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Old 10-03-2012, 06:30 PM   #1
fireflyparents
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Universal studios, Orlando for the first time

Hi! This is my first post in this forum. We are planning a trip to Orlando in December during the holidays. I have been reading and am completely overwhelmed with how much people know and how long they have taken to plan a trip to Disney world. The amount of information is making me question my decision of not spending more than a year planning this trip!
We are travelling with two boys 6 and 12. Looking at the ticket prices, I dont think we can visit more than 3 parks. They chose Universal and Epcot so far. I have been to Epcot earlier but never been to Universal. Guide me through the dos and donts of this park. Any tip or suggestion will be greatly appreciated. I know it will be crowded like crazy and the lines will be long. Where do I start and which ones should I absolutely positively see?! Can we bring food to the park? Harry Potter is a must see for my boys - any word of advice there? I want to make this day memorable and less stressful, but right now I am heading towards the "no nail" zone!!!
Thank you all in advance!
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:38 PM   #2
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I think that less than a year still gives you ample planning time! No worries

As for Universal .. we were there this past summer, and it wasn't really for us. Most of the rides worth going on had 90-120 minute waits (especially the Harry Potter ones), and I believe you have to pay extra for their version of a "fast pass". We literally went on 3 rides between Islands of Adventure and Universal .. BUT, maybe it won't be as crowded when you go? Not really sure what the crowds are like there in December.
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fireflyparents View Post
Hi! This is my first post in this forum. We are planning a trip to Orlando in December during the holidays. I have been reading and am completely overwhelmed with how much people know and how long they have taken to plan a trip to Disney world. The amount of information is making me question my decision of not spending more than a year planning this trip!
We are travelling with two boys 6 and 12. Looking at the ticket prices, I dont think we can visit more than 3 parks. They chose Universal and Epcot so far. I have been to Epcot earlier but never been to Universal. Guide me through the dos and donts of this park. Any tip or suggestion will be greatly appreciated. I know it will be crowded like crazy and the lines will be long. Where do I start and which ones should I absolutely positively see?! Can we bring food to the park? Harry Potter is a must see for my boys - any word of advice there? I want to make this day memorable and less stressful, but right now I am heading towards the "no nail" zone!!!
Thank you all in advance!
If you want to see Harry Potter, then you will have to get the park to park tickets I believe, because while Universal and Islands of Adventure are in the same vicinity, they are two separate parks. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter can take quite a bit of time to see everything, especially if you want to make it memorable. It's still a very popular part of the parks, so be prepared to wait for the main attractions. If you can start the day off in this section of the park, it may be wise to do so.

If you or your family are Harry Potter fans, then definitely get a glass of Butterbeer...I recommend the frozen, but I think its all in taste preference for each individual. If the adults in the family are looking for a decent adult beverage, I would recommend the Hogs Head Ale.


Outside of Harry Potter, If you are coaster fanatics, The Incredible Hulk is a must do. As is Jurassic Park. Depending on the weather during the time that you are there, (Because you never can tell, one year its hot in December, and the next it will be freezing), make sure that you plan accordingly for any water rides. If it's a warm day, I recommend Bluto's Barge, but you will get soaked on that one. If there's a chill in the air, you may want to skip it.


As for attractions in Universal - Men in Black is definitely one my favs. Think Toy Story Mania in Disney. If anyone is into coasters, Return of the Mummy is good. I can not comment on Rip Ride Rocket, as the last time we were there it was down.

Of course there are a ton of other attractions and shows that are put on throughout the day, but I just sort of combined the stuff that I usually don't like to miss when we go. I hope this helped some. I'd be happy to help out more if I can be of assistance.
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michsig View Post
I think that less than a year still gives you ample planning time! No worries

