A Day Away from Disney: Universal Orlando

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By Ric Flack

Spending a day away from Walt Disney World can be exciting, especially if you plan on spending it at Universal Orlando. Universal Orlando is comprised of two Theme Parks, an Entertainment district and three On-site Hotels. The Theme Parks are Universal Studios (US) and Islands of Adventure (IOA). The hotels are: the Royal Pacific Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel and the flagship hotel, the Portofino Bay Hotel. City Walk is the Entertainment District. The next few paragraphs will describe the parks and hotels and some information to help you make the most of your visit to Universal Orlando.

The Parks

Universal Studios: This park is designed to look like a working movie studio lot although, like its sister resort in California, it was built as a Theme Park. There are many rides and shows to see here with activities for all ages. Some of the more popular attractions are: The Mummy (a roller coaster), Men In Black (an interactive ride where you defend the galaxy from aliens), and Shrek 4D (a 3D movie with surprises). There are many other rides and shows to see here.

Islands of Adventure: This park is comprised of five themed “islands”: Seuss Landing, Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon and Marvel Super Hero. All of the islands are built around a central Lake. This park has more thrill rides than you will find at Universal Studios. The Hulk Roller Coaster, Dueling Dragons Roller Coaster, and Dudley DoRight Ripsaw Falls are some of the more popular rides in this park. This park is very visually complete with each island having its own look and feel. It was designed by former Disney Imagineers and you can see that they brought the Disney design standards with them to this park.

City Walk

City Walk is a nighttime entertainment district with many shops, clubs, and restaurants. Admission to this area is free although some clubs do have a cover charge.

The Hotels

Royal Pacific Hotel: This hotel is the newest on-site hotel and is the least expensive. It is themed around the Islands of the Pacific and contains Emeril Legasse’s newest restaurant “Tchoup Chop”. This hotel is the closest of the three to the theme parks if you choose to walk from your hotel.

Hard Rock Hotel: This hotel is the mid-priced hotel at Universal Orlando. It is Rock and Roll themed with lots of memorabilia throughout. At the pool, you can even hear music under the water.

Portofino Bay Hotel: This is the flagship hotel at Universal Orlando. It is themed around the beautiful Italian bay of Portofino. This is the most expensive of the onsite hotels.

There are several ways to get discounted room rates at Universal Hotels. These hotels are run by Loews Hotels so if you have a Loews First card there may be discounted rates. Sometimes, discounts are offered to people who have an Entertainment book. Finally, members of The Mouse for Less can request a Universal Fan Club membership which offers discounted room rates.

People staying at the on-site hotels have the following benefits:

  • Complementary transportation between the resorts and the Theme Parks
  • Front of the Line access for all attractions which offer this service

Tips and Hints

Here are a few tips and hints that hopefully can help you enjoy your trip to Universal Orlando:

  • Universal Orlando is about 14 miles away from Disney World just off I-4. Follow the signs off the freeway to get to the hotels and parking.
  • Parking is in a garage. There are two levels of parking. Regular and Preferred parking. Preferred parking is closer to the parks and costs a little more.
  • If you purchase a one-day park ticket you must choose to go into Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure. Two-day and longer tickets allow you to hop between the two parks. The tickets do not expire so if you have only one day and plan on going back in the future and you want to hop, you may want to consider purchasing a two-day ticket and using one day on this trip and the second on a return visit.
  • Universal Orlando offers Express Pass which allows you to bypass the regular line and go straight to the front on selected attractions. There are three ways to get this benefit.
    • Universal Express is available to everyone who holds a parking ticket. There are ticket dispensing machines that give you a return time for the ride after you insert your park ticket. You are allowed to hold one Express Pass at a time.
    • Universal Express Plus. For an additional fee, you can purchase one Express Pass for each several of the more popular rides. These are available for purchase inside the parks.
    • On-Site Express Ride Access. All people staying at a Universal Orlando Resort automatically receive front-of-the-line access on all rides that offer this. You simply show your room ticket to enter the special queue.
  • The walk from the parking garage is surprisingly long. Use the moving sidewalks in the morning to keep you from getting too tired before you get to the parks.

If you choose to spend time away from the Disney Parks, you can’t go wrong spending at least some of that time at Universal Orlando. People of all ages will be able to find something to do so go and have some fun!

Magically Speaking Featured Article
Library of Congress ISSN:1556-3863

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