Universal Orlando Resort: Your Guide to Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk
By Lauren Tjaden
An escape to Universal Orlando Resort — with Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and the Universal CityWalk entertainment complex — is like four out-of-this-galaxy vacations in one. Whether you’re looking for mind-blowing thrills, kick-backed fun, tantalizing eateries or epic entertainment, Universal is sure to deliver amazing experiences and adventures.
Here’s what you need to know about Universal Orlando Resort’s three theme parks and CityWalk, including food, entertainment, rides and attractions.
Flamboyant, exhilarating and colorful, Universal CityWalk Orlando serves as the gateway to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay. Billed as the ‘epicenter of awesome,’ it delivers on the hype with complimentary admission, indulgent dining, vibrant entertainment, eclectic shopping and rich experiences.
It invites you to discover stores like the iconic Hart & Huntington Orlando Tattoo Shop, where you can bring home a permanent souvenir; discover a bit of movie stardust from the beyond-enormous, 8,300-square foot Universal Studios Store, brimming with more than 2,000 signature keepsakes, including classic memorabilia from Jurassic World and Illumination’s ‘Despicable Me’; and explore the Universal Legacy Store, which pays tribute to Universal’s classic rides and attractions, including MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack and Revenge of the Mummy, with retro-themed merchandise presented amid resort production art, vintage props, blueprint designs and construction photos.
Foodies will delight at eateries that include the highly-acclaimed Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, serving up pleasures such as made-tableside guacamole; VIVO Italian Kitchen, where the beauty of authentic Italian cuisine is on vivid display; and the quirky Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen, a restaurant, bar and confectionary promising fantastical fare that includes intriguing desserts, artisanal milkshakes, classics that include steak and seafood, and an all-day brunch of crepes and quiches, each with its own innovative twirl.
Unique experiences, nightlife and entertainment abound in CityWalk. The edgy Hard Rock LIVE, nicknamed the ‘Coliseum of Rock 'n' Roll,’ is the place to see legends deliver blockbuster live music and comedy, while CityWalk's Rising Star welcomes you to step into the spotlight and sing. This trendy bar and karaoke club is complete with rocking backup singers, a live band, and a nightly host to help strike the perfect chord for an unforgettable experience.
The whole gang will love Hollywood Drive-In Golf, blending sci-fi and horror flick props with two interactive, 18-hole mini-golf courses. Special effects and lighting that make it simple to play during the day, evening, and even late night.
Complimentary admission, something CityWalk offers all day, every day, makes a visit even sweeter. After 6 p.m., parking is free as well, except during Halloween Horror Nights.
For more information, including places to stay and tips, check out Universal CityWalk Orlando: The Epicenter of Awesome.
Dominated by a towering volcano resplendent with waterfalls, Universal Orlando Resort Volcano Bay invites you into a tropical, watery theme park that offers epic thrills as well as chilled-out relaxation.
You can splash into high adventure with mind-bending rides like the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, where you’ll plummet through a drop door for a staggering fall through 125 feet of white-water; the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, a question-your-sanity-attraction that glides upward amid the fog and murky twists inside the volcano before surfacing with a tumble through a glittering waterfall; and the Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides, spine-tingling slides that plunge down a twisting waterway that stops six feet short of the pool, where you’ll fly out into the great beyond before gleefully splashing into the emerald-hued waters at the seat of Krakatau.
If you’re in the mood for chill, go-with-the-flow on a tranquil float down Kopiko Wai Winding River through the vibrant scenery of Universal’s Volcano Bay; soak up some rays with your toes in the sand amid a lush paradise at picturesque Waturi Beach, where the surf is always great; or explore the shallow waters of Tot Tiki Reef, beckoning families with splashy slides, a toddler-sized water volcano and friendly tikis with squirting fountains.
