2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (2023)

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (1)

If you're visiting Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in 2023, our planning guide offers restaurant recommendations, parking and driving strategies, and tips and tricks to help you save money and time, avoid crowds, and more, so you can make the most of your journey good holiday. (Updated May 23, 2023.

We are annual pass holders for Universal Orlando and big fans of the parks as well as Walt Disney World. Universal has come a long way and upped its game over the last decade. This begins with Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade landing in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and is further enhanced by Hagrid's magical motorbike adventure. This has been taken to the next level with the debut of the Jurassic World VelociCoaster.

That's why we highly recommend spending a few days at Universal Studios during your Walt Disney World vacation. This guide to Universal Orlando Resort has everything you need to know. Whether you're visiting both parks in one day or staying at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure hotels for multiple days, we've got information and advice on attractions, restaurants, resorts, strategies, crowds and more.

In this guide, we'll cover how to get the most out of visiting Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. We're going to take a counterintuitive approach to organizing this guide, as we've found that many readers refer to iton visitUbiquitous, not at the planning stage of a trip. So we're preloaded with what you need to know to know if you've arrived in Central Florida.

If you're a Disney fan just trying to decide if a trip to Universal Orlando Resort is right for you, start by reading ourUniversal Studios mod Walt Disney World post which covers some of the pros and cons of each resort, as well as the differences between the two holiday destinations.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (2)

Likewise, if you're debating resorts for the two major theme park complexes, here's our full rundown:Universal Orlando v. Walt Disney World Hotels. This should help you decide which is the best option for your holiday or if shared accommodation is the best option!

Here's everything else you need to know about visiting Universal Orlando Resort…

What's new and what's next for Universal Studios

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (3)

If you haven't been to Universal Orlando in a while (or have been),a lotIn the last few years. These include some of the new attractions added over the past few years: The Bourne, The Fast and the Furious: Supercharged, Cross New York starring Jimmy Fallon and Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

As far as new content goes, Islands of MapleStory has two very popular coasters: Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Hagrid's Fantastic Creatures Motorcycle Adventure on the Hogsmeade side of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Without a doubt, VelociCoaster and Hagrid's are two of the best roller coasters in Orlando. (I personally rank both projects above Walt Disney World's TRON Lightcycle Run, but each has its own twist.)

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (4)

next isMinion Land i Universal Studios Florida. As the name suggests, this is adespicable Mefilm series and builds on the popularity of the existing Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction.

Joining this expanded avenue will be another amusement and restaurant as well as more retail, snack bars, meet and greets, placemaking and more. Blast your way to super villain stardom in Illumination's all-new Villain Minion blast attraction. Visit the Illuminations Minion Cafe, where shenanigans are always on the menu. Enjoy dessert at Bake My Day and much more. Minion Land opens in summer 2023!

In the more distant future, Universal Studios is building a third theme park in Central Florida, and construction is underwayquickly. The project is in full swing, andUniversal Studios' Epic Universe Park Opens Summer 2025! this will bringsuper nintendo worldPlus more from Harry Potter, Universal Monsters, How to Train Your Dragon and more to Universal Orlando for years to come.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (5)

Another new thing worth addressing here and now is attendance and crowds returning to normal. After nearly two years of pent-up demand that led to higher wait times and prices, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando experienced post-spring break slowdowns. Our latest crowd report shared all the details, but suffice it to say this was the slowest monthly increase at the park in over a year.

To that end, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have increased discounts in an effort to entice more people to visit their parks and stay at their on-site hotels. we have mentioned many timeswalt disney world has14 different discounts released for 2023, which is more than was available all of last year.

Universal Studios has followed suit and gone from a discount almost exclusively for Annual Passholders and Florida residents to a discount for the general public. There are currently Buy 2 Get 3 tickets, Resort Discounts of 20-35% off and package deals up to $650 off.

These are all worth your own prices, but we must remind you that many accommodations have a 5-day stay requirement. That's longer than most people spend at Universal Orlando (and that's part of the reason it's offered – to increase visit time). In any case, we recommend using a travel agency -eg. "Guest Holiday"– Prices for different packages and offers and helps you find the best way to save money, plan your trip and more.

