Universal Orlando: Which of its Three Theme Parks Should You Visit?

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I'll admit it: I'm a total Universal Orlando fangirl. Some people are enamored with Disney, but for me it's all about Universal.

I've visited Universal's Orlando parks multiple times in the past couple of years, and despite it always being bustling and (usually) hot, I always find myself loving it.

Whether it's casting spells in Harry Potter world, watching the Grinch's antics at Seuss Landing during the holidays, or splashing around in the wave pool at Volcano Bay, there's a lot of fun to be had year-round at Universal.

Diagon Alley at night
Accio Universal magic!
Incredible Hulk coaster photo by Alex in Wanderland

But I understand that planning a trip to a place like Universal can be a little daunting. The Orlando resort now has three separate parks – Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay – with a fourth set to open in 2025. And if you've never been before, you may have no clue which one(s) are going to be right for you.

So here's where I come in! After spending quite a bit of time in each of the Universal Orlando parks, here's my breakdown of what to see, do, and eat in each park. This should hopefully help you decide which Universal park is better for you.


Buy your Universal Orlando tickets with a discount here!

Universal Studios

Universal Studios is the backbone of Universal Orlando Resort. This theme park was the first of the three to open in 1990, and is themed around movies and television.

From Universal's official website: “Go beyond the screen, behind the scenes and jump into the action of your favorite films at the world’s premier movie and TV based theme park.”

Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios

Sections of the park

Universal Studios is only roughly divided up into sections that correspond with different movie-making locations around the world, but there are a couple of distinctly themed sections, too. Namely the Simpsons “Springfield” section of the park and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley, which is perhaps the most intricately-themed part of Universal Studios.

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
Casting spells in Diagon Alley

RELATED: 10 Things to Do at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando

Note that in 2024, a brand new “DreamWorks Land” is set to open at Universal Studios. This new section of the park will include a new ride (the Trollercoaster); chances to meet with characters like Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey; a kids play area called Po’s Kung Fu Training Camp; and some new dining options. This is supposed to open sometime in summer 2024.

The best rides at Universal Studios

This is of course only based on my personal preference, but my favorite rides here include:

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – A thrilling roller coaster where you can choose a song to listen to for the duration of the ride. I'm spoiled when it comes to roller coasters (having grown up near Cedar Point in Ohio), but this one definitely gets your adrenaline going with the first hill, which you ascend while lying flat on your back in the car.

Rip Ride Rockit photo by Alex in Wanderland

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – This incredible ride mixes a roller coaster with 3-D technology and is seriously fun whether you're a Harry Potter fan or not. The line for the ride winds its way through Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley, and then you go on an “underground” adventure that includes Harry and his friends, Voldemort, and a fire-breathing dragon.

Revenge of the Mummy – Man, I hope this ride never goes away! It's mostly an indoor roller coaster, but a delightfully creepy and kitschy one that includes all of the best parts of (the original!) Mummy movie.

Men in Black Alien Attack – In this interactive ride you scoot around in a pod-like car, laser gun in hand. Your mission is to zap as many aliens throughout the streets of New York as possible. Prepare to laugh a lot on this one!

Hogwarts Express – Found at Kings Cross Station, this working train will transport you from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, which is found at Islands of Adventure. It's a fun way to move between parks (but note that you WILL need a park-to-park ticket in order to ride).

Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando
The Hogwarts Express

There are also a lot of 3-D and motion simulator rides at Universal Studios. I sadly can't ride many of these because they make me feel sick, but a few that people seem to love include:

  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride (the first to implement a virtual line)
  • E.T. Adventure (where you get to ride a bike like in the movie!)
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged (this one has elements of a normal ride since you do ride in a moving tram, but the majority of the “action” is on screens)
Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal
Outside the Jimmy Fallon ride

Shows to see at Universal Studios

Not into rides? There are a few entertaining shows/performances to take in at Universal Studios, too. Like:

  • The Bourne Stuntacular
  • Animal Actors On Location
  • The Blues Brothers Show
  • Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard in Diagon Alley
  • ¡Vamos! – Báilalo (a Latin music/dance show)

And there should be a new Nighttime Spectacular show coming to the lagoon coming sometime in 2024.

Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal Studios Orlando
Around the holidays, you can also watch the Macy's Holiday Parade.

Where/what to eat and drink at Universal Studios

There are lots of dining options within Universal Studios, from a seafood grill to an Italian restaurant to a 50s-style diner. But the “musts” really revolve around the two main themed sections of the park:

Diagon Alley – In this section of the park, you can grab a British pub-style meal at the Leaky Cauldron, get ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour, and grab a butterbeer (or Green Fishy Ale, which is my favorite) at The Hopping Pot.

Fishy Green Ale in Diagon Alley
Green Fishy Ale – YUM

Springfield – In the Simpsons section of the park, grab an adult drink at the Duff Brewery beer garden or Flaming Moe's, food to-go at Krusty Burger, and a massive, face-sized pastry at Lard Lad Donuts.

Overall there are 32 spots to eat and drink within Universal Studios.

Universal Studios for kids

Full disclosure: I do not have children, so I can't speak from experience as to what kids would like the most at any of these parks. BUT, I can tell you what there is to do for kids at Universal, along with what I think I would have loved as a kid.

At Universal Studios, kid-friendly rides include Kang & Kodos' Twirl ‘n' Hurl, the Hogwarts Express, E.T. Adventure, and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. There are also some character encounter areas, including ones with the Transformers, SpongeBob SquarePants, and more.

Cool photo ops at Universal Studios

Amanda and Jaws
The Jaws ride is gone, but Jaws is still here!

A couple of my favorite spots to snap a selfie include:

  • In front of the Knight Bus outside the entrance to Diagon Alley.
  • In Diagon Alley with your interactive wand/when the dragon is breathing fire.
  • With a big (fake) great white shark, near where the old Jaws ride used to be.
  • With a giant donut in the Simpsons section.
  • Outside the entrance with the spinning Universal globe.

Islands of Adventure

Opened in 1999 as the second park at Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure focuses on just that: adventure!

Sections of the park

Islands of Adventure features seven themed “islands,” which include Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Lost Continent, Skull Island, and Seuss Landing.

Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure
Inside Toon Lagoon

Each island is highly themed – much more so than the different parts of Universal Studios. Hogsmeade (the Wizarding World park) is probably the most popular, but every island is definitely worth wandering through.

Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
The streets of Hogsmeade!

The best rides at Islands of Adventure

Again, this is just based on my personal opinion, but my favorite Islands of Adventure rides include:

Jurassic World VelociCoaster – Brand new in 2021, the VelociCoaster is similar to the Hulk coaster (also on this list), except taller and faster. It's definitely a true thrilling roller coaster. As a bonus, the line for this ride is inside the “raptor paddock,” which is indoors.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – The wait for this ride is almost as fun as the ride itself, since the line has you winding through the rooms of Hogwarts Castle. The ride itself makes you feel like you're following Harry around the Quidditch pitch on a broomstick. (Note: This is a motion simulator ride and yes, does usually make me feel sick – but it's so awesome that I still ride it.)

The Incredible Hulk Coaster – This one is a must for thrill-seekers. You can't miss the big green coaster looming over the rest of the islands, and a complete revamp of the track makes for a much smoother ride these days.

Incredible Hulk Coaster photo by Alex in Wanderland

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – This roller coaster replaced the Dueling Dragons in Hogsmeade in 2019, and is definitely a thrill ride with a Harry Potter storyline to make it even more fun. The cars are shaped like Hagrid's motorbike (complete with sidecar), which I love.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong – This ride is a 3-D adventure that's not a motion simulator. You get into a huge safari-like vehicle, and drive through the jungles of Skull Island. Your chances of meeting a giant ape are high.

Water rides – Islands of Adventure is where you want to go if you're looking to get wet at a theme park. Here you'll find Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, and Jurassic Park River Adventure (which is definitely the best one).

There are of course other rides, too! These ones are just my favorites.

