This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a 2-Park VIP Tour at the Universal Orlando Resort! As a theme park fan, I’ve seen many references over the years to VIP tours at the Disney parks. As a member of the theme park community, it won’t be long until you understand that the Cast Members walking the parks in the plaid outfits at Walt Disney World are generally giving private tours for celebrities and day guests like you and me. TouringPlans has reviewed several of Disney’s VIP Tours over the years, and they offer some pretty great benefits.
Despite being immersed in the Universal Orlando parks for over a decade now, it is still rare for me to ever hear of anyone taking one of the various VIP tours they offer. So when Len Testa himself asked if I wanted to try one out to see what they were like, of course I jumped at the chance!
Universal offers two types of VIP tours. The first option is a VIP Experience that can be a 1 day/1 park or 1 day/2 park tour. In this offering, you’ll be grouped with others also taking a VIP Experience tour. The second option is the Private VIP Experience, which can accommodate up to 12 people in your private group and can be for 1 day/1 park, 1 day/2 parks, or even 2 day/2 parks. I was going to be part of a Private VIP Tour: 1 Day/2 Park, and it started with…
# 6 – Check-in and Welcome Breakfast
After purchasing a VIP Tour, the confirmation email gives you directions on where to check in. The map below shows how to get from the Valet Parking section of Universal to the VIP check-in at Universal Studios Florida, because each VIP Experience of any type comes with one complimentary valet parking pass. I was not lucky enough to be the beneficiary of the valet parking for our tour group, so my journey started just a little farther back… in the Universal parking garage.
It didn’t take long to get to Universal Studios Florida though, and the check-in for the VIP Experience is before the main turnstiles. It is to the right-hand side in the picture below, near Guest Relations.
You knew blogger-in-the-sky @bioreconstruct was gonna have a handy dandy bird’s eye view of this area to help out!
There is signage outside the VIP Experience check-in alerting you where to go.
Park admission is NOT included with any of the VIP Experiences offered by Universal. They verified my Annual Pass at the check-in, and gave me credentials that would be used anywhere we went on the tour. A nice benefit of the VIP Experience is you never need to go through the main turnstiles at either park. As a person who hates waiting at the turnstiles at any park, this was one of my personal favorite perks of the tour. I finally got to have my moment like in Wayne’s World with the Aerosmith backstage passes.
Before your tour starts, VIP Experience guests head over to Café La Bamba for a complimentary breakfast. As far as I know, nothing like this exists for any of the Disney VIP tours.
Inside Café La Bamba there were buffet-style food sections to grab whatever you wanted.
There were hot food options including pancakes, eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, apple oatmeal flan, and an egg, leek, and mushroom biscuit.
There were also plenty of fruit and other options for those
weirdoes perfectly sane people who prefer healthy fare on their vacation.
Also available was a selection of pastries including plain croissants, elderberry croissants, chocolate chip, and blueberry muffins.
This breakfast was all-you-can-eat, or at least that’s how I interpreted it because I was already on my second plate before Len Testa and the rest of the TouringPlans team arrived. Big thumbs up for breakfast.
You’re directed to your own seating area in Café La Bamba, and the tables for each group will have chilled water bottles for each person in your group. Servers come by to see if you’d like anything else to drink, including coffee, milk, and orange juice.
# 5 – Your Tour Guide
At Café La Bamba, you’ll be introduced to your tour guide. Our tour guide was named Logan and he was terrific. Because the Private VIP Experience will do whatever you want to do, Logan was there to lead us to wherever we wanted to go, while giving information about the parks and the attractions throughout the tour. Previously, I’ve only taken Unmasking the Horror and RIP Tours at Halloween Horror Nights, but in my experience the VIP tour guides at Universal are some of the most knowledgeable and personable people you will come across in the parks, and Logan was no exception.
# 4 – Immigration Room
Universal has many “secret” tips and tricks at their parks, including the ability to take a tour of the famous Immigration Room at Men In Black: Alien Black.
For those who don’t know, the Immigration Room is an area you walk through in the Alien Attack queue that was ripped straight out of the first Men In Black film. Guests are on the second level of the Immigration Room, looking down at the MIB office area below. There are some occasions when you’ll be in the queue and see guests walking around the office area below. Now, in theory any guest can partake in this, by asking for an Immigration Room tour before entering the attraction, but there needs to be an available Team Member to take you to the room. Since the Covid Shutdown in 2020, having extra personnel on hand for luxuries like this is no guarantee at the parks. Your best bet is to going on a slow day at the parks and ask in the morning.
Thankfully, with a VIP Experience tour, you’re guaranteed to get into the Immigration Room if it’s something your group wants to do (and you should, it’s fun!)
You’ll get an up close look at Bweryang and Bob, the two aliens working the main computer.
Fun Fact: The monitor in front of Bweryang and Bob contains the actual names for several of the aliens you blast away at during the ride!
You’ll also have time to explore the area, and check out all the details on the various desks in the room.
You’ll find several examples of paperwork being prepared for aliens, including some who just may be recognizable in other areas of Universal Studios Florida…
Other desks will have registration books that guests can sign into.
Throughout the room there are fun photo-ops, such as this table with a unique set of playing cards.
One photo-op that is a must are these highly stylized seats.
# 3 – 30 Rock
Another area in Universal Studios Florida that you can explore is at the 30 Rock building, home to Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.
During the VIP Tour, you can be escorted up to the second floor of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and get to walk around this area for some unique views of the park!
Here is a close-up of this 30 Rock space as seen from the ground…
…and here is ace photographer Brandon Glover taking a selfie in this spot. In the background you can see the blue-painted wall of Transformers: The Ride 3D along with all of Minion Land.
