With two theme parks, four hotels, the CityWalk complex, nearby Wet 'n Wild, and other diversions, Universal Orlando isn't as large or diverse as its mousy neighbor up the street, but it's pretty darn huge and packed with fun in its own right.
Less cohesive and lacking the warm and fuzzy Disney touch, the Universal Orlando parks nevertheless feature some of the very best attractions of their kind on the planet, including its groundbreaking Spider-Man ride, the Hulk coaster, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and Revenge of the Mummy. And its Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands have proven wildly popular and transformed the industry.
Universal has a brash, in-your-face attitude. If the sweet It's a Small World defines Walt Disney World, the carnivorous Jaws sets the tone at Universal. Things are always blowing up and out of control on its attractions. The CityWalk complex always pulsates with energy. Underwater speakers at the Hard Rock Hotel's pool ensure that guests never miss a lick of a searing guitar solo. If it's solace you seek, head to the Bahamas. If you want to pump up the action, head to Universal.
LocationUniversal Orlando is in (duh!) Orlando, Florida
Universal Orlando TicketsReduced price for children, ages 3 to 9. 2 and under are free.
Universal Orlando offers one- and two-park (with park hopping allowed) ticket options for one to seven days.
Save money and time. Get discounted Universal Orlando tickets in advance of your visit. Buy direct from Universal Orlando.
Are you planning to visit additional parks? You might want to consider the Orlando FlexTicket, which offers 14 days of unlimited visits to five parks including SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, and Wet 'n Wild as well as the two Universal parks. It's a good deal (if you manage to visit all of the parks at least once). There is also a six-park package deal that tosses in Busch Gardens Tampa, along with bus transportation to the Tampa park. Buy direct from SeaWorld.
For additional fees (which are quite high), Universal Orlando offers guided V.I.P. tours (reservations recommended) Info is available at the resort's official site, Universal Orlando.
The resort also offers Express Plus passes, which grant quick access to most attractions. (Unlike Disney's Fastpass program, Universal does not offer complimentary line bypass tickets.) Prices vary for Express Plus according to the time of year.
When to GoThe general rule is to zag when everyone else is zigging. If possible, try to plan your Universal Orlando trip away from holidays, school vacations (especially the week between Christmas and New Year's), and the early summer. For more info, go to Making the Most of your Florida Theme Park Vacation.
Getting to the Resort
- Airport Info:
- The primary airport is Orlando International Airport (MCO).
- You could also fly in to Tampa International Airport (TPA) or the smaller Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB).
- Driving Info
- Universal Orlando is located off I-4. The actual address is 6000 Universal Boulevard.
- From I-4 East: To Exit 75A and follow signs.
- From I-4 West: To Exit 74B and follow signs.
- From Orlando Airport: SR-528 W to I-4 E to Exit 75A and follow signs.
On-Property HotelsIn addition to convenience, guests staying at Universal's three hotels receive great perks including quick access to most park attractions by showing their room cards. Read more about Universal Orlando's Hotel Benefits.
- Portofino Bay
- Royal Pacific
Note that this hotel is the closest to Islands of Adventure.
- Hard Rock Hotel
Compare rates for Hard Rock Hotel at TripAdvisor.
- Other Area Hotels
Compare rates for Orlando-area hotels at TripAdvisor.
New for 2014
The Harry Potter land doubles in size with an expansion at Universal Studios Florida. Read about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley
New for 2013
The E-ticket Transformers ride is coming.
- Review of Transformers: The Ride 3D
- Interview with Universal Creative's Thierry Coup about the Transformers ride
More Simpsons goodies are on the way as well with new Springfield restaurants, pubs, and shops.
New for 2012
Despicable Me, Spider-Man, Universal's Superstar Parade, Universal's Cinematic Spectacular, and Hollywood Drive-In Golf
An all-new motion simulator attraction based on the hit film, Despicable Me, is headed to Universal Studios Florida along with a new parade and a nighttime spectacular show, while a reworked Spider-Man, which will be getting a super-dooper HD makeover, is on tap for Islands of Adventure. Also, The CityWalk entertainment complex will get a retro mini-golf course.
- The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride has debuted. See my review.
- The upgraded The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride is now open. Read my review.
- The new Universal's Superstar Parade has debuted. See photos and learn more about the colorful spectacle.
Other Things to Do
- The nearby Wet 'n Wild is part of Universal Orlando. Ticket packages are available that include admission to the water park as well as the two Universal theme parks.
- There is a wide array of dining options at CityWalk, inside the parks, and at the hotels. Among the best is Mythos at Islands of Adventure, perhaps the finest restaurant at a theme park. It offers wonderful, adventurous food, incredible atmosphere, and prices that are surprisingly affordable. Other good choices include The Palm at Hard Rock Hotel (very pricey steak house), Emeril's Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Hotel (pricey Asian fare), and Latin Quarter at CityWalk (reasonably priced Latin cuisine). For a quick meal and a change of pace, consider the brick-oven pizza at the Portofino Bay's Splendido Pizzeria.
- In addition to restaurants, the always-hopping CityWalk offers nightclubs, a stage with complimentary entertainment, retail shops, and a movie theater.
- The concert venue Hard Rock Live presents live music, and Blue Man Group has its own theater at Universal Orlando.
- In partnership with Royal Caribbean International, Universal Orlando offers "Way More Than a Cruise" land and sea vacation packages.
Two Theme Parks
- Universal Studios Florida- Overview of the movie-themed park. Includes ride reviews.
- Islands of Adventure - Overview of Universal Orlando's second park. Includes ride reviews.