45 EPIC Universal Orlando tips
By Helen Wright
After 35+ visits to Orlando, I can officially say I am a BIG fan! Ever since it opened in 1990, I have loved the Universal Orlando Resort and all the expansions to the park over the last three decades have made this theme park one of the best in the world. There is so much to do and planning ahead to make the most of your visit will help you have the best time possible. From ride secrets to planning advice and what to pack, these are the ultimate tried and tested Universal Orlando Tips you need to plan your days:
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45 Excellent Universal Orlando Tips for your next trip to Florida
1. Book your tickets in advance
The first – and probably most important – on this list of Universal Orlando tips, is to book your tickets to the parks in advance. Gate entry is always more expensive on the day, even if you only plan on going for one day. For Brits visiting Florida from the UK, I recommend spending at least four days at the Universal parks. You can stay in the park for the entire day each time, or head back to the parks for shorter periods (say, just for the morning, before it gets too hot) whenever you want to with an Explorer Pass that is valid for 14 days.
When buying Orlando theme park passes in advance, always use an authorised seller like attractiontickets.com, who I always recommend based on their competitive prices and customer service. They are a UK-based company that specialise in Florida attractions like Universal Orlando Resort, Walt Disney World and SeaWorld. You can also book hotels at the theme parks with attractiontickets.com, often with a hotel and ticket package.
GOOD TO KNOW: The best ticket deal they offer for Universal Orlando Resort is a three-day, three-park Explorer Pass (*working out approximately £26 per day, per person)
2. Universal Orlando tips: Make sure you have a three-park pass for the Universal parks
One of the best Universal Orlando tips before you travel is a reminder that Universal Orlando Resort actually has three parks – Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay Waterpark. All the parks are excellent and there is more than enough to do at each, that you could spend an entire day at every park (and more). To hop between the three parks (and most importantly, the two main theme parks), you will need a 3-park Explorer Pass. This will allow you to enter all of the Universal Orlando parks however many times you want over a 14-day trip, which is the best way to make the most of the parks and get as much out of them as possible.
EXPERT UNIVERSAL HACK: Go to Universal’s Volcano Bay in the morning and relax on the tropical beach and lazy rivers. Then, head into the theme parks in the late afternoon when a lot of people leave to take advantage of the shorter lines for rides.
Universal Orlando Tip: Even if you only plan on visiting the main theme parks for one day, ensure you buy a TWO PARK ticket or you will not be able to ride the Hogwarts Express attraction, which carries guests between Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.
3. Under 3s don’t pay at Universal Orlando
Heading to Universal Orlando with kids? Make sure you only buy the tickets you need. Under-3s are FREE to enter the parks.
4. One of the best Universal Orlando tips: Stay at a Universal Resort Hotel
Staying on-site at a theme park hotel can have significant perks (as highlighted in this post on resort hotels). I really like the Universal Orlando Resort hotels and they are some of my favourite hotels in Orlando.
As well as being so close to all the theme park fun, Universal Orlando Resort hotels offer excellent guest perks, such as Early Park Admission (getting in before the regular guests, which is a huge Universal Orlando tip!), free transportation to the theme parks and to Universal Citywalk – the restaurant and entertainment area – and cool privileges, such as charging in-park purchases to your room and having your items sent to your hotel for you so that you don’t have to carry them.
Some hotels have views of the parks from your room, rooftop bars and lazy rivers around the pool! Some are even walking distance to the park entrance. This post might help you narrow down how to choose the best Universal Hotel for your stay.
5. Upgrade your hotel for premium perks: a top Universal Orlando tip if you are staying on-site at the resort
Booking to stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Resort has extra benefits that may entice you to upgrade your hotel. Guests staying at Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay and Loews Royal Pacific Resort will automatically receive a Universal Express Pass for everyone in their party, for the duration of your stay. This provides queue jumping privileges at a list of top Universal attractions, including The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and Jurassic Park River Adventure.
