Our recent trip to Orlando was our first time visiting a Universal theme park, and oh my were we impressed! There can be a bit of confusion for a first timer about understanding the layout of the Universal Orlando Resort and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so I thought I’d explain a bit.
Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando Resort refers to the whole Universal area which includes two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, a shopping, restaurant, and nightlife district called City Walk, the Blue Man Group Theatre, and four on-site hotels, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. There is also a Wet ‘n Wild Waterpark, but it’s not located on the main resort “campus”.
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is a theme park with many attractions based on popular movies, such as: Transformers The Ride-3D, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Revenge of the Mummy, Disaster!, Terminator 2 3-D, Men in Black Alien Attack, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, just to name a few. We really loved the Revenge of the Mummy, the new Transformers The Ride, and Shrek 4-D.
The big news for Universal Studios Florida is the brand new Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley™ which is opening this summer (2014). This new section will have exciting new attractions like the multi-dimensional 3D thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™.
Islands of Adventure
Another theme park based on movies, but arranged in “lands” or “islands” with attractions themed around a main theme. These “islands” include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade™, Marvel Super Hero Island, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing™, and Toon Lagoon. Some of our favorite attractions were Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and Poseidon’s Fury.
Islands of Adventure is home to the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter land called Hogsmeade. It contains the main attractions of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Dragon’s Challenge, Flight of Hippogriff, and Ollivanders™. The success of Ollivanders™ appears to have not been expected by Universal as there is often a long line for the store’s “show”. Small groups are admitted into the shop where a special guest (yes, only one) is chosen to go through the process of finding the perfect wand. For a true HP fan, it’s a must see. And don’t forget to grab a Butterbeer while in Hogsmeade! Don’t worry, it’s kiddo friendly (no alcohol).
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This is where people get confused. This is a term to describe two lands of attractions in the two theme parks. Hogsmeade is open now in Islands of Adventure. Diagon Alley will be opening this summer (2014) in Universal Studios Florida. This is not a separate theme park and entry is included in your admission to the Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida theme park. A very exciting new attraction will be the Hogwarts Express train which will allow individuals with park-to-park admission tickets to ride from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley and vice versa.
The Hogwarts Express experience combines powerful storytelling, live special effects, lifelike animation and state-of-the-art technology to take riders on the journey of a lifetime. Guests will enjoy two completely different experiences depending on whether they’re traveling to Hogsmeade or London.
You can buy single park tickets or park-to-park tickets which allow you entry to both parks on the same day. You can also buy vacation packages, and Universal Orlando just released a new The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Exclusive Vacation Package for the summer and fall to celebrate the opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley™. Packages include hotel, tickets, and breakast, and start at $155 per day per person for the summer and $135 pp/pd for the fall.
Express Pass: this is an additional add-on to your ticket that gives you entry to an express lane at many of the attractions. The wait is much less than the traditional standby line. You can purchase the Universal Express Pass as a ticket add-on for a varying fee (based on expected park attendance and presales) and use it once at each attraction that has Universal Express. You can also purchase an Unlimited Express Pass which allows you to enter an attraction’s Express lane as many times as you want. If you stay at one of the three on-site deluxe hotels, an Unlimited Express Pass is included per person with your room. I highly recommend the Unlimited Express Pass if you love thrill rides or have kids who love going on rides over and over again!
The most popular restaurants and shopping combined with vibrant street nightlife, add in some mini-golf, a movie theater, and the Blue Man Group and there you have a glimpse of City Walk. This is the perfect spot to hang out and stroll with your honey or catch a delicious bite of food. Our family went to the Blue Man Group show and it was such a fun interactive and comedic show. There are a few very minor PG parts, but I really was amazed at how interactive the show was. The audience was often laughing and let’s just say the end is jammin’!
Our family loved our time at the Universal Orlando Resort and will definitely plan a return visit. I hope I’ve helped share some information that will help you understand the layout of the resort and all the amazing things there are to do there. Please feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to answer.
So, just got to ask…who’s a Harry Potter fan and did you prefer the books or the movies?
Thank you to the Universal Orlando Resort for providing tickets to our family to experience your amazing resort and the Blue Man Group. All thoughts and opinions on our experience are my own honest reflections on our visit.