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Universal Orlando Travel Guide

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  • Photo: Edward Fielding / Shutterstock

Plan Your Universal Orlando Vacation

Universal Orlando’s personality is revealed the moment you arrive on property. Mood music, cartoonish architecture, abundant eye candy, subtle and overt sound effects, whirling and whizzing rides plus a throng of fellow travelers will follow you to nearly every corner of the park. For peace and quiet, seek out a sanctuary at one of the resort hotels.

At a breathless pace, there’s a

chance you could visit both Universal parks in a single day, but to do that you’ll have to invest in an Express Pass. Without it, you’ll spend a good portion of that day waiting in line at the premium attractions. So allow two days, perhaps three; a day for each park and a "pick-up" day to return to your favorites at a leisurely pace. Which attractions are the main attractions? At IOA, it’s definitely The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (especially the high-volume/low-capacity Ollivanders wand shop), and at Universal Studios you’ll find long lines at The Mummy and The Simpsons.

Universal Studios appeals primarily to those who like loud, fast, high-energy attractions—generally teens and adults. Covering 444 acres, it's a rambling montage of sets, shops, and soundstages housing themed attractions, reproductions of New York and San Francisco, and some genuine moviemaking paraphernalia.

When Islands of Adventure (IOA) first opened in 1999, it took attractions to a new level. Most—from Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon to Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent—are impressive; some even out-Disney Disney. In 2010, IOA received well-deserved worldwide attention when it opened the 20-acre Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And it's destined to receive even more coverage with the arrival of two new Potter-related areas—one atop the old Amity area at Universal Studios, and another tacked onto the Wizarding World by the Lost Continent.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. The Variety Universal Orlando is much more than just a single Hollywood-themed amusement park. It’s also the fantasy-driven Islands of Adventure (IOA) theme park; the clubs and restaurants of the CityWalk entertainment complex; and the upscale, on-site Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay, and Royal Pacific resorts. Nearby Wet ’n Wild water park is also affiliated with Universal.
  2. Theme-Park Powerhouse Neither SeaWorld nor any of Disney's four theme parks can match the collective energy at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Wild rides, clever shows, constantly updated attractions, and an edgy attitude all push the envelope here.
  3. Party Central Throughout the year, Universal hosts festive park-wide events such as Mardi Gras, Halloween Horror Nights, Grinchmas, the Summer Concert Series, and the Rock the Universe Christian-music celebration.

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