It goes without saying that Premier hotels cost significantly more, but if you’re visiting in peak time (Christmas, Easter, Spring Break or Summer Holidays), you will definitely make use of the Express Pass.
TOP UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIPS: If budget is tight, consider hotel hopping during your stay.
On a recent search, three nights at Loews Royal Pacific and four nights at Endless Summer Resort Dockside cost around £1573. This is over £500 saving against seven nights solely at a Premier Resort (Royal Pacific) coming in at £2100 for a family of four at selected dates in August 2023. This way, you can use your passes and ride all the best attractions at the start of your trip. Then, after hopping to a more budget-friendly hotel, go back and ride your favourites again in the regular line when the parks are less busy, such as early evenings or during early park access. This also works if you are planning to go Walt Disney World or enjoy the other attractions in Orlando. It’s a good compromise as you won’t be paying full whack for the express passes and not using them.
6. Buy your Express Passes in advance
If you don’t opt for a Premium Universal Hotel, you can still purchase Universal Express passes for the days you enter the parks. Universal Express pass prices start from $99 (£80) but since they are limited in number, the more sold, the higher the price for the remaining tickets. In peak season, this could be up to $175 (£140) each. You can book Universal Express in advance and I recommend it if you know which days you plan to be at Universal.
GOOD TO KNOW: Express passes can be purchased online and in the parks. The most popular rides at Universal, including the Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorcycle Adventure are NOT included in the Universal Express pass privileges.
7. Become a VIP for the day
Another way to jump the queues at Universal is to book onto a Universal VIP Tour Experience, which are offered in the parks and taken by official guides. Now before you decide this is definitely too expensive an option, you might want to compare the overall price to the Universal Premier Hotel upgrade, because depending on the season and capacity, a VIP tour might work out more cost effective and better for your party.
For starters, the Universal VIP Tour includes breakfast and an all-you-eat lunch, free valet parking, exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences and, of course, front of line access to ALL the Universal Orlando attractions, including Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure, Pteranodon Flyers, and Jurassic World VelociCoaster – which are not included with Universal Express.
There are two different Universal VIP Tours available. You can join a VIP group of a maximum of 10 people and prices start from $229 per person, per day (all ages). This is in addition to your park entrance pass. You will still have access to the same great perks and exclusive access, but there will be other guests who you may not know in the group with you for the day.
The second option is a Private VIP Tour Experience, this means that you will have a personal VIP guide for the day, and it will just be your party in the group. This is a great tour because you’ll have input into the itinerary and receive a Universal Photopass for the day. Dinner at Universal Citywalk is also included.
Prices for the tour (maximum 10 people) start from $2000 per day. They can’t currently be booked online, but you can call Universal Orlando on +1-866-346-9350 to book.
TOP UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIP: Is there ten of you in your group? It’s worth booking the private tour for the added extras and the guarantee your party won’t be split up. The only catch is that private tours have less availability and book up earlier so ensure you leave enough time to book in advance.
Practical Universal Orlando tips for the parks
8. Wear a lanyard.
At a theme park, the neck jewellery de jour is a lanyard. Since Universal doesn’t have a digital wristband like the Disney Magic Band, a lanyard will come in super handy during your time at the parks. In fact, this is one of my favourite Universal Orlando tips. When park hopping, including riding the Hogwarts Express, you will need to have you Park Explorer Tickets ready for scanning (as the train takes you between Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure). Plus, if you have Universal Express passes or Universal PhotoPasses, you’ll need to whip them out to scan at each attraction. Passes can easily get lost or damaged if you carry them in your pocket. Keep them displayed in the lanyard and they’ll be waterproof and easily accessible when you need them.
TOP UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIPS: A lanyard is one of my favourite merchandise items. You can choose from hundreds of designs in the park and they are a low-cost keepsake from your visit.
