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Universal Studios and Island of Adventure (Orlando)

Updated: Mar 14, 2022


Let me start off by saying I have only been a few times and none since covid began, so I am nowhere near an expert, but I researched before I went and these are things I learned either planning our trip or while there. I also hate roller coasters, so I cannot comment on any of that except from what my son and husband said. Just trying to help the first time planners like me who knew nothing. One piece of advice I got was wait till they are 48 inches or they cannot do much of the park. So glad we listened to that as to spend a lot of money and have my son not be able to do most rides would have been disappointing.

On holiday weekends, they are closing about 15 minutes after they open due to capacity met. Please keep this in mind when you go. Also if you are in and need to leave, you may not be able to get back in if the park is at capacity.


The first time we stayed at a condo between Universal and Disney, and the second time we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel on property. I will say I was shocked when we went to buy tickets to just the park. I always said nothing is as expensive as Disney and well I found it, Universal tickets!! Since we stayed off property the first trip, we did a one day for 3 people for both parks it was just under $1000! Yes, that is just for tickets and fast passes. I about fell over. We bought 2 adult and 1 child tickets and fast passes for all of us. I will explain fast passes later. If you stay on property at one of the 3 main hotels, you get the fast pass in the package so it’s cheaper to do that we learned. You will still have to buy a ticket but they add the fastpass for free.


It also depends when you go. We always go the beginning of Thanksgiving week so tickets are higher, but that end holiday weekend would have costed us a few hundred more. You may want to plan during a cheaper time –you can check their site for dates and prices. When we stayed the second time at the Hard Rock Hotel, we get the free one hour before the park opens and the free fast passes. I think you need to decide which is better for your family.




Parking

It was very easy and they label the floors of the parking garage by character. You do pay to park, I forget how much, I think it is $28 now and you have a long walk to the security part. You then go to security, think airport type scanners and then you walk through City Walk, kind of like a Disney Springs, but smaller. To the left is Island of Adventure and right is the original Universal Studios. Both are great and really the only reason to choose one of the other first would be where your favorite ride is.


Quiet Room

They have a new Quiet Room for guests who need to take a break from the noises of the park. The room is located at the front of the park on the right of the Studio Audience Center and Lost and Found. It has rubber floor tiles, an activity wall panel and two hiding tunnels. Click here for more information for those with Cognitive Disabilites.


Backpacks

If you go on most rides you have to put your items in a locker near each ride, so be prepared. They make most take fanny packs off too. Please check here for backpack sizes




What to bring

Below is a list of what I would suggest you bring. Click here for what not to bring.

Rain Gear- We went last minute and forgot ours and yes spent $$$$ getting rain gear so don’t forget yours and sunscreen.

Stroller Rain Cover

Water Proof Cell Protector




Harry Potter Fans

We went mainly for Harry Potter, due to this we bought the park hopper ticket as that is the only way you can ride the Hogwarts Express between the two parks. Totally worth it if you are a Harry Potter Fan! A lot of people wear the robes here. They are roughly $120. we brought ours from home to save money. I would get your child one ahead of time as it gets hot and you end up throwing it into your backpack or could get dirty in general. The robes are very pricey here so I would save your money! Here is the robe we got my son of Amazon before.


Wands

Just go ahead plan on $50 for a wand in Diagon Alley. They do have one for I think $34 but the $50 wand is interactive at these parks and your child will want it.. You can purchase it in the wand store. They have a show where they will pick one person for the group and do a find your right wand act ( I heard they pick ages 11 and up). You can then go around Diagon Ally using the map they give you in the wand box and do magical spells. If you want to save money find someone who has a interactive Universal wand and borrow it. If they ever break they will replace them for free.


HIDDEN SPELLS

Wave your interactive wand in a triangle movement and these two hidden spots. One is the enchanted parchment in Scribbulus Implements on Horizon Alley writing shop and the other in the Slug and Jiggers Apothecary faux storefront along Diagon Alley. There’s also a secrete message on the map if you shine it under the light in knock turn alley it reveals it.


The wand spot in Diagon alley is a skeleton that moves as you move (looks awesome!)


There are two Harry Potter places to eat Three Broomsticks and we ate at The Leaky Cauldron at Diagon Alley.



Universal Side Harry Potter Tips

If you dial 62442 (MAGIC) in the phone booth in Muggle London, you can get the Ministry on the line.


• You can catch a glimpse of Kreacher the house elf at 12 • You can catch a glimpse of Kreacher the house elf at 12 Grimmauld Place every few mins as he peeks out the window.


