Some thoughts on Universal

So I just got back from my first trip to Universal in 18 yrs or so…a lot has changed! For those who are more used to Disney or wanted some info if it’s been a while, here are a few thoughts…

  1. Most all of the rides are 3D simulator rides, including the Harry Potter rides. I LOVE rollercoasters. These made me sick. Like Mission Space Orange. The older rides (spiderman) are better than the newer (Forbidden Journey).
  2. Rip Ride Rocket is awesome…better than the Aerosmith Rockin Rollercoaster. Dragon Challenge also good. Hulk is still closed, and Kong not due open yet.
  3. The child swap areas on the Harry Potter rides are SCARY for little ones. So is the fire breathing dragon at Gringotts (my 2y/o pulled the stroller cover down and said “hide”).
  4. If you have a 2y/o, plan to spend a lot of time in the play areas. Woody Woodpecker area was particularly awesome.
  5. Diagon Alley is VERY COOL…plan to spend an hour or so there (early w/o crowds) to do some of the wand stuff and exploring. The shops are small, though. Hogwarts Express also cool. I could have spent a day just doing Harry Potter area stuff at the two parks. Oh, and Rip Ride Rocket :wink:
  6. The Mummy Ride must have been updated…it was better than remembered.
  7. Despicable Me doesn’t have live character dance party at the end, but you can wait to meet the Minions (meet and greet style).
  8. Every ride makes a valiant effort to get you wet…even if it is just a sprinkle.
  9. Mardi Gras is crowded. The concert area reached capacity (we avoided) but the parade was nice. Plenty of beads. Plan a 15-20min wait for womens’ bathrooms at this time :wink: The parade goes opposite way around as the Superstar Parade.
  10. Bus system to/from Cabana Bay works very well.
  11. Universal Express Pass is awesome, but expensive if you are not at one of the designated hotels.
  12. If you like to rope drop, there are not many breakfast options so bring some snacks on the go.

Appreciate all the touring plan help and info and wanted to share…


Thanks for all your notes!

Agree totally. My rating for the water rides are Jurassic Park = “splashed”, Dudley Do-Right = “wet”, Popeye and Bluto’s = “soaked”.

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Cool thanks - going soon - can’t wait!! So as you stayed on site and have early morning access. Is it just the Harry Potter area (Diagon or Hogsmead) that is open for the “early” park

Right now only Universal Studios has early entry so this includes the Diagon alley area (with the ride there) and also Despicable Me. We hit Despicable Me on the way in and then the Escape from Gringotts once we got to Diagon alley. Both basically walk on/short wait on level 4 day at Early Entry. You can get in line for Hogsmeade on Hogwarts Express, but it won’t arrive until after IoA park opening…not a bad idea as we snuck over there just to ride the 3 rides in Hogsmeade before coming back to Diagon Alley. We were going to repeat 2nd day as Forbidden Journey and Gringotts are two that are non-express-pass rides, but the 3D made us too dizzy. Instead spent the 2nd morning just exploring Diagon Alley (highly recommend at early entry) before spending most of that day at IoA.

I forgot to mention that it’s pretty hard to enter wait times when you’re constantly being separated from your bag/phone…either being forced to leave things in lockers or with non-riding guests. I swear I had good intentions!

Awesome - thanks for th update. So if there is early entry only the Diagon Alley side is open - not the other (they don’t flip back and forth?

Regarding the lockers - how much of a pain are they. I heard - EVERYTHING needs to go in the locker. Camera, phone, wallet, coins - everything. Is that true and if so is the locker big enough for a small (small) backpack?

Yes…a small backpack should fit. To be honest, I usually had a non rider hold my backpack (in child swap or before getting in line), so I can’t speak to the locker mess…my understanding is some areas are worse than others. Most rides don’t want big bags…if you can hide a wallet or phone in a pocket (esp if have zippers) you could probably get away with it. The true roller coasters have metal detectors and wand you down…Dragon Challenge and Rip Ride Rocket…don’t have ANYTHING in your pockets.

I’d just like to tack it on your post because I never wrote a trip report myself :flushed:
We rented a cabana at Cabana Bay on our trip. We were there the first couple of days of October 2015, and cabana rentals (seasonally priced) were $50/day. Cheapest cabana rental ever! When I compared that to say, the price of renting a cabana on Castaway Cay, I couldn’t resist. We had already planned to spend the entire day just enjoying the features at the resort, and it was well worth it. Shade, electric fans, big TV, free locker, refrigerator, free bottled water, dining table and chairs, dedicated loungers, storage, lots of towels, and the staff member assigned to us was wonderful, bringing drinks from the bar (took our CC, of course) and we even ordered pizza and could have it delivered. It was a wonderful way to spend the day. :palm_tree: :pizza: :tropical_drink: :swimmer:

So anything else people can say about universal. We are going in April. First time. Staying at Portafino. Doing 2 1/2 days and really looking forward to not having to plan the way you do in WDW. So for the early admission - do they switch parks each day or is it always the same park? Also do you recommend hanging out in the associated Harry Potter area during that first time (that seems to be the consensus). Any suggestions are very much welcome.

Universal doesn’t really promise one park vs the other will be early entry…and doesn’t publish it. Officially your hotel should tell you which of the two has early entry. Unofficially it seems to have been Universal Studios for the last month. If you’re really a planner, have a contingency if it changes to IoA.

They have started posting the Early entry parks and hours on the website a month in advance. Aprils were added a few days ago. Think its under planning tab at top. Very new and helpful feature. Both parks have epa for about 2 weeks over Easter then it’s back to USF only until the end of April.

cool thanks. I am not too worried either way. I just want to know which Harry Potter side is going to be open. Doesn’t really matter to me though

We had such a nice relaxed vacation there last fall. They let you pool hop!! Cabana Bay has a lazy river that you can use for free. Buy one of their inflatables, bring your own, or float au naturel, all is allowed. (and by “au naturel,” I mean with a swimsuit, not without. :open_mouth: )

We LOVED the giant donut from Lard Lad in the Simpsons Land. That’s saying a lot, cause I’m not a donut girl.

If you get a rainy day, do Diagon Alley. Seriously, it’s like actually being in London. Half of it is covered by this high ceiling that you don’t even notice. We think the rain made the area even more authentic.

The walk from the resorts is beautiful and relaxing, and really not long at all. Oh, and they don’t run the boats during a storm.

If you’re looking for the bus to your resort at Citywalk, it’s not always parked in the right spot. Bus transportation was not quite as organized at Uni as it is at WDW, but we rarely needed it.

The pumpkin juice is crazy sweet. I couldn’t drink it.

Characters sometimes appear in the hotel lobbies. We got a great family pic with Stuart the Minion there, with no wait at all.Let’s see, what else…

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I’m a huge WDW fan and haden’t even thought of going to Universal until lately. This trip - so looking forward to Universal - not so much for WDW. It just seems more relaxed and not nearly as much planning needed.

You are absolutely right, it was much easier to do with little planning. I made TPs, because it’s how I roll, but there was not the same need to follow them. I told my DH when we got back, that was the MOST relaxed theme park trip to Orlando that I ever had. I actually felt like I had a vacation when I got back home.

We had orignally planned Universal for the end of our trip so we could relax - we ended up having to move it to the beginning - but for just that reason - it seemed FUN but more relaxing. I do hope that while at WDW we can just chill a bit.