9. The most helpful of all the Universal Orlando tips? Bring small bags only
In virtually all aspects of giving advice to holidaymakers, I find myself telling people to pack light. Less bags means less stress – especially when it’s hot and you’re doing activities and lots of walking. This is one of the best Universal Orlando tips because a lot of the high energy, thrill rides at Universal do not allow you to carry on possessions. Instead, you will be asked to keep them in a free locker for the duration of your ride.
The free-of-charge lockers are only 14 in. x 5.5 in. x 16.9 in in size, enough for a small backpack, a handbag, a small coat or a bumbag / fannypack. If you don’t have anyone in your party who can wait with the bags or loose items, and they don’t fit in the small lockers, you will have to pay extra for the larger ride lockers (approximately $2 per ride).
10. Bring a water bottle is one of my top Universal Orlando tips
One of my favourite Universal Orlando tips will help you save money AND the environment. Bring a reusable water bottle with you to the theme parks. There are water fountains around the parks and all the restaurants and quick service windows will refill your bottle with water for free. Get a thermal bottle, like this one, and your water will stay cold longer, too.
11. Pack sunscreen and wear comfy shoes
Even if it’s cloudy on the day you visit Universal Orlando, make sure you wear a good sunscreen. Florida is a tropical destination and that sun is hot, even behind the clouds. Walking around the parks, you will see many people with red raw skin that have been caught out by this. Sunburn and sun stroke can seriously spoil your holiday, so don’t be fooled by a grey sky.
One of my top Universal Orlando tips is to wear good, comfy shoes when you are exploring the parks. You will do a lot of walking (an average of 17k steps a day) and a lot of standing, so comfy shoes are a MUST. Either wear running shoes, proper trainers with some bounce in the soles or sandals that support your feet. I always wear sandals from Vionic Shoes which are podiatrist-approved and mega comfy.
12. Planning your day in advance is one of my top Universal Orlando Tips
Universal Orlando Resort is huge! In fact, the entire park covers 541 acres and there really is so much to do. From incredible rides and attractions, shows and parades, shops, restaurants and hidden ‘easter eggs’ dotted around the park, it’s not possible to cover everything in one visit but many people miss a lot of the best bits too.
Put together a rough plan for the day before you arrive at the park. This will prevent you wasting time and will really maximise your visit. Have a list of your must-ride attractions and make a note of any that are close to each other (for example, the Jurassic Park area at Islands of Adventure is close to Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Express, Hagrids’s Motorcycle Adventure and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attractions). If you plan to focus on this area of the park, aim to eat lunch nearby too (I love Mythos for a sit-down restaurant or Dino Digs really hits the spot with its quick-service chicken and veggie burgers).
TOP UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIP: Focus on attractions at each park, where possible. Riding the Hogwarts Express will take you between parks, but make sure you actually want to hop to the other Universal park before you ride it. The Hogwarts Express experience (without any line at all) can take at least 20 minutes. Walking between the two main theme parks is around a thousand steps and can take 25 minutes to get from the centre of one park and make it to the other, including going through security. People waste a lot of time blindly moving from park to park without much thought or direction.
GOOD TO KNOW: The busiest areas at Universal Orlando Resort are the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (at both parks, but especially Diagon Alley at Universal Studios) and Marvel Superhero Island at Islands of Adventure. If you are staying at a Universal Resort Hotel and making use of Early Park Admission, head directly to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If not, save those areas for later in the afternoon, Diagon Alley in particular.
13. Go to Diagon Alley early, or late
Since Diagon Alley area is the busiest area of Universal Orlando Resort, it’s definitely one that requires a strategy. As I said earlier, those staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel can make use of Early Park Admission and get into the park ahead of the regular ticketed guests. This means if Universal Studios park opens at 8am, hotel guests can enter at 7am. HOWEVER, I recommend you actually get to the gate between 6:30am and 6:50am as a queue will start to form.
Once inside, head swiftly to the Diagon Alley area of the park. The quickest way to get there is to turn right after you enter the park onto Hollywood Blvd, turn left after the Transformers ride and follow the lake past the Fast and Furious attraction. You will see the Kings Cross entrance ahead of you. Getting to Diagon Alley early will allow you to take some great photos and enjoy the full effect of the land without too many people in the way.
