Universal Studios Orlando Resort Guide

By James | Last updated May 10, 2024

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Universal Studios Orlando first came to Florida in 1990 with the opening of the Universal Studios Florida theme park to rival Disney’s Hollywood Studios (originally called Disney-MGM Studios) which opened a year earlier.

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Like Disney’s Hollywood Studios it was themed on television and the movies with attractions like King Kong (now closed), E.T., Shrek, Terminator, Jaws (also closed) and Revenge of the Mummy and carried the tag line “Ride the Movies”.

The second park, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, opened next door in 1999 with a range of thrill-based rides and attractions such as the Incredible Hulk Coaster, Dueling Dragons and the Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.

It was originally built around five themed islands, based on Marvel Super Hero, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent and Seuss Landing. A sixth land, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was opened in 2010 and the seventh land, Skull Island opened in 2016.

Universal Studios Orlando Resort

Today, the Universal Orlando® Resort consists of:

  • two theme parks, the original Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  • Volcano Bay water park opened in 2017
  • CityWalk is an entertainment complex much like the original Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island with nightclubs, themed restaurants, specialty shops, and a 20-screen movie theatre.
  • Hard Rock Cafe and other restaurants are sandwiched between the two parks
  • two luxury resort hotels, two family hotels, and two budget hotels, operated by Loews – the rock and roll Hard Rock Hotel and the Mediterranean-styled Portofino Bay Hotel, the tropical South Pacific themed Royal Pacific Resort and Sapphire Falls, plus the retro-inspired budget Cabana Bay Resort and Adventura Hotel
  • Universal also owned the Wet ’n Wild water park, a short distance away on International Drive which closed at the end of 2016 and the site is being developed into two further hotels.

Universal Studios Rides For Kids

Universal Studios Orlando offers a variety of rides that cater specifically to younger visitors. You can plan your park visits to make the most of the fun experiences for the whole family. For the younger kids, you’re likely to find better rides at Universal Studios, and for the older kids, there are more options at Islands of Adventure. For toddlers, there are a lot of interactive play areas in Islands of Adventure, however, a lot of rides here target older kids and adults.

Top Universal Studios Attractions for Toddlers

  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! – Islands of Adventure
  • Seuss Landing – Islands of Adventure
  • Camp Jurassic – Islands of Adventure
  • If I Ran the Zoo Play Area – Islands of Adventure

Top Rides for Younger Kids

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – Universal Studios
  • E.T. Adventure – Universal Studios
  • Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast – Universal Studios
  • If I Ran the Zoo (Dr Seuss Play Area) – Islands of Adventure

Top Rides for Older Kids

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Islands of Adventure
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – Islands of Adventure
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure – Islands of Adventure

Universal Studios Resort Map

The Universal Orlando® Resort is located in the south west area of Orlando. It is just north of International Drive, off Universal Boulevard which leads directly to the parking garages.

Universal Studios Resort Map

If you are traveling north on International Drive, then turn left just after Wet ‘n Wild onto Universal Boulevard.

If you are approaching Universal Studios from the west on Interstate 4, then take exit 74B onto Universal Boulevard. When approaching from Orlando and the east, then take exit 74B onto Hollywood Way.

The official Universal Interactive Map is available here on their site.

Universal Orlando Resort
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
FL 32819
Tel: (407) 363 8000

Universal Studios Opening Hours

Universal City Walk usually opens from 8 am to 12/1 am. The City Walk opens earlier so that fans can get their snacks and drinks on their way to the parks.

The Parks usually open around 9 am but there are special occasions and events where the parks open earlier. These times are also seasonal and may change throughout the year so please check the most up-to-date times before visiting the park at Universal’s website. The closing times vary throughout the year so also check these times. The parks can close any time from around 7 pm.

Volcano Bay usually opens from 10 am and closes any time after 5 pm. This can also change throughout the year as the weather improves towards the summer.

Universal Orlando Early Admission

If you are staying at a Universal Resort, or you hold a preferred or premier Annual Pass, you can get into the parks an hour earlier. This access is subject to change throughout the year and Universal does have specific dates and times for these so please check Universal’s website before you plan your trip.

Generally you can get into Islands of Adventure an hour early to make the most of Hogwarts and the rides in this area. You can also get a half-hour early access to Volcano Bay to beat the queues for the big water rides early in the morning. The Universal Studio’s Park doesn’t offer many early access dates, but this could change throughout the year.

Universal Studios Orlando App

The ‘Universal Orlando Resort’ app is available on Android and Apple stores. To make sure you download the right one, NBCUniversal Media developed the app, which you should see on the main download page.

