and have reduced waiting at the attraction.
Express Pass is not cheap, and the decision on whether to buy can be difficult. It is usually not essential at quieter times of the year, but during peak periods, there are definite benefits. You can learn more in our Guide to Universal Express Pass.
Universal Orlando Resort App
The Universal Orlando Resort App allows you to store tickets, access wait times, join Virtual Line Experiences, access showtimes, and more. There are handy interactive maps, and the app will even save where your car is parked. You can now preorder food from select restaurants using the Universal Orlando Resort App. Free Wifi is available throughout Universal Orlando, so you can access the App anywhere!
Universal Pay is a new feature that allows you to add a debit or credit card to the App. This feature then allows you to use the App throughout the park for contactless payments.
The Universal Orlando Resort App is available at both the Apple App Store & The Google Play Store.
Virtual Line Experience
Universal has been using Virtual Lines for several years. The concept is simple, reserve your place using the Universal Resort App and then join a much shorter line later in the day.
Since the parks reopened the number of attractions offering Virtual Lines has increased, but the attractions offering it can change throughout the day. However, to ride Universal’s hottest attraction, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, you will need to use a Virtual Line.
Transferring between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is much easier than park hopping at Walt Disney World. There is only a short walk of approximately 200m between the entrance of both parks. Also, guests can jump between both parks by riding the Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However, you must have a park-to-park ticket to enter both Universal Theme Parks.
All rides at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have a Child Swap facility. Child Swap allows the rest of a family to ride an attraction when a child is either too small or young to experience the ride.
The young child sits, usually in a dedicated waiting room, with a parent while other family members ride. Once the first group is off the ride, parents swap supervision, and the rest of the family ride without waiting. Usually, attendants will allow an older child to ride again.
To use Child Swap at Universal Orlando, speak to the cast member at the entrance to the ride who will advise of the procedure to follow. How you access child swap does vary on each attraction, and there are some variations during the reopening period.
Meeting Characters at Universal Orlando
There are numerous character opportunities at both Universal Studios Florida & Islands of Adventure. However, due to the current social distancing requirements changes are in place.
Characters will be meeting guests, but at a distance. Guests will be positioned in a designated spot six feet away from the characters for a photo opportunity. You will not be able to make physical contact with the character. At outdoor locations, you can remove your mask for a short period to have your photograph taken.
Character Dining at Universal Orlando Resort
Currently, no character meals are operating at Universal Orlando. However, we expect the following experiences to return later in 2021:
- Despicable Me Character Breakfast is available every Saturday morning at Loews Royal Pacific. You will be able to meet Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes, and the Minions.
- Marvel Character Dinner is available at Cafe 4 at Islands of Adventure. Expect to meet Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Storm, and Rogue.
In addition, there are usually the following seasonal character dining options:
- Halloween Horror Nights Scareactor Dining Experience at the Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe. You must have both an event ticket and a Scareactor Dining Experience ticket for the date you plan to attend. The event is not recommended for under 13s.
- The Grinch™ & Friends Character Breakfast is available during the Christmas period at Islands of Adventure.
Florida’s official nickname is “The Sunshine State,” which was officially adopted in 1970. While it is doubtful, you can visit Orlando and not meet a fair measure of sunshine; this can undoubtedly be offset with plenty of rain and the occasional hurricane. Orlando’s weather can be unpredictable, and if you are not ready, it can cut the enjoyment of your vacation.
You can read more about the Orlando Weather including our Top Tips to Beat the Weather in our guide.
Universal Orlando Tips & Mistakes to Avoid
Everyone who has ever visited a theme park has a selection of tips for having a better time on their next visit. These are our favorite Universal Orlando Tips & Tricks.
It is easy to make mistakes when on vacation. Usually, these mistakes will have little impact on your vacation, but on occasions, they will reduce your enjoyment. Here is our, updated for 2021, list of 20 Mistakes you Must Avoid at Universal Orlando.
Transportation at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando has one huge parking lot. Guests walk, following security, through CityWalk to both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. There are complimentary buses available that transport guests to Volcano Bay from the parking lot.