If you aren’t one of the earliest guests in the park, I recommend saving Diagon Alley until later on in the day. You might snag a cool window during lunch time (12-1) where things quieten down, but failing that, head back around 4pm -5pm when a lot of families and day-trippers begin leaving the park.
14. Browse shops and windows for Harry Potter Easter eggs
Harry Potter fans will of course love The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, one of the most immersive theme park worlds ever, with such attention to detail. As well as the insanely good attractions to ride at both Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, there are so many little extras that you won’t want to miss.
The shops and shop fronts in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are part of the experience. Inside, pick up items to take home that are straight from the Harry Potter books (chocolate frogs anyone?). While from the street, the windows all have tiny details relating to the books and films, some that only a super fan would know!
MONEY-SAVING TIP: Buy your kids’ costumes before you arrive. The merchandise and costumes are some of the most expensive items in the park. This cloak from Amazon is better value if you are on a budget.
CALL YOURSELF A HARRY POTTER FAN? See how you do on our muggle-friendly Harry Potter quiz.
15. Have a wand ‘pick you’.
On Diagon Alley you can venture inside Olliviander’s Wand Shop and take part in a group experience to see how a wand chooses its wizard. Only one person from the group is chosen, but it’s magical to watch and FREE with your entrance ticket.
Some of the wands you can buy at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are interactive around the Potter lands. You can use them to activate magic spells (such as making it rain close to the entrance to Knockturn Alley) and cause objects and people in the shop windows to move. Even though the experience at Olliviander’s is free, the wands are not, and start from $55+tax. (£45). If you have younger kids who just want to play, this bargain wand from Amazon is only £10
TOP TIP: Planning on going to Universal Studios Hollywood in California any time soon? The wands also work at that park and at Universal Studios Japan.
Read our post on the brand new Super Nintendo World that opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2023.
16. Top Universal Orlando Tip: Keep an eye on the app
It is definitely worth downloading the official Universal Orlando App before your visit. The app will tell you the wait times for all the attractions, allow you to join virtual queues (currently only available on Race through New York with Jimmy Fallon), do mobile phone orders and link it to your payment card and hotel room (if staying on resort).
The best use of the app is to check in on the attractions you most want to ride, but that have a long wait in the standby line. The most popular ride at Universal Orlando is Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. This is one of the Universal Orlando tips I didn’t want to share, but in order to make sure I wait the shortest time possible, I keep a close eye on that ride in the app throughout the day. If the line drops below 45 minutes (pretty rare for this attraction) I make my way to the Hogsmeade area as quickly as possible! It’s also worth noting if the ride is down for an extended period, where staff may have cleared the standby line (usually if the ride is broken down for more than 90 mins). This is your time to strike, if you are close by when the attraction re-opens, you could potentially be one of the first in the line. Good luck!
17. Use the free WIFI
WIFI is free throughout the whole Universal Orlando Resort (this is also the case at Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Legoland). This means anyone with no cellular data in the USA, such as Brits visiting the park, can utilise the free WIFI to contact each other, post on social media, use the app and even watch youtube if you get bored in the queue for rides!
18. Use the single rider line
Another way to avoid waiting in long lines for attractions, is to use the Single Rider Line. This is a separate queue to the main standby line with no extra cost. The idea is that solo riders will fill empty seats (such as when a carriage seats 4 but there is a party of 3 waiting) and the park can operate the rides as efficiently as possible and have no wasted seats.
Obviuosly riding with your family or friends is often part of the experience, but for anyone who doesn’t mind hopping in next to a stranger, it’s a great way to get on attractions like Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIP: Unless the standby line is really short, I always use the Single Rider Queue for Jurassic World VelociCoaster. This is because the ride is so fast and frantic, you can’t see, hear or interact with the person next to you anyway! You’re on your own, baby.