Now let's turn to the subject of advanced planning for Universal Orlando…

where to live

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (6)

When planning a trip, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions, many of which will determine where you will stay. Would you like to earn unlimited Fast Passes by staying at eligible Universal Orlando hotels? Would you like to stay at a Walt Disney World hotel during your trip or change hotels? Would you like to stay at a hotel near Universal Studios and Disney to save money?

We have recently stayed at each of the Universal Orlando Resort properties and here are our reviews:

  • Universal Orlando Hard Rock Hotel review (respected)
  • Universal Orlando Loews Portofino Bay Hotel review (highly recommended)
  • Reviews of Universal Orlando Loews Royal Pacific Resort (Good fast pass suits "budget" options)
  • Review of Universal Orlando Loews Sapphire Falls Resort (highly recommended)
  • Rating Universal Studios Adventure Hotel
  • Sign up for Universal Studios Cabana Bay Beach Resort (highly recommended)
  • (good budget option)
  • (suitable for large family)

For an in-depth look at all of these hotels, their pros and cons, and how and how they compare and contrast, see our.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (7)

We're big fans of Universal's hotels, and we're particularly partial to the two "bay" resorts: Los Portofino Bay Hotel and Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Both properties are among the top 10 hotels in Orlando and rival some of our favorite Walt Disney World resorts.

Universal's hotels are great value, and even those that don't offer free fast passes offer early park access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal's Volcano Bay one hour before park opening. It's absolutely huge!

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (8)

As for off-site lodging, you'll usually get the best bang for your buck by staying at an off-site hotel, as there are plenty of non-Disney and non-Universal hotels competing with each other. we have aOff and On Walt Disney World HotelsThis article digs a little deeper into the pros and cons of staying on the sidelines, and it also applies a little to Universal Studios.

As for staying only at Walt Disney World hotels during your travels, wherever you go, we've written full reviews based on our opinions and room photos. look at oursWalt Disney World Hotel Reviews Page, to see the link to each comment.

Universal Orlando political ride

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (9)

Next, learn what you need to know when you're at Universal Orlando. For starters, we highly recommendDon't "improvise" your routineBecause of the aforementioned crowd problems. You don't need to plan every move in order for there to be no spontaneity in your travels, just make sure you have at least a loose plan of what to do.

We have the following plans for each park to accommodate our perfect day:

  • Universal Studios Florida Park Day Trip Itinerary
  • Islands of Adventure Park Day Trip
  • Itinerary for a day trip to Universal Park(Islands of Adventure og Universal Studios Florida

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (10)

This content provides a step-by-step visit plan for both Universal Orlando theme parks, prioritizing the most popular rides and skipping rides that aren't worth your time. These will help you experience Hagrid's Fantastic Beasts Motorbike Adventure, Spider-Man's Amazing Adventures, Hulk Roller Coaster, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Harry Potter and Gringotts and more Must play rides.

If you would like to create your own itinerary and would like overviews and reviews of each attraction in each park, please see ourAdventure Island Køreguide andUniversal Studios Florida Driving Directions. If you're a fan spinner, you might want to check it out, because we're not going to waste your time on that nonsense in our itinerary.

when to visit

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (11)

If you add a trip to Universal Orlando to your Walt Disney World vacation, the answer is simple...no matter when you visit Walt Disney World. Crowd patterns at Walt Disney World are very similar to Universal Orlando.

There are two reasons: first, because crowds tend to depend on school schedules which are the same; and second, because Walt Disney World is the "whale" in the Orlando market, the crowds at all theme parks depend on Time for tourists to plan their Disney vacation. In other words, you can refer to ours2023 Walt Disney World Crowd-kalenderPosting to find out when to visit as this pretty much applies to Universal Orlando as well.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (12)

There are only a few exceptions and they depend largely on the special events unique to each park. For example, when a Walt Disney World hotel hosts a conference or youth sports event, or during the EPCOT festival, Walt Disney World experiences an increase in Disney Run attendance. Universal, on the other hand, sees its own spikes during Mardi Gras, Halloween Horror Nights and hosts Pop Warner youth football events in early December.

