Universal Orlando Resort

Five Arrival Day Ideas for Universal Orlando

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Finally – you have reached your hotel after a day of flying and driving. You now want to kick back but do not want to pay for a full day of admission. Here are five arrival day activities that don’t involve going into the Universal theme parks.

Explore Your Hotel

Universal’s hotels are expansive and all-encompassing, featuring many unique amenities not found in similar hotels. What better way to kick off your vacation than a relaxing drink by the pool? Here are some standard amenities offered at the Universal hotels:

  • Pools featuring water play areas, water slides, lazy rivers, and/or inviting pool bars.
  • Up-to-date, modern, hotel arcade.
  • Nighttime viewing parties of popular movies such as Despicable Me, Jurassic Park, or Harry Potter.
  • Special events at your hotel (more on those next).
Cabana Bay Galaxy Bowl

Explore Other Hotels

Universal’s campus is compact and walkable, like Disneyland’s, which makes visiting other resorts very easy. Several resorts offer special events, amenities, or features that are worth trying out:

  • Loews Portofino Bay’s sprawling Mediterranian harbor is home to Harbor Nights, a seasonal event featuring live music, food, drinks, and more. Treat yo’ self to a massage, facial, or wrap at the Mandara Spa.
  • Hard Rock Hotel offers Velvet Sessions Unplugged, intimate performances by musical guests. Plus guests can explore the resort’s public areas which are lined with rock memorabilia.
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort is home to the Wantilan Luau (Saturdays at 6:00 p.m.) and Jake’s American Bar Beer Dinners.
  • Loews Sapphire Falls is home to one of our favorite bars, Strong Water Tavern, featuring an impressive rum selection and tapas.
  • Universal’s Aventura Hotel’s top floor is Bar 17, a unique bar with small plates, mixed drinks, and spectacular views of Universal and the Orlando area.
  • Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is home to Galaxy Bowl bowling alley.

Have Dinner at CityWalk

Start your vacation with a bang at one of the many restaurants in CityWalk! From decadent milkshakes to tableside guacamole to a sushi/burger fusion, there is a restaurant for every taste. Some over-the-top arrival day restaurants we suggest include Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Antojitos, and Bigfire.

Pro Tip: Book ahead of time! The most popular restaurants can fill up. Make a reservation as far out as possible to guarantee a table, and start your vacation off right.

(photo by Mike Sperduto)

Enjoy CityWalk Entertainment

CityWalk is also a great place to stop for a full afternoon or night of entertainment.

Stop by Hollywood Drive-In Mini Golf which features two B-movie-inspired 18-hole courses. Catch a new or rereleased movie at the Cinemark Movie Theater. If the nightlife is more your style check out the clubs such as Rising Star for karaoke with a full backing band, Pat O’Briens with their dueling pianos, or A Tribute to Bob Marley. The new Universal’s Great Movie Escape is an interactive escape room like concept into the Back to the Future and Jurassic World movies.

Visit I-Drive

Orlando’s International Drive (lovingly called I-Drive) does not get enough love with its wide range of restaurants, bars, rides, and entertainment.

Nearly every chain restaurant under the sun is on I-Drive including Shake Shack, Senor Frogs, Yard House, Uno Pizzaria, or even the world’s largest Entertainment McDonalds. If it is rainy out spend some time at Dave & Buster’s arcade or explore the ICON Park with the Orlando Aquarium and Madame Tussauds Orlando. Or grab a game of miniature golf, the official sport of the Orlando tourist district.

All this and more are within a $10 Uber or Lyft trip.

What are your favorite arrival day traditions? Leave them 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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