Read our post on the best roller coasters in Orlando
19. Plan your theme park picnic at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando has some of the best theme park food, so you need a strategy in place for your snacks and meals so you can fit it all in – and preferably not before riding a crazy coaster. My favourite things to eat at Universal Orlando are the Who Hash from Green Eggs Ham Café at Suess Landing (basically shredded beef over potatoes) as well as the Tater Tots, the Pumpkin Pastry from Honeydukes at The Wizarding World, the Chicken Burger from Dino Digs and the Korean Beef tacos from Bumblees Taco Truck.
Then, save room for some sweet treats! The giant $10 Lard Lad Doughnut from Springfield, Home of the Simpsons, Frozen Butterbeer from The Wizarding World and Waturi Fusion Ice Cream at Volcano Bay are my sugary weapons of choice.
20. Eat at Mythos Restaurant
With so much to do, I don’t often make time for a sit-down restaurant at Universal Orlando. However, if I do want an hour or so to sit and recharge, I always book lunch at Mythos Restaurant at Islands of Adventure. It’s the best! (Says me, but it is always voted the best theme park restaurant by multiple outlets, including themeparkinsider.com, so you know it’s good).
Everything is great about this restaurant. It has a varied and delicious menu (including lots of yummy Greek food), fantastic views over the Islands’ lake and isn’t wildly overpriced, making it a clear winner in my book. The Lemon Hummus is so good. Pair that with the Greek salad and add chicken, and you’ve hit the note. Reservations are almost always required, which you can make online or on the app.
GOOD TO KNOW: Universal Orlando have just announced a complete revamp to The Lost Continent area of the park. The rumour is to make way for more Harry Potter-ness, which would be cool. We can only hope and pray that they have a plan for Mythos and it will survive the dark arts and remain as our fav lunchtime haunt.
21. Don’t miss Universal Citywalk
Just outside the Universal Orlando theme parks is free-to-enter daytime and evening entertainment area, Universal Citywalk. One of my top Universal Orlando Tips is not to miss this, because it’s one of my favourite places in Florida. As well as being home to some of the best restaurants in Orlando, Citywalk has a great atmosphere, some excellent bars and a fun laid-back Florida vibe.
It’s also perfectly placed if you are staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel as Citywalk is also served by the free resort transport and is also walking distance to some of the hotels – ideal for stumbling home if you’ve had a few too many margaritas at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
GOOD TO KNOW: Can you sing? Or, do you love karaoke whether you can sing or not? Over-21s should head to Rising Star in the evenings. This Rockaoke Bar has a party atmosphere, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Guests can get up on stage and sing with a live band and you might be fooled into thinking you’re in an episode of American Idol because some of the performers are that good.
22. Make sure you reserve Citywalk restaurants in advance
For obvious reasons, Citywalk’s busiest time is when the Universal theme parks close for the day. Hungry, sun drenched, windswept guests arrive in droves needing a feed (or a stiff drink) and everything gets full to capacity. If you want to eat at this time, especially, always book a table in advance. There are some really great places to eat, including some of my favourites: The Cowfish, Big Fire and Hotdog Hall of Fame (don’t judge me, I love hotdogs!). Pat O’Brians Irish bar also serves food and has an excellent duelling piano room with insanely talented pianists playing all your weird and wonderful requests (21+).
23. Stop at Voodoo Doughnuts
Sorry to bang on about doughnuts again, but join the virtual queue for Voodoo Donuts at Citywalk and get a take home box of the best treats in town. Choose from wacky-yet-tasty options, such as Maple Bacon, Banana Cream Pie and the Ring of Fire (which is wild and contains multiple different hot peppers – crazy!)
24. Watch the later showing of Nighttime Lights Over Hogwarts
Back inside the theme parks and another of my top Universal Orlando tips is to watch the later Nighttime Lights Over Hogwarts light show. Sometimes these shows change with the season (there is Christmas Lights over Hogwarts and a Dark Arts over Hogwarts show for Halloween) but whatever the show, there is usually two performances.
