Disclosure: I received tickets and Express pass to Universal Orlando Resort complimentary, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Universal Orlando Resort Parks
Last week I was able to cross off a bucket list item: visiting Universal Orlando Resort! I made it a full Universal Orlando Resort experience by staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort (one of their on property hotels), and having three days at the parks, where I visited both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. If you’re considering visiting Universal Orlando Resort, here’s my take on everything you need to know for visiting!
Islands of Adventure: Must-See Attractions, What to do With Kids
Right off the bat I was I was blown away by the size and attraction offerings in Orlando! Islands of Adventure has different “islands” throughout the park, themed to a different movie or IP. These include:
- Marvel Super Hero Island
- Seuss Landing
- Toon Lagoon
- Jurassic Park
- Hogsmeade, part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (almost identical to the Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Hollywood)
- Skull Island
- The Lost Continent
- Port of Entry
These were my personal favorite rides, and what I would have on my Must Ride List:
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Marvel Super Hero Island, : Inspired by the Spider-Man animated series of the 90’s, this ride was very immersive and impressive! The ride is a classic and was my favorite in the whole park.
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong: This ride is a mix of a simulator and practical effects, both very impressive. This one is a bit more of a thrilling ride, better for tweens through adults.
- Jurassic Park River Adventure (Jurassic Park): I love that this ride implements a lot of animatronics! It’s a must-ride for any Jurassic Park fanatic.
- Pteranodon Flyers (Jurassic Park): This ride is like zip lining but sitting down, it feels like you’re flying! You can only ride if you are accompanying a child. It goes through beautiful scenery!
- Caro-Seuss-el (Seuss Landing): This carousel is themed to Dr. Seuss books, with each animal you ride on the carousel being modeled after a Dr. Seuss animal! It was so cute, a classic ride for any age.
- The Cat in the Hat (Seuss Landing): This dark ride tells you the story of the Dr. Seuss classic The Cat in the Hat. The animatronics are even designed to look like they are the drawings from the books.
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride (Seuss Landing): Another ride great for all ages, this train ride takes you through various scenes from Dr. Seuss books. My favorite part of it is that the train track is up in the air, so you can get amazing views of Islands of Adventure while you ride.
- Flight of the Hippogriff (Hogsmeade): This roller coaster is a short ride, but fast and thrilling!
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Hogsmeade): This ride is inside Hogwarts Castle, and is very thrilling (can be scary for kids, would recommend for tweens through adults). It is also a mix of animatronics, simulator and practical effects.
- Hogwarts Express: Hogsmeade Station (Hogsmeade): If you have a Universal Orlando Park-to-Park ticket (meaning the ticket type that lets you into both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida). The train is an attraction and also a means of transportation into Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida!
Best Attractions for Kids at Islands of Adventure:
- Hogwarts Express: Hogsmeade Station
- Flight of the Hippogriff (if over 39 inches tall)
- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
- The Cat in the Hat
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
- Pteranodon Flyers
- Toon Lagoon play areas
And of course in addition to these attractions, there’s character meet-and-greets and amazing shops and treats!
Universal Studios Florida: Must-See Attractions, What to do With Kids
My Must Visit Attractions:
- Revenge of the Mummy: This ride is very thrilling, and made me scream a few times (but in a good way). For this ride you need to put your bags in a locker, which they offer small ones for free, or large ones for $2 while you ride the ride.
- E.T. Adventure: This ride is a dark ride with animatronics, and felt very 90’s old school. Which is what I absolutely loved about it! It definitely brought me back to my childhood!
- Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts: This is one of the most immersive attractions I’ve ever ridden at at theme park. The queue line, the pre-show, and ride itself really transport you into the world of Harry Potter. You need to stow your bags in a locker. Small lockers are free and large ones are $2 while you ride.
- Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station: This station looks just like Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter films! This is an attraction as well as mode of transportation into Islands of Adventure that you can only access if you have a Park-to-Park ticket.
Best Attractions for Kids at Universal Studios Florida:
- Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station
- Shops and interactive wand displays throughout Diagon Alley
- E.T. Adventure
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
- Fievel’s Playland
I spent about a day at Universal Studios Florida, with the majority of the time visiting Diagon Alley, since there’s so much to see in that area!
Universal Express Pass
When I visited, I was given Express Pass on my ticket. I have never used it before, but had always been curious about if it was worth the price. Each attraction has a regular queue line, and an Express Pass line, which is significantly shorter than the regular line. You can add on Universal Express Pass to a Park-to-Park ticket. You can choose the regular Express Pass, which can be used once per person per ride, or the Universal Express Unlimited, which you can use on any ride multiple times.
Once you have the Universal Express Pass on your ticket, you can use it as many times as you like – it’s unlimited! If I was visiting again, I think I would definitely add it on. We were able to go on all the attractions in a day easily, since we never waited more than 15 minutes for a ride. It really allows you to see so many attractions, or even ride your favorites twice (with the Universal Express Unlimited), with plenty of time leftover to eat at restaurants, shop, or taking in the immersive themed areas of both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. You can learn more about Universal Express Pass here.
Benefits of Staying On Property While Visiting Universal Orlando Resort
If you stay at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel, visiting the parks is a breeze! We stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort (read my full review and look at the amenities here). At the hotel, you can purchase tickets or make dining reservations in the lobby. And of course the staff at the hotels know Universal Orlando Resort inside and out, making it easy to plan your day.
The hotels have complimentary shuttles that run every 10 minutes, which take you to the Universal Orlando Resort entrance, which has access to Universal CityWalk, Universal Studios Florida, and Islands of Adventure. The shuttle ride is very quick, 10 minutes or sometimes less depending on traffic.
Another benefit of staying on property is early access to the parks! Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests can get early entry into Volcano Bay (their water park) as well as Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Since Diagon Alley is one of the most popular attractions, having the early access to ride the rides and see the sites with fewer crowds is a huge plus!
You can start planning your Universal Orlando Resort vacation by visiting their site here.
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