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Best Tips to Experience Universal

Universal Orlando has plenty of thrills to enjoy. But with all that excitement, it can be tricky to know where to begin. In this guide, we’ve provided some Orlando Tourist Tips (insider tips) including the best tips to experience Universal in all its glory.

Best Tips to Experience Universal: Arrive at the Park Early (and leave at closing time)

To get the most out of your trip, you’re going to want to arrive at the park super early and leave as late as possible (depending on how tired you are). Aim to arrive at Universal prior to park hours because some guests are allowed in before it opens. Then you’ll have early access to the rides.

This is a great way to beat the crowds and makes a lot of sense if you’re only in Orlando for a short amount of time. Take a break when the park is at its peak between mid-morning and early afternoon with a quick food stop or a trip to CityWalk. Then continue with the excitement later that afternoon. Crowds tend to die down around 4pm, with shorter lines for most rides.

Know the Best Time of Year to Avoid Crowds

When you’re at a theme park, the last thing you want is big crowds and long lines. Certain times of the year see smaller crowds at Universal. These include the entire month of September (when kids are back at school), early December (before the main festive week kicks off), January to early February, and even early November. Top Villas created this handy guide for more information on the best times to visit.

Best Tips to Experience Universal includes when to visit this Orlando theme park.Visit Harry Potter Later in the Day

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter tends to be packed in the morning so one of our best tips to experience Universal is to go in the afternoon and try to see other areas of the park beforehand. As the crowds die down, you’ll get the chance to enjoy shorter lines – and get better photos than everyone else.

The Orlando heat (depending on what time of year it is) also tends to sink a little in the afternoon. Another benefit, if you’d like to shop at the Diagon Alley gift shops, is that afternoon lines tend to be much shorter than during the morning rush.

Take Breaks Throughout the Day

Visiting theme parks can be super exciting and yet very tiring, especially for little ones. Taking regular breaks throughout the day is key, whether it’s grabbing a snack, watching a show such as the ‘Horror Makeup Show’, relaxing on Sneetch Beach at Seuss Landing, or having a picnic in Universal’s Central Park.

Use the ‘Child Swap’ Service

If you’re traveling with kids, sometimes the younger ones aren’t able to go on rides suited for older guests. And, if both parents want to have a turn on a ride, it can make things extra tricky.

However, with the ‘child swap’ service at Universal, things can be a little bit easier. It works like this: one parent looks after the kids in the family room, while the other enjoys the ride. Later on, they can switch. This saves everyone from lining up again and give both parents the chance to enjoy the rides.

Instead of the second parent riding alone, this service actually allows the rider to take another rider with them, which means someone else in your party can ride again!

Hogwarts Express is a "must do" attraction

Hop on the Hogwarts Express

Can you really say you’ve been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without riding the Hogwarts Express? The train takes you between the two parks at Universal, working as both a convenient time-saver and a magical experience for the entire family. Ensure you’ve bought a park-to-park ticket before hopping on the express.

Take Advantage of Single Rider Lines

You can save a lot of time if you don’t mind going on the rides alone. On certain rides, they offer ‘single rider lines.’ The idea is that when the ride isn’t filled up and there are only single seats remaining, those in the single riders line can help to fill in the gaps. This option saves a lot of time and if you want to repeat an attraction, it’s a convenient idea. You have to be 10 years or older to use this line.

Get yourself Some Gringott Bank Notes

At Diagon Alley in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you need to stop by Gringott’s Money Exchange. Here you exchange ‘muggle money’ (otherwise known as US dollars) for Gringott Bank Notes, which can be spent throughout the Universal Orlando Parks. They offer $10 or $20 options.

Order the Pumpkin Fizz

Universal is full of secrets but what many guests don’t know is about their secret menus. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: At the Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head Pub in Wizarding World of Harry Potter, when you’re ordering the classic Butter Beer, don’t forget to ask for Pumpkin Fizz. This item isn’t on the actual menu and is a secret drink they serve.

Dine at CityWalk

Visit CityWalk

The exciting entertainment complex called CityWalk offers guests a range of dining opportunities, live entertainment, nightclubs, and shops. If you’d like a break from the main theme parks, take yourself down there.

