Universal Studios Orlando Tips & Secrets
- Arrive about 45 minutes prior to arrival if you have tickets, arrive 60 minutes prior if you need to purchase admission. If you have a ticket voucher, you will need to get your actual tickets by using one of the kiosks near the entrance of the park. Remember that you must have a “Park-to-Park” admission ticket to ride the Hogwart’s Express attraction.
- Parking is shared for both Universal Orlando parks. Premium parking is probably not worth the cost if you arrive before 10:30AM. The best parking is on the west side of the parking garage. Take a photo of the name of your parking section, number of your section, level and row - it is easy to forget where you are parked and the sections all look pretty much the same. Depending on where you are parked, it will take 8 to 20 minutes to get to get through security and get to the theme park entrances.
- Package pick-up is available near the front of the park for purchases made during the day, saving you the hassle of carrying bags while you enjoy the attractions.
Minimizing Lines At Universal Studios Orlando:
- Universal Express & Universal Express Unlimited (similar to FastPass+) cover about 90% of the parks’ attractions but cost extra – sometimes a lot extra - unless you are staying at Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel or the Royal Pacific hotel. Universal Express passes can be purchased prior to arrival, at the park ticket windows or inside the park. If you want Universal Express passes, staying at one of the resorts can be a great value because you don't pay extra for Universal Express and one night's stay is good for both your arrival day and departure day. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation Universal Orlando Vacation quote.
- Before paying for Universal Express, you should know that is not valid at Harry Potter Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts, and Hogwarts Express or book your trip through us and get great Universal Studios touring plans that will help you manage crowds and minimize lines. One of the perks of staying at an official Universal Orlando Resort hotel is being able to enter the parks one hour early, allowing you to enjoy the Harry Potter areas (admission required) with limited crowds. Contact us for more information.
- U-Bot is a device available inside the park where you purchase Express Passes and is generally $10 - $20 less expensive than Universal Express but you can only make one reservation at a time unless you purchase the Unlimited reservation option. Click here for more information.
- Too expensive? Book with us and use the Universal Studios theme park touring plans we provide each of our client’s to keep you ahead of the crowds and out of the long lines. Click here for more information.
- Single Riders Lines, when offered, can save a lot of time if you don’t mind riding separate from your party. Great option if you wish to repeat an attraction.
- Universal Rider Switch is available at height restricted lines for families with small children or children who might be frightened by an experience. One adult waits in a designated area with the child while the riders in your party experience the attraction. When they’re done, the waiting adult and at least one other person can by-pass the stand-by line and experience the ride while another adult in the party stays with the child.
- Lockers - Lockers are available (additional cost) near the front of the park and at some attractions throughout the parks. Some attractions require you to leave all of your loose belongings in a locker while you ride - in this case, use of the locker is free for a period of time that extends a bit beyond the current stand-by ride time. Be sure to write down or take a photo of your locker number to save time and frustration when you retrieve your items.
Universal Studios Dining Tips:
- Universal Quick-Service Dining Plan – Wait until your first meal to decide whether or not to purchase the dining plan, if your lunch costs less than $15, it probably is not going to be a good value for you. If your meal is $15 or more, you might want to tell the cashier that you would like to buy the plan and you’ll probably save at least a little money if you use the remaining drink and snack credit. In our opinion, Universal’s Table Service Dining Plan is not a good value.
Better Quick-Service Dining Options At Universal Studios:
- Three Leaky Cauldron (Diagon Alley) – Good food but can get very, very busy. Definitely eat at non-typical times.
- While the food isn't amazing, the selection is good in Springfield's Fast Food Blvd. The menus include fun Simpsons references and inside jokes. The different varieties of Duff Beer are actually different varieties, not just the same beer repackaged like on the Simpsons TV show.
- Classic Monster's Cafe has a good selection of food and a decent amount of indoor seating.
- Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour (Diagon Alley) is small and has no seating but the butterbeer, chocoate chili, and apple crumble ice creams all have fan followings.
Universal Studios Ride & Attraction Tips:
- If you don’t have early access to the Diagon Alley, arrive at least 30 minutes prior to park opening and secure your park maps. As soon as the park opens, head directly over to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and ride, followed by Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket and then go enjoy other areas of the park. Wait until later in the day to experience Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the rest of Diagon Alley.
