Universal Studio / Islands of Adventures, Orlando

united-states-flag United States

Universal Orlando has 2 parks: Universal Studio and Universal Islands of Adventures. (Located in Orlando, Florida).

Note: Universal provides free wifi throughout both parks. Before you enter the parks, the security guard will check your bag(s). No selfie stick is allowed inside the park.

Highly Recommend: Download the “Universal FL” mobile app if you haven’t already done so. The app shows a list of rides and attractions as well as their current wait times.

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Tickets

It is rare to find good deal for a 1 day ticket to Universal. TicketMomma was the only site I could find that offer deals on 2+ days tickets.  Note: If buying with TicketMomma, buy your ticket in advance with enough time for tickets to be mailed to you, otherwise, you will have to pick it up at one of their locations in Orlando.

Transportations

Transportation from/to Universal: Check Orlando blog.

Transportation between parks:
1. Walk ~10 mins.

2. Take the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 ¾ (This ride is only available if you have the Park-to-Park admission ticket):

Weather/appropriate attires

Information located in the Orlando blog

Food

Expect to pay ~12 USD for a decent meal at Universal Parks.

Activities

Wait times

Travel date: We visited the week after US thanksgiving. This time of the year is considered low season for Orlando theme parks. Being slow season, we had minimal wait times. You can expect between 0-30 mins wait time. The rides do get more crowded as the day goes on, but if you arrive when the park open, most if not all rides should be walk on (even though wait time indicates 5-10 min) for the next hour or so.  Keep in mind, although is usually a walk on, it may take ~3 mins to walk from the entrance of the ride to where the ride begins.

Tip: Make sure not to go during the week of US Thanksgiving, as this is one of the higher-crowd periods for Orlando theme parks.


Universal studio

universal-studios-florida-3We went to US Orlando for 1 day. The rides are very similar to US in Los Angeles, but I prefer the US in Los Angeles. Firstly, US Orlando does not have the studio tour, this is a MUST do for anyone who loves watching movies. Secondly, there are no shows at US Orlando that were comparable to the WaterWorld show at US Los Angeles.


Example of Rides

Universal Studio offers many 3D rides. During the rides, you may wear 3D glasses and experience effects such as air jets, water sprays, smoke, heat, and smell. The rides are motion simulator inside a building. The seat you are in will swing wildly forward, backward, up, down, left, and right. It is very cool if you have never experienced a 3D ride, but otherwise, many of the 3D rides can be considered the same. For example, Harry Potter, Transformers 3D, and the Simpsons ride are all located inside a building, each provides similar motions and effects while you wear 3D glasses, the only difference is the visual and sound.

Since the 3D rides are located inside the building, you will not get the wind in the face/hair as you would if the rides were located outside. Without the fresh air and wind in my face, I tend to get more motion sickness.

There are also other cool rides at Universal. One that is unique is the Terminator 2: 3-D ride/show. It is a mix of live action stunts and 3-D filmmaking.


Example of live Shows

20151201_1554081. Universal’s Animal Actors.
(~20 min long show). During the show, you will see dogs, cats, pigs, raccoons, and birds run or fly across the stage. The dogs do tricks such as sit, lay down, speak… you get the picture. The animals are cute, but my dog can do similar tricks so the show is not that impressive to me.

20151201_1438572. Fear Factor.
A casting process is used to select 6 park guests to be contestants in 3 stunts in front of the live audience. This is entertaining, but the stunts are not as outrageous as the stunts you see on TV.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.
The only saving grace to US Orlando versus US Los Angeles was that US Orlando has the Harry Potter Diagon Alley.  It is absolutely incredible to see, almost makes you feel like you are actually at Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. Do make sure to check out the show at Ollivander’s Wand shop (it is a little hidden). The show is an interactive experience, where you can see a wand choose a wizard.

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Islands of Adventures

islands-of-adventure-orlandoWe arrived at the park around 9:30 am but because there were minimal wait times for the rides and few shows to see, we left the park around 3pm.

I prefer the rides here versus the Universal rides because many of the rides are outside instead of inside, this is important for someone like me who get motion sickness.


Example of Rides

Along with the 3D rides that Universal Studio has, Islands of Adventures also has a few water rides, which I enjoy. Unfortunately, we went on a day that was cloudy. This was unfortunate because 2 of the rides got me completely drenched!

  1. Screenshot 2016-01-27 18.24.05 Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  2.  Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges(similar to Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom in Disney World)

Haystack Dryer at Gatorland 600I’ve been on a few water rides in my life, and I would only get a little wet from them, so being completely drenched from a ride was surprising to me. After the rides drenches you from head to toe, you have the option to pay $5 to use the people’s dryer (you can buy a poncho there for ~$8). Being a cloudy day, I was cold so I did pay to use the people’s dryer. The dryer only dried my hair, as my clothes were still wet. Needless to say, my clothes were never fully dried until we got back to our hotel to hang them up.


Example of live Shows


The shows here were few and mediocre.

1. Eighth-Voyage-of-Sindbad. It’s a stunt show! Cheer on the heroes and boo the villains in this live adventure. I feel that this show is catered to young children (5-12 year olds).

2. Poseidons-Fury. Special effects show about the ancient Temple of Poseidon. A good show to watch only once.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade
Make your way through the familiar classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as you walk towards the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The line was not long when we went, but it was the only time I wish the line was long to give me more time to admire the school, more time to admire the talking portraits, with wizards moving from portrait to portrait.

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Common question:

Q: Should I buy a FastPass to skip to the front of the line?

A: This depends on whether you are travelling during the slow season or high season. In the slow season, I recommend NOT buying the FastPass until you arrive that day. You may buy the park entrance ticket in advance, but hold off on the FastPass. That way, you can see the crowd level at the parks before making your decision to buy.  There is also no benefit buying the FastPass in advance because the upgrade cost would equal out to be the same as if you had bought the ticket with FastPass in advance.

If you go right when the park opens, there should be minimal wait times. If you can manage to go on popular rides with longer wait times early, you should not need a FastPass. Tip: Go on the rides further away from the entrance to the park, they tend to be less busier in the morning and busier later in the day.


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