|Founded||June 7, 1990|
|Headquarters||Orlando, Florida, U.S.|
|Products||3 Theme parks, 8 Resorts|
Number of employees
|Parent||Universal Destinations & Experiences|
Universal Orlando Resort, often shortened to Universal Orlando, is a 541-acre (219 ha) theme park and entertainment resort complex located in Orlando, Florida. Following the opening of Universal Studios Florida in 1990, NBCUniversal moved forward with plans to expand from a single park into a large resort hoping to compete with Walt Disney World. In 1999, a second theme park called Islands of Adventure opened in addition to CityWalk, a shopping promenade and nightlife district that incorporates a variety of themed hotels, restaurants, and retail outlets. A 30-acre (12 ha) themed water park, Volcano Bay, was added in 2017, and a fourth upcoming theme park, Universal Epic Universe, is scheduled to open in Summer 2025.
The amusement destination was originally dubbed Universal Studios Escape, but the name was short-lived and changed to Universal Orlando Resort in July 2000. Notable additions over the years include Woody Woodpecker's KidZone at Universal Studios, Hard Rock Hotel and The Rising Star karaoke bar within CityWalk, as well as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed area, which spans two theme parks and significantly boosted attendance at the entire resort. It also features well-known annual events, such as Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, along with a variety of live entertainment and shows.
Universal Orlando ranks as one of the most visited resorts in the world with an annual attendance of 21 million as of 2017. Guests staying at certain hotels receive special perks such as early admission into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal's Volcano Bay, or in some cases, benefits such as a free Universal Express Pass, which gives access to shorter lines at major attractions. The resort also features an organized transportation system, including water taxis, pathways, and moving walkways that connect many of the area's hotels and theme parks. According to the 2021 theme park attendance report, Universal Orlando witnessed notable attendance as it exceeded three of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in estimated 2021 attendance.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2023)
After Universal Studios Florida opened on June 7, 1990, Universal Entertainment formed a joint venture with The Blackstone Group and began planning a future expansion that would transform the single park into a multi-day destination resort. In late 1995, construction began on a new park, Islands of Adventure. During this time, several new attractions were being built and opened at Universal Studios Florida, including Woody Woodpecker's KidZone, Men in Black: Alien Attack, and Animal Actors On Location! (formerly Animal Planet Live).
Universal's Islands of Adventure opened to the general public on May 28, 1999, featuring six themed islands, including the Port of Entry, Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. The park opened to mediocre attendance, and as a result, several attractions were closed soon after, including Island Skipper Tours.
Along with the new theme park, the resort also opened a Florida version of Universal CityWalk from Universal Studios Hollywood. While it is the same concept, CityWalk Orlando was given different venues and design. Universal also opened the resort's first onsite hotel in September 1999. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (originally Portofino Bay Hotel, a Loews Hotel) was operated and partially owned by Loews Hotels but was also partially owned by Universal and The Blackstone Group. The two theme parks, CityWalk, and the hotel were branded as Universal Studios Escape, however the name was quickly changed to Universal Orlando Resort.
In December 2000, Hard Rock Hotel opened as Universal Orlando's second onsite hotel. Despite its name, the hotel is owned by Loews Hotels, like Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and is not affiliated with Hard Rock International. In 2001, Loews Royal Pacific Resort opened. In the midst of all these openings, two parking garages were constructed and the popular water park Wet 'n Wild Orlando was acquired.
In 2003, rumors began swirling that a Harry Potter themed attraction would be coming to Universal or one of the Disney parks. On May 31, 2007, Universal, in partnership with Warner Bros., officially announced that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be built as the seventh of the Islands of Adventure park. The attraction opened on June 18, 2010.
Shortly after the success of the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, rumors began to swirl once again, this time of a second Potter-themed area in Universal Studios Florida. It was announced shortly thereafter that Universal would begin construction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, replacing Jaws: The Ride. On July 8, 2014, Diagon Alley officially opened to the public.
Universal Studios Florida
The original theme park in the resort, Universal Studios Florida, opened on June 7, 1990, as a theme park that let visitors "Ride the Movies." The park is composed of themed areas and attractions based on the film industry. Visitors get themed dining and shopping, a variety of special events throughout the year, and may even catch an actual film crew at work on the backlot.
The themes of Universal Studios Florida are targeted at making guests feel like they are on a movie set with rides, shows, and attractions inspired by popular film, television, and music productions. The park consists of nine themed areas – Hollywood, Production Central, New York, San Francisco, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, World Expo, Springfield, Minion Land on Illumination Avenue, and Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone.
