We are planning a brief trip to the Orlando area which might include a day at Universal Studios. We have enjoyed the Disney parks on previous trips, but neither of us can remember if we visited Universal Studios. (Either we didn't visit or we were not impressed ).
Please share your favorite tips on activities for adults at Universal Studios.
We only stayed one night at Universal during a 3 week Disney holiday last year and did both the Universal and Islands of Adventure parks (These are the 2 Universal Parks situated right next to one another) and It wasn't long enough!
Firstly, crowds... As I understand Universal crowds accumulate at similar times to their neighbour, Disney, where I have rather more experience. If you visit in peak time, 20 Dec - 2 Jan, Presidents day week, Thanksgiving week, Easter and any school holiday be prepared for queues, lots and lots of queues. Very low times are 3rd Jan to mid March (exc presidents day as mentioned earlier), April after Easter to end May and September to mid December (exc Thanksgiving week).
We stayed our one night at the Hard Rock Hotel which gave us 1-hour early park entry and unlimited fast-passes to almost all rides for both day of checkin and checkout. And believe me we needed them in late August (even though US schools had returned there was lots of kids "wagging it" as we call truancy in the UK, and of course most European countries school Holidays start and end later than US) as queues for most rides were an hour or more, and even with Fastpasses both Minion and Rock&Roll took 30 mins wait, regular queues were around 2 hours for those two. Fastpasses meant that waits for most rides were no more than 10-15 mins. And there's lots of rides, proper adut/teen rides with great theming as well as thrills.
IF you want to do the Harry Potter attractions, the 2 big rides, Gringotts and Hogwarts don't have fastpass lines so we used our day of checkin to get early park access for Hogwarts and checkout day for Gringotts.in each case this reduced waits well below an hour when both rides were posting 2-3hours all day.
By using both early morning entries and the fastpasses, Adam park hopping we were able to ride all the main attractions we wanted in both Universal Parks over 2 exhausting days, but you'll need to be committed to the cause, both early mornings at 8am, and right to closing at 9pm both days, and walking, lots and lots of walking! Teenagers love it, the rides are way more adult and faster than Disney, the theming is excelllent too.
Let's see - for the most part, I pretty much agree with brightlybob... As I've posted elsewhere:
Our family tips [for Orlando] include:
brightlybob and ssindc, thanks for all the suggestions. We will only have 1 day to spend at the park and won't mind early to late. No little ones will be with us, it will just be me and my husband. We saw a Blue Man Group performance as part of a 4th of July show in Utah several years ago. I'm sure we would enjoy seeing them again.
I read a lot of older posts from some of MI who are not active anymore, but was able to get some information for those about some restaurants to try in the area. We enjoy NOLA in New Orleans, so trying Emiril's at City Walk is a possibility. I remember eating at Bahama Breeze near the Marriott Village. I don't remember what I had, but most likely it was seafood.
I'm not too big a fan of the Emeril's at city walk, but the building (if it still looks the same) and the dining experience were pretty visually stunning. First floor is just like a big glass box (almost like the flagship apple store in NYC. . Also be sure to check the music lineup for your trip dates. There might be an interesting band or something at hard rock live, and (i'm not sure if they still have it) there used to be a little stage near Margaritaville that used to have some pretty good bands most nights.
The universal parks are great (even though I'm a disney kid at heart), and the bang for your buck really outshines disney, especially with no kids in the mix.
I saw the blue man group show over there a couple years ago and really enjoyed it, even if you've already seen them I definitely think it's a worthy investment.
If you're willing to venture out a little bit (at any point during your orlando trip) there is a fantastic BBQ joint in winter park called 4 Rivers.
I still highly recommend some of the more upscale disney restaurants for food, but citywalk is decent to just get your grub on. I'm biased though, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. haha.
When I looked at the prices for Universal Studios, I was surprised to see how much 1 day cost versus longer stays. We are reconsidering our plan of visiting for 1 day on this trip and planning for a longer stay on a future trip. I would like to see both parks and I know that would not be practical for us to try in 1 day.
I have Winter Park on the list of communities we would like to visit. We love BBQ, so I am adding that to the list.
I appreciate all your recommendations (even if you are biased) and will definitely take them into consideration.
One day is definitely not enough to see both parks unless you are selective. If all you really care about it the Harry Potter sections, both can easily be done in a day (taking the train between parks). The drawback to this approach is that these areas are the farthest from the gate and involve a lot of walking.
Two (or even three) days are probably better if you want to be able to see most everything and not drop dead from exhaustion afterwards. If Universal is a high priority, staying at one of their hotels is probably a good idea. You can easily stay elsewhere and drive, but add $20 a day for parking (you can leave and return the same day without additional charges). I don't think I'd bother trying to stay at any of the nearby Marriott properties (i.e. International Drive area). Stay a bit farther away where traffic is less hectic. My visit fell during a bit a of lull in crowds and getting to the garage was extremely easy (both in the morning and around mid-afternoon).
I love Universal Studios! Their are now two parks. I would recommend going to the Islands of Adventure side. There you have the roller coasters, great food, and I believe the Harry Potter park and area which is supposed to be amazing!
They also have wonderful hotels if your looking for a place to stay.
Agree with other posters here that the Express Pass is the way to go at Universal. I enjoyed the Men In Black and Simpsons. Family members who are into Harry Potter really liked the Diagon Alley attraction. We had lunch at Margaritaville, and it was pleasant sitting at an outside table. Don't forget to allow time to shop for souvenirs. Was just drinking cold soda from the extra-insulated plastic Universal glass the other day, and remembering the fun time we had : )