Daily parking charges at the time of writing were:
- Prime Parking:
- Prime Upgrade:
- RV/Bus Parking:
- Regular Parking:
Usually there is a valet parking option, but it is currently suspended. Previous costs were:
Before 6 pm
$26.00 for 2 hours
$55.00 for over 2 hours
After 6 pm
$26.00 for 2 hours
$40.00 for over 2 hours
For Preferred Annual Passholders
For Premier Annual Passholders
There is one gas station on Universal Orlando property. The Hess Express is located at 5981 Turkey Lake Road.
If you should be unlucky to suffer a breakdown in the parking lot, Universal offers complimentary vehicle assistance. If you need help, ask a parking assistant.
Hotel Transportation at Universal Orlando
Guests staying at any of the Universal Orlando On-Site hotels have access to complimentary resort shuttles. Shuttles are via either water taxi or bus and transport you to all parks including Volcano Bay.
However, during the resort reopening period capacity on transports have been reduced and waits might be longer than usual. Face coverings are also required on all transports.
Airport Transportation to Universal Orlando
There is no free transportation between Orlando’s airports and Universal Orlando. Guests who have purchased a Universal Vacation Package can use Universal’s SuperStar Shuttle. This service is not free, but it is convenient. Further details on Universal’s SuperStar Shuttle are available here.
If you are not on a Universal vacation Package and do not wish to hire a car, there are several alternative shuttles/limo services you can book in advance. However, while taxis are the obvious choice for most guests, expect to pay $50 between Orlando International & Universal Hotels. Children 5 and under need a child car seat when in Florida, and you might wait longer for a taxi if you need this.
Getting to Universal Orlando from Walt Disney World
Disney World & Universal do not run transport to each other’s parks. However, it is not difficult to get between Universal and Disney. Your options depend on how many of you there are. The easiest, but not the cheapest option, is to get a taxi from outside your hotel. Expect to pay $50-$60 each way.
Perhaps not quite as easy, but cheaper is catching an Uber or Lyft. Uber & Lyft are both cashless taxi services. You order your taxi from an App, and your payment is taken from a pre-registered card. We have used these services several times, and they do represent good value.
An alternative option to get between Universal and Disney is a shared bus. Mears provide a service which we have used before. From our experience, if there are more than 3 of you, getting a taxi or Uber works out cheaper. Your bus will also make multiple stops for pickups and drop-offs, so it will take longer to get to your destination than a taxi.
Universal Orlando Useful Information
Many guests have questions about Universal Orlando Resort, but often the answers are not easy to find. We have batched together some of your most common problems in a section on Modern Life is Good containing Universal Orlando Useful Information. If you have a question, you are likely to find the answer here. Remember, some services will not be available during the reopening period.
You can navigate straight to the advice you are looking for by clicking the links below:
- Park Hours & Closures
- Stroller & Wheelchair Rentals
- First Aid
- Nursing Facilities
- Celebration Buttons
- Phone Charging
- Paying for Goods at Universal Orlando
- WiFi & The Universal Orlando Resort App
- Locker Hire
- Prohibited Items at Universal Orlando Resort
- Smoking at Universal Orlando Resort
- Car issues
- Tipping at Universal Orlando Resort
- Visiting Universal Orlando Resort with Disabilities
- Pregnant at Universal Orlando
- Lost and Found at Universal Orlando Resort
- Children’s Activity Centers
- Universal Orlando VIP Tours
- My Universal Photos
- Package Pick-Up and Delivery
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida welcomed around 10 million guests a year and opened on June 7, 1990. It was the first theme park to open at Universal Orlando Resort & opened shortly after Hollywood Studios.
The park’s theme is the entertainment industry. Attractions are mainly based on popular films or television shows.
Remember, not all attractions are currently open, including all playgrounds.
Universal Studios Florida features 7 areas/lands plus a lagoon.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
In July 2014, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley opened in Universal Studios. The area features two big attractions, but take your time as the rides are only part of the experience. The shops and dining options add to the fun. Plus, don’t forget to turn into Knockturn Alley.
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts an amazing 4D coaster but perhaps the highlight is walking through Gringotts itself.
