Universal Orlando is one of our favorite theme parks. We have visited many times as annual pass holders the last few years, and today I am sharing our 7 things to know for your first visit to Universal Orlando.
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Like any visit to an Orlando theme park it helps to go in with a basic plan. Doing a bit of research and knowing what to expect can really help during a visit to Universal Orlando.
I always recommend researching a bit about the parks before you plan your visit. This can help save you time and frustration during your time at the parks.
There are two theme parks and one water park at the Universal Orlando Resort. They are Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. There is also a shopping, dining, and entertainment area called CityWalk that connects the two theme parks.
In this guide to your first visit to Universal Orlando Florida we go over the most important things to know when visiting the Universal Orlando theme parks.
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What to Know for Your First Visit to Universal Orlando
- Arrive Early
- Consider Staying On-Site at a Universal Resort for On-Site Perks
- Familiarize Your Family with the Movies
- Check Ride Height Requirements and Scare Factors.
- Plan for Water Attractions or Rain
- Rides that Require Lockers
- Do you need a Park to Park Ticket and Express Passes
First Time Visit Best Tip: Arrive Early at the Parks
When you are visiting a theme park I always suggest you arrive early. This is when the crowds are lowest and you can get the most done. We love theme parks but we don’t love waiting in lines, so we always arrive early, before the park opens, and are usually among the first to enter the park.
This means you should plan on arriving at least 30-40 minutes before official park opening. Plan time to get from your resort to the entrance of the park.
Time Saver: Consider Staying at a Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando has 8 resorts with plans for more. They are expanding the resort offerings to include all budgets and offer some great perks for guests. Guests staying at an on-site resort receive bus or boat transportation between the parks and resorts as well as early entry.
Early Park admission changes through the year and is usually updated monthly. During our visits early entry was only available at Islands of Adventure. It also only includes specific rides, typically the Wizarding World attractions. It is a great perk for on-site guests.
Guests staying at one of the Premier resorts also receive Universal Express Unlimited. This can be purchased, but is included in your stay at a Premier resort. Universal Express allows guests to skip the lines on many of the attractions.
Before You Arrive at the Parks: Familiarize Your Family with the Movies
We read the Harry Potter Illustrated book before we visited Universal Orlando for the first time. Then we watched the movie. It helped to have a general idea of the characters and attractions before we arrived. There are Despicable Me and Shrek attractions as well as Dr. Seuss Land and Jurassic Park.
My kids haven’t seen all of the movies but having a bit of understanding about the characters made it easier to relate to. Especially the character meet and greets. There are so many fun character interactions, and having the kids recognize some of the characters made it more exciting.
Relate Post: 65 Character Meet & Greets at Universal Orlando
Take Time to Research the Attractions Before You Arrive
One of the most important Universal Orlando tip is to research the rides and attractions. Know what to expect during your visit and what your kids will like. Check out these two posts to help you plan:
- Universal Studios Height Requirements and Scare Factor
- Islands of Adventure Height Requirements and Scare Factor
Plan for Water Attractions and Rain
This tip is more for Islands of Adventure because they have three attractions that you will get wet on. We often bring ponchos to wear on the ride and keep them in our backpacks for when it rains.
If you are visiting the parks in the summer expect a rain shower to pop up during your stay. Usually it is quick and passes but it is good to be prepared.
The water rides at Universal are worth it and you should plan on including them in your visit.
Rides that Require Lockers
Some attractions at the parks require you to stow your bags/purses/belongings in a locker. The lockers are provided free of charge for the duration of your wait and you must use them for your items if you want to ride.
I have seen people turned away from a ride because they have something on them. This includes sunglasses, phones, cross-body bags, and wands!
The attractions are:
- Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios)
- MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack (Universal Studios)
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (Universal Studios)
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Universal Studios)
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster (Islands of Adventure)
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Islands of Adventure)
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (Islands of Adventure)
We have never had an issue with the lockers. You use your ticket to secure the lockers. The free lockers are small but we fit a medium size backpack.
Should You Get a Park to Park Ticket and/or Express Pass
Many people have asked us if the park to park ticket is worth it. This allows access into Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the same day. A regular priced 2 park/1 day ticket is $170.00 and a 1 park/1 day ticket is $115.00 as I write this. Park to park tickets don’t come cheap!
The real advantage to having the park to park ticket is entrance onto the Hogwarts Express. Hogwarts Express is the Harry Potter themed train that transports guests from the two Wizarding World ares of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
If you are visiting to experience all the Harry Potter attractions you will want to purchase the park to park ticket. If you do not have a park to park pass you can’t ride the Hogwart’s train.
If you only have one day and want to do both parks then a 2 park/1 day pass may be your only choice. It is easy to hop between the parks but it is not a necessary way to enjoy your Universal Orlando visit.
Deciding on a park to park ticket depends on who is in your group on your visit and how important the Hogwart’s Express is. For Harry Potter fans this will be a can’t miss attraction but if you are not familiar with Harry Potter it is fine to skip.
Express Pass is also a huge perk that allows you to skip the regular line and have a much shorter wait time for attractions. This is an add-on to your park ticket. I cover all details of the Express Pass in this post: Everything You Need to Know About Express Pass at Universal Orlando.
This first time visitors guide to Universal Orlando should be a great starting point to your visit to the Orlando theme park.