Shows to see at Islands of Adventure

A couple shows to see include:

  • Oh! The Stories You'll Hear! in Seuss Landing
  • Performances by the Frog Choir and Triwizard Spirit Rally near Hogwarts Castle
  • The Nighttime Lights At Hogwarts Castle
Hogwarts Castle at Universal Orlando
Hogwarts Castle

Where/what to eat and drink at Islands of Adventure

You'll find plenty of food options here, too, but my personal recommendations include:

Mythos Restaurant – Located in The Lost Continent, this full-service restaurant is consistently voted as one of the best theme park restaurants in the world. It features a mix of Mediterranean, Asian, and American fare, and is definitely worth a stop for lunch or dinner.

Hogsmeade – In Hogsmeade, grab a British pub-style meal at the Three Broomsticks, an adult beverage at the Hog's Head, and pick up some Harry Potter-themed candy at Honeydukes.

Inside Honeydukes

You can also check out the Green Eggs and Ham Cafe (where, yes, you can get a Green Eggs and Ham sandwich), or grab a giant turkey leg at any of the eateries in Jurassic Park.

Islands of Adventure for kids

Most of the shows at Islands of Adventure are kid-appropriate, and I'd argue that this park has the most kid-friendly sections (mostly because of Seuss Landing).

Kid-friendly rides at Islands of Adventure include One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; The Cat in the Hat; The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride; the Caro-Seuss-el carousel; Pteranodon Flyers; Flight of the Hippogriff; and the Hogwarts Express.

There are 2 kids play areas (Jurassic Park Discovery Center and Camp Jurassic), and character encounters with the likes of Spider-Man and Captain America, and The Cat in the Hat and friends in the Dr. Seuss Character Zone.

Character dining options at Islands of Adventure include a cool chance to have a meal with Marvel superheroes (at the Marvel Character Dinner), along with The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast that is available around the holidays.

Cool photo ops at Islands of Adventure

A new photo opportunity that was added after “Jurassic World” came out is the Raptor Encounter in the Jurassic Park island, where you can snap selfies with a velociraptor.

Raptor Encounter
Raptor Encounter (we weren't all ready for this photo, but you get the idea!)

I also of course always get a photo in front of Hogwarts Castle, and Seuss Landing is super colorful and great for pictures, too.

Volcano Bay

Universal Orlando's newest theme park is Volcano Bay, a water theme park that is replacing Wet ‘n Wild. It opened in May 2017, and is pushing the boundaries of what a water park can be.

Volcano Bay features a 200-foot-tall waterfall, a huge wave pool, more than a dozen water rides and slides, and a new wearable that aims to eliminate standing in line for rides.

Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando

I was invited to experience the opening of Volcano Bay and, as someone who loathes putting on a bathing suit, I actually had a TON of fun.

Puihi slide at Volcano Bay
Riding one of the slides

Volcano Bay has its very own Polynesian-inspired backstory, and the theme is present in every single corner of the park, from the names of the slides to the food you'll find in the restaurants.

Sections of the park

Volcano Bay has one main Polynesian theme running through the entire park. There are “villages” to denote different sections of the park, including the Rainforest Village, River Village, Wave Village, and then the Volcano itself. There is an area dedicated to kids, too (The Reef), so the whole family can enjoy the park.

Water slides at Volcano Bay

The best rides at Volcano Bay

Volcano Bay currently has more than a dozen different water rides and slides. Some of the most popular include:

Krakatau Aqua Coaster – I mean, it's a water roller coaster – how can it not be fun??

Ko'okiri Body Plunge – This trapdoor-like slide is located at the very top of the volcano, and drops riders 125 feet at a 70-degree angle.

Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slide – These body slides include either a 4-foot or 6-foot plunge into a pool at the end.

Slides at Volcano Bay
Ohyah and Ohno

Honu ika Moana – There are two slides to choose from here. My pick? Go on the blue Honu slide with 3 or 4 friends. Your tube goes up two massive walls and truly is thrilling.

TeAwa The Fearless River – Forget the lazy river. Grab a tube and ride this fast-flowing river instead.