- Hogwarts Express travel to Islands of Adventure, but there is plenty to see on
yourway. To ride the Hogwarts Express, you must have a theme park ticket that allows admission to both parks
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D is an impressive simulator but I have no idea what is going on!
- Shrek 4-D great fun with Shrek & Donkey.
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit I am going to admit this is the one ride in Orlando I am scared of riding! The vertical climb puts me off riding.
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem silly simulator attraction which is no longer in 3D.
- Revenge of the Mummy a terrifying dark coaster with some awesome effects.
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon I have never seen Jimmy Fallon, but this is a fun simulator
- The Blues Brothers Show Classic street entertainment.
- Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration Universal’s new night spectacular on the lagoon. Scheduled for select nights only, check your time guide for showtime. This show is running in the reopening period!
- Universal Horror Make-Up Show one of the original attractions at the park.
- The Bourne Stuntacular an all-new addition to the park in 2020. This stunt show based on the Bourne film series is in the old Terminator building.
Sometimes The Simpsons area is counted as a unique land, but officially it is inside the World Expo.
- Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl a fun Dumbo-like ride but with some added Simpsons zaniness.
- The Simpsons Ride perhaps this is starting to feel a little dated, but it is still good fun.
- MEN IN BLACK I’m not very good at this shooting attraction. Mrs. Modernlifeisgood loves it!
- Fear Factor Live audience participation game show.
Fast & Furious – Supercharged I find this attraction a bit weird. Perhaps, this is because I have never seen Fast & Furious?
Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone
There isn’t a lot for small children in Universal Studios Florida. Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone has the best of the attractions for little ones.
- Animal Actors On Location! fun animal show
- E.T. Adventure a theme park classic and 1 of the remaining attractions from opening day
- Curious George Goes to Town playground.
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse a fantastic introduction to coasters.
- CoasterFievel’s Playground, another playground.
For further information on Universal Studios Florida read our dedicated guide to the park.
Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure opened on May 28, 1999, along with CityWalk. The park’s theme is a journey of exploration across themed islands. When the park opened there were 6 islands, but a 7th Wizarding World of Harry Potter & 8th Skull Island has since opened.
Remember, not all attractions are currently open, including all playgrounds.
Port of Entry
Port of Entry is the park entrance and contains a selection of shops plus guest service facilities. The park’s icon Pharos Lighthouse is within Port of Entry.
Other islands are reached at the end of Port of Entry and guests have the choice of walking clockwise to Marvel Super Hero Island or anticlockwise to Seuss Landing.
Marvel Super Hero Island
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man a sensational 3D simulator & my personal
favorite. This attraction sets the bar all other 3D attractions try to beat.
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster perhaps one of the greatest coasters ever made? Vicious & powerful!
- Doctor Doom Freefall big drops
- Storm Force Accelatron very, very fast teacups
- Meet the Marvel Super Heroes Despite Disney owning marvel Universal still has exclusive use of the majority of classic Marvel Characters.
- Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls fun flume ride.
- Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges perhaps the best & wettest barge ride you will ever experience.
- Me Ship, The Olive kids play ship
Skull Island: Reign of Kong riding a safari truck you have a Kong Encounter. Many small children will find this attraction scary.
- Jurassic Park River Adventure an entertaining boat ride followed by an 85-foot drop ends
- Pteranodon Flyers only those who are between 36 and 56 inches (91 and 140 cm) or those with a child of that height may ride
- Camp Jurassic prehistoric playground
- Jurassic Park Discovery Center watching a raptor egg hatch is the fun highlight
In summer 2021, this area will welcome a big new attraction, Jurassic World VelociCoaster. The attraction will consist of a high-speed adventure through the park’s raptor paddock.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened June 18, 2010, at Islands of Adventure. The area is themed around Hogsmeade and was the first part of the Wizarding World. There is a selection of shops, bars, and restaurants all themed around the books. Take your time when visiting Hogsmeade as there is a lot to discover. The big attractions in the land are:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, after touring the dramatic reconstruction of Hogwarts, soar through the grounds on a bench. An awe-inspiring attraction.
- Flight of the Hippogriff is a fun kid’s coaster.
