We have visited the Universal parks and resorts in Orlando, Florida many times as a family of five, and there is a reason we keep coming back. This guide to the Universal Orlando resort will teach you all about the Universal parks and the Universal on-site resorts to help plan your family vacation.
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The big theme parks in Orlando are Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. Both offer amazing entertainment and are great choices for a family vacation.
I am often asked about visiting both parks or people are confused about what theme parks are where. Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World are not related. This is important to know when planning an Orlando vacation.
They are close in proximity, about a 15-20 minute drive, but they are different. You can visit both parks during your Orlando visit but be sure to do your research so you understand what parks and resorts are at what theme park.
If you want a comparison check out this article: Walt Disney World vs Universal Orlando | What Theme Park is Best for Your Orlando Vacation
In this article I am sharing an overview of the Universal parks and resorts, what to expect, where to stay, and what attractions are at the parks.
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Universal Park and Resorts Overview
There are 3 parks, 8 resorts, and 1 entertainment complex included at the Universal Orlando resorts. They offer a range of pricing for the resorts, and ticket options to fit your family and budget.
Universal Orlando Florida Parks
Universal has Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure are theme parks and Volcano Bay is a water park.
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is the original Universal park. Here you will find attractions like Despicable Me, Transformers, E.T., Men In Black, The Fast and the Furious, Jimmy Fallon Race Through New York and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley.
It also has Springfield U.S.A., home of The Simpsons and my favorite Taco Truck (BumbleBee Man’s Taco Truck). You can also visit Moe’s Tavern to indulge in a Duff Beer. My favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida has to be Escape from Gringotts. This is inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley.
Diagon Alley is incredibly themed and if you are a Harry Potter fan it is a must. Honestly, I wasn’t even a big Harry Potter fan during our visit and I was blown away with the attention to details and the immersive feeling.
Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure is home to Seuss Landing, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade, Marvel Super Hero Island, and Jurassic Park. There are more thrill rides at Islands of Adventure like the Hulk, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and King Kong.
There are also a few water rides like Jurassic Park, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye + Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges. You will get soaked on these attractions. We usually wear a poncho when we ride. I purchase them at the dollar store before we leave home. Read about the best water rides at Universal Orlando!
Universal’s Islands of Adventure is also home to two of the most popular attractions at Universal Orlando resort. They are Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Velocicoaster. Both are rollercoasters with Velocicoaster being way more intense.
These are both very popular attractions and will get long lines. Ride them with early entry or as soon as the park opens.
Universal Parks Tip: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has two locations. One at Universal Studios and one at Islands of Adventure. If you purchase a park-to-park ticket you can ride the Hogwarts Express(Train), that transports guests between parks.
You must have a park-to-park ticket to ride this. If you choose to go with a 1 Park/1 Day pass you can still enjoy the Wizarding Worlds at the park you visit for that day, but you will not have access to ride the Hogwarts express.
Must Read: Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure (Best Universal Park)
Volcano Bay is the water park at the Universal Orlando Resorts. It offers virtual lines and is one of the prettiest water parks I have ever visited. There are attractions for all ages from lazy rivers and splash pads to more adventurous slides.
We spent a few hours exploring Volcano Bay in August. It is an incredible park! Read more about tips for your first visit to Volacano Bay.
Coming Soon to Universal Orlando
Epic Universe is the brand new theme park being built and set to open in 2025. This will be located near the Endless Summer Resorts. It will include a Wizarding World area, How to Train Your Dragon Land, Classic Monsters, and Super Nintendo World. More attractions and details are being announced so stay tuned.
Super Nintendo World will be opening at Universal Studios Hollywood in early 2023 if you can’t wait!
Universal Orlando Resorts
There are currently 8 resorts at Universal Orlando. The resorts allow guests special perks like early entry and on-site transportation as well as pricing that fits any budget.
We have stayed at the value resorts and they have the most spacious rooms for a family while staying on a budget. As you move to the premier hotels you will be closer to the park, some are within walking distance, as well as have more amenities at the resort like water slides and sit down restaurants.
It depends on what your priorities are as a family visiting. One of the best perks of the premier hotels is they include express pass with your stay. Express Pass is the line skipping add-on offered at Universal. Read details about it: Is Universal Express Pass Worth It?
Guests not staying at a Premier hotel or staying off-site can purchase express pass to be added on to their tickets but it can be pricey and it is worth comparing the costs.
Premier Hotels ($$$$)
- Loews Portofino Bay Resort
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Preferred Hotel ($$$)
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Prime Value Hotels ($$)
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Universal’s Aventura Resort
Value Hotels ($)
- Universal Endless Summer Resort- Surfside Inn and Suites
- Universal Endless Summer Resort- Dockside Inn and Suites
CityWalk Entertainment Complex
CityWalk is an shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at Universal Orlando. After a day at the parks or if you want a break for lunch, you can walk over to CityWalk to enjoy a great meal.
Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is a favorite because of the chocolate bread and amazing milkshakes. We have played mini-golf at Hollywood Drive-In Golf and there are so many different restaurants to choose from.
Universal’s CityWalk gets extremely busy after parks close and it does cater to an older crowd as the night goes on. Keep this in mind when planning your visit.
Universal Tip: One of the great things about Universal is the parking garage/transportation drop-off leads you to all of the parks. You walk through CityWalk and take a left to Islands of Adventure or a right to Universal Studios. This makes park hopping easy!
Must Read: Best Restaurants at Universal Orlando Resort
Universal parks and resorts are a great place for your Orlando vacation. There are amazing attractions, entertainment, and resorts to make everyone in your family happy.