5 Reasons to Stay On-Site When Visiting Universal Orlando
When we visit Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida; we like to stay in on-site resorts. Universal Orlando offers five amazing on-site hotels—with a sixth on the way (in 2018)!! There are numerous reasons to stay on-site whilst visiting Universal Orlando, but I have 5 reasons that have been quite beneficial to my family of five.
Staying on-site at Universal Orlando resorts has numerous benefits and here are my TOP 5 reasons on how you can maximize your visit to Universal Studios Orlando!
5 Reasons to Stay On-Site When Visiting Universal Orlando
Firstly, Universal Orlando is home to two theme parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in sunny, Orlando, Florida. Universal Orlando’s two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, are home to some of the world’s most exciting and innovative attractions. Also, Universal’s Volcano Bay, an entirely new water theme park experience just opened in May of 2017.
1. GET AN EXTRA HOUR WITH UNIVERSAL EXPRESS
When staying on-site at a Universal Orlando Resort, you receive FREE Early Park Admission with the Universal Express access for Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the newest theme park, Universal’s Volcano Bay. (valid theme park admission is required). This is a savings of ^$89.00 per person!! A HUGE VALUE!
This means your family can enter the theme park of your choice, one hour before the scheduled opening, and check out the select attractions before the theme park opens. My family tip - head straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, before the crowd overtakes this area!!
Once you have checked into the on-site hotel of choice, simply locate the Universal Express kiosk in lobby where you will be able to print out your Universal Express passes. These passes are valid every day of your hotel stay, including the days you check in and check out. My family takes full advantage of these express passes and this is an awesome perk offered for FREE by staying on-site!
2. COMPLIMENTARY TRANSPORTATION TO PARKS, RESORTS & CITYWALK
Whether you fly or drive to Universal Orlando Resorts, once you arrive, you won't have to worry about arranging transportation to the theme parks or restaurants. Universal has this area fully covered. When selecting an Universal Orlando’s on-site resort, an added benefit is you simply get out of bed and head downstairs to begin your day. One just has to hop from hotel to theme park or theme park to hotel or hotel to hotel BY either water taxi, shuttle bus or a short walk.
No matter where you stay on-site, Universal has all transportation covered within their theme parks and resorts areas. All guests can walk to Volcano Bay if staying at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. There is complimentary shuttle bus transportation to each of the on-site hotels. And after a long day at the parks, the water taxi is a lovely way to end the day.
Trip Tip: Select on-site hotels offer fully supervised Kids Camps (ages 4-14) so you can enjoy a night out while your kiddos are occupied with games and activities.
ALSO, if you would like to try another pool other than the pool at your selected hotel, simply hop on a shuttle bus and try out the pool at Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort or head to the beaches at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort or perhaps you would like a stroll on a tube around the lazy river at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Whilst staying on site you have access to SEVEN amazing pools!
3. EASE OF ACCESS TO AMAZING AMENITIES
All the resorts within Universal Orlando are easy to navigate and quite accessible and easy to walk for your family's enjoyment. Our first trip to Universal Orlando was many years ago and we had two little people in strollers. But, the resorts walkways are super easy to navigate with strollers!! When we visit now, all my kids can easily walk.
Bowling Alley, Kids Camp, Kids Can Cook Programs, Arcades, Movie Theater, Mini-Golf, Dive-In Movies AND MORE! Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort has a ten-lane bowling alley called Galaxy Bowl. Sometimes kiddos just need a bit of a break from walking about, so head to the bowling alley. Kids Camps are complete with arts and crafts, a gaming station, activities, and entertainment for your little people. Check out the schedules at specific Universal Resorts for the Kids Can Cook Programs. Great for all your little people who are aspiring chefs or bakers.
All five of the Universal resorts have Arcades for your little people, tweens and teenagers. My daughters love nothing more than to end the day at the pool watching Universal movies on a large screen at the swimming pool. There is also mini golf for the family at Hollywood Drive-In Golf OR see the latest movie at AMC Universal Cineplex. Don't forget Blue Man Group!!
4. CHARGING PRIVILEGES & COMPLIMENTARY DELIVERY
My children are allowed to make one purchase of memorabilia on each trip. I love that we can simply use our hotel room key to make these purchases. We can have our purchases delivered directly to your hotel room, FREE of charge. This is great because the kiddos don't have to keep track of their bags -- or should I say, I don't have to stuff all their purchases in my handbag and lug it around all day long. Kiddos can not be held accountable to holding purchases all day long. The bags will be set down and lost forever! Save yourself hassle and tears and simply have all your purchases delivered to your hotel room!
TIP: You can set each family members room key up with charging capabilities. If you have an older teen who is off with his friends enjoying time away from parents, this is a great benefit of staying on-site. Teenagers won't have to carry a wallet or handbag or keep track of cash.
