How to Visit Universal Orlando Resort in Style – Orlando, FL
For thrill seekers, movie buffs, Harry Potter fans, and those in search of lively dining options and nightlife, Universal Orlando Resort and the entertainment complex, CityWalk, are sure to excite. Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the TripAdvisor Travelers’ #1 Choice Theme Park in the World for both 2015 and 2016, and the unique attractions, shows, rides, and the property’s five on-site resorts make Universal a great vacation choice for adults in search of adventure and fun. The best way to do it all in style is by booking one of their customized VIP Experiences. It’s the most efficient way to see and do everything you want to in the shortest amount of time while learning about the parks and attractions from a real expert.
This under-the-radar and personally escorted tour starts with a continental breakfast in the VIP Lounge and gives you (and up to 11 of your family and friends): complete backstage access to movie sets and lots; reserved seats for shows; no waiting in lines for major rides and attractions (like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the recently reopened Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster, and the Amazing Adventures of Spider Man); lunch at one the parks; and a look behind-the-scenes at the development areas, technology, and stages. Your guide is a best friend with Universal benefits for the day. Best of all, if no one is interested in riding a heart pounding roller coaster with you, your VIP guide will be happy to accompany you on the ride…in the front row….with hands raised high…and voices raised higher.
The length of the tour (five or seven hours) will depend on your preference to see one or both parks during your stay.
When to Visit
We recommend traveling this spring before things heat up in Florida and the kids are out of school for the summer. The rates are more attractive and it’s a less busy time to visit Universal and the Orlando area. Better yet, if you hurry, Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration runs through March 25, 2017. Bourbon Street comes to Orlando with one of the biggest parties ever to take place in Florida. Every night at sunset there are parades and French Quarter celebrations, complete with floats, colorful costumes, live music, Cajun cuisine, and those famous strands of beads.
Whenever you do make plans to bring out your inner thrill seeker, here are some of the best ways to see Universal Orlando Resort in style.
Where to Stay
Stay at one of the five Loews resort hotels on property for a complete Universal-themed vacation. Two of the properties (Portofino Bay Resort and Hard Rock Hotel) are their premier resorts, offering upscale amenities and excellent dining options. Those two properties, as well as the Royal Pacific Resort, offer the Universal Express Unlimited Pass with your stay, which avoids the long lines and wait times for all the attractions and rides, for those days when you don’t have a VIP guide to escort you through the back doors and front of the lines.
“Loews loves pets” policy also means you can bring your furry friend along and they‘ll be greeted warmly with food and water bowls, treats, and few other items, including a “Pet in Room” sign to display on your door.
All of the on-site resorts offer a one-hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter prior to the opening of the parks and easy and complimentary transportation by water taxi or shuttle bus to the parks and CityWalk. Several properties are located close enough to walk to the parks or for fun, take a Rickshaw ride through the shaded walkways along the waterways.
At the end of a long day in the parks, return to one of the three luxury resorts on the property, such as Italian-themed Loews Portofino Bay Resort, named and designed after the famous bay in Southern Italy. Guests can enjoy one of their three pools, a round of bocce ball, a relaxing visit to Mandara Spa, and in the evening, listen to Musica della Notte (Music of the Night), which takes place every night along the Harbor Piazza. The resort features several Italian inspired restaurants including fine dining at Bice Ristorante and the more casual option at Mama Della’s Ristorante.
After dinner, take a short water taxi ride to the new Caribbean-themed Sapphire Falls Resort to enjoy a rum flight at Strong Water Tavern, their signature rum bar. Their knowledgeable “Rum Captains” will take you on an adventure around the world with rums from unexpected places like France to the more expected Caribbean.
Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and ride heart-pounding roller coasters at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
Walk through the sets of some of your favorite movies at Universal Studios and then get magically whisked away to the world of Harry Potter. Here the streets of Diagon Alley in London are alive with whimsical and perfectly replicated details from the books and movies with shops, hidden walls, and incantations that come to life with magic wands.
Grab lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, an authentic British pub and try a Butterbeer or exclusively brewed ales. Outside, it’s hard to miss the ominous giant fire-breathing dragon atop of Gringotts Wizarding Bank as he rumbles and spews fire every 10 minutes. Then take a ride on the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Station to Hogsmeade Station at Islands of Adventure and visit the charming village of Hogsmeade. Even if you haven’t read the books or watched all of the movies, the Harry Potter experience is impressive and fascinating and one of the best features of the parks.
Two of the major Harry Potter rides and attractions at Universal are: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, an airborne ride through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (at Islands of Adventure), and the new 3-D multi-dimensional Harry Potter and Escape from the Gringotts (at Universal Studios).
For thrill seekers, take a spin on the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which reaches speeds of 67 mph and turns upside down in a zero gravity roll and the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. This roller coaster, complete with the music of your choice for the ride, climbs 17 stories above Universal at a 90-degree angle and then comes screaming down the track at 65 mph and takes you into the world’s first non-inverting loop on a roller coaster. And if that’s not enough action for the day, don’t miss Dragon Challenge at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These two high-speed roller coasters – the Chinese Fireball or Hungarian Horntail – compete as each “dragon” reaches a height of 125 feet and top speeds of up to 55 mph in a two-minute-and-25-second ride that includes several inversions (one of which is a zero-G roll,) a cobra roll, two corkscrews, and two vertical loops. Phew.
If water parks are your thing, stay tuned for the grand opening of Universal’s Volcano Bay on May 25, 2017. This Pacific isle-themed water park will feature a 200-foot Fire and Water Volcano, Krakatau Aqua Coaster, a river village, beach, and rainforest. Click on this link to learn more about the newest addition to Universal Orlando.
Enjoy nightlife and dining at CityWalk
This lively entertainment complex sits just outside the gates of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. With a myriad of restaurants, a bowling alley, bars, and the popular stage show, Blue Man Group, there is something for everyone at CityWalk.
Two newer popular spots are The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, featuring creative sushi and burgers and VIVO Italian Kitchen, which boasts handmade pastas and authentic Old World Italian flavors. The new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is a whimsical building inside and out, with smokestacks and a clever 19th century design. They’ve thought of every way possible to incorporate chocolate from Mexico to Madagascar in dishes from appetizers to desserts, so be sure to stop in for dinner or dessert to see how Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome manages to do that.
Spend Halloween in the parks
If your travel plans will take you to Orlando in the fall, then there’s no better place to be than Universal Studios with its spooktacular celebrations. Prepared to be terrified during Halloween Horror Nights. The biggest Halloween celebration in the country, and not for the faint-hearted, evenings in the parks are like being in your own horror film with haunted houses and frightful characters at every twist and turn.
No matter when you visit, a trip to Universal will excite and rejuvenate that inner thrill seeker and kid at heart in you. I know it did for us.
For more information on things to do in Orlando, please refer these articles:
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Disclosure – We were guests of Universal Resort Orlando. The opinions expressed regarding our experience are our own.