A trip to Orlando wouldn’t be the same without spending a few days experiencing the amazing theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort. I’m sure you are all familiar with Universal Studios but did you also know that this resort includes Universal’s Islands of Adventure and also the brand new Volcano Bay Water Theme Park? During our recent visit to Florida, we had the opportunity to enjoy 48 hours in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and hopefully, after reading this post, you will be inspired to add this to your next Orlando itinerary.
Are you ready to join us and “experience the epic adventure” of Universal Orlando Resort? You better be! Whether you are an avid Harry Potter fan, a hardcore Simpsons follower or simply love the Jurassic Park movie series, you can be sure that the Universal Orlando Resort will have something to satisfy your interests.
This post is going to focus solely on two of the three parks and we would strongly recommend adding at least another 24 hours to your Universal itinerary if you are planning on enjoying Volcano Bay’s amazing water park. Rather than spending 24 hours at Universal Studios and 24 hours at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, we opted to enjoy both parks each day and we think this is an ideal way to appreciate both of these.
If you are ready to join us on our journey through Universal…let the adventure begin!
Universal Orlando Resort Information
Let’s start with some of some of the important information associated with Universal Orlando Resort. Please note, much of this information is accurate based on the time of publication and we always recommend checking Universal’s website for the latest admission prices, opening times, new attractions etc.
You first need to decide how many days you want to spend at Universal along with how many of the parks you want to experience. It’s a tough decision right? Don’t worry, there are plenty of pricing options available, so regardless of how much time you have in Orlando along with your budget, there will be a ticket option that is just right for you!
Universal Orlando Resort is really promoting the following package and I have to admit, it’s a pretty awesome deal if you want to spend a longer amount of time here.
Get 2 days free when you buy a 3-park, 2-day park-to-park ticket
Unfortunately, we only had 48 hours to explore these theme parks but I strongly encourage you to consider the above option!
- Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure (2 Days) – $254.99 ($244.99 children)
- Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure & Volcano Bay (2 Days + 2 FREE Days) – $294.99 ($284.99 children)
Single Day Tickets
- Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure – $165 ($160 children)
- One Park – $110 ($105 children)
Times are subject to change but during our visit in August, the following times were applicable.
- Universal Studios – 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
- Islands of Adventure – 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
- Volcano Bay – 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
As you will see with our recommended hotel option, guests staying at onsite accommodation options can take advantage of “early admission” and gain access to certain attractions one hour before the gates open to the general public.
Where to Stay at Universal Orlando?
If you are planning on spending multiple days at Universal, we strongly recommend staying at one of the onsite properties. We had an AMAZING experience at what we consider to be the best Universal Studios hotel – the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort!
Located just a few minutes away from the entrance to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Sapphire Falls is the perfect option for visitors that want to enjoy the amazing amenities at this hotel while also knowing that they are only a short water taxi ride from the adventures awaiting at Universal. Take a look at the breathtaking swimming pool…that alone was convincing enough for us to want to stay there!
Regardless of whether you choose to stay at Sapphire Falls or one of the other gorgeous Loews Universal Orlando Resort properties, you can be sure that this is the ideal hotel chain to cater your needs while enjoying everything Universal has to offer.
Plan Your Itinerary
Two iconic theme parks and only 48 hours…a realistic goal or a crazy dream destined for failure? Well, with sufficient planning before you head to Universal Orlando Resort, you can accomplish a great deal in 48 hours and definitely have an AMAZING experience at both parks.
Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are distinctive and offer unique attractions that visitors will want to enjoy. The themed areas throughout both parks are surely going to spark your interest but the reality is, you should want to experience as much of both parks as is realistically possible.
Throw in some time to enjoy the fine dining experience at both parks and also the Universal CityWalk and you can quickly put together an action-packed itinerary across 48 hours!
Our adventure started at Islands of Adventure after collecting our two-day passes and we immediately started to explore. Be sure to grab a map and also consider downloading the Universal app which will give you up-to-date information on attractions, wait times etc.
The beauty of these parks is that you can easily connect between both using the awesome Hogwarts Express. That’s right, you can immediately fall into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by heading to either King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios or Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and take the short scenic train ride just like Harry Potter did!
Islands of Adventure
It’s a tough choice trying to figure out where to start but after deboarding the water taxi in the heart of the CityWalk (more on that area later), we headed to Islands of Adventure to collect our tickets and start our adventure.
Rather than delve into the intricate details of our experience (we will save that for a later post given that we could easily write a whole series on each theme park!), we want to focus on an overview of Islands of Adventure and why you should want to visit this part of Universal Orlando Resort.