My top universal tip if you want to ride Hagrids Motorcycle Adventure with a lesser line is to ride the attraction during the FIRST showing of the nighttime lights. Most people watch the former show, as the second show can often be too late for young children. Take advantage of the crowd gathering outside and join the standby line or single rider line for Hagrids. Then, after your ride, grab a butterbeer and savour it as you watch the later show with less crowds and a warm, smug feeling.
25. Ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions
Speaking of ride hacks at Universal Orlando, if you have time, make sure you ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions at some point in your trip. No spoilers, but the visuals and storytelling are different each way.
26. Disappear into the wall
One of my favourite hidden Universal Orlando tips is actually in the queue line for the Hogwarts Express, on the Kings Cross side. In the middle, there is a hologram wall and you can get great photos and videos of yourself or your family and friends jumping through the wall, just like the Hogwarts students in the books and films.
TOP TIP: Hold back and let the people in front of you get their photo. So often, people just mindlessly walk straight into your shot. Wait for 20 seconds, on the other side is just a continuation of the queue. Nothing to rush for.
27. Buy a British chocolate bar
Another great theme park ‘Easter egg’ can also be found in the queue for the Hogwarts Express and it’s especially fun for us Brits. Just like in the real Kings Cross Station, there is a small kiosk selling confectionary and snacks that you might want for your train journey. The twist is, items sold here are ONLY the items featured in the original books and therefore they are all British chocolate bars, snacks and drinks, such as Golden Wonder Crisps, Caramel Bars and – if you are over 21 – Strongbow cider!
28. Parents and carers should make use of the Child Swap
Most of the Florida theme parks offer a Child Swap / Rider Swap option and it is such a great idea! For parents who love a rollercoaster (me) but have smaller members in their party who aren’t tall enough to ride, it can be almost impossible for both parents to experience it. In the old days, one parent would wait outside with the kids and the other would ride, but the babysitting parent would inevitably not get a go. Child Swap is the answer and I love it.
How it works is that parents and carers join the standby line with their children, but once at the front of the queue, one adult waits behind in a small line with the little ones while the other rides. Then, the adults swap roles with parent one hopping onto the coaster without having to queue again. Genius.
29. Check the height requirements before you arrive
Universal Orlando is known for its brilliant and crazy thrill rides, but due to the white-knuckle nature of the attractions, guests need to be a certain height to ride. If you have little daredevils in your party, measure them before you arrive (with shoes on) and make a note of their height. You can check the height requirements for all the attractions online or on the official app and better manage expectations rather than anyone being disappointed on the day.
GOOD TO KNOW: The height requirements are strictly enforced so be prepared to step away if shorter guests don’t quite hit the mark. It’s for their safety, after all.
30. Don’t buy a poncho
Theme parks aren’t particularly great for the environment anyway (everything from plastic packaging, lots of waste and fuel emissions), so I firmly encourage people to avoid buying disposable plastic ponchos to wear on water rides or when it rains, which is such an unnecessary excess. Florida is a tropical state, so buy a lightweight, breathable rain jacket and fold it up in your bag. Wear clothes that dry easily (avoid denim but cotton shorts are ideal) or bring a spare pair in your bag. A lightweight jacket is far more comfortable in the heat and humidity and you can use it again for this and multiple trips.
DID YOU KNOW:
A disposable plastic poncho can take 500 years to decompose in landfill!
31. Top Universal Orlando tips: Get the shark cocktail
Not only is this one of my favourite Universal Orlando tips, this is one of my favourite lesser-known things to do at Universal too. You may remember one of the original Universal Orlando rides was Jaws! Sadly, the ride was eventually closed to make way for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but the legend lives on in the form of a silly, themed experience and a beverage.
Head over to the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the park (between Kings Cross and Fast and Furious) and find the Chez Alcatraz outdoor bar. If you order the Ocean Attack Cocktail (there are alcoholic and non-alcoholic options), you will not only get a delicious ice-cold drink, but the concoction comes with a skit performed by your server involving a jelly shark and drinkable blood! It’s hilarious.