Universal Islands of Adventure
The second park to open at the resort was Islands of Adventure, opened on May 28, 1999. It is composed of eight distinct "islands" that are themed to various forms of adventures from literature. Visitors start off in the Port of Entry and make their way through the various islands – Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, the Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the popular Harry Potter franchise, as well as Skull Island, based on the King Kong 2005 film, are the only islands that were added after the park opened. Hogsmeade opened to the public on June 18, 2010, and Skull Island opened to the public on July 13, 2016.
Universal Volcano Bay Water Theme Park
Volcano Bay is a 27-acre themed water park that opened in 2017. It replaced Wet 'n Wild, owned by Universal, as the resort's water park. Wet 'n Wild was founded in 1977 by SeaWorld founder George Millay as one of the first major water parks. In 1998, Wet 'n Wild was acquired by Universal Destinations & Experiences, adding it to Universal Orlando. There were eighteen water slides and attractions at the water park. Popular attractions included the Storm, Bomb Bay, Disco H2O, Mach 5, and the Surge.
Wet 'n Wild was located at the intersection of International Drive and Universal Boulevard, about half a mile south of the Universal Orlando parking garage. Wet 'n Wild officially closed on December 31, 2016, due to the opening of Volcano Bay. It was announced on March 21, 2017, that the land once occupied by Wet 'n Wild would be transformed into Universal's seventh hotel. It was later learned that Universal would split the property into two hotels that were part of one resort.
Universal Epic Universe
On August 1, 2019, NBCUniversal announced that it was building a third theme park called Universal Epic Universe. It will be located a few miles south of the existing resort, within a larger 750-acre site. There are rumored to be five lands including a central hub and four other areas themed to How to Train Your Dragon, Wizarding Paris from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Universal Classic Monsters, and Super Nintendo World (in which its presence was confirmed in January 2020). It was stated that the project would create 14,000 jobs. Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, called Epic Universe "the largest investment we've ever made in a park". The complex will also include separate resort hotels, dining and retail facilities.
In April 2020, NBCUniversal announced the park's opening would be delayed until 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2020, NBCUniversal announced that they would be pausing development on the new theme park "until the future becomes more certain". In March 2021, work on Epic Universe resumed.
Epic Universe is slated to open in the summer of 2025.
Universal CityWalk Orlando is an entertainment and retail district which opened on May 28, 1999, over the former parking lot and entrance of Universal Studios as part of the expansion that created the Universal Orlando Resort. Guests arrive at the resort park in one of two multi-story parking structures, then travel via covered moving sidewalks over Universal Boulevard into CityWalk. From there, guests can proceed into one of the theme parks.
The Universal Store is its flagship store, offering merchandise from the three parks. CityWalk features shopping, nightclubs, dining venues, and a Cinemark Theater and offers varying live music and entertainment options each night. Notably CityWalks's Rising Star (a karaoke club with a live band), Red Coconut Club, and Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom (both a night club and restaurant). Some notable restaurants include the Cowfish, NBC Sports Grill & Brew, Hard Rock Cafe, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Antojito's Authentic Mexican Food, and Bigfire American Fare. Casual dining locations include: Moe's Southwest Grill, BK Whopper Bar, Panda Express, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, and Voodoo Doughnut.
The resort features eight official on-site hotels, totaling up to 9,000 rooms. All eight hotels are located in close proximity to the Universal Orlando theme parks. The hotels offer guests free water taxi or shuttle bus service to the Universal Orlando theme parks. The hotels are sorted into four categories: premier hotels, a preferred hotel, prime value hotels, and value hotels.
|Name||Opening date||Theme||Number of rooms|
|Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando||September 1999||Italian seaside village||750|
|Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando||January 19, 2001||California mission design||650|
|Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando||June 1, 2002||The enchanted isles of the South Seas||1,000|
|Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando||July 7, 2016||Leisurely estate in the heart of the tropics||1,000|
|Prime Value Hotels|
|Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort||March 31, 2014||Classic Florida beach resorts of the 1950s and 60s||2,200|
|Universal's Aventura Hotel||August 16, 2018||Modern aesthetic||600|
|Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Surfside Inn and Suites||June 27, 2019||Surfing lifestyle||750|
|Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Dockside Inn and Suites||December 15, 2020||Coastal retreat||2,050|
Universal's Halloween Horror Nights
On select nights in September through early November, Universal Studios Florida is transformed for the annual Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights. Halloween Horror Nights, or HHN as it is more commonly known, is one of the largest Halloween events in the U.S. From 1991 to 2001, the event was held at Universal Studios Florida. Halloween Horror Nights was moved to Islands of Adventure in 2002, and the 2004 event featured sections of both parks, but the event was moved back to Universal Studios Florida in 2006. The event celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2010, its 25th anniversary in 2015, and the 30th anniversary in 2021. The event sometimes features an "icon" that presides over the terror each evening, along with seven to ten haunted houses and numerous unavoidable scare zones. It is a separately ticketed event.