- The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle an impressive nightly display. However, crowds can be huge. Currently, a variation of the show Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle has taken its place.
- Hogwarts Express ride to Universal Studios. Park to park ticket is required. The ride is different in both directions.
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is currently the hottest ride in Universal Orlando. Make sure you download the Universal Orlando Resort App before you visit, as you will need Virtual Ride Experience Reservation to ride.
The Lost Continent
Not much of this land now remains and is now the least interesting area of the park. The Mystic Fountain remains the highlight of this otherwise pointless island. While there have been no announcements, expect The Lost Continent to be redeveloped soon.
Poseidon’s Fury is the only remaining genuine attraction. However, it is possibly the worse attraction in Universal, and you should keep away. However, currently, you don’t have to as it is closed!
Seuss Landing is the one area at Islands of Adventure where small children will find plenty of attractions to enjoy.
- The Cat in the Hat a fun dark ride, but it is a little bumpy.
- Caro-Seuss-el carousel
- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish a Dumbo-like attraction in which you have to avoid getting wet. Hint to stay dry, the top jets have not worked for years!
- If I Ran The Zoo play area.
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! A zany train in the sky.
Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park opened on May 25, 2017. The park replaced Universal’s earlier water park Wet ‘n Wild. As this is Universal’s water park, expect big thrills when you visit. However, there is plenty of fun for kids too.
To access Volcano Bay, guests are transported from the main Universal Orlando parking lot via a free bus. Also, there is free transport from Universal Resorts.
Universal Express Pass is available at Volcano Bay but is not included in Resort Express Pass.
The main feature of the park is Krakatau, a 200-foot artificial volcano. The volcano holds three fantastic drop capsule slides. Attractions include wave pools, slides, raft rides, play areas & a lazy river.
Current changes at Volcano Bay
Currently, capacity is limited at Volcano Bay to maintain social distancing. You will still be required to wear a face-covering in dry areas of the park. Most rules are similar to the other parks, but face masks must be removed while in the water and on slides.
Make sure you check the Universal Orlando resort App for the latest information.
Volcano Bay the Lands
The park is split into 4 lands each inspired by Polynesian Themes:
Krakatau streams waterfalls during the day and fiery lava effects at night. The volcano is home to 4 fantastic attractions:
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge a near-vertical drop with a trap door start.
- Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides the tallest drop capsule slides in the world.
- Punga Racers a four-lane racing slide.
Overlooks the waters of Waturi Beach at the base of the volcano. wave pools, slides, and areas to relax are all located at Waturi Beach.
Is the home of attractions for all ages including the park’s youngest guests.
Rainforest Village includes both high thrill attractions and areas to relax. attractions include several high trill raft rides.
TapuTapu at Volcano Bay
Universal has attempted to eliminate waits, with mixed results, at Volcano bay with the introduction of virtual lines. All guests are given a TapuTapu to wear on arrival. Guests simply tap into a virtual queue with their TapuTapu to secure a ride time. Once your TapuTapu vibrates, you return to the line for a short wait before your ride.
Dining at Volcano Bay
There is a selection of dining venues available in River Village, Rainforest Village & Wave Village. Food & Drink is inspired by the flavors of the South Pacific region. Dishes available include Coconut Curry Chicken, Jerked Mahi Sandwiches, Hawaiian Ribs, and Plantain Chips & Guacamole.
Universal City Walk
Universal CityWalk is the entertainment complex at Universal Orlando Resort, containing a selection of bars, restaurants, shops, and other entertainment offerings. Day visitors enter Universal Orlando Resort through CityWalk before entering the theme parks.
Universal CityWalk is bright, modern, and loud & is a contrast from Disney Springs at Walt Disney World. Reception to City walk is mixed and an additional entertainment area is planned as part of Universal’s expansion.
The area is open until 2 am, and there is free self-parking from 6 pm. You can book reservations for several of the CityWalk Restaurants here. However, not all restaurants accept advance reservations.
Many of the shops at CityWalk sell the same products you will find in the theme parks. You can save time while in the parks by leaving shopping until you visit City Walk.