CityWalk is completely free to enter whether you have a theme park ticket or not. You can spend the day shopping or stop off for dinner (there’s loads of great food).

Save Money with a Lad Lard’s Pink Donut

When on vacation with children (or maybe even adults), everyone is bound to want a sweet treat to keep them going. The Lad Lard pink donut sold at the Simpsons area is massive and costs just $5! You can split the donut between a few people and save a bit of money rather than each getting separate desserts. Talk about sweet & best tips to experience Universal!

Rent a Locker for a Day

If you’re spending an entire day at the parks and have stocked up with food (plus jackets for when it gets cooler in the day), the last thing you’ll want to do is carry a heavy bag with you.

At both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (inside and outside of each park entrance), there are lockers which can be rented for a whole day at around the $10 mark. You can open and close them as much as you need throughout the day without extra charge.

Volcano Bay is a water park in Orlando

Arrive Early at Volcano Bay

Volcano Bay has some of the best water slides in Orlando. On the day you go, we’d recommend getting there as early as possible. For one, you can get on the rides quicker and also claim a prime spot on the ‘beach’, to relax throughout the day.

Take a VIP Tour

VIP tours can be pricey. If your budget is a little bit higher, they are one of the best tips to experience Universal that are completely worth it. With these tours, you’re given first priority on all of the rides. You also have the chance to enjoy the same ride multiple times, which usually wouldn’t be possible at peak times. VIPs are also allowed access to certain park areas most are not, such as the Men in Black Headquarters.

There are Nursing Facilities for Young Families

In all Universal parks, including Volcano Bay, there are nursing facilities in the First Aid Stations at Family Services. These can be found to the right of lost and found in Universal Studios Florida, at the First Aid Station in Universal’s Volcano Bay and on Canal Street in the New York area of Universal’s Islands of Adventure at its First Aid Station.

Best Tips to Experience Universal include when to dine

Eat Outside of Usual Dining Hours to Avoid Crowds

During normal breakfast, lunch and dinner hours, restaurants tend to be a lot busier than during off-peak times. If you can, aim to go later in the morning for breakfast, between 2-5pm for lunch, and even later in the evening for dinner.

Best Tips to Experience Universal: Stay for More Days

Even though it is possible to squeeze both parks into one day, you won’t get to experience all the best bits if you’re rushing around. Therefore one of the best tips to experience Universal is to allow yourself 3 days. That way you can have a day each at the 2 main parks, Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, plus a third day visiting Volcano Bay and having a look around CityWalk. You can also save a lot of hassle by renting a villa near Universal.

Download the Universal Orlando App

There’s plenty of things you need to remember for a day at the parks, so to make it that little bit easier you can download Universal’s app. It helps navigate you around both parks, informs you of attraction wait times, parade show times, and character meet and greets. This’ll save you a lot of time.

Universal Studios Stays Open Later Than Islands of Adventure

On some days of the month, Universal Studios is open an hour or two later than Islands of Adventure. If you’ve bought a park-to-park ticket, when Islands of Adventure closes, head on over to Universal Studios instead of going home. You can experience the magic of Diagon Alley, meet the Minions or enjoy ET’s adventure. This is definitely one of the best tips to experience Universal.

Parking is Free at Universal After 6pm

If you arrive at Universal after 6pm, there’s free parking for all guests.

Looking for a villa near Universal Orlando? Top Villas offers a range of villas near Disney and Universal Studios.

 

Brand New I-Drive Experience: Tapas Before Take Off

Tapas Before Take Off - next to the Orlando EyeTapa Toro Tapas Bar & Paella Pit is inspired by the culture and tradition of authentic Spanish cuisine. It promises a dining experience unlike any other. Husband-and-wife duo, Vassilis and Katerina Coumbaros, are thrilled to announce Tapas Before Take-Off, an exciting combination of a three course prix fixe meal at their restaurant followed by a ride on one of Orlando’s most popular tourist attractions, The Orlando Eye. Tapa Toro Tapas Bar & Paella Pit is located at I-Drive 360 under the shining lights of the Orlando Eye and is literally just steps away from the attraction. Come for a one-of-a-kind dining experience and stay for an aerial view of all of Orlando. It is a must-do for tourists and residents alike!