As for Universal .. we were there this past summer, and it wasn't really for us. Most of the rides worth going on had 90-120 minute waits (especially the Harry Potter ones), and I believe you have to pay extra for their version of a "fast pass". We literally went on 3 rides between Islands of Adventure and Universal .. BUT, maybe it won't be as crowded when you go? Not really sure what the crowds are like there in December.
Regarding the Express Pass which is their version of a fast pass...you really have to take into consideration the crowds. We did it one year, and it was worth it in some cases, not so much in others, plus it's only good for 1 time use on certain rides. It's not accepted everywhere, and it's not like a fast pass, where you can go back for another one later for a later time. Once you use the express pass on that ride, that's all you can use on that ride for that day. Plus as it was noted, it does cost extra.
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fireflyparents View Post
Hi! This is my first post in this forum. We are planning a trip to Orlando in December during the holidays. I have been reading and am completely overwhelmed with how much people know and how long they have taken to plan a trip to Disney world. The amount of information is making me question my decision of not spending more than a year planning this trip!
We are travelling with two boys 6 and 12. Looking at the ticket prices, I dont think we can visit more than 3 parks. They chose Universal and Epcot so far. I have been to Epcot earlier but never been to Universal. Guide me through the dos and donts of this park. Any tip or suggestion will be greatly appreciated. I know it will be crowded like crazy and the lines will be long. Where do I start and which ones should I absolutely positively see?! Can we bring food to the park? Harry Potter is a must see for my boys - any word of advice there? I want to make this day memorable and less stressful, but right now I am heading towards the "no nail" zone!!!
Thank you all in advance!
Where were you planning on staying? If you stay at a Universal resort, you get free front of the line passes that you can use over and over for all rides except 3 (that's what it was when we went), plus you can tour the Harry Potter area one hour before the park opens to the general public. We did that, and it was awesome, we never waited in line.
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Old 10-03-2012, 08:31 PM   #6
fireflyparents
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These are wonderful information! I didn't even know Harry Potter is not at Universal but in a separate park. I guess we have to spend two days at each park. I hear a lot about fast pass. When we went long time back, we never got those but it was minus kids so we didn't need them either. But travelling with kids, I am thinking this might be a good investment. Do we buy these at the park or online?
Also, are we allowed to take food and drink inside the park or do we have to buy everything in the park? We might not be staying at any Disney property and will be having our own car. I read in a lot of places that this might be a bad move. Any thoughts on that? Does every theme park have fireworks at night?
What else am I missing .......... what else am I missing?!
Thank you everyone for all the excellent inputs ... keep them coming!
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Old 10-03-2012, 08:44 PM   #7
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You should post your questions on the Universal boards here....

http://www.disboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=30
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:02 PM   #8
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Here is a good forum on the disboards specifically for Universal brand parks...I just learned about it this week myself. It is a great place to ask Universal specific questions in a Disney World friendly atmosphere:
http://www.disboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=8

Also go to Universal Orlando's site for more info...
http://www.universalorlando.com/

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in a section of the Univeral's Islands of Adventure (a Universal Studios brand park) park. It is a separate park from Universal Studios.

I had the same question about fast passes which is called express pass at Universal....here is the link to my question on the dis regarding Universal Express Pass...

http://www.disboards.com/showthread....2#post46320812

Walt Disney World parks (Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom) use fast passes which ARE free. You can find info on those here:
http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/fastpass.htm
Although, it needs to be updated with new information (some rides like Dumbo and Goofy's Barnstormer in Magic Kingdom now offer fast pass, but they are not on this list)

Here are a few other links for helpful fast pass info..

http://touringplans.com/magic-kingdom/fastpass

http://touringplans.com/epcot/fastpass

http://touringplans.com/hollywood-studios/fastpass

http://touringplans.com/animal-kingdom/fastpass

If your boys are interested in Harry Potter type things....what about Star Wars?....I'm guessing they'd like Disney's Hollywood Studios (maybe even more than Epcot)....check info on it.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/par...s/attractions/

Disney's rules on coolers: http://www.wdwinfo.com/tips_for_touring/coolers.htm

Don't know about Universal.

Not every park has fireworks every night.....here is a schedule link for December....

http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/hours/dec12.cfm
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:33 PM   #9
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A lot of people who have not been to Orlando mistakenly think that Disney and Universal are the same park. They are not.

Walt Disney World is a huge resort complex that includes many hotels at all levels of price, two water parks, shopping, and most importantly 4 theme parks. The 4 theme parks are: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. Magic Kingdom is the park that most people think of when you say "Disney". There is also a ton of other stuff at WDW.


Universal Olando is a large complex that includes 3 deluxe resorts, shopping and dining, and 2 theme parks. The Universal Orlando theme parks are : Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure. Islands of Adventure is where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is. If you stay at a Universal resort, your room key is a fast pass for every ride but three at both parks, it does not cost anything, and you can use it as many times as you want to. If you do not stay at a Universal resort, you can buy an Express Pass good for one time on each ride except for three, and it is not cheap. If you stay one night at a Universal resort, you can use your room key express pass on both the day you check in and the day you check out. So you can do one park on check in day and the other park on check out day and have unlimited express for both parks by staying one night at a Universal resort.