When it’s time to refuel, Volcano Bay promises to please with more than 60 different dishes inspired by the flavors of the South Pacific, from the delectable, generous Longboard Pizza, overflowing with BBQ chicken, pepperoni or veggies; to the Kohola Burger Platter, a concoction of crispy fried onions, pickled jalapenos, fresh cabbage, mango basil slaw and avocado mayo on a toasted Hawaiian style bun.
And you’ll love the TapuTapu, a waterproof wearable you’ll be given when you enter Volcano Bay. This little piece of magic will hold your place in a virtual line for one attraction at a time, open your locker, and, if you set it up beforehand on the Universal App, even pay for your meals and merchandise.
For more information, including places to stay and tips, check out Universal Orlando Resort Volcano Bay: A Tropical Oasis with Thrills and Chills.
If you’re a thrill seeker, you can get your adrenaline fix aboard the Incredible Hulk Coaster, a rampaging green monster that inverts seven gut-wrenching times and races at up to 67 mph; while little ones will enjoy a jaunt on the Caro-Seuss-el, a merry-go-round dancing with beloved Dr. Seuss characters. And don’t miss the wonder of soaring above the imposing, snow-capped castle grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
You’ll need to top off your tank after all that fun, and whether you’re looking for grab-and-go grub or a sit-down restaurant, Islands of Adventure is sure to satisfy your hunger with almost 30 eateries. Full-service Mythos Restaurant makes foodies rejoice with its award-winning collection of contemporary food set off by a magical, creative backdrop; and while you won’t find gourmet fare at the Green Eggs and Ham Cafe it may be one of the few opportunities in your life to sample dishes like Green Eggs & Ham Tots. The whole posse can sample a delectable butterbeer at Three Broomsticks, a welcoming, snow-topped inn that’s a favorite with Hogwarts students like Harry Potter.
With almost 30 elaborately themed stores showcasing unique products, Universal’s Islands of Adventure shopping is an exciting activity in its own right. Young wizards and witches can scoop up the perfect magic wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop, and everyone will find decadent treats to their liking at the Island Market and Export Candy Shoppe. Make sure to save time for an expedition to Islands of Adventure Trading Company, renowned as the best place in Universal to pick up an eclectic souvenir, and festooned with a replica dinosaur skeleton and hot air balloon.
For more information, including places to stay and tips, check out Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure: Epic Rides and Enchanted Escapades
Populated by malevolent monsters, cute cartoon characters and classic superheroes, Universal Studios Florida is a fanciful land that brings hit movies and epic TV shows to vivid life—and you’re invited to star in the productions. You can protect New York against intergalactic invaders when you climb aboard Men in Black Alien Attack, zapping aliens with your laser gun; take flight into a brilliant, starry night on the kid-friendly E.T. Adventure, peddling a bicycle with the much-loved alien tucked in the basket; and brave the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, a looming coaster with a musical twist, ranked by many theme-park insiders as the Universal Studios’ most spine-chilling ride.
Even the eateries are straight out of your favorite shows. The Simpsons Fast Food Boulevard pays tribute to the The Simpsons television series with quick fare like Krusty Burgers, Lard Lad donuts, Heat Lamp Dogs, Ribwiches and the signature Flaming Moe, a fizzing, citrusy, non-alcoholic potion.
It’s a good bet you’ll bring home more than memories from Universal Studios Florida, with almost 40 fantastical stores that include The Dark Room, a photobooth that welcomes you to step into the picture with famed Universal Orlando characters; the Kwik-E-Mart, themed perfectly – like everything else in Springfield: Home of the Simpsons -- and sure to make you chuckle with its sharp-witted humor and one-off products like Duff energy drinks, Lard Lad donuts and fake theme-park posters; and Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions where witch and wizard fashionistas can scoop up authentic replicas of Hermione's Yule Ball gown, Hogwarts uniforms, ties, scarves, sweaters, cardigans and jewelry.
For more information, including places to stay and tips, check out Universal Studios Florida: Lights, action, thrills!