Overall, however, school holidays were the main reason for attendance at both schools. Specifically Orange County and other counties in Florida and the South. Of course, both are resorts, so breaks in the Midwest and Northeast school districts also matter a lot. Obvious times like Spring Break, Easter, Summer Break, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve are busy.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (13)

Other lesser known times such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Mardi Gras, Columbus Day and Veterans Day also saw significant attendance increases. To choose the best time to visit Universal Orlando, refer again to the crowd calendar above.

We strongly recommend avoiding Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure on Saturdays and Sundays due to the increase in local crowds on weekends. The best time to visit is Monday to Thursday when there are far fewer crowds. However, this disappears during holiday weeks or school holidays when there are too many tourists and all days of the week are busy.

This feeling of overcrowding is exacerbated by the fact that the park is still somewhat understaffed. The problem isn't unique to Universal Orlando — all locations in Central Florida are facing the same hiring issues, including Walt Disney World. which doesaltIt felt worse than it actually was, because even though visitor numbers were on par with normal years, the park was unable to absorb the crowds effectively due to a lack of staff. Fortunately, this problem is less pronounced in 2023 than it has been in recent years, but it is still a problem.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (14)

The only exception is if you want to see or avoid Universal Studios' Halloween season, which is Halloween Horror Nights (HHN). Overall, it is a hard ticket event with a huge following among locals and fans of the haunted season.

During HHN, you will enter the set of some of your favorite horror movies and walk through them as the actors try to scare you. This event is not suitable for children under the age of 13 and has absolutely nothing in common with Walt Disney World's Mickey Is Not So Scary Halloween Party.See our Halloween Horror Nights guide for more information.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (15)

Other than that, the only notable events are Carnival and Christmas. look at oursMardi Gras Guide: International Mardi Gras Flavors at Universal Studios Florida. During this fun event, guests can experience a food festival, enjoy food and entertainment inspired by the international carnival celebration.

Food stalls offer flavors from Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, Spain and beyond, including New Orleans, of course. Plus, enjoy spectacular float displays, street entertainment, music, pearls and more at Universal Studios Florida.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (16)

During the holiday season, Grinch Christmas and the Universal Holiday Parade with Macy's are the main entertainment. There's also the Christmas Tribute Shop (essentially a traveling exhibit) as well as Universal Studios Florida's iconic Christmas tree.

Perhaps the most exciting is Winter in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which features unique decorations and projections of Hogwarts Castle. There are also decorations around Seuss Wharf, Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, two parks in Hollywood, New York and San Francisco.

how many days?

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (17)

This value can vary greatly with some variables. One of the most important factors is your group's receptivity to the types of attractions Universal Orlando Resort is famous for, namely roller coasters and screen-based simulators. It's reductionism and there's so much more to Universal Studios than these types of rides, but if your party doesn't like any of them, it's going to be hard to spend more than 2 days at Universal Studios.

If you love roller coasters or have teenagers, you can easily spend 3 days or more at Universal Orlando. Heck, I'm not much of a roller coaster or simulator fan and I could easily spend 2 days (or even 3) at Universal Studios. Likewise, if you love Harry Potter, it would be easy to spend a few days at Universal Studios. The two wizarding worlds of Harry Potter alone can take up a lot of a day. I think,There is a fire-breathing dragon in Diagon Alley...disliking dragons is clearly unpatriotic.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (18)

Islands of Adventure also has a Jurassic Park area, which is basically a tribute to our greatest national treasure: the dinosaurs. it's not as good asgenuineJurassic Park (like San Diego Zoo meets Lincoln Memorial meets Tokyo DisneySea), but it's an interesting area to explore. In other words, if you're an "atmosphere guy" at Universal Studios, there's plenty to do.