Fearless River at Volcano Bay
The Fearless River

Shows to see at Volcano Bay

There's no live entertainment at Volcano Bay, but my favorite thing to do was hang out at The Reef, a small pool right next to the main wave pool/beach. Here the clear slide from the Ko'okiri Body Plunge runs right through the pool, meaning you can get an excellent view of the brave souls trying this slide.

And of course you can always people-watch at Waturi Beach.

Where/what to eat and drink

Going along with Volcano Bay's theme, you'll find plenty of island-inspired food and drink on offer. Check out:

Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club – Try the mango BBQ pulled pork sandwiches or coconut crusted fried chicken.

The Feasting Frog – Grab a poke bowl or taco sampler to enjoy on the patio.

Tropical drink at Volcano Bay
Grab some tropical cocktails at either the Dancing Dragons Boat Bar or the Kunuku Boat Bar.

Whakawaiwai Eats – Try the Island BBQ chicken pizza, a pretzel dog with pineapple salsa, or jerk shrimp mac and cheese.

Waturi Fusion ice cream at Volcano Bay
And try the Waturi Fusion ice cream!

Volcano Bay for kids

Waturi Beach is of course family-friendly, and there are kid-specific areas like Tot Tiki Reef (suitable for even the littlest of little ones) and Runamukka Reef. The Puka Uli Lagoon area is also fine for kids, and the Kopiko Wai Winding River might be suitable for kids who don't want to (or can't) go on the bigger water rides.

Cool photo ops at Volcano Bay

Look for the large kiosks where you can use your TapuTapu wearable to snap selfies. And be sure to get up close to the large tiki heads because they talk!

Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando
This tiki head talks!

Looking for more Universal Orlando content?

Check out these posts, too:

My top Universal Orlando tips

So which park is right for you? Which park should you visit? Which is the best Universal park?

The truth is that they're all different and all very much worth visiting! I can't pick a “best” or favorite (though I do prefer Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade when it comes to the Harry Potter worlds), and chances are you're going to want to visit them all!

I would recommend at least 3 or 4 days to fully enjoy Universal Orlando, with at least one full day dedicated to Volcano Bay.

Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando
Volcano Bay before the crowds descend.

Here are some other tips for making the most out of your Universal Orlando experience:

1. Get the right tickets

They ARE offering multi-day 3-park passes (meaning you can hop between all the parks as much as you want), which is probably your best bet value-wise. I would personally dedicate one full day to Volcano Bay and then hop between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure as much as you want (i.e. you can take the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as much as you want!).

You also may want to invest in Express Passes if you'll be visiting during a busy time of year. These passes let you skip most of the lines on most rides, meaning you can fit a lot more into your day.

Buy Universal Orlando tickets with a discount here.

2. Go early; stay late

The late morning and early afternoon are almost always the busiest times at any amusement park. To really make the most out of your time, go to the parks as early as you can, maybe take a break in the afternoon, and then stay until closing.

Diagon Alley at night
Diagon Alley at night is extra magical

3. Get the Universal app

Universal has a handy smartphone app for both iOS and Android that is especially useful during these current times. Use the Official Universal Orlando Resort App to view park maps, check ride wait times and sign up for Virtual Lines, and even place mobile food and drink orders.

The app can help you organize your visit in one place, and can also help you avoid standing in unnecessary lines.

4. Stay on-site

Want to get into the parks even earlier? Stay at one of Universal's on-site hotels, which allow guests to enter all three parks one hour before the posted opening times.

And which hotel should you stay at?

Cabana Bay Beach Resort is usually my go-to hotel at Universal Orlando. I love the colorful retro theme, the pools and lazy river, and the Starbucks in the lobby. AND, as an added bonus, Cabana Bay guests can walk right into Volcano Bay since the new water theme park is connected to the back of the hotel.

Check out Cabana Bay reviews on TripAdvisor | Book your stay at Cabana Bay here!

Room at Cabana Bay
Room at Cabana Bay

I also really like Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which is a very pretty hotel that offers water taxis to CityWalk and free shuttles to all the parks.

Book your stay at Sapphire Falls here!

Room at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Room at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Pool at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Pool at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

The other on-site hotels at Universal Orlando are:

Any of these make great bases for visiting both Universal parks. If you can't make up your mind, compare prices of hotels near Universal here.

