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10 Things WDW fans need to know about Universal Orlando before they visit

When you go to Orlando Florida do you only visit Walt Disney World? Do you ever think about visiting Universal Studios? Sadly, many people do not and for many reasons. 

Today we are going to go over 10 things WDW fans need to know about Universal Studios Orlando before they visit. I promise you it’s nothing like you think it is. Universal is a great place to spend a couple of days at. You might even start booking Universal only trips once you visit. 

However, before you book that trip. Make sure you read are 10 things you should know. Some of them might surprise you.

It’s a place for children 

Many people I know think Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure are for teens and adults and not for children. If that’s what you think, you’d be wrong. While both of these amazing theme parks have some pretty intense rides. There are plenty of rides for younger children or even those teens and adults who are not thrill ride fans.

Universal Studios has rides like ET, the woody woodpecker coaster, minions, and even the Simpson ride that are great for most children. Plus how could you forget about Diagon Alley and all the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter stuff to discover. If you or your non thrill ride loving children are fans of Harry Potter. A visit to Universal Studios is a must. I’m willing to say the theming in Diagon Alley is better than anything you’d find at Walt Disney World including over in Pandora. Sadly, it’s just not as big.

Don’t worry Islands of Adventure has plenty to offer too! Besides having Hogsmeade they have a huge play area for young children over in the Jurassic Park section. That’s not all though. IOA has a whole area dedicated to Dr. Suess. Follow Thing 1 and Thing 2 around or Dodge one fish or a blue fish as the spray water.

Food

The food at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure has come a long way. The food used to be your typical crappy theme park food. However, that’s not the case anymore. Of course, they still have some of those places left.

Both Wizarding World locations have amazing food for breakfast and lunch. At the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron offer some great English fare like bangers and mash, fish and chips, or scotch eggs. 

In Springfield you will find an amazing food court that has just about everything you would expect to find in a theme park. Just here it is all themed to the Simpsons. Have you ever wanted to try a flaming Moe? You can try it now in Springfield in Universal Studios.

Of course, you can even go a little crazier in Islands of Adventure. Just head over to Green Eggs and Ham Café for some amazing tater tats creations. Are you brave enough to try the Green Eggs?

All American Burger…. Sushi style

For some of the best food Universal has to off you need to check out CityWalk. Cowfish combines sushi and burgers for a deliciously good time. Toothsome’s chocolate Emporium has some of the most creative and mouthwatering shakes you will ever have. They are a meal all by themselves.

Not big friendly

I hate to admit it but Universal Orlando theme parks are not “big” person friendly. Not their older rides or even their newest ones. The roller coasters make for a really tight fit.

If you are a little on the larger side of life. You probably won’t fit on many of the rides. I had trouble in some of them and in the summer of 2021 I was 5’11” 285ish. I could fit in all the rides however, some were very tight and very uncomfortable. 

I lost some weight and dropped down to 240 by December and had a much easier time fitting in the rides and being much more comfortable. During the same time period over the summer I had no issues on any of the Disney World rides. 

I know a couple of people who won’t go to Universal simply because there are few rides they can actually go on.

You WILL get soaked

Let’s stay on the topic of rides once again.  This time let’s go over the water rides. At Disney you don’t usually get soaked on the water rides. Sure someone gets soaked in the boat or raft but not the entire group. 

On all the rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure you will get soaking wet. There’s no way around it except for wearing a poncho and who wants to do that? I know I don’t. Do you?

It’s actually worth staying at a Universal Orlando Resort 

If you are a Walt Disney World fan you are probably well aware of all the things that are NO longer included with your stay. If you stay at a Universal Orlando Resort you actually get some great benefits. Just like at WDW you get free transportation to the theme parks but you get so much more.

Besides free transportation, Resort guests get early entry to the theme parks. It depends on the time of year which park offers it but it’s a full hour early.  Not 30 minutes. 

Another benefit families will really enjoy is the ability to pool hop. No we are not talking about checking out all the pools just at your resort. If you stay at a Universal Orlando Resort you can visit any of the other resorts pools (Can’t do it if staying at Endless Summer Resorts). So if you are staying at Cabana Bay you can pool hop across the street to Sapphire Falls or even head over to the Hard Rock Hotel and use their pool. That’s something you can’t do over at Disney. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of staying at a Universal Orlando Resort is getting a FREE unlimited Express Pass if you stay at one of the three Premier Resorts. That’s a savings of at least $120 per person each day depending on when you go. 

Express Pass is not FastPass or Disney Genie

Universal’s Express Pass is an amazing service. This pass gets you access to the front of the line at most of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure rides. While many people think Express Pass is just like the now dead Disney FastPass or like the new Disney Genie +. It is not, not at all.

First off, you don’t need to reserve ride times with Express Pass. Second, you can get on every single ride that has Express Pass access in a single day. Third, you don’t need to wake up early to reserve a ride time. All you have to do is show up, walk to the ride, show the ride operator your Express Pass and enjoy the ride. 

Now Express Pass isn’t cheap. The one pass which allows you to skip the line on each ride once at each park will cost you at least $90 per day, per person. The Unlimited Express Pass will run you at least $120 per person, per day. 

Wait to get Express Pass

If you are planning on visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure it is best to wait till you purchase the Express Pass. Universal is not as busy as WDW. It’s still very busy and is prone to long lines. However, you can still find a lot of day’s throughout the year where most of the rides have a wait of 30 minutes or less. 

If you are seeing those wait times do you really want to spend $90 to $120 for an Express Pass?

It’s nowhere near as Big

Universal Orlando is nowhere near as big as Walt Disney World. But HEY, that’s a good thing. It makes getting to the two theme parks much easier. You can walk or hop on the Hogwarts Express.

Plus it is easy to get to the theme parks and Citywalk from your resort. You can walk to CityWalk from all the resorts (Expect Endless Summer Resorts) in under 20 minutes. Oh and the resort buses from the transportation area is much better than Disney’s too! But why wait for a bus when you can walk back to your resort. Sometimes in a shorter amount of time. 

Just don’t mistake a smaller complex as less fun. Sure you can do both theme parks in one day if you fly through everything but that’s not a lot of fun. 

CityWalk isn’t like Disney Springs

A lot of people mistake CityWalk as a smaller version of Disney Springs. While I guess that could be true it is far from it. CityWalk is made up of mostly restaurants and good ones at that. However, you will find very few places to go shopping. 

CityWalk connects the two theme parks. Just don’t get distracted by all the amazing restaurants in the morning. Check them out for lunch or dinner. 

Another thing to note is you don’t really need to make reservations for them either. Some you do like Toothsome’s or Cowfish. The Hard Rock and Margaritaville usually have plenty of tables and you can get in with little to no wait. Or you could just head to the bar and find an empty spot. 

Resort Guest still have to pay for parking

This one stings a little. Unlike when you stay at a Disney Resort, staying at a Universal Resort you still have to pay for parking at the theme parks. It is in one big garage that connects you to CityWalk, Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios. 

So not only do you have to pay at least $18 a day to park at your resort. You have to pay another $25+ to park at the parking garage. This is why it makes sense to walk or take the free transportation and why the transportation system at Universal Orlando Resort is so great.


Are you planning a split trip to Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World soon? Hopefully, these ten tips will help you have a better upcoming trip. I know I wish I would’ve know how tight some of the rides would’ve been. Plus it’s nice to know that the food has greatly improved in the last couple of years.

Did you know all of the above tips? Which ones didn’t you know? Do you have any tips we should add? Let us know in the comments below.

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