As a Disney parks fan, visiting Universal Orlando can be sort of “weird”. Frequent Walt Disney World travelers have things they love about a well planned Disney trip. You can navigate the parks quickly and efficiently, perhaps you have your favorite Walt Disney World Resort you like to call “home”, and what about all those restaurants?! Universal Orlando can seem overwhelming, and not as “magical”, but that is not true at all!
While Universal Orlando may not be for everyone, I think there are some valid reasons as to why Walt Disney World fans should visit Universal Orlando. If you can keep in mind that they are two very different experiences, you will have a fantastic time! Visiting Universal Orlando is amazing ~ even if you are a Disney fan!
Logistically, visiting Universal Orlando is easier.
First, in the initial stages of planning, Universal Orlando is quite a bit easier. There are no theme park reservations to be made. Also, guests can arrive to the theme parks, with a valid ticket, and enter the park of their choice. It’s much easier to plan when you do not need to decide which park to visit on which day, and you do not risk being shut out of the park you want to visit because it is “full”.
Second, along those same lines, there is no limitation to park hopping. When visiting Universal Orlando, guests with a park to park ticket can move freely from park to park, at any time of day. This adds a ton of flexibility to your Universal day!
Universal Orlando is easier to plan on a whim. Without needing theme park reservations or being limited to park hopping, it’s easy to have flexibility in your planning for whatever may come up!
The theme park layout is convenient.
Universal Orlando Resort is technically an entirely walkable property. It was designed this way on purpose. Even guests at the “Value” resorts can walk to a theme park or Volcano Bay. Some hotels, like Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Aventura have their own private walkway and entrance to Volcano Bay . Or guests at Hard Rock Hotel have their own beautiful walkway to access the theme parks.
Also, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios are literally right next to each other. Guests can exit one park, and within five minutes or so be entering the next. Or, they can enjoy a ride on the Hogwarts Express between the parks.
Express Pass is the best when visiting Universal Orlando.
Universal’s Express Pass has two tiers. This is important to understand when visiting Universal Orlando. First, there is Express Pass. This allows you to ride an attraction once with your Express Pass. Unlimited Express Pass is just as it sounds. Guests can ride Express Pass attractions multiple times in the day through the Express Pass queue.
Next, keep in mind, that only two current Universal attractions do not accept Express Pass ~ Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Velocicoaster. With that being the case, that opens up TONS of attractions you CAN use Express Pass for, and head straight to the front of the line.
Finally, Express Pass is extremely user friendly. When you add this to your tickets, they print you another small Express Pass ticket to show at the queue entrances. If you are a guest of a Premier Onsite Universal Orlando Resort, your room key doubles as your Express Pass.
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There are eight amazing hotels on Universal property.
First, Guests of all the onsite Universal Orlando Resort hotels are entitled to Early Park Admission one hour early each day. One of the two theme parks opens an hour early to onsite guests. This is a fantastic perk of the onsite resorts!
Also, not only are you entitled to Early Park Admission, but also guests of the Premier Onsite Universal Hotels have Unlimited Express Pass INCLUDED with their tickets if they stay at one of those three hotels. Guests at Preferred, Value and Prime Value hotels can pay an additional cost to add Express Pass to their tickets.
Finally, the Universal resorts are SO nice. I have stayed at several ~ Sapphire Falls, Endless Summer Dockside, and Portofino Bay ~ and had a great experience at every one of them! The rooms are quite spacious, many offer suite options for families, and the pools are amazing.
Universal has unique attractions.
Having been to several theme park and amusement parks, I can say that the best attractions in all parks that I have enjoyed are found at Universal Orlando. Don’t get me wrong….I have plenty of favorites in the Disney Parks such as Avatar Flight of Passage, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Slinky Dog Dash to name a few. However, the theming of the Universal attractions draws me to them in a way that Disney’s do not.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the BEST attraction, in my opinion, in all of the Orlando parks. The aspect I love about this, and all the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is the theming. From the second you queue up for an attraction, you are immersed. Universal did an amazing thing when they built the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Not only are the Wizarding World attractions fantastic, so are many others! The Jurassic Park area of the theme park is well themed, and the Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride is awesome. Add in the Velocicoaster, and the thrill riders and dinosaur fans in your family will have an amazing day.
Universal is geared toward tweens and teens.
I will be the first to say, I feel as if Universal Orlando is best suited for families with children ages 8 and up. My thoughts on this comes from two things. First, the height requirement for many attractions is quite tall. Second, the attractions are intense. Most of them are 3D or 4D, and they are just intense. Universal Orlando attractions are designated more as “thrill rides”.
There are some attractions and areas for younger children. However, in booking trips to Universal for a family who has a five year old “obsessed” with Harry Potter, I find myself telling them to reset their expectations or wait a year or two.
If you do choose to travel to Universal Orlando Resort with young kids, be sure to spend a lot of time at Islands of Adventure . I feel as if this park has the most to offer for young children. This is where you will find Seuss Landing, which is one of the best themed areas of any theme park. Universal is a great option if you feel as if your family has “outgrown” Walt Disney World….or needs a break for a few trips.
As a Disney “fan”, have you visited Universal Orlando? What tips do you have to share with us?