Caught in the rather long shadow cast by Walt Disney World, Universal Studios has always been something of a scrappy younger sibling. To make comparisons even more pronounced, the similarly themed Disney's Hollywood Studios opened at the Mouse House around the same time. But Universal Studios offers some tremendous attractions and has its own, unique rhythm to compel vacationers through its turnstiles. Like its sister park, Islands of Adventure, nearly every major attraction features loud, kinetic, frantic action. It's one over-the-top moment after another.
The wonderfully themed lands are divided into Production Central (the front of the park, which includes the sound stages), New York (a very convincing 20th-century streets cape -- which inexplicably includes the Midwest-U.S.-themed Twister attraction), World Expo (the facade of the Men in Black attraction is actually modeled after a pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair), Hollywood (which features Terminator 2:3D, Woody Woodpecker's KidZone (home to E.T., Curious George, and--shudder!--Barney), and San Francisco (where earthquakes take place every few minutes for your pleasure).
Universal announced in May 2013 that it will open The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Read about the new land, and learn about the intriguing way that it will connect with the existing Wizarding World land at sister park, Islands of Adventure.
Park HighlightsWild, in-your-face, movie-themed attractions including:
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Terminator 2:3D
- Men in Black Alien Attack
- Shrek 4-D
- The Simpsons Ride
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
The park also offers the daily Universal's Superstar Parade, a colorful spectacle featuring characters from Despicable Me, SpongeBob SquarePants, and other animated movies and shows.
What's NewNew for 2013
Transformers: The Ride-3D- The audacious attraction will bring the movie franchise to life using a Spider-Man-style ride system.
- Review of Transformers: The Ride 3D
- Interview with Universal Creative's Thierry Coup about the Transformers ride
Also, you'll be able to eat a Krusty Burger, chug down a Flaming Moe, and try other Springfield delicacies made popular by The Simpsons when their land expands at the back of the park.
New for 2012
Universal is dubbing it "The Year to Be Here." It is unveiling a number of new attractions and features, including:
- The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride- Now open in all its despicableness! Check out my review of the motion simulator attraction based on the hit film, Despicable Me.
Universal's Superstar Parade
An all-new daily parade is now featured at the park.
DiningThere are a wide variety of options including everything from snacks and fast food to sit-down restaurants. Among the better choices:
- Lombard's Landing- Very good food, full-service restaurant
- Finnegan's Bar & Grill- Another full-service restaurant with decent Irish pub food
- Mel's Drive-In- Straight out of American Graffiti
- Universal Studios' Classic Monsters Cafe- Nice decor (if you like monsters) and decent buffet fare.
LocationAt the Universal Orlando resort in (duh!) Orlando, Florida
Ticket InfoReduced 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 four days.
Save money and time. Get discounted Universal Orlando tickets in advance of your visit. Buy direct from Universal Orlando.
Will you be visiting other parks in the area? Consider getting the Orlando FlexTicket, which offers 14 days of unlimited visits to 5 parks including Aquatica, SeaWorld Orlando, and Wet 'n Wild as well as Universal's 2 parks. It's a decent deal (if you are sure you'll make it to all of the parks at least once). A six-park deal throws in Busch Gardens, along with bus transportation to the Tampa park. Buy direct from Best of Orlando.
The resort 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.
For additional fees (which are quite high), Universal Orlando also offers guided V.I.P. tours (reservations recommended).
HotelsIn addition to convenience, guests staying at Universal's three hotels receive great perks including Express access to most park attractions. Read more about Universal Orlando's Hotel Benefits.
- Portofino Bay
- Royal Pacific
- The Royal Treatment--at a Commoner's Price- Royal Pacific Hotel overview.
- Hard Rock Hotel