Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando for Newbies – Frequently Asked Questions

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Whether you are a long-time Walt Disney World guest or visiting Orlando for the first time, planning a visit to Universal Orlando Resort poses a lot of questions. Where do I stay? What is the Wizarding World? Which restaurants should I check out? In the Universal Orlando for Newbies series of articles, we will cover frequently asked questions, offer comparisons to Disney’s offerings, and help you plan a successful vacation to Universal Orlando.

What is Universal Orlando Resort?

Resort Map. Courtesy Universal Orlando.

Universal Orlando Resort is a theme park resort owned by NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast. Unlike Walt Disney World, which comprises 4200 acres, Universal Orlando Resort is a compact 541 acres. Universal Orlando is comprised of:

  • CityWalk – A Disney Springs-esque dining, shopping, and entertainment district.
  • Universal Studios Florida – a movie and TV studio themed park where guests ride the movies.
  • Islands of Adventure – Seven themed “islands”, each focusing on a popular property such as Marvel, Jurassic Park, Dr. Seuss, and Harry Potter.
  • Volcano Bay – South Pacific islands themed water park with modern water park features.
  • Resort wide transportation network
  • Seven resort hotels

Where is Universal Orlando located?

Universal Orlando Resort is located off I-4, south of Orlando and north of Walt Disney World, in the Doctor Phillips neighborhood.

Where do I park?

Google Maps view of the Universal Parking Garages. Both garages feed into the rotunda, top center of the image.

Parking for Universal Orlando theme parks is in a large parking garage complex; each resort offers its own parking. When driving take exit 74B coming from the North on I-4W and exit 75A from Walt Disney World on I-4E. Follow the signage to the parking garages or resorts.

What is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

Photograph courtesy Universal Orlando.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a pair of themed lands – Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Referred to as “a theme park within a theme park”, the combined Potter lands equate to five attractions, two restaurants, ten shops, four shows, and dozens of interactive wand stations.

Access to The Wizarding World is included with admission to the theme parks, but a park-to-park ticket is required to ride the Hogwarts Express between the two themed lands.

Are there onsite resorts?

Photograph courtesy Universal Orlando.

Yes! Universal partnered with luxury hotel company Loews to operate Universal’s resorts. Currently, there are seven resorts with pricing ranging from under $100 a night to over $500 a night.

For a complete list of room types, benefits, and pricing visit Universal Orlando’s website.

Is there a MyDisneyExperience-like app?

Yes, the Universal Orlando app is available on Android and iOS app stores. The app allows guests to mobile order from counter service restaurants, book Virtual Line times for attractions, check wait times, and more. For more information check out our Universal Orlando App 101 article. For even more features, TouringPlans offers a Universal Orlando Lines app as well.

Does Universal offer complimentary transportation from the airport?

No, Universal does not offer free transportation from the airport to the resort. Universal and Mears have paired up to offer the Universal SuperStar Shuttle, a paid airport shuttle to and from the resort and airport for $34 per adult, round trip. Unlike Disney’s Magical Express, the SuperStar Shuttle does not offer complimentary baggage service to your resort–you will need to bring your luggage with you.

What are my ticket options?

Universal Orlando Resort offers three ticket options:

  • Single-Day Admission – Starting at $109 per ticket, valid for one day.
  • Multi-Day Admission – Best value for visiting between two and five days, depending on the time of year. Prices start at $218 per ticket for two day, one park per day tickets.
  • Annual Pass – Starting at $304, annual passes offer year-long admission to the parks. All annual passes are park-to-park.

Tickets purchased for Walt Disney World are not valid for Universal Orlando, and vice versa.

What is Universal Express Pass?

Express Pass is Universal’s skip the line offering. Guests use a separate line that reduces wait times by at least half. Unlike Disney’s FastPass+ no return times are required but Express is not included with admission.

Two Express Passes are offered: a single-use Express Pass that’s good for one use at each attraction, and an Unlimited Express Pass which can be used as many times as desired.

Unlimited Express Pass is offered as a benefit of staying at Universal’s three Premier resorts.

How Do I Travel Around the Resort?

Guests driving to the resort and visiting one of the two theme parks walk from the garages to the parks. If visiting Volcano Bay there is a bus route that operates from the garage to the park.

Guests staying at one of the resorts have several transportation methods to the parks: bus, boat, or walk. Buses drop guests off at the security rotunda for CityWalk and the main two theme parks, Volcano Bay buses drop guests off directly at the park. Boats from the Premier and Preferred hotels deposit guests in the middle of CityWalk.

What Is Early Park Admission?

Early Park Admission is Universal’s version of Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World – every morning at least one park opens their gates an hour early just for resort guests. Attractions open during Early Park Admission change frequently but usually include that park’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions and at least one other attraction.

For up to date Early Park Admission locations, times, and attractions visit the Universal Orlando website.

What are our dining options? Do we need to make reservations?

Universal operates dozens of food stands, quick-service, and sit-down restaurants around the resort. Food quality is universally (pun intended) good to very good – just avoid the dining locations in Marvel and Toon Lagoon.

Unlike at Disney, most restaurants do not require advanced reservations (some do not even take them). If you decide to book a reservation at a restaurant that offers them, we suggest booking reservations on the morning of your visit.

Does Universal offer a Dining Plan?

Yes, Universal offers two dining plan options:

  • Universal Dining Plan: Available to Vacation Package guests only; each guest receives one sit-down meal, one quick-service meal, one snack, and one non-meal drink per day.
  • Quick Service Dining Plan: One quick-service meal, one snack, and one non-meal drink per day. Prices start at $25.99 per adult per day.

Universal also sells a refillable Coke Freestyle cup for $16.99 that is good for unlimited refills of drinks at Coke Freestyle machines throughout the parks.

Is there a TouringPlans subscription for Universal Orlando?

Yes, there is! A subscription to TouringPlans Universal Orlando grants you access to our crowd calendar, actual wait times, and customized touring plans!

Coming Soon to Universal for Newbies: Picking a Universal Resort, Comparable Experiences at Disney, Virtual Line, Mobile Ordering, Tickets, and more!

Have any questions you’d like to see answered in our Universal for Newbies series? Let us know in the comments! 

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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.

4 thoughts on “Universal Orlando for Newbies – Frequently Asked Questions

  • I’ve read somewhere a while back that Universal has after 4pm Express tickets for cheap. Are they doing that this summer? Where/when to buy?

  • Thanks! Looking forward to the next week article.

  • Surfside’s main transportation to the parks is bus – while it’s possible to walk from the resort to the parks it’s not advised and Universal makes it difficult.

    Yes they also receive the same Early Park Admission benefit like the rest of the resorts.

    Next week I’ll be running a resorts article!

  • What are the transportation options from surfside to the parks? Is it true that surfside also gets the early hour for resort guests?


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