Here are some of Vacation Candice’s favorite Universal Orlando PARK TIPS:
If you have an American Express credit card, USE IT! Throughout Universal Orlando property (in the parks, CityWalk, and resorts), there are select locations that give you a DISCOUNT just for using American Express! I recommend that you always ask if a location has an American Express discount when making a purchase (food & merchandise).
And if you book your trip with an American Express (and book it as an American Express package), you get the added privilege of utilizing the American Express lounge in Universal Studios across from the exit of Shrek 4-D. It has plush couches, air-conditioning, private bathrooms, and complimentary snacks & waters.
Universal sells a variety of lanyards with card pouches. These are great for keeping up with your tickets, room key, credit card, etc. It makes park hopping and Express Pass usage much easier! I highly recommend it!
EARLY PARK ADMISSION:
Each day, one of Universal’s parks (Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure) will open their section of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter 1 hour early for Universal On-Site guests & those who have purchased their tickets through Universal (all Universal Orlando tickets purchased through Vacation Candice qualify for EPA). This is a huge advantage! I recommend that you arrive at the park gate at least 15 minutes prior to early opening. When the park opens, you will be directed to the back of the park and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios – Diagon Alley / Islands of Adventure – Hogsmeade).
On Universal Studios early opening days, visit Gringott’s first. On Islands of Adventure early opening days, visit Hogwarts Castle first.
Then visit any other Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions that you can in that park until 15-20 minutes pre-park opening. At that point, if you have a park-to-park ticket, then go to the train station to take the Hogwarts Express to the other park.
Once in the other park, visit the main attraction (Universal Studios – Gringott’s / Islands of Adventure – Hogwarts Castle) first. This will help you make the most efficient use of your time!
Later in the day, you can take the Hogwarts Express Train back to the other park to complete anything in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that you didn’t do at opening.
HOGWARTS EXPRESS TRAIN:
The Hogwarts Express train takes you between Universal’s two parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure). You can only take this train in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter IF you have a park-to-park ticket. Make sure you take the train both ways (Hogsmeade>Diagon Alley AND Diagon Alley >Hogsmeade), as the ride is different each way!
WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER:
*Send postcards to family and friends with a Hogsmeade Postmark! Visit the Owl Post and ask the representative for the Postmark. You can bring your own pre-written postcards or buy some there.
*Stop in at the Gringotts Money Exchange to exchange your Muggle Money for Gringotts Bank Notes. You can use these special bank notes anywhere throughout Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks. What better way to pay for lunch than with wizard money!
*For a cool, interactive souvenir visit Shutterbutton at Diagon Alley. (up to 5 people allowed per experience)
*When taking the Hogwarts Express Train from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, make sure to have your camera ready to take video of those in front of you walking through the wall at Kings Cross Station to get to Platform 9 ¾!
*In London, visit the red phone booth. Pick up the phone and dial MAGIC!
*In London, make sure you walk around to the back of the Knight Bus to see the inside…that is after you chat with the Conductor and Shrunken Head.
*In London, take an extra close look 12 Grimmauld Place. You just might spot something on the upper level.
*Even if you aren’t planning to purchase a wand, make sure to check out Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
*If you purchase an interactive wand, you will be able to cast spells throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and make some magic of your own!
*Make sure to listen carefully when in the bathroom at Hogsmeade. There may be a familiar ghost hanging about.
*Also listen carefully as you approach the Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin & Burkes.
*Check out the cool stage shows in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!
*If you love donuts, you MUST try the huge Simpson’s pink, glazed donut in Springfield. You can purchase a boxed donut in the Quick-E-Mart.
*Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is a very popular ride at the front of the park. Expect wait times to stay up throughout the day for this one. An early morning visit to this ride is your best bet for a shorter line. On days that the Universal Studios side of the parks opens early for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they also open Despicable Me Minion Mayhem early! Definitely stop at this ride FIRST, and then make your way to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This will maximize your time efficiency.
*When you get off of the Men In Black ride, ask a cast member if you can take the “Immigration Tour.” They will give you a tour of the Immigration Office that can be seen from the queue. This is only available during the mid-day hours.
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE:
*Check out the new Skull Island Reign of Kong ride.
*Find Spiderman creator Stan Lee’s four appearances within The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman ride. He’s the one wearing a brown/gold sweater.
*If you plan to ride the water rides (Jurassic Park River Adventure, Rip Saw Falls, Bilge Rat Barges), wear some type of nylon, quick-drying clothing. You WILL GET WET! There are Full Body Dryers available around these areas of the park for an additional fee.
THREE LINE TYPES:
There are 3 types of lines at Universal Orlando’s parks:
Regular Line (stand-by)
Single Rider Line
Express Pass Line
All rides have a REGULAR LINE. This line is a traditional stand-by line. In order to see all of the amazing details at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, you will want to go through the Regular stand-by line. This is quickest first thing in the morning.
Many rides have a SINGLE RIDER LINE. The purpose of this line is to fill empty seats. Therefore, you will most likely be split up from your party when utilizing the Single Rider Line. If you don’t mind riding a car or two apart from your group, this is a great option. A good estimate for the Single Rider Line is half the current Regular Line wait time. (this is not always the case, but a good estimate)
The EXPRESS PASS LINE is the third option for those who have purchased the Universal Express Pass. This line gives you front of the line access. This is NOT available on the following attractions:
*Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
If your kids are too small or unwilling to go on a particular ride you want to experience, you can take advantage of the Child Swap program. Each ride has a child swap area (close to the ride loading area) where one member of your party can wait with the little ones while the rest of your party rides. Once they are off the ride, simply swap places, and whoever stayed back with the kids the first time can go ahead and ride.