There is some seating in this area for those guests who need to take a break.
Here is a look at some of the spaces you can walk around in.
You can take some really fun photos of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit in this area.
Along with getting some interesting viewpoints of the park.
Logan then took us through the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon building, where we saw the control room for the attraction along with the area where Hashtag the Panda will wave down to guests below.
Here’s a look at this area in context.
# 2 – Universal Production Offices
I have written several articles over the years on the movies and television shows filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort, but I had never been in the Universal Production Offices. During our tour, Logan took us through this building and talked about many of the video shoots that have taken place on property over the years. The first floor of the building is filled with photos, including this AMAZING one below of Universal Studios Florida before there was a Universal Orlando Resort. Check out all the amazing differences between then and now, including the Hard Rock Cafe being on the far right of this photo. Believe it or not, the Hard Rock Cafe actually opened a couple months earlier than the park itself in 1990, was elevated off the ground, and the entire building and walkway to the restaurant was in the shape of a giant guitar.
Of course our boy Bio had a photo of this back in the day in his archives…
Logan gave us behind-the-scenes stories for the various productions that were filmed at Universal over the years as we walked by each photo.
The movie Sharknado 3 may not have won any Academy awards, but it won the heart of this theme park blogger as it was entirely filmed onsite. Eagle-Eyed fans of the Universal parks and resorts will notice locations in the film like the Swizzle Lounge at Cabana Bay Beach Resort or the Royal Pacific Resort’s beach area. Below we have the character Finn jumping on a car in a scene filmed in the New York section of Universal Studios Florida.
Many people know that the music video “My Sacrifice” by the band Creed was filmed at Universal, and here is an amazing behind-the-scenes shot showing how they flooded the park for this music video.
Members of the band NSYNC autographed this photo of themselves inside the Production Offices.
As a longtime fan of professional wrestling, I was shocked to see how many photos were dedicated to wrestling in the Production Office building. Over the course of thirty-plus years, hundreds – if not thousands – of video shoots (TV commercials, TV shows, and movies) have been filmed at Universal, but only a small percentage of them have photos posted in the Production Office building. Professional wrestling has multiple photos highlighted in this building, including this photo below of TNA Impact.
This photo below is representing the professional wrestling company Ring of Honor.
There is also a photo of the living legend himself, Hulk Hogan.
When Universal opened Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show filmed a week of shows at the resort. I remember watching these when they aired, and it was wonderful because each night the monologue would reference the parks and there would be skits filmed at various attractions like Jimmy and Kevin Hart riding Rip Ride Rockit (which includes a hilarious joke involving a height check board.)
The Production Office building is located with the group of soundstages that sit between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. While we were walking to the Production Office building, we popped into a couple soundstages that were home to Halloween Horror Nights mazes, including this one below for Stranger Things. That was definitely a cool bonus that I wasn’t expecting going into the tour.
# 1 – Even Better than Unlimited Universal Express
For a person like me who has done the parks a million times, being able to go to places I never get a chance to see is the main reason for taking a VIP Experience tour. For example, I have heard lots of Rumors and Innuendo about the Kongfrontation track still being in the Revenge of the Mummy building. Over the years I’ve done articles on the various extinct attraction tributes in rides like Revenge of the Mummy, but I’ve never seen this Kongfrontation track. Because you can’t…unless you take a VIP Experience tour. After we rode Revenge of the Mummy, our guide Logan explained to us the history of Kongfrontation and its transformation into Revenge of the Mummy and asked us if we’d like to see this track. The group said yes, and we went back into the building and into an area that walked underneath the roller coaster track. It was a wild experience, and we got to see things that you would never see as an average day guest. FOR ME, this was awesome, however…
…I imagine most guests are going to be drawn to the fact that you can get to experience a whole bunch of attractions on the VIP Experience tour with pretty much ZERO wait. When you tell the tour guide what attraction you want to ride, you don’t just go to the Express Pass line, you generally go through a completely different route and end up being the next person on the ride. It was CRAZY!! I had no idea these VIP Entrances even existed, and here we were entering some of the most popular attractions in the parks and getting on immediately. These included VelociCoaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, E.T., Escaped From Gringotts, and Revenge of the Mummy. It was bonkers. Not only could you get on any ride you wanted right away, but you could also re-ride whatever attraction you wanted, as many times as you wanted.
Trust me when I say “next on,” I mean literally the next on the ride, as you skip all the pre-shows and are walked right to the load station for pretty much every attraction in both USF and IOA. We’d be walking through Hogwarts Castle, our Tour Guide would open a door, and all of a sudden we were at the load station for Forbidden Journey. It was mind-blowing.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the true gem of the Private VIP Experience tour, because not only were we walked onto the ride, but we all went for a re-ride immediately afterwards. This is something impossible to do for any other guest because Hagrid’s is not part of the Universal Express Pass line-up.
The E-Ticket thrill rides are great, but don’t sleep on stuff like High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride in Seuss Landing. It’s a true gem.
It gets even better… when your tour is officially finished, your VIP Experience credential works as a Universal Express Unlimited pass for the rest of the day!
OVERALL THOUGHTS: Taking the Private VIP Experience was the best day I have had in any theme park in years. It was AMAZING. Is it worth it? To me, a VIP Tour is very similar to getting a cabana at Volcano Bay, in that its “value” is subjective. How much is riding as many rides as you can with almost zero wait worth to you and your family? For each person and their budget, the answer is different, but for me it was always a theme park bucket list item and I’m so glad I was able to do it. If you’re interested in any of Universal’s VIP Experiences you can learn more by CLICKING HERE.
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Takes a Private VIP Experience Tour at Universal! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.