Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is one of 3 theme parks at the Universal resort.
It is very similar to its sister park in Hollywood. Universal Florida is all about bringing movies to life!
Prior to your trip I highly recommend checking the crowd calendar to know what type of crowd to expect during your visit. You can check it out here CROWD CALENDAR.
Getting to the Park
When you arrive at the resort you will go to the regular parking lot. You will then be sent left or right depending on the parking class you picked. I always get the general parking.
Parking and Admission
Parking is $20.00 a day per vehicle.
If you are planning on attending the other parks you can get a park hopper which includes both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure plus Volcano Bay for $294.99 (2 days). Admission to Volcano Bay is a $67.00 unless you get a 3 park-hopper pass.
That all said I myself got a Preferred Annual Pass. The pass is $257.73 down and then $23.43 a month for 12 months. This pass gets you free parking and park to park access. The only blackout is Volcano Bay in July.
This is only if you are going to maximize the use of the pass. I have done two separate trips to Orlando this year. As such, I got my monies worth plus the monthly payment is an added benefit. With the pass, you get additional discounts and early park admission on certain days.
Once you have parked head over to security in the centre. Once through security, you will then walk through the City-Walk and turn to your right to head to Universal Studios Florida.
Once at the Park
Early Park Entry – This is for anyone with multiday passes, annual passes or staying at the on-site hotels. You are allowed into the park an hour early. However, in the case of USF, you will only have access to Diagon Alley and Escape from Gringotts.
Express Passes – This is completely up to your needs while at the park. The express pass offers a shorter queue. However, if you travel in the offseason, the park is generally pretty manageable for crowds.
Universal Studios App – Highly recommend downloading it! It will give you real-time wait times for all the rides and attractions and in the case of Jimmy Fallon, you can get in the virtual queue!
Where to Start? – I would start off at Diagon Alley. Especially if you didn’t get a chance to get in the early park access! This is a huge attraction and Escape from Gringotts queue can grow quick!
Rides and Attractions
Diagon Alley / Harry Potter
When you arrive at the park walk straight down till you see Jimmy Fallon’s ride then turn right. Once you walk up to the Knight Bus you will see a brick entry to your left. Walk around it and you’re there.
My first impression was amazed by the detail that Universal put into designing it! You are instantly immersed into Diagon Alley and you feel like a kid again.
You can visit Ollivander’s wand shop and get your own wand. After you can visit Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and pick up a gag gift. Check out the Leaky Cauldron for some Butterbeer before heading to the end of the alley and riding Escape from Gringotts.
Escape from Gringotts™ – You first enter the bank and walk past the goblins. You will then be escorted down in an elevator to the basement. Once there you will board a car that will take you to the vaults. However, the defences for the bank go off and you need to escape… Good Luck!
After you are leaving Diagon Alley be sure to stop off at the phone booth in front of Leicester Square Station. Pick up the phone and dial 62442 (MAGIC). You will get a special message from the Ministry.
Kings Cross Station / Hogwarts™ Express – For those with a park to park pass you can take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade Station. You will enter the station then go through Platform 9 3/4. Once on the train, you will enter a cab and take your journey. The window shows all the scenery as you pass through the countryside and Dementors board your train.
Now that we have the Harry Potter World covered, I am going to cover the other rides more in general.
Men in Black™ Alien Attack™ – A shooting ride – You board a car and grab the gun that is in front of you. As you move throughout the ride you will face aliens to shoot. Similar to Toy Story Mania at California Adventures try to beat your high score or at least the friends that are with you.
Simpsons The Ride™ – Very similar to the Hollywood ride. The Simpsons ride is based on Krustyland a crackerjack amusement park owned by Krusty the Clown. You will be the first to ride the newest roller coaster in the park. But Sideshow Bob is out to kill the Simpsons. This is a motion simulator ride.
Revenge of the Mummy™ – Just like the one in Hollywood but with some differences. This high-speed indoor roller coaster gives you that feeling that you are travelling through the mummy’s tomb.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit™ – A new twist to any roller coaster. As you board the train you will have a screen in front of you with choices of music. Make your selection quick or it will choose for you. This is the song that will play in your seat as you twist and turn through the park. This ride is a bit rough but is a personal favourite.
Transformers: The Ride-3D™ – Again similar to Hollywood version you board a transporter and race around the city and you try to save the Allspark from Megatron.
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon™ – So this attraction is very short I found. You first enter the studio where you will be given a coloured card. This is your queue. There is no formal line. You and wander around the studio lobby and look around until you colour is displayed on all the lights. Then enter the studio where you will take a seat and race Jimmy through New York. The ride itself isn’t that exciting but the detail that leads you to the ride is a nice touch.
Shrek 4D – A 4D theatre that you get to take a journey while Shrek tries to save Fiona. The seats move and you get splashed a bit. The ride itself takes just over 10 minutes.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem™ – Ever want to become a Minion? You first will be greeted by Gru and scanned. You will then enter the lab to begin your training to be a minion.
Halloween Horror Nights
Haunted / Horror Houses on steroids! Every year in September leading up to Halloween Universal goes all out. The park operates as usual during the day. But at night it reopens and transforms. Note that this is a separately ticketed event.
All the rides remain open but with added haunted / horror houses. I went in 2016 and can’t wait to go back.
The level of detail put into each house and street is amazing. While I was there, I experienced these houses;
- American Horror Story
- The Exorcist
- Tomb of the Ancients
- The Walking Dead
There were others just didn’t have enough time.
To put it into perspective about the detail involved, the Krampus house when you entered was set up as if you were in a real house with all the props. As you walked through it was snowing inside as well.
Some of the themed “Scare Zones” were;
- Survive or Die: Apocalypse
- Lair of the Banshee
- Dead Man’s Wharf
- Vamp ’55
- A Chance in Hell
- Not to mention to guys walking around and revving chainsaws behind unsuspected people. Side note, so funny watching this happen to others 🙂
EXPRESS PASS!! I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH, GET THE EXPRESS PASS! I went on a Sunday night and the regular lines were 2+ hours per house. The express pass makes that 10-30 minutes. It is well worth the extra $$$.
Have you ever been to Universal Studios Florida or Halloween Horror Nights? Let me know!