Tapas Before Take Off

Tapas Before Take-Off is just $49.95/person including tax & gratuity. The price includes a three-course prix fixe menu, house drink, and a ticket to ride the Orlando Eye. Please make a reservation so that the restaurant knows that you’re coming and your spot is reserved.

Tapas Interior photo


View the menu here for Tapas Before Take Off.

Make a reservation for Tapas Before Take Off.

ORLANDO TOURIST TIP:
Arrive just before dusk to have dinner and ride the Orlando Eye as the sunsets and see International Drive lit up from above!


Tapa Toro Tapas Restaurant & Paella Pit

Located at I-Drive 360, Tapa Toro features tapas-style dining, a full-service bar and Flamenco dancing. The restaurant leads with a 12-seat paella pit serving up family-style paella, a traditional Spanish dish made of rice, vegetables, and meat or seafood. At Tapa Toro you can experience a night in Spain without ever having to leave Central Florida.

Executive Chef Wendy Lopez

Tappas cuisineExecutive Chef Wendy Lopez, a native of Michoacan, Mexico, began cooking at a young age while working in her family’s restaurant. After formal training at Le Cordon Bleu College in Orlando, she began her professional career at the Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere. She went on to become sous chef under Certified Master Chef Russell Scott.

She has aided in the development of a unique menu featuring a robust selection of hot and cold tapas, paella variations and desserts. Using only the freshest imported ingredients, Chef Lopez combines traditional Spanish elements to create an authentic taste experience for people in Orlando.

NIGHTLIFE & ENTERTAINMENT

Just in case the communal seating in the bar or family-style paella pit don’t provide enough entertainment for your dining experience, every evening at Tapa Toro features flamenco dancing, bringing the sights and sounds of Spain right to your table. Take your meal to the next level by reserving the 12-seat paella pit for an up-close-and-personal experience with our Chef Lopez. Whether you are coming in for a private family dinner or a celebration with friends, a night at Tapa Toro is sure to ignite your senses.

Tapas Before Take Off is happening for a limited time so make your reservation today and experience the most flavorful and festive combination of dining and entertainment on International Drive.

Wekiva Island Paint Out – Annual Festival

11th Annual Wekiva Island Paint Out

Wekiva Island Paint Out

Artist paints ‘plein air’ during festival. Photo by Brion Price.

The 11th Annual Wekiva Paint Out is Central Florida’s most popular “plein air” arts festival. During the festival 30 world-renowned artists will create works inspired by Wekiwa Springs’ natural beauty. The event will be located at Wekiva Island at 1014 Miami Springs Drive in Longwood. The town of Longwood is just a short drive from the Kissimmee/Orlando tourist attractions.

There will be an open art gallery and live music beginning on February 27th from 5 until 9 pm and occurring nightly with additional events beginning on Wednesday, March 1st. During the week-long event, guests can participate in a live auction, enjoy complimentary beer and wine tastings, and participate in a “quick draw” workshop, led by artist Hai-Ou Hou. All of this in addition to enjoying the beautiful natural scenery and talented artists.

Most of the week’s events are free unless otherwise noted. Come out and support local non-profits while helping to preserve Orlando nature. All proceeds from art sales will benefit Keep Seminole Beautiful and the Wekiva Wilderness Trust.

Wekiva Paint Out artist

Beautiful scenery is painted during event. Photo by Brion Price.

Wekiva Island Paint Out Schedule of Events

February 26 – March 4

  • Sunday – February 26th
    Artists arrive & get settled for their week long stay at Wekiwa Springs State Park
    Artist Welcome Dinner with Artists, Patrons and Sponsors
  • Monday – February 27th
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    5-9P: Open gallery & live music
  • Tuesday – February 28th
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    5-9P: Open gallery & live music
  • Wednesday – March 1st
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    12-10p: Open gallery & live music
    6-7p: Preview event with complimentary beer and wine + craft beer tasting
    7-8P: Live Auction
    To register for Live Auction, simply email Wekiva Island with your name and number of guests. The first 25 people to register will receive a free beer or wine ticket to be used anytime.
  • Thursday – March 2nd
    All Day: Artists “paint in” around the bar
    12-10p: Open gallery & live music
    10-3p: How to Finish a Quick Draw Workshop with Hai-Ou Hou
  • Friday – March 3rd
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    12-11p: Open gallery & live music
    10-3p: How to Finish a Quick Draw Workshop with Hai-Ou Hou
    Evening Nocturne Painting at the Bar
    5-9p: Pasta Bar, $10.95/person
  • Saturday – March 4th
    10a-4p: Open gallery of work created throughout the week
    12-2p: Quick Draw open event
    6-7p: Private patron reception at Wekiva Island Wet Room/Gallery
    7-11p: All inclusive GALA dinner with live music, beer/wine and wine tasting event.
    Register to participate in Quick Draw, $25/person
    Purchase your Gala tickets, $40/person or $70/couple
Art festival at Wekiva Island

