Universal Studios Orlando - A Family Guide
Universal Studios Orlando is a fantastic family destination! There is truly something for everyone and is great for all ages – including the kid in all of us. With an annual attendance in excess of 20 million visitor’s per year, Universal Studios Orlando is one of the most visited resorts in the world. What began as Universal Studios Florida in the Summer of 1990 has now grown into a family destination powerhouse! With the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the Summer 2010, Universal Studios Orlando continues to see explosive year over year growth in attendance.
We’ve put together a fantastic guide with all the tips and hints you need for your visit to Universal Studios! Read on to learn all the things to need to know before you go.
Tickets for Universal Studios Orlando
First things first, buy your tickets before you go. Not only will it save you time in line, it will give you time to decide which tickets work best for you and how much you’d like to spend.
Tickets to Universal are not exactly inexpensive, BUT there are ways to decrease your cost.
Tip 1: Staying on property can offer a lot of benefits that your family will enjoy, plus many of the Universal Resorts offer complimentary Express Passes ( an approx. $85 value each express pass). Additionally, staying on property allows you early entry into the park before general admission ticket holders.
Click HERE to compare all the different accommodation options available at Universal Studios Orlando.
Tip 2: You may be able to use those credit cards points you don’t know what to do with. We used American Express points to pay for our family’s tickets.
Tip 3: Look for package deals on sites like Undercover Tourist. Sites like Undercover Tourist are legitimate and have been around for years. As there are quite a few less-than -reputable websites offering “deals”, please make sure you are buying from an authorized source.
Tip 4: Plan to get the Park to Park ticket. You must ride the Hogwarts Express train that takes you from Universal Studios ( Daigon Alley) to Universal Islands of Adventure ( Hogsmeade). It is such an unbelievable experience. Each train cabin seats approx. 6 people and when the door to your compartment closes, get ready for a surprise!
Tip 5: When you get to the park and pick up your tickets, you will want to place them in a lanyard. If you have an express pass ( which I highly recommend) and/or a park-to-park ticket you will have to show your ticket at every ride you plan to use your express pass and when you ride the train. You can buy lanyards at the park or buy the lanyards before the trip and save a few bucks ( I wish we had done this). Lanyards are great because the tickets will get wet, you may lose them and it can be a pain to dig out your express pass at each ride.
Get The App & Bring A Portable Phone Charger
We used the Magic Guide: Universal Orlando app. Being able to access current wait times, park map and menus for the many restaurants was great!
Also, with all the pictures and video you’ll be taking, your battery power will take a hit. Definitely bring a portable charger so you won’t have a dead phone. I like the lipstick size portable chargers since they are not bulky and easily fit in my purse.
Maximize Your Time In The Park
Before you head to Orlando, go online and show your kiddos the different rides and things to do at Universal. Make a list of priorities so you won’t miss anything.
Tip 1: Know that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is going to be the busiest section of the park. Since it’s furthest back in the park, we recommend you head there first thing in the morning and work your way out from there.
Tip 2: Stop first at Ollivander’s so your Harry Potter fan can pick out his/her own wand. The cool thing is the wand actually works throughout the park and your child can do magic spells. Their wand will come with a map of where it will work wonders.
Tip 3: We saw TONS of people young and old wearing Harry Potter clothing. If you have someone in your group that will want some Harry Potter gear and you don’t think you will be able to say no, buy it before you go and they can wear it to the park. We saw people in robes, ties, Harry Potter glasses, socks, t-shirts, etc… Amazon has a lot of options and it will save you a lot money since Harry Potter clothing is pretty expensive in the park.
10 Not So Obvious Harry Potter Wizarding World Experiences
- If you go to the Money Exchange, you can ask the Goblin any question and he’ll respond.
- Every 15 minutes, the dragon on top of Gringotts Bank breathes fire.
- On the second floor of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, you’ll see the Peruvian Instant Darkness.
- In the Magical Menagerie is a snake. Stand outside of the window and it will speak to you in Parseltongue.
- At 12 Grimmauld Place, you can catch a glimpse of Kreacher the House Elf through the window on the second floor.
In Hogsmeade, the bathrooms are haunted by Moaning Myrtle.
Near Eros Fountain is the Knight Bus and it’s a perfect place to take a photo.
Trade your muggle money for Gringotts money which can be used as currency throughout the park!
- Have your Harry Potter fan use the phone booth outside of King’s Cross in Diagon Alley. Dial 62442 ( MAGIC) and it will connect them directly to the Ministry of Magic.