Rock the Universe
Rock the Universe is an annual Christian rock music festival that is located within Universal Studios Florida. It began in 1998 and has been running ever since. The event typically occurs in early September and lasts for two days. In 2019, Rock the Universe took place in early February for the first time ever. Many Christian rock artists play throughout the event both nights. The resort offers special tickets, packages and church partnerships for that weekend. Select attractions are also open throughout the evenings.
Grad Bash and Gradventure
Grad Bash and Gradventure are two separate events held in April and May at the parks. Grad Bash is an event for graduating high school senior classes who can gather for an exclusive, all-night party at Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure. This event features live performances by some of the most popular artists, dance parties with DJs, and pre-parties at the Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central section of Universal Studios Florida. Gradventure is very similar but is designed for graduating middle school students. Both events are sponsored by Coca-Cola.
Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's
Macy's Holiday Parade brings some authentic balloons that are based on attractions in the parks in a 2 month long event in November and December that highlights the Christmas celebrations within Universal Studios Florida.
Generally, in February through to April, a parade and concert series inspired by New Orleans' Fat Tuesday party is held within Universal Studios Florida. The event features merchandise especially for the celebration and is held usually on Friday and Saturday nights. Every event night guests will hear some of Louisiana's bands performing blues and zydeco. It is included in park admission.
Universal Express Pass
Many attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure allow guests to utilize an Express Pass, with availability depending at each attraction. This pass admits guests to a separate line for the attraction, which is given priority status when boarding.
Express Pass is not a virtual queuing service. Instead, passholders may enter the Universal Express line whenever they wish. This pass is not included with park admission but can be bought for an additional fee. Fees change depending on date. Guests can choose to purchase one of two options: Express Pass, which gives guests access to the express line once per day on each participating attraction, or Express Unlimited Pass, which allows guests to skip the regular lines an unlimited number of times per day at participating attractions.
Universal Meal Deal
The Universal Meal Deal was a ticketed meal plan for park visitors. It allowed visitors of either theme park to eat all day long from lunch through dinner at select restaurants. These included Mel's Drive-In and Louie's Italian Restaurant at Universal Studios Florida and Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, Comic Strip Cafe, and the Burger Digs at Islands of Adventure.
The selection food was limited and drinks were not included. Beverages could be purchased through a Universal Souvenir Cup. For additional costs, visitors could add park-to-park Meal Deal Access allowing them to eat meals in both parks.
Universal Meal Deal was replaced on November 3, 2013, with Universal Quick Service Dining Plan.
Universal Orlando features a large group of characters varying from Woody Woodpecker to Spider-Man. Visitors have three ways of dining with characters. At Loews Royal Pacific Resort, guests can eat breakfast with Universal Characters on select days. Throughout the day, characters have meet and greets within the parks and make appearances during lunchtime at several theme park restaurants. During dinner, on select nights, guests can dine with Universal characters at Trattoria del Porto, The Kitchen and Islands Dining Room. The Marvel Super Heroes also appear in the Meet the Marvel Super Heroes attraction where the characters ride on motorcycles down the street of Marvel Super Hero Island.
Transport in Universal Orlando Resort
Throughout Universal Orlando and its vicinity, there is an organized transportation system, shuttling guests between onsite hotels, Universal Partner Hotels, theme parks, and other area attractions. Mears Transportation runs this system.
Orlando's LYNX bus system connects the resort to other places in the city.
The transit system at Universal Orlando Resort consists of water taxis, buses, escalators, elevators, moving walkways, and pathways, taking guests between parking structures, hotels, CityWalk, and theme parks.
Onsite hotel guests can get to the theme parks and CityWalk by either boarding a water taxi directly to CityWalk or using walkways. The dock at CityWalk is located at the center of CityWalk and can be accessed by theme park visitors via the bridges connecting CityWalk to the theme parks. Along the pathways, bicycles are available to guests for an additional cost.