Art can be purchased during the festival. Photo by Brion Price.

If you are a collector or interested buyer, do not miss this opportunity to get a fantastic piece of art and support local non-profits. Art will continue to be sold on Sunday, March 5th, so stop by and get it before it’s gone!

Orlando Tourist Tip: The 11th Annual Wekiva Island Paint Out Gala is the main event of the weeklong festival held on Saturday, March 4th from 7 until 11 pm. During the gala, you can view and purchase works of art done throughout the week while enjoying live local music. For $40 a person, or $70 per couple guests can enjoy a special meal and carving station from Without a Paddle Cafe, as well as wine, beer, and a bonfire on the window. You will not want to miss this event! Purchase your tickets here.

History of the Wekiva Island Paint Out

A philanthropist and nature lover, William “Big Bill” Tippi started the Wekiva Invitational Plein Air Paint Out. Big Bill had an idea to produce this art event to increase awareness of one of our area’s greatest natural resources, the Wekiva River and Wekiwa Springs. Big Bill approached The Friends of Wekiva River (FOWR) and together they hosted the very first Wekiva Paint Out in March 2007 as part of the FOWR’s Riverfest celebration. Bill transferred the event over to the FOWR the following year. While no longer the host, Bill Tippit continues to be a big supporter of the event. He regularly socializes at the events.

In 2009, FOWR decided to cancel the Paint Out portion of their Riverfest event. Fortunately, William Weinaug Jr. stepped in and agreed to sponsor and host the Paint Out at Wekiva Island that year! Like Big Bill Tippit, Bill Weinaug believed the event would be important to increase awareness of the Wekiva River and Wekiwa Springs State Park’s preservation. Seven years later, he continues to host the event annually and support Florida wildlife conservation year-round!

Come be a part of one of Florida’s most renowned art festivals and experience the great outdoors at Wekiva Island.

 

4 Mistakes People Make When Visiting Orlando

Article submitted by At Home Vacation Rentals

Avoid these 4 mistakes people make when visiting Orlando!

Orlando is one of the most amazing vacation destinations will you can choose. Specially if you have kids. It’s a dreamland of parks and adventures for kids and adults. But a lot of people don’t take full advantage of everything that this amazing trip has to offer. We hope that you have a great time in Orlando, so we have decided to point out the 4 most common mistakes people make when visiting Orlando.

1. Not planning

As silly as that may sound planning is everything when going to a city full of attractions like Orlando. People go to the theme parks and have idea where to begin or how to best use their time. They don’t know which rides are the best, the busiest, etc. It could take a lot of time to learn the maps, decide where to go and in what order. By not planning a lot of people end up not visiting as many attractions as they could and spend a lot of time waiting in line.

out of bed early - not making mistakes people make visiting Orlando

Despite how nice your accommodations are, skip sleeping in during your Orlando vacation!

2. Sleeping in

Who doesn’t like to sleep in? Specially when you go on vacation and want to relax in those beautiful vacation homes. But in a city like Orlando, if you want to take full advantage of your time here, you need to get to the parks early. Most of the parks open at 9am so if you plan on getting to the parks after 11am, you will find the best attractions/rides with lines over 1 hour of waiting time. But if you get there early, you get to go to those rides with shorter lines. Unless you are planning on going to the same park for two days. In that case you can go early one day to avoid lines, and later the other day to stay for the evening shows.

