THE Comprehensive Guide to Universal Orlando
Compiled and written by a former Universal Orlando employee, and based upon decades of research from a team whose work has been cited by such diverse sources as USA Today and Operations Research Forum, The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando by Seth Kubersky is packed with detailed, specific information on every ride, show, and restaurant in the resort, including insider details on Harry Potter's Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, as well as the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction.
Step-by-step detailed touring plans allow you to make the most of every minute and dollar during your Universal Orlando vacation. Includes info on where to find the cheapest Universal Orlando admission tickets, how to save big on Universal on-site hotel rooms and skip the regular lines in the parks, when to visit Universal Orlando for the lightest crowds, and everything else you need to know for a stress-free Universal Orlando experience.
|Edition description:||2017 Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Seth Kubersky has worked for more than 20 years as a theatrical artist, culture critic, and travel journalist. In addition to coauthoring The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and Beyond Disney: The Unofficial Guide to SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, & the Best of Central Florida , Seth is also a contributor to The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas . Kubersky also writes for TouringPlans.com and Orlando Attractions Magazine .
Every week, you can read Seth's coverage of Orlando's art and entertainment scene in his column Live Active Cultures, featured in each issue of the Orlando Weekly , Central Florida's leading alternative newspaper.
Seth lives in downtown Orlando, FL, with his wife, Genevieve, and their cat, Brubeck.
Read an Excerpt
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTERDIAGON ALLEY
When Universal opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, it created a paradigm shift in the Disney–Universal theme park rivalry. Not only did Universal trot out some groundbreaking ride technology, but it also demonstrated that it could trump Disney’s most distinctive competence: the creation of infinitely detailed and totally immersive themed areas. To say that The Wizarding World was a game changer is an understatement of the first order.
It was immediately obvious that Universal would build on its Potter franchise successbut how and where? Universal’s not sitting on 27,000-plus acres like Disney, so real estate was at a premium. If Potterville was going to grow, something else had to go. Conventional wisdom suggested that The Wizarding World expansion would gobble up The Lost Continent section of Islands of Adventure, and that may happen yet. But looking at the ledger, it was clear that the older Universal Studios Florida theme park could use a boost.
It just so happened that a substantial chunk of turf at USF was occupied by the aging Jaws ride and its contiguous Amity-themed area. The space would allow for substantial development; plus, its isolated locationin the most remote corner of the parkwas conducive to creating a totally self-contained area where Potter themes could be executed absent any distraction from neighboring attractions. In short, it was perfect.
So how would the new Potter area tie in to the original at IOA? And what Harry Potter literary icons could be exploited? It was pretty clear that a new suburb of Hogsmeade wasn’t going to cut it. The answer was virtually shouting from the pages of the Harry Potter novels, which observe a clear dichotomy of placeplots originate in London and then unfold at distant Hogwarts.
Two London sites that figure prominently in the Potter saga brim with attraction possibilities: Diagon Alley, a secret part of London that is a sort of sorcerers’ shopping mall; and the King’s Cross railroad station, where wizarding students embark for the train trip to Hogwarts. Following much deliberation and consultation with Warner Bros. and author J.K. Rowling, the final design called for a London waterfront street scene flanking Universal Studios Lagoon. The detailed facades, anchored by the King’s Cross railroad station on the left and including Grimmauld Place and Wyndham’s Theatre, recall West London scenes from the books and movies. Diagon Alley, secreted behind the London street scene, is accessed through a secluded entrance in the middle of the facade. Like Hogsmeade at IOA, Diagon Alley features shops and restaurants in addition to three attractions and live entertainment.
Diagon Alley covers 20 acresabout the same area as the Hogsmeade originalbut offers about two-and-a-half times the pedestrian space because it doesn’t have space- (and people-) eating outdoor roller coasters. With only one high-capacity ride ( Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ), along with an enlarged version of the Ollivanders wandshop experience in Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Express train connecting the two Wizarding Worlds, the new area’s increased elbow room is somewhat offset by a relatively reduced hourly attraction capacity, making Diagon Alley’s maximum capacity approximately 8,000 persons, about double Hogsmeade’s occupancy limit.
In the attraction department, Universal once again came out swinging for the fences. As before with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the headliner attraction for the expansion is high-tech and cutting-edgeand once again a dark ride, but this time of the roller coaster genre. The labyrinthine passages and caverns of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the financial institution of choice for the wizarding set, are the setting of this plot-driven 3-D dark ride–coaster.
Though the Gringotts attraction is Diagon Alley’s headliner, the most creative element in the two-park Potter domain is Hogwarts Express, which re-creates the train trip from London to Hogwarts and vice versa. Serving as both an attraction and transportation between USF and IOA, the Express unifies the two disparately located Wizarding Worlds.
Table of Contents
List of Maps VII
About the Authors VIII
Why “Unofficial”? 1
Universal Orlando: An Overview 7
STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD AND UNIVERSAL ORLANDO 24
PART ONE Planning Before You Leave Home 25
Gathering Information 25
Timing Your Visit 28
Allocating Money 34
Making the Most of Your Time and Money at Universal Orlando 44
PART TWO Accommodations 68
The Basic Considerations 68
Universal Orlando Resort Hotels 101 71
Universal Orlando Resort Hotel Services and Amenities 74
Universal Orlando Resort Hotel Profiles 79
Universal Orlando Vacation Packages 89
Off-Site Lodging Options 92
Hotels and Motels: Rated and Ranked 109
A Word About Toll-Free Telephone Numbers 112
The 30 Best Hotel Values 112
PART THREE Arriving and Getting Around 125
Getting There 125
Getting Oriented 134
PART FOUR Bare Necessities 138
Money, Etc. 138
Problems and Unusual Situations 140
Universal Orlando for Guests with Special Needs 153
PART FIVE Universal Orlando with Kids 160
It’s a Small Universe, After All 160
About The Unofficial Guide Touring Plans 164
Stuff to Think About 165
Lost Children 169
Universal, Kids, and Scary Stuff 170
Universal Characters 179
PART SIX Dining and Shopping at Universal Orlando 184
Character Meals 187
Universal Orlando Dining Plans 188
Fast Food in Universal Orlando’s Theme Parks 189
TOP SIX SNACKS OUTSIDE THE WIZARDING WORLD 194
Universal Orlando Quick-Service Restaurant Mini-Profiles 198
Universal Orlando Full-Service Restaurant Profiles 213
Dining Near Universal Orlando 238
Shopping at Universal Orlando 239
Shopping Near Universal Orlando 243
PART SEVEN Universal Studios Florida 245
Getting Oriented at Universal Studios Florida 246
Universal Studios Florida Attractions 247
Live Entertainment at Universal Studios Florida 280
Special Events at Universal Studios Florida 283
Universal Studios Florida Touring Plans 295
PART EIGHT Universal’s Islands of Adventure 299
Getting Oriented at Universal’s Islands of Adventure 302
Universal’s Islands of Adventure Attractions 303
Special Events at Universal’s Islands of Adventure 333
Universal’s Islands of Adventure Touring Plans 334
PART NINE Universal Orlando CityWalk 336
Arriving and Parking 337
Admission Prices 337
Contacting CityWalk 340
CityWalk Clubs 340
CityWalk Entertainment 342
PART TEN Universal’s Volcano Bay 347
Getting to Universal’s Volcano Bay 348
Operating Hours and Admission Price 348
Universal’s Volcano Bay Attractions 348
Touring Plans 369