The Ultimate Guide to Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Orlando is one of the world’s most dazzling theme-park complexes, comprising two theme parks, a water park, and a nightlife entertainment complex. First-time visitors may understandably feel overwhelmed by the wealth of attractions, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, so we’ve compiled this handy Universal Orlando guide.
Comic-book enthusiast? One of Universal’s most iconic attractions, Super Hero Island, features rides such as “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” and “The Incredible Hulk Coaster,” as well as meet-and-greets with costumed X-Men characters and Captain America. The island is set within Islands of Adventure, which TripAdvisor recently named the world’s best theme park.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Another favorite among Universal visitors, and also located within Islands of Adventure, is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This island houses replicas of Hogwarts Castle, Gringotts, Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, and more well-known settings from the series, so you can wave your wand at Ollivander’s, hop aboard a replica of the Hogwarts Express, and otherwise live out your wizarding fantasies.
Yet another top-rated Universal destination is Jurassic Park island, boasting the exact same coasters — and dinos — as the movies and books’ fictional Isla Nublar. Here highlights include a steel roller coaster that simulates the motion of a pteranodon and the recently reopened “Jurassic World: The Ride,” complete with an animatronic triceratops, velociraptor, and T. Rex.
Top American travel destinations receive their own homages at Universal Orlando: You’ll find a recreation of the San Francisco waterfront, a recreation of Hollywood Boulevard (complete with costumed Betty Boop and Princess Fiona), and Jimmy Fallon’s virtual tour of New York.
Universal proudly caters to kids and tweens, along with older guests. Youngsters are invited to enjoy “character encounters” (meals with Woody Woodpecker, photos with Spongebob), a Doctor Seuss-themed island, a dinosaur day camp, “pint-sized” play areas, and a “Despicable Me”-themed dance party.
Universal’s water park holds water rides, lazy rivers, artificial reefs and beaches, the namesake volcano, and several world-record holders: a near-vertical speed slide and two 125-ft. twisting waterslides that each start off with you dropping through a trapdoor.
Universal serves as the backdrop for countless annual events. Enjoy Halloween horror shows, a Macy’s holiday parade, a Mardi Gras tribute parade, and the annual Rock the Universe Christian-music festival — along with year-round performances by dancers, actors, and the Blue Man Group.
Finish your adventure at CityWalk. Complementing the theme parks’ own restaurants, like Beverly Hills Boulangerie and Three Broomsticks Pub, this dining hub offers everything from classic carnival fare — churros, fudge, and soft pretzels — to sushi, pizza, and multi-course gourmet meals.
If you need a place to stay after all your adventures, check out the lovely vacation rentals at Balmoral Resort Florida, perfect for keeping the entire family comfortable during your visit.