My favorite ride and my youngest’s favorite was Forbidden Journey! We loved it so much we rode it three times. Revenge of the Mummy was great and the Transformer ride was a really pleasant surprise. Another favorite was Despicable Me Minion Mayhem which was really fun and all ages will enjoy this one. If your child isn’t afraid of heights, the Pteranodon Flyer was a big hit with our boys.
Our youngest loves all things Jurassic Park/World and that ride did not disappoint. But, be prepared to get wet on this one. When we rode Escape from Gringotts, it broke down, but the upside was that we received a Golden Ticket for the trouble ( a Golden Ticket allows you to go the front of the line on any ride). We were able to go back and ride after the issue was fixed. It was fun, but not my personal favorite. Several children got scared ( not in the fun way) so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re are going with little ones.
I think everyone walks away with a favorite experience/ride and I hope you come back to comment and share your experience.
Tip 1: Some of the more popular rides offer a “Single Rider Line”. Those over 10 years old can use this line which is generally a much shorter wait time.
Tip 2: Plan for those in your group who are prone to motion sickness and know that Dramamine will be their best friend. I don’t get motion sickness, but our oldest does. Many of the rides are 3D or have a lot of motion and it would’ve affected him badly had he not had Dramamine before we got to the park. Dramamine has never made our son drowsy, but if it makes you or your kiddo drowsy, get the non-drowsy kind. No one wants a tired or sick child at Universal
Tip 3: Many of the rides have a 40 inch minimum height requirement. If you have a younger/smaller child, double check their height as part of your ride planning so you won’t have a disappointed kid. However, there are areas in the park ( like Seuss Landing) that have a lower height requirement and are more suited to younger children.
Child Swap Program
The child swap program is fantastic for families, especially if you have little ones. When you enter the queue, tell the attendant you’ll be using the child swap. One adult can ride while the other adult and child wait in an air-conditioned room (that usually has a TV).
When the ride is over, swap and the other adult can ride. Now, no one has to miss out on a ride. This is also helpful if you aren’t sure your child will find a particular ride too scary. One adult can ride it to check it out and then you’ll know if you think your child can handle it.
Where To Eat
Look at the restaurants ahead of time online since you can decide what will work best for your family and where that restaurant is located within the park. Also, your handy dandy app will help in this arena if you don’t look ahead of time because the app has the menus and price points.
We ate at Three Broomsticks and it was actually pretty good. Favorites were the spare ribs platter ( $16.99) and the fish & chips ($15.99). There’s also a children’s menu with all of the expected offerings for $6.99. While there, you must have the Butterbeer which comes hot or frozen.
We also ate at Richter’s Burger Company. I wish I could say good things about it, but I can’t. We didn’t enjoy Richter’s at all, so I would not recommend for you or your family. There are a ton of other great options though.
Tip 1: Bring refillable water bottles! There are fountains all over the park and you can save money by not having to buy bottles of water throughout the day.
Tip 2: For the coffee lover in your family, there is a Starbucks in the park.
Don't Forget Citywalk
Citywalk is basically Universal Studio Orlando’s entertainment area which is full of restaurants, shops and bars. It’s free to access and it seems to really come alive at night.
We ate at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium. While it’s a little on the pricey side, the food was DELICIOUS! If you don’t want to have a sit down dinner at the Emporium, there’s a counter to buy some of the many chocolate confections or to order their famous and LARGE milkshakes.
Hard Rock Cafe Orlando, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, NBC Sports Grill & Brew and Cold Stone Creamery are just some of the options at City Walk.
What To Wear At Universal Studios Orlando
When it comes to going to Universal Studios, comfort is king. For me, wearing my favorite workout pants and a t-shirt was perfect. You will get wet on rides, and if you go in the summer you will sweat, so breathable pants are key to being comfortable all day. For my husband and the boys, athletic shorts and a t-shirt also worked out perfectly. It probably goes without saying, but wear comfortable shoes and socks.
Tip 1: WEAR SUNSCREEN, especially if you visit in the Summer.
Tip 2: If you and/or your kids plan to go on a lot of the “wet” rides, you may want to consider bringing flip-flops or water shoes along.
Tip 3: Wearing a hat is also a good idea. It will keep the sun off your face, plus you’re going to get sweaty and you won’t have to worry about your hair. 🙂
Tip 4: Put a couple of band-aids in my purse just in case you or your kiddos feet develop a blister.
Tip 5: Bring a cross-body purse that fits snug so your hands are free across the day.
Plan to have a GREAT time! Pack a few extra snacks for the kiddos in your purse to save some money and they won’t “starve”. There is so much to see and do! You & your family will talk about this trip for years to come! For fans of Harry Potter, cartoons & movies, this park really offers something for everyone.
Also, don’t forget to pick up an ornament for your family travel tree.