Then there is the question of how much "extra" vacation you have. Assuming you have allotted time at Walt Disney World and are looking for "something else" to finish your Florida trip, I would probably spend more time at Walt Disney World than at other parks like SeaWorld or Busch Gardens Universal Studios. It's personal preference and all of these parks certainly aren't trying to achieve the same thing, but I think Disney and Universal parks are in a different league than all the other parks.

Universal Orlando tickets

If you are looking for deals on park tickets,Get away today save you the most on Universal Orlando tickets. This is especially true if you are traveling long distance, as Get Away Today has a special "buy 2 days, get 3 free". With more and more things to do at Universal Orlando, spending a few days at the park is highly recommended, especially if you're staying at a nearby hotel and want to do more (also recommended).

I love the park to park tickets if you can spend the extra money. This is because Universal Pictures did a very clever thing when they built Diagon Alley, which was supposed to connect Harry Potter's two wizarding worlds via the Hogwarts Express.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (20)

If you have a park-to-park ticket, you can only travel by train from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley (and vice versa). I'm not a Harry Potter fan, but the experience of entering a London station, walking through a wall and taking the train to Hogsmeade was amazing.

If you're only visiting for one day and don't need park-to-park tickets, the best way to save money on Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida tickets is to buy tickets online at the Universal Studios Orlando website. Universal Studios tickets purchased online can be printed at home and used at the turnstiles, meaning you don't have to queue for tickets or redeem coupons.

fast pass

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (21)

Fastpasses are Universal Orlando's version of Genie+ or Lightning Lanes (a way to skip the lines) and can be used as an add-on to tickets or with select hotel stays. There are two types of Fastpasses you can buy: Regular Passes or Unlimited Passes. Express passes are available to almost all of the most popular attractions in each park.

The Regular Edition allows you to skip the line once at each eligible attraction in both parks for $90 to $350 per person, depending on the date. Universal Express Unlimited offers skip-the-line privileges and, as the name suggests, unlimited access to every attraction for a price between $100 and $380 per person. Even at its most expensive, Genie+ at Walt Disney World costs less than $40 per ride. person. So what is the difference? Excellent,a lot.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (22)

Unlike Genie+ or Lightning Lanes, Express Pass has no technology component. Although significantly more expensive, it is also frictionless. All you have to do is go to the attraction and use your fast pass. There is nothing in the app to hold or bother. Quick passes involve zero screen time and headaches - but you pay more for it!

Whether a fixed pass is worth the money depends largely on which day of the week and season you visit, and how you value your time and money. Personally, we don't pay for the Express Pass most of the time. However, we also avoid weekends and holidays, arrive when the parks are open, and take advantage of efficient park routes.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (23)

If you really want to use Express Pass, your best bet is to stay at a hotel that offers Express Pass. Unlimited Fastpasses are available at Universal's top resorts (namely the Royal Pacific Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Portofino Bay Hotel), which are Universal's most expensive hotels. Honestly, this is the only way we "buy" an Express Pass - we can't justify the cost any other way.

All three are good, comparable to the luxury resorts at Walt Disney World, and often at a lower price. They're still expensive, but cheaper than Disney's high-end hotels, and definitely worth the money—especially if you want the unlimited fastpass benefits or the great location within walking or boat travel to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. If you want to stay in a nice hotel anyway, this trio is itreallyIt is worth considering.

If you'd like to learn more about this skip-the-line option and how it compares to similar options at Walt Disney World, check out our guides:.


2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (24)

By far the most common question we get about Universal Orlando Resort is, "What's the best way to get to Universal Studios from Universal Studios at Walt Disney World." The answer is that there are many options, but so far the best so far is Uber. we are in ourUber v. Walt Disney World Rental CarsArticle. Here is the relevant part of the post:

In the past, the best options we've found for those who didn't rent a car while traveling were to rent a car locally for the day or take an expensive shuttle. Neither are cost effective or that attractive, especially when you add parking fees.

For those who don't want to rent a car during their trip, Uber or Lyft are undoubtedly the best options to get from Walt Disney World to Universal Studios. An Uber or Lyft from Walt Disney World will vary depending on your location, but is usually under $25 each way and takes 20-25 minutes.

