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Universal Orlando

Coordinates: 28°28′25″N 81°28′00″W / 28.47361°N 81.46667°W / 28.47361; -81.46667
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Universal Orlando Resort
FoundedJune 7, 1990; 34 years ago (1990-06-07)
HeadquartersOrlando, Florida, U.S.
Key people
Karen Irwin (President)[1]
Products3 Theme parks, 8 Resorts
Number of employees
28,000 (2022)
ParentUniversal 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 Universal Islands of Adventure opened in addition to Universal CityWalk, a shopping promenade and nightlife district that incorporates a variety of themed hotels, restaurants, and retail outlets. A third park, 30-acre (12 ha) water park Universal Volcano Bay, was added in 2017, and a fourth theme park, Universal Epic Universe, is scheduled to open in 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.[2] 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. Universal Orlando exceeded three of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in estimated 2021 attendance.[3][4][5]


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, Universal Islands of Adventure. During this time, several new attractions were being built and opened at Universal Studios Florida, including Woody Woodpecker's KidZone,[6] 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.[citation needed]

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.[7] On July 8, 2014, Diagon Alley officially opened to the public.[8]

The Blackstone Group sold its stake in Universal Orlando in early 2011.[9] As of 2015, Universal Orlando Resort occupies 541 acres (219 ha).[10]

Theme parks[edit]

The Pharos Lighthouse marks the entrance to Islands of Adventure.

Universal Studios Florida[edit]

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 currently consists of eight themed areas – Hollywood, Production Central, New York, San Francisco, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, World Expo, Springfield, and Minion Land on Illumination Avenue.

Panoramic view of Universal Studios Florida's lagoon, December 2005

Universal Islands of Adventure[edit]

The second park to open at the resort was Universal 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 2005 King Kong 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[edit]

Volcano Bay is the third theme park, a 27-acre water theme 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.[11] 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.[12] It was later learned that Universal would split the property into two hotels that were part of one resort.[13]

Universal Epic Universe[edit]

On August 1, 2019, NBCUniversal announced that it was building a fourth theme park called Universal Epic Universe. It will be located a few miles south of the existing resort, within a larger 750-acre site.[14] There will 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. It was stated that the project would create 14,000 jobs.[14] Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, called Epic Universe "the largest investment we've ever made in a park".[14] The complex will also include separate resort hotels, dining and retail facilities.[14]

In April 2020, NBCUniversal announced the park's opening would be delayed until 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15][16][17] 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.[18]

Epic Universe is slated to open in the summer of 2025.[19]

Entertainment district[edit]

Entrance sign to CityWalk from the parking garage

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 Theatres 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
Premier Hotels
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
Universal Helios Grand Hotel 2025 Elegant Mediterranean-inspired feel 500
Preferred Hotel
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 Stella Nova Resort January 21, 2025 750
Universal Terra Luna Resort February 25, 2025 750
Value Hotels
Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Surfside Inn and Suites June 27, 2019[20] Surfing lifestyle 750
Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Dockside Inn and Suites December 15, 2020 Coastal retreat 2,050


Universal's Halloween Horror Nights[edit]

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[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Grad Bash and Gradventure[edit]

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.[21] Gradventure is very similar but is designed for graduating middle school students.[22] Both events are sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's[edit]

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.[23]

Mardi Gras[edit]

Generally, in February through to April, a parade and concert series inspired by New Orleans' Mardi Gras 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.[24]

Other services[edit]

Universal Express Pass[edit]

Revenge of the Mummy (previous entrance pictured) features a line for 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[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Universal Meal Deal was replaced on November 3, 2013, with Universal Quick Service Dining Plan.

Character dining[edit]

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
Universal Orlando#Transportation Universal Orlando#Transportation Portofino Bay Hotel
Hogwarts Express (Universal Orlando Resort) Universal Studios (including Diagon Alley)
Employment Center
Lynx (Orlando) 21, 40
Universal Orlando#Transportation Universal Orlando#Transportation Hard Rock Hotel
Universal Studios (main entrance)
North parking garage
Universal Orlando#Transportation Universal Orlando#Transportation Universal CityWalk
Lynx (Orlando) 37, 38
South parking garage
Hogwarts Express (Universal Orlando Resort) Islands of Adventure (including Hogsmeade)
Islands of Adventure (main entrance)
Universal Orlando#Transportation Universal Orlando#Transportation Royal Pacific Resort
Universal Orlando#Transportation Universal Orlando#Transportation Sapphire Falls Resort
Universal Orlando#Transportation Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Universal Orlando#Transportation Aventura Hotel
Universal Orlando#Transportation Volcano Bay
Universal Orlando#Transportation Endless Summer Resort
to Airport enlarge…, SeaWorld enlarge…, and Walt Disney World enlarge…
Epic Universe (planned)