Universal Orlando Resort is advertised as the following and I think it’s fair to say the Islands of Adventure theme park is the epitome of this philosophy:
The only orlando destination where you are not just entertained; you are part of the most exhilerating entertainment ever created
Opened in 1999 and set on 101 acres, Universal’s Islands of Adventure is divided into the following seven “islands”:
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
- Marvel Super Hero Island
- Jurassic Park
- The Lost Continent
- Seuss Landing
- Toon Lagoon
- Skull Island
Add to this vast array of themed islands the “Port of Entry” which is full of amazing restaurants and souvenir shops, you have a theme park that will undoubtedly have something for all ages and all interests!
It’s no surprise that the highlight attraction here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The moment you walk through the arch into “Harry’s World,” there is a myriad of magical surprises and experiences waiting for you.
During both days at Universal Orlando Resort, we visited this area because it really does capture your imagination and make you want to return time and time again. It is definitely one of those areas that you could never tire of experiencing.
After spending the morning at Islands of Adventure, why not head over to Hogsmeade Station and join Harry and the gang as you venture back to the reality of King’s Cross Station by boarding the magical Hogwarts Express…next stop…platform 9 3/4!
***Before considering hopping on the Hogwarts Express, you should first understand that this is ONLY available for visitors that purchased the park-to-park admission ticket!***
Pass through the gorgeous British countryside en route from Hogwarts back to London (or vice-versa!) The decor of both train stations is stereotypical of what Harry Potter experienced during his journeys but perhaps the real experience begins when you are onboard the Hogwarts Express.
Don’t think this is going to be like any other traditional train ride that you have encountered before! Be sure to keep your wits about you and realize that characters and creatures can come from all directions.
Although your eyes will likely be transfixed on the windows as you admire the breathtaking scenery, there will be a few moments that may surprise you! We will let you experience the journey rather than giving away too many details.
Arriving at King’s Cross Station, we quickly realized that our journey around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was just beginning. After catching a glimpse of the Knight Bus, we headed through the “secret passage” to Diagon Alley, yet another iconic location not only in the realms of Harry Potter but also in terms of popularity at Universal Orlando Resort.
For those of you that are not Harry Potter fans, well you soon will be! It’s hard to resist the temptation of exploring Diagon Alley and you cannot help but appreciate the architecture and realistic experience that you will enjoy as you stroll around. But as I am sure many of you already know, Universal Studios is so much more than Harry Potter!
Dating back to 1990 when the doors opened, Universal Studios covers a slightly larger area than Islands of Adventure at 107 acres. Be prepared to walk pretty much every acre here because around every corner is something intriguing that you will want to explore!
Whether you are a huge fan of the Simpsons, want to learn about life as a Minion or perhaps enjoy America’s favorite late night host – Jimmy Fallon, Universal Studios is home to a plethora of attractions that will surely entice you through the gates.
Here is the full list of the areas you can experience:
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
- World Expo
- Springfield – Home of the Simpsons
- Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone
- San Francisco
- New York
- Production Central
As you can see, a diverse blend of themes awaits you when you arrive at Universal! But if you are ready to grab a bite to eat and prefer something outside of the theme parks, why not head over to Universal’s CityWalk, perfectly situated in between both theme parks.
Renowned as “The Epicenter of Awesome,” the Universal CityWalk is a dining and entertainment hub in the heart of Universal Orlando Resort. Whether you are looking to enjoy a quick lunch at the brand new NBC Sports Grill & Brew or perhaps a late dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, there are a number of dining options to satisfy everyone’s palate.
One of the real attractions in the CityWalk is The Toothsoome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. Here you can sample a decadent dessert or indulge in classic steak or seafood dishes.
Our chefs create culinary alchemy with gourmet chocolates and one-of-a-kind desserts, ranging from artisanal milkshakes to sumptuous sundaes. (Universal Orlando Resort)
If this doesn’t make you salivate over the thought of sampling the finest desserts in Orlando, nothing will! The architectural brilliance of the exterior is equally matched by the gorgeous decor inside.
Visitors are made to feel welcome and you cannot help but love this relaxing environment which honestly reflects the vibrant feeling throughout the CityWalk area.
You can experience a lot at Universal Orlando Resort in only 48 hours but you should be prepared to want to come back for me. We had an amazing experience at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure but already we cannot wait to have an opportunity to return in the near future.
Our favorite highlight? It has to be The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both parks! The combination of magical architecture along with iconic landmarks that we all associate with Harry Potter makes this the ultimate experience at Universal Orlando Resort.
We want to emphasize that this shouldn’t take anything away from any of the other attractions at Universal because they are all equally brilliant but there is something quite spectacular in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley! For the “Potterheads” out there that have yet to visit Orlando, you are in for a real treat when you visit this amazing attraction.
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Universal Orlando Resort for providing us with complimentary two-day, two-park tickets in exchange for consideration of a blog post review. These are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.