Dedicated buses are available at the onsite hotels. Along with the buses, Cabana Bay Beach Resort features two large parking structures, for day and night guests who need to park, connected by bridge to CityWalk and the theme parks.
Universal's Super Star Shuttle
Several hotels and a major airport are located within 20 minutes of Universal Orlando. Universal's Super Star Shuttle service is broken into two main routes. One provides transportation to all thirty Universal Partner hotels while the newest route began service to Orlando International Airport in 2016. Universal's Super Star Shuttle provides free transportation between Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and Aquatica. Airport service is available for a fee to onsite hotel guests booking through Universal Parks and Resorts Vacations. The airport shuttle is run by Mears Transportation. The Seaworld/Aquatica shuttle is run by ESCOT.
The original entrance to Universal Studios Florida
The entrance to Universal Studios Florida in 2007
Hard Rock Cafe at Universal CityWalk
Universal Studios Entrance
- "Theme Index". Themed Entertainment Association. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
- "Universal Makes Big Gains in 2021 Theme Park Attendance Report". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
- "Leading amusement and theme parks worldwide from 2019 to 2021, by attendance". Statista. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
- "Universal Orlando beat 3 of 4 Disney World parks in attendance in 2021". Theme Park Tribune. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
- Tapp, Tom (November 2, 2022). "Universal Orlando To Shut Down Five Attractions To Make Room For New Family Entertainment Based On "Beloved Animated Characters"". Deadline. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
- Hill, Jim (May 8, 2013). "Exclusive: A Detailed Look at Diagon Alley, the Highly Anticipated Expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- Goldman, Eric (July 8, 2014). "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley Officially Opens". IGN. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- "Comcast to buy remaining half of Universal Orlando for $1 billion". OrlandoSentinel.com. June 6, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
- Bilbao, Richard (December 2, 2015). "450-acre land grab: The remedy for Universal Orlando's biggest weakness". Orlando Business Journal. Archived from the original on May 8, 2023. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
- Powers, Scott (February 8, 2006). "Theme-park pioneer started SeaWorld and Wet 'n Wild". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
- "Seventh Universal Orlando hotel slated to replace former Wet 'n' Wild water park | Inside the Magic". Inside the Magic. March 21, 2017. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- "Universal reveals details for 2,800-room hotel complex on former Wet 'n Wild land". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- Gabrielle Russon and Dewayne Bevil (August 1, 2019). "Universal's Epic Universe theme park is coming to Orlando, ramping up war with Disney". orlandosentinel.com. Tribune Newspapers. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
- "Super Nintendo World Confirmed for New Universal Theme Park". January 24, 2020.
- "Super Nintendo World will be part of new Universal theme park". WESH. January 31, 2020.
- Russon, Gabrielle; Hudak, Stephen (April 30, 2020). "Universal Orlando's new Epic Universe theme park will be delayed because of coronavirus pandemic". Orlando Sentinel.
- "Universal's new Epic Universe park delayed due to virus outbreak". WESH. April 30, 2020.
- Dobrzyn, Erin (April 30, 2020). "Universal pauses construction on new Epic Universe theme park amid coronavirus pandemic". WKMG.
- Russon, Gabrielle (March 3, 2021). "Universal Orlando: Epic Universe starts construction again, promising 'thousands' of jobs". Orlando Sentinel.
- "Comcast Says Epic Universe to Open in 2025, Theme Park Business in Orlando Better than Before Pandemic". Orlando ParkStop. January 27, 2022. Retrieved February 22, 2023.
- Bevil, Dewayne (June 27, 2019). "Universal Orlando: Surfside Inn hotel, Bigfire restaurant now open for business". orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
- Universal Orlando Resort. "Gradbash at Universal Orlando Florida". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- "Gradventure". Universal Orlando Resort. Archived from the original on June 10, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- "Holidays". Universal Orlando Resort. Archived from the original on August 28, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- "Mardi Gras". Universal Orlando Resort. Archived from the original on July 28, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- Pedicini, Sandra. "New Universal Orlando airport shuttle service is starting". OrlandoSentinel.com. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- "Orlando Shuttle Bus Service | ESCOT Bus Lines". ESCOT Bus Lines. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- "Airport Transportation Options To/From Universal Orlando". September 20, 2021.