Universal Orlando Resort – What You Need to Know Before You Go

Universal Orlando Resort 10 Takeaways

Hi! First, before we talk about Universal Orlando, let me begin by saying that the itineraries for Disney will be up soon. I haven’t forgotten. I’m working diligently to create the best possible agenda for each age group.

Now, on with the post. I couldn’t wait any longer to share this with you.

Ok…umm…so, I have a confession to make. (Please be advised – the next sentence is spoken in a hurried and garbled manner.)We visited the Universal Orlando Resort.

What? I have to repeat myself? Ok…let’s see if I can get this confession out a little clearer this time. We (our family) visited (went to) the Universal Orlando Resort (the other theme park in Orlando). That’s right, our family of dyed in the wool Disney fans ventured to the “dark side”.  And, guess what? We had FUN!!!

Whew! I’m glad I got that off my chest. I feel so much better. Do you know how hard it was to admit that? I’m not going to lie. It was difficult for two former Disney cast members who are die-hard Disney addicts, and a teenager who has grown up at Walt Disney World to venture into what we considered the “competition’s” territory.

While Universal is not completely foreign to us, it has been about fifteen years since we visited the two parks. Things have changed…a lot, and for the better.

If you’ve never visited the Universal Orlando Resort, you should ABSOLUTELY consider making it a vacation destination.

Since returning from our brief getaway, people have been asking me questions about vacationing at the Universal theme parks. I have decided to share with you ten takeaways from our experience.

10 Universal Orlando Takeaways

Universal is NOT Disneyesque – Universal does not pretend to be something it’s not. The resort does not want to be Disney. In fact, Universal is sort of the anti-Disney. There is no real cohesive flow from one area of the park to another. But, that’s alright. Universal is all about the rides!

No Disney Here Universal Orlando

Caters to thrill seekers – Looking to soar to new heights, defy gravity, and speed through barrel rolls and loops?  Thrill rides abound at the two Universal Orlando parks. Whether you’re being tortured by the Mummy, Ripping, Riding, and Rocketing to your own soundtrack, or participating in one of Dr. Bruce Banner’s (of Incredible Hulk fame) experiments, you will definitely find your adrenaline pumping during your visit.

Thrills at Every Turn

Very little for small children – There is one ride for children under 34 inches (86.36 cm) – E.T. Adventure. Ride height requirements jump to 36 inches (91.44 cm) for several of the other attractions and continue to rise depending on the ride. Most children 5 years and up will enjoy the parks. Just be careful. As with any theme park, while a child may be tall enough to ride something, the ride may not be in your little one’s best interest. It may frighten them or cause motion sickness.
Parks can be fully experienced in 2-3 days – While there is a lot to see and do at Universal Orlando, both theme parks can be accomplished in leisurely in 2-3 days. This makes it a great long weekend destination!
Good food and beverage bargains – Aside from large portions of food, the parks offer some great deals on drinks and meals. If you purchase one of the Coca-Cola Freestyle cups at the beginning of your park day ($14.99 for one at the time of our visit. The more cups you buy, the cheaper the price.), you can get free refills every 10 minutes from any of the Coke Freestyle machine stations throughout the day. We loved this! While we are not soda drinkers, the Freestyle machines offer a wide variety of other options from which to choose – Powerade, Vitamin Water, tea, etc. They were also advertising a deal for food while we were there. I believe it included a meal and a snack for just under $23.00.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – This may be, by far, one of Universal’s best attractions. I’m not just saying this because I’m a Harry Potter fan. The theming in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade is incredible. You feel as though you’ve stepped into the pages of one of the greatest works of literature of our time. Be sure to visit Ollivanders Wand Shop for your wand needs. This is a definite must-do for our next visit. The wands interact with various spots and allow you to “cast spells” throughout the Harry Potter World. Don’t forget, you don’t choose the wand; the wand chooses you! From Hogwarts Express to Gringots, everything about the story has been brought to life in these two areas of Universal.

Hogwarts Universal Orlando

Hogwarts Express Universal Orlando
There’s nothing shady going on  here. –  The weather was absolutely beautiful for our Spring Break adventure, meaning the sun’s rays were shining in full force. The Sunshine State totally lived up to its name. While beautiful weather is always a plus when you’re on vacation, a sunburn is not. Be sure to use lots of sunscreen. Shady areas seem to be few and far between in these two parks. Seek shelter where you can – souvenir shops, dine inside restaurants during meals, forgo the outdoor seating, etc.

Poseidon's Fury Universal Orlando

More to come – Universal is expanding! Volcano Bay, a water park, will be opening in late May. Be sure to add this feature to our ticket if you will be visiting in summer months. We saw some of the construction during our trip. All I can say is WOW!
Parking is expensive – There is one main parking area for Universal. There are different tiers of parking – valet, garage, etc. Basic parking is $20. While that is a steep price to pay for parking, it is the same for other theme parks in the area.
Express Pass – Want to cut your wait times? It will cost you. Universal’s Express Pass starts at $64.99 for both parks, and  that’s just if you want to ride an attraction once. This is something you might want to consider forgoing, depending on the time of year you visit the parks. It may well be worth the extra money during the packed summer months.

There you have them – the 10 takeaways from our recent Universal Orlando visit.

shadowy place
This awesome picture is from www.DisneyDigitalFiles.com.


We did it. Three avid Disney fanatics ventured into the “shadowy place”. It was so much fun, we might just have to do it again sometime.

Have you been, or are you planning to go to Universal Orlando? I would love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments. Or, send me an email at marnie@faithtrustandwanderlust.com.

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Happy Travels!



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