32. Try all the different Butterbeers
Okay, so anyone that’s been on this planet for the last 20 years will likely know what a Butterbeer is – the famous Harry Potter brew of choice. What they may not know is there are SEVEN types of Butterbeer at Universal Orlando Resort and as a self-proclaimed Butterbeer fan, I recommend you try them all!
Here is the definitive list:
My favourite – Frozen Butterbeer (it’s the best!). Available at multiple outlets in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and perfect in the Florida heat, but I only ever get one next to Hogwarts Castle for some reason. It just feels right.
Cold Butterbeer. Different to the above in that’s it’s cold but not frozen. Still good, but not as good. Found at multiple outlets in Hogsmeade and in Diagon Alley.
Hot Butterbeer. This one is seasonal because only weirdos, like me, drink hot drinks in hot weather and I definitely would. You can usually get one between September and April. The hot Butterbeer is available from the Three Broomsticks, the Hog’s Head Pub, outdoor drink stands, and in the Leaky Cauldron and The Hopping Pot in Diagon Alley.
Butterbeer Ice Cream. This is a little sweet for me, but everyone I know goes, er, potty for it… Get a scoop at Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, The Hopping Pot and the Fountain of Fair Fortune (all three shops are in Diagon Alley). You currently can’t buy the soft serve ice cream in Hogsmeade.
Butterbeer Potted Cream – again, this one is WAY too sweet for me, but I don’t like English clotted cream either (shh don’t tell anyone). Those with a sweet tooth can sample it at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley and the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.
Butterbeer Fudge. Shopping at Honeyduke’s in Hogsmeade, and at Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop along Diagon Alley is a big part of the fun of the Wizarding World. This sweet treat makes an ideal gift for the muggles back home too.
And finally, the newest addition to the Butterbeer selection – Hard Packed Butterbeer Ice Cream from The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.
33. And the secret Harry Potter drink – the Pumpkin Fizz
This ends up being one of the best-loved Universal Orlando tips because not many people know about it! Are you pleased you read this far? Inside The Three Broomsticks and the Hogs Head pub at Hogsmeade, you can order the famous Pumpkin Fizz from the Harry Potter books, but here’s the catch – it’s not on the menu! This drink is so delicious – imagine a cinnamon, nutmeg pumpkin pie in drink form – you can thank me later! (In fact, if you are enjoying our epic list of Universal Orlando tips, follow us on social media at Instagram, Facebook and TikTok for more fun Florida insider secrets). Since it’s not on the menu, the Pumpkin Fizz is currently $4.75+tax (£3.80).
34. Universal Orlando tips: Don’t miss the Horror make-up show
I love this underrated show at Universal Orlando as it reminds me of the origins of the park that celebrated classic movies. Prepare for some ‘scary’ surprises and pick up some horror movie makeup tips before you go to Halloween Horror Nights!
TOP UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIP: If the hot sun is getting too much, this is a great opportunity to rest your legs and spend half-hour in the air conditioning too. Check out the gift shop on the way out, it’s fab!
35. Don’t skip The Bourne Stuntacular
This is a new attraction at Universal Orlando that opened mid-way through the pandemic. As a result, this underrated, modern show definitely did not get the celebration it deserved, which is a shame because it’s REALLY good. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a mixture of live action stunts and visual effects and I was blown away by how excellent it is. Plus, it’s another opportunity to sit down and soak in the aircon. Not complaining.
36. Spot Spike Lee on the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
Universal Orlando is a pop culture phenomenon, so it makes sense that there are hidden Easter eggs on almost every attraction to provide extra thrills for the superfans. My favourite example of this is during the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Marvel Comics founder, Stan Lee, loved to make cameo appearances in films featuring this characters and this 4D attraction is no different. In fact, Stan appears FOUR times during the ride – how many can you spot?