Water taxi at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Water taxis like this will take you to CityWalk for free.

5. Spend time at CityWalk

CityWalk is the area kind of in between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It's where Universal's main parking deck is, and also where all the shuttles will drop you off if you get transported from your hotel.

Universal CityWalk

CityWalk is also an entertainment hub in and of itself.

There are tons of restaurants (my favorites include Cowfish, Antojito's, and Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen), a movie theater, a mini golf course, shops, and theaters where groups like The Blue Man Group perform.

CityWalk is open much later that the theme parks, meaning this is a great place to hang out and grab drinks with friends after dark.

Cheeseburgushi at Cowfish at Universal CityWalk
Cheeseburgushi at Cowfish

READ NEXT: A Couples' Long Weekend Getaway to Orlando

So what do you think? Which Universal Orlando park would YOU most want to visit?

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*Note: Thanks to Universal Orlando Resort for inviting me to the opening of Volcano Bay, and for providing support during previous visits to Universal. As always, all opinions and tips are 100% my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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53 Comments on “Universal Orlando: Which of its Three Theme Parks Should You Visit?

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  1. Great info ! thanks so much. NOW, Amanda, I have some VALUABLE INFO FOR YOU ! I too get sick on rides. My wife loves the new video rides but I have to wait for her. I asked my doctor if there was any medication to help me and he perscribed one that works awesome ! I can go on fishing trips and all park rides now…..It’s called Scopolamine. It’s a patch you put behind your ear and it lasts 3 days ! You can get a discount coupon for it too ! I hope you will try it and it is a Godsend for you too! I put it on several hours before I do to the park to be sure it’s in full force before I ride.

    which is best for children ages 4,6,8? three adults will also be wanting to go where they feel is best? They are very big Harry Potter fans.Thank you for your help

      I don’t have children, so I can’t say for sure which park kids would enjoy most. The Harry Potter sections are in two different parks, and they all have sections that are kid-appropriate. I’d recommend reading about what you can find in each park, and then deciding based on what everyone most wants to see/do!

    how many days do we need to cover all 3 parks? can we go to one park multiple times or how does the ticketing work? I will be the first time visitor. thanks 🙂

      It totally depends on how much you want to see/do. I would recommend at least one day per park. Volcano Bay just needs one day. But you could easily spend 2 days each at both the other parks if you want to ride every ride and see everything! And you can visit each park more than once if you by multi-day or park-to-park tickets.

        Thank you for the reply. 7 days should be fine for this three parks and SeaWorld then? I had an online chat for park tickets/entry and it does not make sense. What I understood is that park-to-park, we have unlimited access but just on that same day. I can not enter the park next day.

          Yes 7 days should be plenty of time for all of that. As for the tickets, I’m afraid I can’t help you out with that. I don’t work for Universal, so am definitely not an expert on their ticket policy. But just looking at the Universal website, it looks pretty easy to purchase 2-park or 3-park (park-to-park) tickets for up to 5 days. https://www.universalorlando.com/web-store/en/us/park-tickets

    When visiting Disney we were able to bring in food /drinks. So we packed our own lunch and snacks and treated ourselves for dinner. Can you do this at Universal? It was a huge money saver.

      Universal’s official policy is that you can bring in water and “small snacks,” along with any food necessary for dietary or medical reasons – but their site does say you can’t bring in full picnic lunches. They do check bags at the entrance, though I don’t know how strict they are about food.

    Me, my husband and 4 kids are travelling to Orlando this coming July for a cheer nationals competition. Most of us have never been down there. My youngest is 9 and no longer into princesses and my oldest is 20. We also want to visit Discovery Cove and see the Blue Man Group. I am worried about being able to afford all 4 parks, the show and enjoy eating at some of the on-site restaurants, which are probably pricey too. My biggest fear is I’m not sure I can even handle roller coasters with my weak neck and then it would be a big waste of money. Any suggestions?

