We had the pleasure of spending a few days at Universal Orlando Resort – at the parks and at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This is a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own!
I mean, you know we love it. The rides, the Butterbeer, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the characters, the excitement, the everything! We have now gone SEVEN times to Universal Orlando Resort. And that racks up a lot of experience points, BUT, until last week – we had NEVER stayed at one of the on-site hotels. OMG. Not to overuse that overused phrase, but it’s the only thing I can say. We had such fun, and the on-site hotel experience added incredible benefits to our stay. I’m so excited to talk about it! Specifically, we stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and there are six other resorts to explore! This was a vacation of a lifetime.
Our Family Guide to a Stay at Universal Orlando Resort:
When to go:
Of course, there are no rules or guarantees about when to visit the resort. Personally, we have found that going during September or between January and mid-February are amazing times! We go in late January or early February, mainly because the weather is amazing during this time – at least from a New Englander perspective – and this is not a crowded time of year. In fact, it’s between two crowded times of year – the holiday season and then February vacation. After that, you have spring break leading right up to summer vacation. September is another quiet time to go – if you can – and then you’re right into the long holiday season again.
Where to stay:
Now I KNOW for sure that staying at one of the seven on-site hotels – Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites, Universal’s Aventura Hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Hard Rock Hotel – is a really great idea! There are incredible perks when you stay onsite, such as free shuttle transportation to all the parks, as well as specific entrance times, and Express or Unlimited Express Passes, depending on where you stay. You’ll also get to try their amazing restaurants and amenities. And, get a view of downtown Orlando, and the parks!
We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The first night, we ate at the Galaxy Bowl Restaurant and visited the arcade and bowling alley. (I got an incredible salad and we all shared mozzarella sticks). For other meals, we ate at Bayliner Diner, and also poolside! We fell in love with the All That Razz kiddie cocktail, which consisted of raspberry puree, cranberry juice, and Sprite. We also had chicken fingers, french fries, and flatbread with hummus at the poolside. There’s so much to say about the clean room, the hotel’s fun theme, and the giant gift shop too!
What to do for transportation:
We have done it all, it seems. During my first visit to the parks, my aunt dropped us off at CityWalk, and picked us up there later that night after the fireworks! From CityWalk, both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure are a 5-10 minute walk. Some of the hotels have a water taxi that can transports guests right to a dock in CityWalk. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort provides its own shuttle bus to CityWalk. You can also take free shuttle buses between the Universal Orlando Resort hotels. It was all part of the fun!
How many days to stay?
As for how many days to stay at your on-site hotel, I’ll leave that up to you! I’d say at least a few days to relax, aside from days at the park. I mean for us, we were missing snow and ice for the wonders of poolside dining and theme parks. Personally, I would leave more than one day for Universal Studios Florida, Universal Island’s of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. I think it would be perfect to get multi-day tickets, or 1-day multi-park tickets. That way you get at least one day at each park, but can also move around from one to the other. So, let’s talk tickets!
What are the ticket options?
Are you into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as much as we are? Well, Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios Florida, while Hogsmeade is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure – including the new Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. The two parks are connected by the Hogwarts Express, and you can also walk from one park to another, assuming you have the stamina AND the right ticket to do so. Universal Express tickets allow you go on a special, shorter line for participating attractions, and Universal Express Unlimited tickets allow you to do the same – but for as many times as you want with participating attractions. There’s also Volcano Bay Express passes. Depending on the weather, amount of time you have, patience of your loved ones, and more, you may opt for a special kind of ticket. We always get park-to-park tickets so we can go from one to the other. And you can also opt for single day or multi-day tickets.
Where to go first?
Since we were staying on-site, we could go into the parks an hour early. Not everything was open yet, but we were well in the park when it opened to the public, and there were some activities we could do! We always head straight to Diagon Alley and experience Ollivander’s Wand Shop. They do a performance and only let 25 people in at once. There, they select someone from the crowd to get their wand! Scarlet was selected our first year visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it was super memorable! Then we head right to Jurassic Park because in the morning, there’s virtually no wait for the two rides there. And those are some FUN rides! Then, we enjoy The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, lunch at Three Broomsticks, and make our way to the other lands – before ending our day at Universal Studios Florida. My favorite ride is E.T. Adventure! And we absolutely love all things The Simpsons!
What’s great for kids at Universal Orlando Resort:
My kids are elementary school aged so can do most rides, although some of the bigger coasters still intimidate them, and might always. They LOVE the Minion Mayhem ride, with its great effects. There’s also a water park attraction at Universal Studios Florida – Curious George Goes to Town. It’s a water spray park with an indoors (dry) part where you can play with tons and tons of balls. It’s awesome for a hot day! And of course, Seuss Landing has rides that are great for families, although it took a few years until both kids were tall enough for The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. We do love it, though! And there are fun treats to eat.
Let’s talk Volcano Bay.
This is the perfect place to go on a hot day, and we could see it right from our hotel! The water at the park is heated, and we love the TapuTapu – the waterproof wearable device that holds your place in line. Des is not too into waterslides but he loves the Kopiko Wai Winding River. I personally love the Waturi Beach wave pool. So much fun! Another cool thing is that we could see Volcano Bay from our own hotel – and our hotel boasts TWO pools. We also enjoyed our own lazy river and two hot tubs too. If you’re itching to get into the water, this is ALL your place!
And lastly, Universal Orlando Resort is comprised of three parks – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. There’s also an entertainment complex – Universal CityWalk – that is bigger every year! And, there are now SEVEN on-site hotels at Universal Orlando Resort: Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites, Universal’s Aventura Hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Hard Rock Hotel. All beautiful!