Universal Orlando Resort

Best of Universal Orlando 2022

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Happy New Year! Before we look into 2023 let us take one more glance back at 2022. In this article, I will, using the magic of Excel pivot tables, slice and dice all of YOUR Touring Plans 2022 survey submissions to find out your favorite rides, restaurants, and hotels. Stick around to the end of the article to see which offerings you all rated the lowest.

Highest Rated Universal Orlando Attractions of 2022

Photograph of jagged rockwork with a roller coaster going around it in the background and foliage in the foreground. The image has been overexposed to show the light trails the rollercoaster train gives off streaking across the track.
Jurassic World VelociCoaster (photo by Michael Carelli)

From ET to Hagrid, Universal’s attractions are world-renowned. Universal Orlando opened no new attractions this year and is in the awkward years between major projects. This is also the first full year of Jurassic World VelociCoaster data and it turns out guests LOVE it.

Our data is based on a 1 to 5-star scale – 1 meaning poor t0 5 meaning excellent. We then average the ratings based on age range to determine the top three attractions for each bracket. We are only including attractions that have more than 10 reviews submitted to Touring Plans last year and cannot be a seasonal attraction (sorry Grinchmas).

Top Rated Attractions for Preschoolers

  1. Animal Actors on Location (USF, 4.75 Stars)
  2. Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl (USF, 4.69 Stars)
  3. The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! (IOA, 4.68 Stars)

Top Rated Attractions for Grade Schoolers

  1. Animal Actors on Location (USF, 4.69 Stars)
  2. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (IOA, 4.67 Stars)
  3. Olivander’s Wand Experience (USF/IOA, 4.60 Stars)

Top Rated Attractions for Teens

  1. Jurassic World VelociCoaster (IOA, 4.96 Stars)
  2. Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure (IOA, 4.93 Stars)
  3. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (USF, 4.71 Stars)

Top Rated Attractions for Young Adults

  1. Jurassic World VelociCoaster (IOA, 4.95 Stars)
  2. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (IOA, 4.88 Stars)
  3. Krakatau Aqua Coaster (VB, 4.82 Stars)
Press photograph/photoshop of the final drop of the Krakatau Aqua coaster. Background is a blue sky with white could, the large rockwork of the Krakatau volcano, palm trees, and a family riding the aqau coaster in the foreground.
Krakatau Aqua Coaster. (Photo from Universal Orlando)

Top Rated Attractions for Over 30-Year-Olds

  1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (IOA, 4.92 Stars)
  2. Jurassic World VelociCoaster (IOA, 4.86 Stars)
  3. Krakatau Aqua Coaster (VB, 4.71 Stars)

Top Rated Attractions for Seniors

  1. The Blues Brothers Show (USF, 4.63 Stars)
  2. The Bourne Stuntacular (USF, 4.52 Stars)
  3. Hogwarts Express (USF/IOA, 4.50 stars)

Unsurprisingly, VelociCoaster and Hagrid appear at the tops of several lists. Animal Actors on Location is a hit with the grade school and under crowd and Olivanders get surprisingly high marks from them AND teenagers. Hogwarts Express is a multi-generational crowd-pleaser and we are surprised Seniors love The Bourne Stuntacular so much.

Highest Rated Restaurants of 2022

Food image of a dozen pieces of sushi roll with tuna on top.
Burgushi at Cowfish.

Universal’s food has taken a complete 180-degree turn since the Wizarding World opened in 2010. Frozen burger patties and mass market fries are disappearing as fresh pizzas, BBQ, sushi, and more make up menus around the resort. 2022 saw updated menus at Comic Strip Cafe, turning around one of the weakest options on the property.

Our data is binary – positive reactions receive a “thumbs up” and negative receive a “thumbs down”. We then determine the thumbs up out of the total votes to determine the approval percentage. We are only including restaurants that have more than 10 reviews submitted to Touring Plans last year and have a full food menu (snack carts, beer stands, and pool bars are omitted – sorry Splendido).