Universal Orlando#Transportation Universal Orlando Resort bus service
Universal Orlando#Transportation Water taxi service
Hogwarts Express (Universal Orlando Resort) Hogwarts Express (tickets to both parks required)
Lynx (Orlando) Lynx bus to Central Station (21, 38, 40) or The Florida Mall (37)

The transit system at Universal Orlando Resort consists of water taxis, buses, escalators, elevators, moving walkways, and pathways; connecting the parking structures, hotels, CityWalk, and theme parks. Additionally, strollers, wheelchairs, and electronic convenience vehicles can be rented for a daily fee.[25]

There is an organized bus transportation system, shuttling guests between onsite hotels, Universal Partner Hotels, theme parks, airport, and other area attractions. Mears Transportation runs this system.[26]

Orlando's LYNX bus system also connects the resort to other places in the city.

Onsite hotel guests can get to the theme parks and CityWalk by either boarding a water taxi or bus directly to CityWalk, or using walkways. The dock at CityWalk is located at the center of CityWalk and can be accessed via the bridges.

Universal's Super Star Shuttle[edit]

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.[27] Universal's Super Star Shuttle provides free transportation between Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and Aquatica.[28] 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.[29] The Seaworld/Aquatica shuttle is run by ESCOT.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tapp, Tom (December 1, 2021). "Universal Parks Leadership Shakeup: Karen Irwin to Lead Orlando Resort". Retrieved April 11, 2024.
  2. ^ "Theme Index". Themed Entertainment Association. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  3. ^ "Universal Makes Big Gains in 2021 Theme Park Attendance Report". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  4. ^ "Leading amusement and theme parks worldwide from 2019 to 2021, by attendance". Statista. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  5. ^ "Universal Orlando beat 3 of 4 Disney World parks in attendance in 2021". Theme Park Tribune. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Goldman, Eric (July 8, 2014). "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley Officially Opens". IGN. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  9. ^ "Comcast to buy remaining half of Universal Orlando for $1 billion". OrlandoSentinel.com. June 6, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Powers, Scott (February 8, 2006). "Theme-park pioneer started SeaWorld and Wet 'n Wild". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ "Universal reveals details for 2,800-room hotel complex on former Wet 'n Wild land". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c d 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.
  15. ^ Russon, Gabrielle; Hudak, Stephen (April 30, 2020). "Universal Orlando's new Epic Universe theme park will be delayed because of coronavirus pandemic". Orlando Sentinel.
  16. ^ "Universal's new Epic Universe park delayed due to virus outbreak". WESH. April 30, 2020.
  17. ^ Dobrzyn, Erin (April 30, 2020). "Universal pauses construction on new Epic Universe theme park amid coronavirus pandemic". WKMG.
  18. ^ Russon, Gabrielle (March 3, 2021). "Universal Orlando: Epic Universe starts construction again, promising 'thousands' of jobs". Orlando Sentinel.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (June 27, 2019). "Universal Orlando: Surfside Inn hotel, Bigfire restaurant now open for business". orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  21. ^ Universal Orlando Resort. "Gradbash at Universal Orlando Florida". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved September 25, 2012. {{cite web}}: Check |archive-url= value (help)
  22. ^ "Gradventure". Universal Orlando Resort. Archived from the original on June 10, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  23. ^ "Holidays". Universal Orlando Resort. Archived from the original on August 28, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  24. ^ "Mardi Gras". Universal Orlando Resort. Archived from the original on July 28, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  25. ^ "Wheel Chair and Stroller Rental Information". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  26. ^ "Orlando Charter Bus & Motor Coach Rentals". Mears Transportation. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  27. ^ Pedicini, Sandra. "New Universal Orlando airport shuttle service is starting". OrlandoSentinel.com. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  28. ^ "Orlando Shuttle Bus Service | ESCOT Bus Lines". ESCOT Bus Lines. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  29. ^ "Airport Transportation Options To/From Universal Orlando". September 20, 2021.

External links[edit]

28°28′25″N 81°28′00″W / 28.47361°N 81.46667°W / 28.47361; -81.46667