The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2017

The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2017

by Seth Kubersky

Paperback(2017 Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781628090628
Publisher: Unofficial Guides
Publication date: 12/13/2016
Edition description: 2017 Edition
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 704,410
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 POTTER—DIAGON 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 success—but 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 location—in the most remote corner of the park—was 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 place—plots 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 acres—about the same area as the Hogsmeade original—but 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-edge—and 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

Dedication IX

Introduction

Why “Unofficial”? 1

Universal Orlando: An Overview 7

  • UNIVERSAL LEXICON IN A NUTSHELL 18–19
  • COMMON ABBREVIATIONS AND WHAT THEY STAND FOR 19
  • CRITICAL COMPARISON OF ATTRACTIONS FOUND AT BOTH UNIVERSAL
    STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD AND UNIVERSAL ORLANDO 24
  • PART ONE Planning Before You Leave Home 25

    Gathering Information 25

  • IMPORTANT UNIVERSAL ADDRESSES 26
  • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO PHONE NUMBERS 27

  • Timing Your Visit 28
  • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO CLIMATE 31

  • Allocating Money 34
  • UNIVERSAL VS. WDW ADMISSIONS 35

  • 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

  • THE 30 BEST HOTEL VALUES 113
  • HOW THE HOTELS COMPARE 114–117
  • HOTEL INFORMATION CHART 117–124
  • 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

    Services 145

    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

    Strollers 166

    Lost Children 169

    Universal, Kids, and Scary Stuff 170

  • SMALL-CHILD FRIGHT-POTENTIAL TABLE 172–174
  • POTENTIALLY PROBLEMATIC ATTRACTIONS FOR GROWN-UPS 176
  • ATTRACTION HEIGHT REQUIREMENTS 177

  • Universal Characters 179
  • CHARACTER-GREETING LOCATIONS 182

  • Babysitting 183

    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

  • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESTAURANTS BY CUISINE 214–215
  • TOP SIX MILK SHAKES AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO 220

  • 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

    Appendix 351

    Index 354

    Touring Plans 369

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