3. Going to big parks in a row

Many parks in Orlando are big and you need to spend all day there, specially if you want to watch the last shows. Going to those parks one after the other makes the trip extremely tiring. Ideally you want to alternate parks that take all day to visit (like Magic Kingdom or Epcot) with other parks that are not as big and will not take all day (like Animal Kingdom or Sea World). If you are planning a long trip, it’s always a good idea to leave some days for rest (pool, beach) or even going to an attraction that you didn’t know about.

4. Not using FastPass

A lot of people don’t think they really need to get a FastPass, or that they can get it on the same day as they go to the parks, but that’s a big mistake. They have a limited number of FastPasses that they sell for each attraction so it’s very likely that on the day you go they might be sold out for the best rides/attractions. And depending on the time of the year, you might have to wait in line for over 2 hours.

The FastPass is a free service that lets you reserve access to select attractions, entertainment and more. With the purchase of a ticket you can start making selections as early as 30 or up to 60 days before you arrive.

Cross #1 above off your list! Browse Orlando Tourist Tips web site and read up on all of the theme parks and attractions. Then start planning how you will spend your vacation in one of the top vacation destinations in the world! Avoid these mistakes people make when visiting Orlando.

5 Helpful Tips for an Amazing Beach Trip

Beach Fun Tips

There are many amazing beaches in Florida, so helpful tips for an amazing beach trip are necessary, especially if you are visiting from out of the area. What makes an amazing beach getaway? A perfect beach destination, tons of exciting sea and water activities, fantastic food and accommodations, a smooth itinerary – the list goes on.

Whether you’re traveling alone or with your family or friends, you want to make your dream beach trip a reality. Here are a few practical tips on how to make it as fun and memorable as possible:

1. Prepare your mind, body, and a handy checklist of things to pack.

  • A well-rested body relies on a calm mind.
  • Worries and doubts cloud our head (at the last minute) when we fail to put our plan on paper.
  • Having a beach packing list ensures that we remember all must-have items for a smooth-sailing trip.
  • An example beach packing list includes: beach essentials such as water-proof bag, sunscreen, lip balm, disposable wipes, mermaid fin (to add some fun); clothes like underwear, socks, undershirts, bras, t-shirts, and sleepwear; toiletries; and other travel essentials.

2. Never skip research when choosing a beach vacation spot.

  • Loads of beach getaways are on offer by many travel agencies and websites.
  • Their itineraries are also crafted by well-experienced guides. But these should not stop you from doing your own research. Why?
    • Your needs are unique.
    • This is why no two reviews of a beach destination are alike.
    • Hence, you should come up with at least five things you expect to get from a beach holiday deal.
    • Maybe you want to factor in ‘affordability’, ‘ease of access’, ‘attractions and activities’, “quality of service” or ‘family-friendliness’.
    • Make a choice based on the non-negotiable items/factors in your list of standards.

3. Early reservations make a huge difference every time.

  • Booking your hotel accommodation, flight or rides early will save you from stress and overspending.
  • This golden rule is sadly broken when our busy work gets in the way.
  • But think about it, you will enjoy your beach trip more if you are less anxious about money or room and transport availability.
  • If you are not able to secure early bookings or special deals for your trip, check if you can adjust your vacation dates.
  • You can get better rates if you schedule your trip at the beginning or end of summer.
  • Or you can take two days off during the middle of the week.
  • Considering this, your best option seems to be to reserve early on.

4. Set a budget for souvenir shopping.

  • Even kids want to get a memorabilia from a fun beach destination.
  • Photographs are a given.
  • But charming personalized souvenirs, who can resist them?
  • Even seasoned travelers suffer from buyer’s remorse when they do not adopt a sound approach to souvenir shopping.
  • Go online and check out the typical price range for souvenirs – then allot a budget you would stick to.

5. Check out nearby must-visit attractions.

  • Some family-friendly beaches offer more than the sparkling shore, the scorching sun, and snorkeling opportunities.
  • Others have famous theme parks, ocean parks, or botanical gardens nearby.
  • If you didn’t skip tip #2, by now you would have figured out which nearby sites are worth checking out.
  • Set some budget for transport service and entrance fees for these splendid side trips.

Did you find these tips helpful? Then, share them with every beach-lover you know. Welcome to Florida and have an amazing beach trip!

Written by guest author: Anna Hale