• The snakes speak in the• The snakes speak in the Magical Menagerie.


• Buy a gilly water or normal bottle of water and go to • Buy a gilly water or normal bottle of water and go to Elixirs - they do ‘potions’ you can add to your drinks.


* The talking shrunken * The talking shrunken Knight Bus head is interactive. Stan Shunpike is there to greet you at the Knight Bus in Muggle London, and Dre Head can interact, answer questions, and make jokes its all specific to the person he's talking to.

  • Make sure to check the back of the bus too. You can peak in better.


•The animatronic Weasley on the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes building appears that he is just tipping his hat and wriggling his eyebrows, but if you watch carefully, you'll see that periodically a rabbit pops out of the hat, then disappears again. Look up at the 2nd floor - there’s Peruvian instant darkness powder on the shelf. The ceiling is enchanted


• When casting the Aquamenti spell to get the small fountain in front of the mermaid to spout water. While the frog fountain does indeed offer a reasonable amount of water, the spell also makes a large stream come crashing down on the spell caster if you dont move away quickly enough.


•Ask the employees in •Ask the employees in London's King Cross station how to find Platform 9 3/4. They will look at you like you're crazy, they make a sarcastic remark about how mad you are. The wizards working at both Potter-themed parks know their stuff and they stay in character.


• If you call the Goblin at the money exchange in Diagon Ally a house elf he replies unhappily! Exchange your money for HP money and ask the goblin about the dragon in • If you call the Goblin at the money exchange in Diagon Ally a house elf he replies unhappily! Exchange your money for HP money and ask the goblin about the dragon in Gringotts!


• If you say the name Voldemort to the Harry Potter Staff they freak out at you.


• The Leaky Cauldron sign actually leaks.


• In • In Borgon & Burks put you hand on the vanishing cabinet- feel the vibration & hear a bird chirping.


• Insert a candle into the ‘hand of Glory (from Chamber of Secrets) - it might startle you.


• At the • At the record store, look through the window - lots of references the JAWS (as the ride was replaced here).


•look out for house elves all over the place.


• Butter beer soft serve ice cream is only on the • Butter beer soft serve ice cream is only on the Kong’s cross side


* Knockturn Alley The window of B The window of Borgin & Burkes has a little magic.


* The photo session at * The photo session at Shutterbuttons with fun Harry Potter Photos



Hogwarts Express


Hogwarts Express is the train between both parks. You can only ride this if you have both park tickets. The line was long here, even with a fast pass but so fun. It looks like a real train station. When you get upstairs and go through the wall, have someone stay back a little so they can film you going magically through the wall. It is so cool. (See video). The train is different each way so you may want to take it back. They will close you into a small cabin on the train. There are about 6-8 in each cabin. I hate tight spaces, but did fine. Nothing scary here.






Island of Adventure Side harry Potter Tips


Moaning Myrtle haunts a bathroom in Moaning Myrtle haunts a bathroom in Hogsmeade


• Wizards' names are carved over the fireplace in the • Wizards' names are carved over the fireplace in the Hog's Head


• If the • If the Three Broom Sticks are too crowded go to the back patio usually lots of seats there with a view of the castle.


• Make sure and see the night time lights show on the castle.


• Sometimes the shortest line for butterbeer is at the hogs head instead of the carts or restaurant.


The The tour of the castle is amazing if you ask sometimes they take you on a back scene tour as well.


There’s a shop in Hogsmeade at IOA called Owl Post, you can send postcards and they stamp it with Hogsmeade post mark.

They have the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang show , Celestina Warbeck show, show, Tales of Beedle the Bard and the and the Frog Choir shows to watch.




Fast Passes

There are also different levels of fast passes. We did the unlimited as we had never been and wasn’t sure if the boys would want to ride more than once, which they did. They have a cheaper one for one time a ride if you think that would be better. When we went most lines we 70 mins and my boys walked right on each ride except Harry Potter rides had a slight wait. You can upgrade anytime while there to a fast pass but it is not cheaper. Bring a lanyard as the fast pass for us was a card and was a pain for getting in and out of our wallets. We bought one and put the boys together since they did all rides and just put the scanning part on each side so it was very quick.

Last time we were there they let you buy fast passes the day you were there. So if you are not sure you may risk waiting till you get there to see the crowd. I heard during the week its light crowds.


Discovery Center

Located in Jurassic area between Wizard World and Skull Island.


American Express Lounge

Located in Universal Studios between the Transformers Supply Vault merchandise store and the entrance to Revenge of the Mummy. It is open 12-5. You can also see it near the Shrek Ride. It is an unassuming door. To enter you must prove you purchased your tickets or annual pass with your American Express card. You can charge phones here, use restrooms, relax and get a free bottles of water and some granola bars and chips.




