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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.