Exploring the Whimsical Worlds of Universal Orlando
Written by: Sydney M on February 19, 2019
As a longtime Harry Potter fan and travel lover, Universal’s Florida theme parks have been on my travel list for years. During recent a three-day weekend, one of my best friends and I eagerly boarded a plane and headed to Orlando to experience the magic for ourselves. Here’s what we learned that will help other Universal Studios visitors make the most of their time in this fantastical, fun-filled destination.
Universal Orland Resort App
The Universal Florida mobile app helped us navigate the parks. The app provides interactive maps that list wait times for the attractions around the parks so while waiting in line for one ride, we could determine which ride to visit next. It also helped us keep an eye on rides with long wait times and hop in line whenever the wait time dropped. We could also see rides by category, like 3D & 4D, thrill, kid-friendly, and water rides. The kid-friendly rides can be fun for all ages; Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing is a must-ride just to take your picture with one of the quirky characters!
The app also allows you to look up showtimes for the performances, restroom locations, and menus for restaurants. We were able to plan out our meals ahead of time by looking at which restaurants accepted which dining plans. Your clients may consider downloading the app a few days ahead of time to get comfortable using it before they arrive and learn more about the parks’ layout.
Tasty Treats and Tips
Since our trip was a short one, we planned to spend all day at Universal and knew we would be eating in the park, so the dining plan was a must. The Universal Dining Plan includes one full-service meal, one quick-service meal, one-snack, and one drink per day. The Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service includes one quick-service meal, one snack and one drink. Guests can also add a Coca-Cola Freestyle drink option. We opted for the quick-service dining plan since our hotel included a breakfast buffet. Many of the dining locations around the park accepted the quick-service plan including our top choices: The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley and Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.
It’s important to know what Universal classifies as a drink and a snack before visiting. For instance, butterbeer and many of the other Harry Potter specialty drinks count as a snack instead of a drink. Adult beverages can also be found around the park, but they must be purchased separately from all dining plans.
While the in-park dining allows guests to eat in some of their favorite movie locations, they won’t want to forget about Universal CityWalk! This neighborhood features a variety of shops and restaurants and doesn’t require admission to the parks. For us, it was perfect for grabbing an evening snack before heading back to our hotel. Known for their funky flavors and pink boxes, the sweet treats at CityWalk’s Voodoo Doughnut are a west coast favorite, and come highly recommended by copywriters too!
With the holiday rush over, the parks are less crowded in January, and the wait times are shorter. Even over the long weekend when we visited, most lines moved quickly. We rode almost every ride without express passes by heading to the most popular rides as soon as we got into the parks. This strategy paid off, and on average, we waited half an hour for each ride. During peak season, lines for the most popular rides, like Fast & Furious Supercharged and any Harry Potter ride, can take up to two hours or more.
Surprisingly, waiting in line was half the fun! For instance, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon leads riders into NBC Studios complete with waiting room and NBC Page crew members before guests take their seats in the Tonight Show’s studio audience. As muggle visitors wait for their turn at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, they are led on a tour of the Hogwarts castle, starting in Herbology class and weaving through the passageways lined with talking oil paintings. At times, the immersive experiences of waiting in line were so captivating, it was hard to move forward!
January weather in Florida can vary. Remind your clients to look at the weather forecast ahead of time and pack accordingly. But don’t leave those swimsuits at home! Universal’s Volcano Bay does occasionally close for weather, but the park is open year-round, and the water is kept at a warm 85 degrees throughout the cooler months.
Magic at Work
Behind the wall in Hogsmeade, Universal is expanding with new Harry Potter attractions that are under construction. Rumor has it the new section will be the Forbidden Forest, but the rides and opening date have yet to be announced. (New Information about this expansion can be found here.)
For more information on Universal Studios Theme Parks, sign up for the travel agent education offered through Universal Partner Community. These educational courses cover park attractions, dining plans, Universal Resort Hotels, and Universal Partner Hotels.
Are you interested in planning Universal Vacations and helping others experience their dream vacations? Learn how you can become a travel agent with KHM Travel Group by filling out the form to the right or by giving us a call at 1-888-611-1220.