Please forward this error screen to 75. If you’re planning a 2017 visit to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, we have some vacation planning tips and tricks that will help you save money and time, avoid crowds, choose where to eat, which rides to do, and fully plan your Universal Orlando Resort vacation. Since the Diagon Alley portion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, a calendar thematic planning for young children to Universal Orlando has become a must-do whenever we travel to Walt Disney World.
Universal has changed a lot in the last several years and has even more plans for the future. From long-term additions like a 3rd theme park to more immediate additions like Volcano Bay Water Park, Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, and Loews Sapphire Falls, there have been a lot of recent additions and even more in the pipeline. Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon and Volcano Bay are the two big additions that have now opened. Reactions to both have been really mixed. Even Fallon fans have not been particularly keen on Race Through New York, but it’s interesting in the way that it pushes the envelope on queue-less attractions, meaning that there is no structured line for the ride.
Long term, it’s anticipated to be a great addition to the Orlando theme park scene, it’s just the operational side of things that really need to improve at Volcano Bay before it’s worth your time. Fortunately, that’s easier to fix than poor theme and weak water slides, and Volcano Bay’s operations are already starting to work out the early hiccups. We plan on visiting Volcano Bay in early 2018, and are optimistic that between the park having nearly a year to iron our any problems and visiting during the off-season, things should go smoother. Beyond those new attractions, Fast and the Furious: Supercharged opens in 2018. Having experienced a very similar attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, we can’t say we’re the least bit excited for this. The Los Angeles version is pretty bad.
Since this is a Disney blog, we will approach this post from the perspective of adding on a Universal side-trip to your Walt Disney World vacation. If you’re a Disney fan simply trying to determine whether a trip to Universal Orlando Resort is right for you in the first place, you might start by reading our Universal v. Walt Disney World post, which covers some of the pros and cons of each, plus the differences between the two vacation destinations. The good news in this regard is that crowd patterns at Walt Disney World translate pretty similarly to Universal Orlando. Orlando market, so crowds for all theme parks in the area are largely dictated by when guests plan their Disney vacations. The one exception to this is if you want to see or avoid Halloween season at Universal, namely Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida. This is best described as a hard ticket event in which you step onto the set of some of your favorite horror movies, and walking through those sets as actors attempt to scare you.
Halloween Horror Nights are a huge draw for Universal and they definitely attract an adult crowd. The Walking Dead,’ you’ll probably enjoy this event and find it worth the cost of the ticket. If you have a younger family, you’ll want to avoid it. Aside from this, the only noteworthy events are Mardi Gras and Christmas. Even these are more restrained as far as special events go than most special events at Walt Disney World. Halloween Horror Nights is the big special event at Universal Orlando.
You can see a full listing of all Universal Orlando special events here. This one is going to vary widely based on a few variables. Disney article above discusses these differences in-depth, but that’s basically the jist of it. If people in your party have weak stomaches or get motion sickness easily, 2 days is a tough sell. Likewise, if you’re more the type who enjoys strolling World Showcase than actually riding attractions, 1 day will be sufficient. That is, assuming Universal is for you in the first place. Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter alone can fill a good chunk of the day.
Islands of Adventure also has a Jurassic Park area, which is basically a tribute to our greatest national treasure: dinosaurs. If you’re having a tough time determining where to shave days off your Walt Disney World vacation for some time at Universal, I’d recommend skipping Disney’s Hollywood Studios right now. Many attractions have closed recently or will close soon, without much in the way of replacements. Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land will begin construction soon, but won’t be ready for a few years, at the earliest.
I am a fan of the Park-to-Park tickets if you can swing spending extra. I’d recommend them for multiple days, too. This is because Universal did something really ingenious when it built Diagon Alley, and that was connecting the two Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter via the Hogwarts Express. I’m no Harry Potter fan, but the experience of entering a train station in London, walking through a wall, and then taking a train to Hogsmeade is pretty awesome. If you’re going for just one day and don’t want the park-to-park tickets, the best way to save money on Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida tickets is simply going to be buying tickets online on Universal Orlando’s website.
Express Pass or stay in an eligible Universal Orlando hotel and have it included with your stay. Ask 10 different people about Express Pass, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. This is one area where I’m not really qualified to offer an opinion, as I have not stayed in an eligible hotel, nor have I purchased Express Pass. Personally, I would never purchase it.