37. Exchange Muggle Money at Gringotts Bank
This is so cool, I love this Universal Orlando secret tip. Harry Potter fans should head to Diagon Alley early in the day and stop by Gringott’s Money Exchange. Here, you can exchange your muggle money (U.S. dollars only) for Gringott Bank notes that can be used to buy anything throughout the Universal Orlando Parks. There is no fee to do this or commission charge, and any unspent notes can be exchanged back to muggle money at the front of the park when you leave if you didn’t end up spending it. So much fun.
38. Allow time for parking and security
Arriving at the park might seem like a distant memory after this epic list of Universal Orlando tips, but it’s worth remembering that general parking at Universal Orlando, plus the walk to the parks and getting through security can take 30 minutes or more. Once you clear security at the front of Citywalk, you can hop to the main theme parks without having to go through bag check again.
TOP TIP: If you are staying at a resort served by the water taxi (Sapphire Falls, Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Portofino Bay, Aventura Hotel and if you’re cheeky, Cabana Bay Resort*) you will clear security before you board the boat. This saves SIGNIFICANT time at the entrance to the park and is a far lovelier way to arrive for the day. *Aventura and Cabana Bay is not officially served by the water taxi, but I always cross over the road and cut through Sapphire Falls to catch the boat because it’s one of my SECRET UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIPS
39. Take a selfie with your car
The parking lot at Universal Orlando is huge. At the end of the day when everyone is tired, hot and grumpy, you don’t want to be wandering around aimlessly. Before you leave the car park in the morning, take a photo of your car and it’s marked location so you can refer back to it hours later.
40. Practical Universal Orlando tips: Pack a portable charger
Between the app, taking millions of photos and your kids wanting to watch youtube as you wait for rides, your poor mobile phone battery is going to take a lot of abuse. Invest in a decent portable charger and give it a full charge every night. This is the one I use and it is excellent. It will charge an iphone four times and you can also use it for laptops and cameras.
41. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium doesn’t only serve chocolate!
In fact, this animated restaurant, which is exclusive to the Universal Parks is a fully operational restaurant and also has a takeaway dessert bar inside, with the epic freak shakes you have probably seen on Instagram. There are cocoa-themed items on the menu, but rest assured, not everything has chocolate in it. These Brussels Sprouts were my favourite thing on the menu – so good!
42. Meet the Raptor at Jurassic Park
This isn’t a large attraction (although there is often still a queue in peak times), but meeting a mini dinosaur is a cute and fun (often funny) thing to do at Universal that isn’t a crazy thrill ride. Get your picture, communicate and try not to run away screaming as you meet one of the Jurassic Park raptors.
43. Check out the retro shops
As well as lots of themed gift shops dotted all over the park and outside every attraction, there are two VERY cool shops inside Universal Studios Park. My favourite is the The Film Vault, which sells vintage-style film and TV merchandise and merchandise from now-closed attractions, like Back to the Future.
On the opposite side of the park, look out for the prop shop pop up, along Hollywood Blvd. This store isn’t always open, but when it is make sure you go in for a browse. Window-shopping is fun but if you have the cash, you can also buy movie props and discontinued theme park costumes and props. There are also limited edition prints from previous events (such as the first ever Halloween Horror Nights, for example) and collectable cards and leaflets.
44. Universal Orlando tips: Buy the most budget-friendly merch
This might be among the best Universal Orlando tips of them all – If you want a cool souvenir AND you want to keep the family topped up with snacks all day, invest in a novelty popcorn bucket. They have designs based on different characters and areas at the park and once you have purchased your bucket, you can claim popcorn refills for $2 each for the duration of your stay! Just keep the receipt handy (I put mine in my lanyard, of course)
45. Get your event merch in advance
When Universal Orlando Resort host major events, such as Grinchmas, Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights, pop up ‘tribute stores’ will open around the resort. These shops only sell merchandise from the current events and if you are visiting the park during the normal operation hours, it’s a great time to get in and buy your souvenirs. Once the event opens, the queue is often down the street. Plus, you can wear your new T shirt to the event that night – no brainer!
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