Several of the bars and clubs at City Walk have a cover charge. The cover charge often kicks in at 10 pm but does vary by venue, plus admission is restricted to adults 21 years or older. Deals are available, which allow access to several venues for one price.
Please note, Rising Star is currently open on a limited basis only, and guests can experience the karaoke club Fridays through Sundays. All other clubs and Blue Man Group remain closed at this time.
Universal Orlando On-Site Hotels
There are now seven resorts at Universal Orlando. All Universal Hotel guests benefit from being close to the theme parks, free internal transportation, and early access to a park for 1 hour each morning before regular guests. Loews manage all Universal Orlando Hotels.
Universal Resorts are in price brackets with the top 3 Premier Hotels having a complimentary Express Pass included. Your Express Pass is valid on both your arrival & departure dates. Guests should price up Express Pass carefully as often it is cheaper to stay in a Premier Hotel than buy Express Pass.
Current changes at Universal Orlando Resorts
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Aventura Hotel and Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites are currently not open. All other resorts are operating.
Similar to other areas of Universal Orlando, restrictions are currently in place to keep guests safe. The video below highlights the current safety changes in place at Universal Orlando Resorts.
Premier Hotels at Universal Orlando
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel was the first hotel to open in 1999. This luxury resort has an Italian Seaside Village theme and has 750 rooms
- Hard Rock Hotel opened in 2001 and has a rock theme. We have a review of the Hard Rock Hotel here on Modern Life is Good.
- Loews Royal Pacific opened in 2002 & has an enchanted isles theme. The resort has 1000 rooms. You can read our review of Loews Royal Pacific on this site.
Preferred Hotels at Universal Orlando
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is the only resort in this category and opened in 2016. This is a comfortable resort similar in standard to Royal Pacific but does not include an Express Pass.
Prime Value Hotels at Universal Orlando
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort 2200 rooms are located in this no-frill hotel
- Universal’s Aventura Hotel a modern tower hotel which opened in 2018.
Value Hotels at Universal Orlando
Universal’s latest resort is Universal’s Endless Summer Resort. The resort is split into 2 halves Surfside Inn and Suites opened in 2019, and Dockside Inn and Suites opened in 2020. Universal claims that these resorts are their most affordable yet. However, don’t expect any luxuries.
Dining at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando has a good mix of Table Service, Quick Service, and Cart locations. However, guests who have visited Walt Disney World might be disappointed in the number of options available.
Universal Orlando dining options have improved in recent years, but they are behind the high standard Disney set. The best restaurants are inside the Universal Orlando Resorts. Both Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure have 2 table service restaurants, which are very popular.
Price-wise we tend to find that Quick Service locations are more expensive than Walt Disney World, but Table Service is cheaper. However, prices do vary by location. Dining in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in our opinion, is ridiculously expensive.
Universal does offer several dining plans. There is a quick service plan open to everyone and a plan which includes some table service restaurants open to resort guests only. Overall we don’t think the dining plans at Universal Orlando represent great value for money.
Restaurant Reservations at Universal Orlando
Not all venues at Universal Orlando accept reservations, although the number accepting has recently increased. However, the restaurants inside the parks all do.
Reservations are highly recommended, but there is usually no rush to book, unlike Walt Disney World. Usually, you can easily book a reservation on the morning of your arrival. You can book reservations here.
Food Allergies at Universal Orlando
The majority of dining locations throughout Universal Orlando Resort can cater to food allergies. We have found that staff at some sites are not as knowledgeable as staff at Walt Disney World. However, it isn’t challenging to get a safe, good-quality meal at most locations.
Many restaurants have allergy-friendly menus available on the Universal Orlando website. However, we recommend speaking to a member of staff before ordering at all locations. There are often additional dishes available that are not on the menus.
If you have additional queries you can email Guest Services at [email protected] before you visit.
You are also able to bring your own food into the parks. If there are any queries from security staff, just let them know that a party member has a food allergy/intolerance.
Our Guide to Universal Orlando Resort for Beginners is still in
Are you also planning to visit Walt Disney World? Our Guide to Walt Disney World is an essential guide to help plan your vacation. The guide has been running for several years and is updated regularly with the latest information.