We got to Universal when they opened and left when they closed and did not get to everything but we were satisfied with what we saw and weren’t going to spend another $1000. We started at Universal and did the boys did the Minion Ride, Transformer Ride, The Mummy Ride ( my son is 7 and I had heard it is scary He hated it when he got off but then through day talked about it as one of his favorite rides.) We all did ET, then they did some Simpson rides and then we ate lunch in a cafeteria there that had a few restaurant choices.


The food was ok in the park, not bad but not great. We did love getting the huge Simpson doughnut. (See Picture). When you leave Simpson world there are arcade/fair type games. We told our son as we approached “no” as we had already spent a ton on the tickets. They then went on the Men in Black Ride while I stocked up in the gift shop on rain gear as it began to rain. Then we luckily asked about where Harry Potter world was. It was around the corner. Look for the double decker bus, because Diagon Alley is hidden behind a wall and you can easily walk past it. You then enter the magical world! It really does look like the movies. When you walk in to the left is a place to eat, and then on the right is a candy store that is really cool and sells chocolate frogs. Make sure you look around at everything I learned later about many things we missed. The dragon about every 15 mins will blow real fire. It is cool. There are a few rides in here. Then we left there and right next door is the train station to Hogwarts Express. Hogwarts Express is the train between both parks. You can only ride this if you have both park tickets. The line was long here even with a fast pass but so fun. It looks like a real train station. When you get upstairs and go through the wall, have someone stay back a little so they can film you going magically through the wall. It is so cool. (See video). The train is different each way so you may want to take it back. They will close you into a small cabin on the train. There are about 6-8 in each cabin. I hate tight spaces but did fine. Nothing scary here. Then you enter the second Harry Potter part with the castle. Here they sell Butter Beer. It is not beer but a very sweat drink. Be sure to try it!! There are stand everywhere. There are also restrooms when you first walk in this area on the left. There are a few ride in here and they do little shows here too.


They now do light shows on the castle at dark so be sure to check out the times for it. They also had elsewhere in the park a parade, but we missed it.




We went to Jurassic Park area and there is a restaurant, right before you get to that area. There are many rides here too. After this the teacher in me had to go to Dr Seuss land. This is an area if your child is not 48 inches they can ride it all. The rides are cute. The one, fish, two fish area is like Dumbo at Disney World but squirt you with water.


Dining Plan They do have a dining plan, but you have to go to the register at each place to order and can not use the app at this time to place orders for the dining plan.




Go ahead and just buy the cotton Candy! In Dr Seuss World you can have custom cotton candy made. Its big enough for the whole family! Make sure you have wipes for the kids!




By this time it was closing so we did not get to the rest of the park. My husband who hate Disney say he noticed these rides were newer and more high tech than Disney hence the higher prices. My son 7 at the time who has been to Disney once a year for 4 years so mom don’t be mad, I like Universal better. We plan to go back this year and stay on property and even though I didn’t ride many rides I still had fun. Be sure to check the comment area for videos.



Other tips:

*You can send your packages to the front gate and get them all when you leave. Keep your receipts with you.


*You can purchase a faster internet while at the parks


*If you are going for a few days it may save you money to buy an annual pass and you get discounts on the hotels


* you can as for a tour of the Men in Black Floor, called immigration tour and also of the mummy ride.


*Download the official app for wait times. Load your charge card information in so you can order food ahead of time from the app.


*Coke Cup is $15 a day and you get unlimited refills.


Play areas around the park


Places to eat in the parks


List of rides

Entertainment in the parks


Events




Christmas Time Tips

If you go at Christmas, I highly suggest breakfast with the Grinch


A great spot to watch the Macy’s parade is by The mummy. You will get to see Santa light the tree.

If you do the Grinch who Stole Christmas show heads up it is a little walk to where it is from where you first see the sign about it. When you get back there you will stand for a while. This ended up being very bad for my mom who uses a cane as we had to walk far and then there was no seats while we waited outside the theater. It was fine for my son and I.


To learn about our stay at Hard Rock Hotel check it out here


I hope these tips help make your trip amazing!



Make sure to check back each Friday and Saturday when I post another Family Fun place around the ATL. Check us out on Facebook or Instagram


For our complete list of family fun trips check here,


In this every changing world this information is to the best of my knowledge but things and change daily so I suggest you always double check.


Some of the links may be affiliate links. It costs nothing extra for you to use and I may get compensated for them.

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