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What You Need to Know about Universal Orlando Resort

June 20, 2022

Did you hear the massive news about DVC Rental Store? Yes, you can now swap Disney Vacation Club points Universal Orlando Resort vacations!

I realize that many of you may be wondering about what you can do at Orlando’s second-most popular theme park. 

I’m uniquely suited to answer this question, as I also write for Universal Blog! 

So, here’s what you need to know about visiting Universal Orlando Resort. 

About the Parks

Universal Orlando Resort consists of “three” theme parks. That’s how Universal officials think of their two standard amusement parks and one water park.

Universal Studios Florida counts as the original theme park. It opened in 1990 and was either a knockoff of Disney’s Hollywood Studios or the improved version, depending on who you believe from that era.

E.T. Adventure, one of the signature opening day attractions, remains in operation. It’s among the most beloved rides at the park. 

The resort doubled in size with the arrival of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It opened almost exactly nine years later but wasn’t popular at first.

Both parks theoretically offer themed lands, but the ones at Islands of Adventure include much more nuance. There’s a reason for that.

universal orlando resort

Many disgruntled Imagineers left Disney in the 1990s and started working for the competition. 

Some theme park experts have pointed out similarities between Islands of Adventure and the designs for Beastly Kingdom, the best themed land Disney never built.

Some workers switched to Universal and implemented their versions of those ideas. 

Still, this park wasn’t popular until Universal added something new: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

That themed land is likely why you have interest in Universal Studios. The lines for the early days – well, years – of this went viral due to their length.

Both parks now host a Wizarding World, and you’d think that their popularity has diminished since their debuts in 2010 and 2014. They…haven’t. 

Attendance at both parks has effectively doubled since then. That’s how much tourists adore the Wizarding World!

Meanwhile, the other “theme park” at the resort is Volcano Bay, a meticulously themed water park highlighted by a volcano water coaster. 

Here’s a video of it:

Frankly, this water park is better than Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon.

How Long Should You Stay at Universal Studios?

As a DVC member, you’ve likely visited Walt Disney World frequently. So, you’re wondering how much entertainment you’ll find at Universal Studios.

I consider this park closer to Disneyland in terms of design and attractions. In other words, you probably don’t need a week here to experience everything.

Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure are both two-day parks, with Volcano Bay providing a full day’s worth of fun and sun. 

Photo Credit: Disney Tourist Blog

Overall, a five-day trip should allow you to cover all the bases at Universal Studios, and you can even shorten that when you stay at the right place.

I’m not going to tell you what to do, but my family always stays at the Hard Rock Hotel when we visit Universal Studios.

We take this approach for one reason only. When guests stay at the three hotels in Universal’s Premier tier, they gain a unique amenity.

The Magic of Universal Express Unlimited

Universal Studios offers a kind of deluxe version of Disney Genie+/Lightning Lane. It’s called Universal Express, a pass that allows guests to skip the line at most attractions.

Photo Credit: Disney Tourist Blog

Most Universal Studios rides have enabled Universal Express. In fact, here’s the list of Islands of Adventure rides that don’t accept the pass:

  • Pteranodon Flyers 
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™
  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster

Here’s the list for Universal Studios Florida:

  • Fievel’s Playland ™

That’s not a typo. It’s just the one attraction at USF. So, we’re talking about four experiences overall that don’t participate in Universal Express. Here’s the official site for confirmation

With the pass, you can ride all the other attractions once each. However, the Universal Express Unlimited entitles you to ride as much as you want!!!

You get the amenity FOR FREE when you stay at these three resorts:

  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort
  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Hard Rock Hotel (Photo Credit: Disney Tourist Blog)

When you possess Universal Express Unlimited, you’re effectively doing a VIP Tour at Universal Studios each day of your vacation. 

However, I should note that the other hotels at Universal Orlando Resort cost less money and are often newer if those are priorities to you.

Guests who want to stay at these places can buy their own Universal Express passes for the individual days of your vacation. 

I happen to like this particular Hard Rock Hotel and loooove Universal Unlimited Express. So, it’s a no-brainer for me. 

By the way, the Royal Pacific is Universal’s version of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Portofino Bay is akin to Hotel MiraCosta at Tokyo DisneySea.

You’ll find all of them as reasonable substitutes to Disney, and that applies to this vacation as a whole. 

Universal Studios isn’t quite as good yet, but the gap is narrowing according to some experts:

Interested in taking part in the Universal Studios Point Swap Program?  Fill out an inquiry form for a trip, and a Swap Advisor will be in touch and help you get the most value for your points.

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