      Hi Barbara! Unfortunately the Orlando parks can all be pretty pricey, but Universal IS generally cheaper than Disney at least. You could always cut down on the parks you’re visiting. I personally don’t support places like Discovery Cove/SeaWorld and would skip that. You also could do without Volcano Bay and just enjoy the pool(s) at your hotel and the water rides in the main parks. You can also save money if you buy tickets for multiple days. Universal currently has “buy 2 days get 3 days free” via CityPass (http://www.anrdoezrs.net/links/8971294/type/dlg/sid/CityPassOrlando/https://www.citypass.com/orlando) that might work. And getting single park tickets instead of park-to-park tickets can save money, too (though it means if you want to visit both parks in one day you’ll have to walk between them and won’t be able to ride the Hogwarts Express).

      The GOOD news is that there are affordable dining options at CityWalk!

    Sooo my fam and I are going to Tampa in March to stay with my brother to visit. We want to do one or two days at Universal! All boys ages 21, ,19 and 12
    We love fast n ferrous and transformers! Since we will drive there both days and not a huge Harry Potter fan(sorry peeps) do you recommend we stick to just the main park? We aren’t gonna do volcano this year.

      If you have two days, I would still visit both main parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure). Both have quite cool rides and feel quite different, so I say visit both! But you could dedicate one day to each, so you don’t necessarily need park-to-park tickets.

    Hi Amanda! I am a new Florida resident and my teenage daughter and I are going in October. It will be our first time. Any tips for Halloween horror nights? We are thinking of staying at the new Adventura hotel that just opened recently, have you been? I’m curious what is the difference between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade? And then is the wizard in world another separate part? Any help is appreciated thank you!

      Hey Danielle! That will be a fun trip! I haven’t stayed at Aventura yet since it just recently opened, and the last time I was in Orlando was about a year ago. It looks really nice, though! I also haven’t visited during Halloween Horror nights (I hate haunted houses!), so I don’t have any personal tips. It’ll be a little different during HHN, though, since there are extra attractions.

      Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade ARE the “Wizarding Worlds.” One is at Islands of Adventure, and the other is at Universal Studios. They both have similar shops and food options, but look completely different, since one looks like Diagon Alley and the other looks like Hogsmeade (with Hogwarts Castle). They also both have different rides!

    Amanda, I really enjoyed your breakdown of each park. My husband and I will be in Orlando for one afternoon/evening and would love to go the one of the parks. Which one do you recommend for a quick trip?

      That’s a tricky one! I think Universal Studios is my favorite of the two main parks, because it’s got Diagon Alley (my favorite Harry Potter section), the Rip Ride Rockit (I love roller coasters) and the Revenge of the Mummy ride (which is so fun).

    Thank you Amanda – this was so helpful. We went to Disney in 2013 and want to try Universal/Seaworld this time. I have two questions for you. One, do you have make reservations in the restaurants when you book your trip like in Disney? Two, do they have anything similar to a Fast Pass or do you wait in long lines? We would be going around end of July or early in August. Thank You!

      I’ve never made reservations for any of the Universal or CityWalk restaurants and have never had issues getting in. There are sometimes lines/waits (like at the Harry Potter ones), but they usually aren’t terrible. And yes, Universal has Express Passes you can buy to skip lines – but, again, I’ve never found the lines to be as bad as at Disney, so you don’t need Express Passes for everything.

    Thank you … a great read! But if you can only do one park with a 5 & 7 year old, which of the two parks should we go to? Small kid friendly?

      Hmmm I think it depends on what your kids like! All three parks have kid-friendly sections, though not as many kid-friendly rides as Disney. Universal Studios has Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, a Curious George-themed play area, and the Superstar Parade, which includes characters like SpongeBob and the Minions. And the interactive wands you can use in Diagon Alley would be fun for kids, too. At Islands of Adventure, you’ve got Seuss Landing, a dinosaur-themed play area, plus meet-and-greets with Marvel super heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America. At Volcano Bay, there’s a kid-specific section called Tot-Tiki Reef, but I’m not sure how kid-friendly all the water slides are.

      At both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, they also have “child swap” sections at each ride, so if you and another parent want to ride a ride with one or no kids, you can swap out so you don’t have to stand in line twice.

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