5. CULINARY EXPERIENCES
With over 130 restaurants to select from, you will never have to leave the proprieties for a bit of food or drink. One of the things at the top of my family's list of things to do whilst visiting Universal Orlando is the amazing food options that we can experience. We always like to try NEW restaurants that we have not yet experienced on each trip to Universal Orlando. However, we have a few favorites that I am sure we will visit each time.
Universal Studios, Volcano Bay and Island's of Adventure all have wonderful quick service restaurants and even a few sit down restaurants. There are 33 restaurants within the theme park areas. We always love to visit the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley each visit. The Leaky Cauldron serves authentic British pub fare like bangers and mash, cottage pie, or a Guinness stew. When we finish eating there we always head over to Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for some crazy flavored ice cream.
We also love The Three Broomsticks at Islands of Adventure's in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is a great stop for a quick lunch for fish & chips or shepherd's pie. Then we always stop at The Hog's Head Pub, which is attached to Broomsticks, for Butterbeer! Butterbeer is a nonalcoholic beverage available in four varieties. Cold Butterbeer, which is a vanilla cream soda-style liquid with the foam topping. Frozen Butterbeer, which is a slushie made from the same cream soda base, topped with foam. Hot Butterbeer, is simply Butterbeer served hot. Butterbeer Ice Cream, which is ButterBeer flavored ice cream.
Don't forget to try the Pumpkin Juice, Pumpkin Fizz, Gillywater, Tongue Tying Lemon Squash or Peachtree Fizzing Tea. Both are nonalcoholic beverages.
All the Universal Resorts have some amazing restaurants as well as character dining. There are 40 restaurants to visit within the 5 Universal Resorts. We try to sample most of the restaurants in each resort we stay. The Palm Restaurant in the Hard Rock Hotel is delicious. The Bice Ristorante or Mama Della’s Ristorante, both at the Portofino are great Italian restaurants. All the restaurants at Universal’s Royal Pacific, where Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop is located, are all amazing!
But if you really want to venture into new culinary experiences, head to CityWalk. CityWalk has over 25 restaurants to try. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is always fun and tasty. The Hard Rock Café is a must visit for some families who visit from outside the USA. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar is my son's FAVORITE spot to visit and he would eat here for every meal if we would let him! The new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is my daughters FAVORITE spot to visit.
City Walk: Fact Sheets to Download and print.
VIVO Italian Kitchen, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant & Market, Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, Emeril's Orlando, Pat O'Brien's and the NBC Sports Grill & Brew are always great as well.
Keep in mind you can always make restaurant reservation before you even leave for your vacation! During peak season, some of these favorite restaurants have a long wait time.
Trip Tip: There is the option to purchase the Universal Dining Plan, which is good at over 100 locations in the theme parks and Universal CityWalk.
Universal Fact Sheets you can download:
Here are a some more details for each hotel as stated from Universal:
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – Enjoy the beauty, charm and romance of a luxurious escape inspired by the famed seaside village of Portofino, Italy. Lush, perfectly appointed rooms and tasty outdoor cafes and a serene harbor. Three amazing pools and incredible restaurants let you savor a deliciously delightful culinary tour of Italy throughout your stay. Picturesque Harbor Piazza re-creates the famed Portofino and comes to life each night with music from Musica della Notte; a mix of upscale, full-service restaurants and grab-and-go options; on-site Starbucks; food stations, live music and wine pairings in the Piazza during Harbor Nights.
Hard Rock Hotel Orlando – Impeccable accommodations, laid-back luxurious style and show-stopping service. The sweeping California mission-style design welcomes you in to escape into a sensational world of palm-lined swimming pools featuring underwater music, acclaimed restaurants, incredible rock memorabilia and amped-up recreation featuring live music—including some famous names. It is closest to Universal Studios.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort – A sparkling lagoon-style pool surrounded by a white sand beach and swaying palms invites you to escape. Delectably innovative food and drinks delight every palate. Tranquil orchid court; Emeril’s Tchoup Chop; weekly Wantilan Luau; wide selection of craft beer; Jake’s Beer Dinner offers a five-course meal paired with specialty brews; it’s closest to Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort – Blue waterfalls cascade over lush grounds and in the distance, amid the ruins, passageways and pools you’ll find numerous Caribbean-themed dining options. Nightly rum tastings at Strong Water Tavern; Caribbean Carnaval dinner show every Wednesday night.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Relax with a splash, surrounded by amazing iconic architecture inspired by classic Florida beach resorts of the 1950s and 60s. Every day comes with fun for all ages with two massive pools, a winding lazy river, a bowling alley and more. Fabulous food court and on-site Starbucks; original Jack LaLanne memorabilia at the fitness center; bowling alley; closest to Universal’s Volcano Bay.
Universal’s Aventura Hotel - OPENING August 2018, this is the modern and stylish place to stay. This new landmark offers views of all three Universal Orlando™ theme parks and embodies a design that is vibrant, free-flowing and calming. Spacious open areas invite conversation and engagement while the 600 rooms reflect a clean, modern style.
Images compliments of myself and Melinda Jae Photography.