Then you can spend the rest of your time at WDW and see all 4 of those parks. You can get Fastpass at WDW parks even if you do not stay on Disney property.

Personally I would not do Universal without staying on property for the free unlimited express pass. It is a very different experience at Universal if you do stay on site, a much better one. I would try and save $$ by staying at a value resort at WDW or off property there.

Hope this helps!
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Last edited by glocon; 10-03-2012 at 09:35 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 10-03-2012, 10:12 PM   #10
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Universal Studios /Islands of Adventure

Welcome to The Dis !

I don't see when you will be touring Orlando...

We usually go during the very busiest of times... Memorial Day weekend or July Fourth Weekend....

We have never stayed onsite at US/IOA and yet we've never waited in a line over 40 minutes.

Lines at US/IOA are usually manageable. Our last visit was May 26-27/2012: Two half days at US/IOA.

We had a LONG drive in and got to IOA at 11:30am on 5/26. On 5/27 we got to the park at around 10:00am and left around 2:00pm to head to WDW.

If you know in advance which attractions you would like to hit it makes for an easy time touring. Our kids are around the same age (Teens now) so we can skip all the little kiddo areas like Shrek and Seussland.

If you would like.... let us disers know the "Scare" factor of rides for your kids and what they might be interested in and we can help you.

We did Harry Potter forbidden Journey (FIRST to avoid lines but they also have single rider), Dueling Dragons, lunch at Mythos, Spiderman, Hulk (IOA)
At US we did Mummy, Twister, Simpsons, Men in Black, Horror show, pictures with Despicable me... Lucy shop, then lunch at GUMP and headed to WDW.

Have a magical visit !

Mary
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Old 10-04-2012, 01:02 AM   #11
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We have usually stayed offsite when we've visited Universal and we've managed to see whatever we wanted to. You have to get to the parks early and visit in the right order and in that way you can skip most of the long lines. We have yet to buy an Express Pass but that's not to say that it won't ever be necessary.

We do enjoy staying onsite though. The Universal hotels are quite amazing.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:40 PM   #12
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My children loved Harry Potter. We spent the majority of our day at IOA here and still didn't get to see and do everything in the Wizarding World! We were there over Christmas (2010) so it was extremely busy. The Express Passes don't work for anything inside the Wizarding World. I was sorry we had spent the money on them.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:54 PM   #13
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Harry Potter isn't it's own park either.

They have two parks. Universal Studios (US) and Islands of Adventure (IOA). The upgrade to hop back and forth is fairly cheap. Harry Potter is one of the lands inside IOA.

As others have said, if you come during the slow season, you likely won't need the express pass. If you come in the busier season, it will be helpful to have them. They are crazy expensive in the busier season and you may find it cheaper just to stay on site. Staying on site will give you the express pass. But note, you can't ride Harry Potter's Forbidden Journey ride with them and that line runs very long.

Regarding Harry Potter, you could aim for first thing in the morning or right at the end and may find shorter lines. I usually recommend end of day because when the park opens, everyone makes a mad dash for it (and it's all the way in the back).

Both parks are nice. Universal has a lot of construction right now as they are working on new attractions. Both parks, especially IOA by far, cater to thrill seekers. They do have areas for younger kids though. But expect a LOT of thrill rides. Most rides have nice kid swaps for your younger child.

Harry Potter's Forbidden Journey has a 48" height requirement that my 6 year old is just shy of. It is also a pretty scary ride. All 6 year olds are different so you will have to judge that.

Dr. Suessland in IOA is great for younger kids, and Universal has an area (including a Curious George area where they can get soaked if they are hot).


Lastly, Citywalk (a shopping/bar area just outside that connects the two parks and you will walk through it to get to either park) has nice restaurants, a movie theater, and a cute mini golf area.


Let us know if youhave any other questions.
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Old 10-06-2012, 11:09 PM   #14
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A lot of people who have not been to Orlando mistakenly think that Disney and Universal are the same park.
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Old 10-06-2012, 11:40 PM   #15
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I went to US/IOA in March 2011 and it was definitely a disappointment for me when compared with Disney. You see, I'm not a thrill ride person. While I am a Harry Potter fanatic, I was a bit disappointed with what they did with the story. There are three rides: one is for kids, one is a simulator which bothered my senses a little (I wanted to vomit) and the other is a true thrill ride. It's a small area and it was packed the whole time we were there. The part that they tried to make look like Hogsmeade was cool, but most of the store fronts are empty--not a thing to look at! They have already decided to do an expansion so I'm hoping for something more with the next phase.
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