Universal offers perks to get theme park visitors into its hotels. The most valuable of these are unlimited Universal Express access for each guest in the hotel room and admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure 1 hour before the general public each morning.
Other benefits include:
- Priority dining reservations at Universal's restaurants
- "Next table available" status at CityWalk restaurants
- Universal hotel guests can charge in-park purchases to their hotel room
- Free package delivery to their hotel room of anything bought in the theme parks
- Free parking at its theme parks to hotel guests, although we're not sure why anyone would do this
- Free transportation by bus or boat to its theme parks and CityWalk, plus SeaWorld, SeaWorld's Aquatica water park, and the Wet 'n Wild water park
Some of the benefits are of questionable value. Free parking at the theme park, for example, is of little use to anyone staying at the resort, since it's probably just as much walking from the resort as from the parking garage.
Having stayed at each of Universal's hotels, we think the third-best benefit is the ability to walk to the parks from your hotel. And it's not just the convenience — the walkways are pretty and almost serene at night, if you can ignore the whooshing noise from the Incredible Hulk coaster.
The primary downside to staying onsite at Universal is the cost of food at the hotel restaurants, which seems priced as if everyone staying at the hotels was on a corporate expense account. Fortunately, there are many good, cheaper restaurant choices within a few minutes' drive of the hotels — much more so than at Disney's hotels.