Planning a family vacation to Universal Orlando Resort? 1. Lucky you! 2. Before you go, consider these Universal Orlando insider tips.
1. Visit in September
There’s really no such thing as a “slow time” at Universal Orlando Resort, which comprises both Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure. The theme parks are consistently packed. According to one Universal Orlando VIP Tour Guide, however, September (after Labor Day Weekend) is a great time to visit, since kids have gone back to school. In fact, the park will often close early, he says — at 6 or 7 p.m. — because business is slower than usual.
2. Ride ‘The Forbidden Journey’ Last
The most popular ride in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and perhaps all of Universal Orlando Resort) is ‘The Forbidden Journey,’ housed inside the giant, iconic castle. If you and/or the kids easily sicken from rides (and even if you don’t), consider visiting the attraction last, or just before you have some downtime, as the intense motion-simulating effects may make you queasy. Another Universal Studios Orlando Insider Tip: If you have little ones who are too small to ride ‘The Forbidden Journey’ or simply don’t want to go on it, you can still tour the castle — you just have to ask a staff member.
3. Want Butterbeer? Go to Three Broomsticks
Another popular icon in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Butterbeer, a sweet, frothy drink (non-alcoholic), best served frozen. The park has several Butterbeer stands with visibly long lines; annual passholders tell us they’ve never even had Butterbeer because the lines are just too long. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo the treat, though. Instead, visit Three Broomsticks — the restaurant’s lines (if you can even call them that) move quickly, and you’ll only wait a few minutes to get your food and Butterbeer. Pumpkin Juice and a separate kids’ menu are also available.
4. Don’t Miss Ollivanders
Technically, this tiny shop isn’t an attraction, and we’re told you won’t even find it listed on park maps. It’s actually one of the most unique experiences in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, though. You’ll still wait in a long line to get inside, but once there, you’ll enjoy an interactive experience in which one lucky Muggle is chosen to test several wands until one of them “chooses” him or her. Afterward, other Muggles can purchase their own magic wands, too.
5. See a Free Show
Several television shows, including “IMPACT Wrestling” and “La Voz Kids” (a Spanish-language kids version of “The Voice”) are filmed at Universal Studios Orlando, and on taping days, you can actually attend a showing at no additional cost (you’ll still need to have Universal Orlando Resort tickets, though). Free tickets are distributed at 10 a.m. on the Blue Man Group Walkway at Universal CityWalk, though it’s still recommended you arrive to the studio one hour before the doors open. Information about showtimes and locations is usually provided in park maps and online.
6. Skip Dining in Seuss Landing
There are four restaurants in Seuss Landing, though only two of them serve full meals (the others serve frozen treats), and of those two, only one of them is truly open — ‘Green Eggs and Ham Cafe’ is usually closed. In fact, annual Universal Orlando Resort passholders tell us that in the past few years they’ve visited the parks, the cafe has only been open a handful of times. They attribute this to the restaurant’s location on Zax Bypass, a less-traveled walkway. For more food options, you might want to consider dining in another part of the park.
7. Splurge on VIP Tours
Even if you purchase Express Passes, you’ll have to wait in lines with everyone else who has paid for this privilege. If your trip to Universal Orlando Resort is a once-in-a-lifetime treat, consider splurging on a VIP Tour, which allows you to go from ride to ride and truly bypass long wait times. Plus, VIP Tours give you a chance to check out some behind-the-scenes spots that both regular passholders and Express Pass owners can’t access.