Along with a set of maps for the parks, you also have access to wait times for the rides which is a huge help when navigating the parks. This is probably the main reason to download the app. When you’re in the park avoiding a ride with a 2-hour queue can be a huge advantage. You may also be surprised by finding short queues for some of the main attractions.

Another feature of the app is the ability to purchase tickets, entry tickets, or Universal Express Passes. Mobile ordering is also available on the app for all your food and beverage purchases around the resort. For a big-time saver at the restaurants, you can order your food hours before you even want it. All you have to do is select ‘prepare your food’ in the app minutes before you arrive at the restaurant and you have avoided all the queues.

Universal Studios Child Swap

Universal Studios Orlando is renowned for its big rides and experiences and sometimes they may not always be suited for the whole family. however, with Universal Studios child swap features at the park, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the rides even if you have young children in your group. For families wanting to enjoy rides with certain height restrictions and for the fear of missing out, Universal Studios offers a great child swap feature in the queues. Essentially there is a child swap area allowing adults to take turns looking after the children while the other rides the attractions. You can then alternate upon their return allowing the other adult to switch places and ride the attraction without leaving the queue or queuing twice.

The Child Swap program is available at most of the teenager-adult attractions within Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This method maximizes the park experience by minimizing wait times and ensuring everybody can enjoy the rides. Most people may not be aware of this feature at Universal Studios and can assume they won’t be able to join the queues together as a family. Understanding how Child Swap at Universal Studios works is crucial for planning a visit. It’s a fantastic feature to keep all the family together rather than waiting outside and joining the queue twice for their must-ride experiences.

Lockers at Universal Studios

You may have arrived at Universal Studios with a lot more clothes and accessories than you realise, or it’s a very hot day and you don’t need all your jackets and jumpers. You may also have the need to stow away any loose items such as a handbag or backpack before jumping on a ride. This is where lockers at Universal Studios come into play.

Lockers at Universal Studios are covered in both scenarios. There are lockers that you can rent for the day at both parks which are charged by the set number of hours desired. These are located near the park entrances. You also have complimentary lockers at the main rides for both parks for when you need to stow away any loose items. These are at the entrances to the main rides so you don’t have to worry about leaving your items unattended whilst you enjoy the ride.

Universal Theme Park Rankings

Whilst Disney continues to hold the top five spots for most visited theme parks in the whole of the United States, the Universal Orlando resort comes in at number six for Universal Studios Florida 10.0 million visitors) and seventh for Universal’s Islands of Adventure (9.4 million), according to the TEA/AECOM survey.

Over the last couple of years, Universal has been looking for new ideas and has built a record number of new attractions.

In June 2007, the renowned Blue Man Group opened at the Universal Orlando® Resort (this is no longer available), in May 2008 a new Simpsons ride opened in the then closed “Back to the Future: The Ride” building and in 2009 a new music and video themed roller coaster, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit opened.

The most exciting news though was the opening in 2010 of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, a 20 acre theme park within a theme park, inside Islands of Adventure. This was followed up by a second Harry Potter themed land, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley which opened in 2014.

Universal Studios is renowned for some of its special events including one of the most intense Halloween celebrations with over 1,000 cast member recruited to terrify the guests.

Unlike the other main Florida theme parks, Universal Orlando® has a novel parking arrangement with two enclosed multi-storey parking garages serving all the attractions via moving sidewalks, escalators and elevators. It is about a 10 minute walk to the gates. There is also on-site wheelchair rental and an on-site kennel.

History of Universal Studios Theme Parks

The very first Universal Studios park, Universal Studios Hollywood offered tours of the Universal Studios sound stages and sets in Hollywood before being developed into a full-blown theme park.

Universal currently has two resorts in the United States – Universal Studios Hollywood and the much larger Universal Studios Orlando. A third park, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka is licenced to use the Universal name but in 2016 Universal bought a majority stake. A fourth park, the Universal Mediterranean resort in Spain was sold in 2004.

In 2006, Universal Studios announced a licencing deal which saw a licenced theme park, Universal Studios Singapore opening in 2010 which is larger than the parks in Japan and California but not as big as Orlando.

Then in May 2007, further announcements were made regarding two more licenced Universal theme parks; Universal Studios Dubailand and Universal City Dubailand due to open in 2010 and another park in South Korea due to open in 2012. The developments in Dubai were subsequently put on ice following the global recession and the plans to open in South Korea have also been suspended.