Universal Orlando, Orlando Travel Guide
Universal Orlando Summary
- Guest rooms at Universal's resorts are generally nicer and more modern resorts than at Disney World.
- Three major theme parks: Universal Studios, Universal's Islands of Adventure, and the Volcano Bay water park
- Broad range of great dining at CityWalk and at the three Universal resorts
- Pointe Orlando, a pleasant outdoor shopping mall with some pricey but decent restaurants, is off International Drive, less than a 10-minute drive away.
- Closer to the airport (20 minutes), SeaWorld (10 minutes), and the Orange County Convention Center (10 minutes) than Disney World
- Long lines at restaurants and theme parks
- Renting a car isn't imperative, but adds significant convenience
- Outside Universal's theme parks, there's not much in the area beyond a few strip malls.
What It's Like
Most people only associate Orlando with Disney World, but when Universal Studios opened in 1990, Disney was given a run for its money. The area collectively known as Universal consists of Universal Studios (the original park), Universal's Islands of Adventure (a second park, opened in 1999), CityWalk (a shopping and restaurant complex), and the Volcano Bay water park (added in 2017 following the demolition of Wet 'n Wild water park in 2016). Granted, Universal and Disney are different beasts -- Disney has twice as many major theme parks and 12 times the number of hotel rooms (30,407 versus Universal's 2,400) -- but Universal's size is more manageable, and its film and TV cachet (Superman, The Simpsons, and, most recently, Harry Potter), and live studios involve just as much jaw-dropping pyrotechnics and 3D fun as Disney, if not more.
Where to Stay
There are three hotels on the Universal property, all managed by the upscale Loews hotel group -- Royal Pacific (the most affordable and more laid-back option), Hard Rock (fun for all), and Portofino Bay (the most luxurious of the three). Outside Universal's gates, there is also a selection of less expensive hotels, such as the newly renovated Doubletree located across from the entrance to Universal.