- Men in Black Alien Attack - Try opening the doors in the queue area, some have special effects. Get a higher score by holding the trigger throughout the ride; points are given for every 10 shots whether you hit a target or not. Immigration Room Tour: Ask the employee at the attraction entrance if it is possible to get a tour of the Immigration Room - if they have enough staff and it isn't too busy, you may get a tour.
- The Universal Horror Make-Up Show - We love the humor in the this show, though the experience depends on the quality of the actors. It isn't particularly scary but some children or sensitive guests may find some of the effects gruesome.
- Simpsons Ride - Look for Doc Brown, in the pre-ride video sequence; this is a tribute to the Back to the Future ride that previously occupied this space. You'll also see the Delorean and Doc's time traveling train off to the side of the walkway near the Simpsons area.
- The Beat Builders and Blues Brothers shows are both good but generally occur in the heat of the day with no shade in sight. You may want to get a cool drink to enjoy while you watch.
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts - the single rider line will save you time but only use it if you've gone through the full queue at least once as it is quite good. After you've seen the queue area, you can save time on future rides by using the single rider line. The ride itself can feel different depending on the row you're seated in - the view is most intense in the first row and the sixth row gets the most movement; row three is the best of both worlds.
- The dragon atop Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts blows fire about every 10 minutes, weather permitting.
- Look for Kreacher, the house elf, who looks out from the second story window at 12 Grimmauld Place.
- Check the live entertainment schedule for Tales of Beedle the Bard (skit with puppets) and Celestina Warback and the Banshees (musical show), both are worth catching at least once.
- If you go to Diagon Alley early in the day, Harry Potter fans will want to stop by Gringott's Money Exchange to exchange your muggle money (U.S. dollars) for Gringott Bank Notes ($10 and $20 options) that can be used throughout the Universal Orlando Parks.
- Wand Experience at Olivanders – Expect long lines(45 – 85 minutes) and little shade. Usually only 1 person per group gets to participate; wands cost $25 - $45. Do this in the first half hour or after 7:30PM. Interactive wands can be used throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley to activate special experiences - especially in the gift shop window displays.
- The Diagon Alley gift shops are tiny and draw big crowds so you can end up standing in line just to shop – come back towards the end of the day to minimize waits. If you’re not looking for the shop experience, you may find it easier to get a suitable Harry Potter souvenir at one of the carts or kiosks.
- Universal's Cinematic Spectacular View Tip - The best spot is near Richter's Burger Company where the sidewalk makes a protrusion near the water; arrive at least 45 minutes early during busy times. The view is not good from the ends of the lagoon. An easy but expensive option is the Cinematic Spectacular dining package at Lombard's Seafood Grill; you dine prior to the show and then, later, are given access to a reserved viewing area where dessert is served.
Places Universal Attractions Poke Fun At Disney World:
- Simpsons Ride - The Krustyland ads in the pre-show are suspiciously like some of the Disney attractions: Haunted Condo, Hall of Secretaries of the Interior, etc. The ride itself pokes fun at Disney's long standing prohibition on facial hair.
- Duff Brewery's Seven Duffs Topiaries (Simpsons area) are named Surly, Edgy, Dizzy, Tipsy, Queasy, Sleazy and Remorseful.
- Shrek 4D queue has posters that parody Disney attractions: Great Moments with Mr. Farquaad, Enchanted Tick Room, and Donko. Pinocchio appears in the pre-show.
Don't Miss Out on Great Experiences at Universal Orlando!
We want to help you have the most wonderful, most memorable Universal Orlando vacation possible. We know that giving you good, up-to-date information and a few simple tools will make a huge difference in your Universal vacation. Long lines become short lines and you will have great memories of shared experiences instead of missed opportunities. That's why we're called Build A Better Mouse Trip.
Here’s how we help you have a great vacation:
- Your travel agent – You have one agent from start-to-finish who knows your name and your priorities and who wants to do everything possible to help you have a wonderful experience.
- “Best Days” Itinerary – We’ll help you build an itinerary that includes your priorities for parades, crowds and shows. Then we help with dining & Fastpass+ reservations.
- Saving Money – Of course we watch for discounts and promotion and automatically apply the best available offer to your reservation but we also help you avoid up-sells and options you won’t use.
- We Are Fee-Free - We book directly through Universal and we never charge a service fee so you never pay any extra to use our services when you book your trip through us. You can have all the benefits Universal offers PLUS all the services we offer. You can also purchase planning services through us if you've booked on your own or through another travel agency.