As for plane ticket, car rental and other basic information, here is my standard info: To find cheap flights we recommendGoogles ITA-software. It's the most powerful flight search engine out there, even if you can't book through it. It gives you the freedom to choose multiple airports, see if nearby ones offer better prices, and allows you to view a calendar of travel dates.

to eat

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (25)

Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure also have some good restaurants, but overall I don't think the dining experience compares to Walt Disney World. The undisputed highlights in my opinion are the counter restaurants in Diagon Alley (The Leaky Cauldron) and Hogsmeade (The Three Broomsticks) and the Mythos table service restaurant which is great value.

Other in-park restaurants at Universal Orlando that we like include Today Show Cafe (for lighter fare) and Krusty Burger (the opposite). In fact, the Springfield area has something for everyone, with a variety of dining optionsThe Simpsons.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (26)

When it comes to snacks, you'll naturally want to try butterbeer - maybe all three varieties (frozen, warm and regular). Most of the other snacks we love are also in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Florin Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor and Honeydukes.

Another thing you might want to consider is buying a refillable Coca-Cola Freestyle mug. I have, but I could really lay down the coke and make it worth it. I'm sure I'll lose my teeth one day, but hopefully that's at least five years away. These Coke Freestyle machines located throughout the park are also a convenient way to get free water that is cold and tastes good.

other things to do

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (27)

Volcano Bay is a water park at Universal Studios Orlando. It's South Sea themed with a huge volcano in the middle (hence the name) and water slides inside. For fans of Walt Disney World, it's a bit of a cross between Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney's Polynesian Village Resort and World of Adventures.

All of Volcano Bay's rides have virtual lines instead of traditional waiting lines. You can use a TapuTapu wearable like the MagicBand to tap to get driving times. So float, swim, splash, dine, shop or relax around Volcano Bay. Your TapuTapu will tell you when it's time to ride.

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (28)

In addition to the two amusement parks and Volcano Bay water park, there is City Drive. This is the shopping, dining and entertainment hub of Universal Orlando, just like Disney Springs. The big difference is that you can walk across City Drive to Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure and it's very easy to leave the park and have lunch or dinner on City Drive. No need for a bus!

There are also plenty of relatively new eateries along CityWalk, such as Bigfire, Voodoo Donut, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, and VIVO Italian Kitchen, to name a few. Toothsome is a fan favorite for its premium milkshakes and dessert concoctions (and fun steampunk themes), and the Voodoo Donut is an absolute must-do. That said, we think the top hits on the list are Bigfire and Cowfish, both of which offer great food at reasonable prices (by theme park standards).

2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide (29)

A final note about attractions that areA lotThe attraction does not allow luggage, but there are free lockers nearby for backpacks, cameras, children and any other junk you may be carrying. These are convenient and there are larger lockers at the front of the park that you can get for a fee, but here's the point for those of you who are used to bringing a small piece of U-Haul stuff into the Walt Disney World parks : You can't do that at Universal. Take light luggage with you to the park.

I think if you are planning to visit Universal Orlando Resort as an add-on to your Walt Disney World vacation, this might be a good place to start. Let me know in the comments if you want to dive deeper into any of these topics. We plan to answer more questions about dining, special events and Universal Orlando news in the coming months, so stay tuned for more!

Need travel planning tips and comprehensive advice for your trip to Central Florida? Be sure to read ourWalt Disney World Vacation Planning GuideAll about parks, resorts, restaurants and much more. For regular updates, news and rumours, alerts when discounts are released and more,Sign up for our free email newsletter!

your thoughts

Planning to visit Universal Orlando Resort in 2023? Excited about an epic universe or other rumored additions in the next few years? How about Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Hagrid's or the new rides that just opened? Do you have a favorite Universal Studios hotel? Would you rather stay at Universal Studios or travel from Walt Disney World? If you're new, is there anything else you want to know? If you still have questions, chances are someone else does too! Please share your thoughts in the comments


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated: 30/09/2023

Views: 6273

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.