Full-Service Restaurants

  1. Mama Dellas’s (Loews Portofino Bay Resort, 100% Thumbs Up)
  2. The Kitchen (Hard Rock Hotel, 97% Thumbs Up)
  3. Bigfire (CityWalk, 93% Thumbs Up)
  4. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar (CityWalk, 92% Thumbs Up)
  5. Strong Water Tavern (Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, 92% Thumbs Up)

Counter Service Restaurants

  1. Bambu Jungle Kitchen (VB, 96% Thumbs Up)
  2. Wimpy’s (IOA, 94% Thumbs Up)
  3. Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club (VB, 92% Thumbs Up)
  4. Leaky Cauldron/Three Broomsticks (USF/IOA, 90% Thumbs Up)
  5. Red Oven Pizzaria (CityWalk, 90% Thumbs Up)

We too are shocked by some of the results here. Mama Della’s has a perfect rating and The Kitchen is following close behind. These are great options if reservations are booked in the parks or CityWalk. We were surprised with Volcano Bay’s and Wimpy’s prominence on the counter service list. We are not sure if Wimpys is quietly the best burger on the property, if this is a meme restaurant like PizzeRizzo, or if Derek Burgan submitted every review. Out of all the restaurants on the menu, I want to highlight Strong Water Tavern which has fantastic food and mixed rum cocktails – it’s a must-visit for adventurous diners.

Highest Rated Hotels of 2022

Fisheye lense photo of the lobby to Surfside Inn and Suites. On the left are colorful surfboards each displaying a letter spelling out "SURFSIDE".
Surfside Inn & Suites lobby.

Universal’s (and partner’s Loews) hotels are the crown jewels of the resort that offer affordable rates, amazing amenities, and modern rooms. No new Universal hotels opened in 2022 but construction began on three new Universal hotels located around the future Epic Universe park. One is rumored to be a Premier level resort located at the back of the theme park overlooking the hub fountain. The others are twin value resorts closer to I-Drive similar in size to Endless Summer Surfside. We expect all three hotels will open along with the new theme park in the summer of 2025.

The highest rated hotels data is based on a 1 to 5-star scale – 1 meaning poor t0 5 meaning excellent. We then average the hotel’s overall ratings to determine the highest-rated hotels. The return visit data is binary, yes or no, to determine a percentage.

Highest Rated Hotels

  1. Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites (4.68 Stars)
  2. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (4.60 Stars)
  3. Loews Royal Pacific Resort (4.57 Stars)

Would Stay At Again

  1. Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites (92% “Yes”)
  2. Loews Royal Pacific Resort (92% “Yes”)
  3. Hard Rock Hotel (90% “Yes”)

As soon as I saw this hotel data I had to tell everyone in Slack about it. People love Endless Summer Surfside with its small hotel feel at mega-hotel low prices. We also suspect they prefer quick access to the parks too as they preferred Surfside to Dockside, 92% to 85% yes for “would stay again”. Lowes Royal Pacific is the second winner here with its quick access to Islands of Adventure, CityWalk, and other resorts. The complimentary Express Passes help too.

Needs Improvement List

Promotional image for Fast & Furious: Supercharged. It is an all-in-focus chaotic mess of smoke, fire, cars, explosions, and characters.

It is not all sunshine and rainbows. The following locations rated low in their respective categories for various factors, from poor design to crowds. We believe Universal knows about these issues and we hope they work on improving the guest experience.

Lowest Rated Full-Service Restaurant: NBC Sports Grill & Brew (76% Thumbs-Up) – Grill Brew’s rating has slipped over the past few years. We also suspect this restaurant gets bad grades for the loud sports bar atmosphere and just ok food.

Lowest Rated Counter Service Restaurant: Richter’s Burger Co. (65% Thumbs-Up) – An opening day restaurant, Richter’s is USF’s Cosmic Ray’s; an older eatery that focuses on burgers and fries.

Lowest Rated Hotel Room: Universal’s Endless Summer Dockside Inn & Suites (4.1 stars) – We like this resort a lot but the value-level rooms are just ok. The number one complaint is noise from the hallways and adjacent rooms.

Lowest Rated Hotel Food: Universal’s Aventura Hotel (3.50 stars) – Aventura’s Food Hall was slow to return to normal from COVID-19 shutdowns.

Lowest Recommended Hotel: Universal’s Aventura Hotel (4.2 stars) – All of Universal’s hotels receive high marks, but Aventura’s Mami chic design leaves most guests feeling cold.

Lowest Rated Attraction: Fast & Furious – Supercharged (2.33 stars) – The infamously bad attraction at Universal Orlando, let us hope a permanent replacement comes soon.

What were your favorite things at Universal in 2022? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Joseph Matt

Joe covers theme parks through the lens of his quality engineering day job. He has over five years of writing experience at Touring Plans and has gone on dozens of trips to Orlando over his life. When not at amusement parks you can find Joe at breweries, enjoying live theater, playing video games, and cooking.

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