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Planning first time ever to Universal. HELP!

Discussion in 'Universal Orlando' started by DarthFiscus75, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. DarthFiscus75

    DarthFiscus75 Well-Known Member

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    We are starting to plan our first trip to Universal the end of April / first of May. I have several questions that I would enjoy having feedback from veteran park goers. The do's and don'ts to make the trip positive.
    1. Will the parks be crowded this time of year? Is there a site that gives estimates of how busy the park will be that day?
    2. What on site hotel is good? I see that you can get into the park an hour early and some of them have a priority front of the line pass.
    3. How many days will it take to get to experience of of the major attractions? Potter Land, Kong and so on........
    4. And what are the must do attractions? Are there nighttime shows, fireworks and parade? (No biggie there)
     
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  2. dm11

    dm11 Active Member

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    1) I really like Touring Plans site for both WDW and UNI (https://touringplans.com/). They are currently predicting low crowds at UNI during that time.
    2) We stayed at Royal Pacific and it was good. You do get early access (1h) for Harry Potter rides which do not participate in Express Pass (front of the line thingy). These are really Forbidden Journey at IoA and Grinogtts at UFS. EP is very expensive (almost the same as price of the tickets themselves) but you get it as part of room booking at any of their luxurious hotels (Royal Pacific, Hard Rock and Portofino). The other 2 hotels (Sapphire Falls and the one they are building now) give you only the early access but not the EP (Express Pass).
    3) That really depends on what you like and what age groups are involved. I have 2 kids (11 and 9 years old) and I do not like any roller-coasters that do any sort of inversion, loop or a drop or any drop-driven rides (I like Splash Mountain but you want catch me even dead on ToT). We need 2 full days. An extra half day is a bonus.
    4) Here are our favorite rides:
    IoA
    Must Do:
    Harry Potter: Forbidden Journey A+
    Jurassic Park River Adventure A
    Spider-Man A
    Skull Island: Reign of Kong A
    Nice to do:
    Flight of the Hippogriff B+
    Poseidon's Fury B
    Fillers:
    Hogwarts Express: Hogsmeade Station C+
    The Cat in the Hat C
    Caro-Seuss-el C
    One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish C
    USF
    Must Do:
    Revenge of The Mummy A+
    Transformers A+
    Harry Potter: Escape from Gringotts A+
    Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem A
    The Simpsons Ride A
    Nice to do:
    MEN IN BLACK Alien Atack B
    Terminator 2: 3-D B
    Fillers:
    Hogwarts Express: King's Cross Station C+
    E.T. Adventure C
    Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl C
    Note 1: A - C ratings are our own - not coming from any site or so. A+ being the best of the best, C being something we are OK with but do not really care one way or another.
    Note 2: No real parades or night shows worth a mention.
     
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  3. 21stamps

    21stamps Well-Known Member

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    I have nothing to say of value.. only this--
    I'm extremely jealous!!!
     
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  4. Corey P

    Corey P Well-Known Member

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    All the on site hotels are good, matters what price you are looking for and what you are looking for? Personally I like the look and feel of Portofino and Cabana Bay. Two different price ranges and one has express pass the other doesn't. I don't think you need express pass the time you are going so if budget is a concern I would hit Cabana Bay but that's just my opinion.

    Couple of days in the parks is enough to see everything. Three days if you want to see everything at a reasonable pace. Add in city walk and the blue men or something along those lines and you could fill up three or four days at Universal. I don't know what your plan is? Short trip or destination? I could see staying in Universal for a week if you have other side trips like the Daytona or Cape Canaveral? The space stuff is a full day place BTW. Not cheap either.

    Rides, again personal preference. Universal isn't Disney, you don't need to figure out some huge plan of fast passes, park hoping, etc.
     
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  5. BubbaQuest

    BubbaQuest Well-Known Member

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    All the onsite hotels are great. Here's a list in descending order of price:

    1. Portofino Bay. Largest rooms. Most upscale/mild theming/least kid friendly, although they do have a great family pool. Furthest luxury hotel from the parks.
    Water Taxi, free Express Passes

    2. Hard Rock Hotel. Second largest rooms. Teen friendly. Music and theming. Closest to the Studios park.
    Water Taxi, free Express Passes

    3. Royal Pacific. Smallest of the luxury rooms, but reasonably sized (300 sq ft). Great island theming. Movie night by the pool for the kids. Closest to Islands of Adventures.
    Water Taxi, free Express Passes.

    4. Sapphire Falls (haven't seen this one in person yet).
    Water Taxi.

    5. Cabana Bay. Budget friendly, great 50's theming, great pool and lazy river. Nice sized family suites available. Counter service restaurant only.
    Convenient bus service (no water taxi)

    Hope this helps. I went in the middle of May, and while I didn't need the express passes (most attractions were under 20 minutes except the Potter stuff which don't have express lanes), it was still nice to have.

    My personal recommendations, if you're a "I just need a place to sleep, spend all days in the park" person, I would go with Cabana Bay. Great hotel. Great prices. If you want to spend some time at the hotel, have a nice dinner, and maybe walk to CityWalk, go with Royal Pacific. If you demand the best and want to sip wine by the bay, go with Portofino Bay.

    Have a great trip.
     
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  6. DarthFiscus75

    DarthFiscus75 Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    I guess I should have said when this trip would be taking place I will be 49 and the wife will be 53. No kids will be with us. We are looking forward to seeing the Potter stuff but there is a lot other things that look great. It would be nice to have a hotel close to the parks, money is not an issue. We stayed at The Poly a few weeks ago and loved how easy it was to get to the parks - different options. @Mike S - any thoughts?
    Thanks everyone for the great information.
     
  7. G8rchamps

    G8rchamps Well-Known Member

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    Thoughts in no particular order:
    We stayed at Sapphaire Last Labor day and it included express pass for the trip (reading other posts I'm not sure this resort always does it).
    Potter stuff is very well done and worth a morning at each.
    The train ride is different both ways so you will want a park to park and try both directions.
    I agree with most of dm11's ratings adding that my wife and I (both 40) like coasters still and she likes Hulk best while I cant get enough of the Rip Ride Rocket.
    Outside Potter we hit MIB, ET (most similar to a Dis dark ride and always a short line), and Mummy.
    Hollywood make up show is funny once and well done for a 30 min show.
    We space out the "screen rides" because they can be upsetting to the stomach- Kong is over rated (though the que is amazing).
    IOA has a few water rides if the weather is warm enough- haven't tried them yet.

    UNI are neat parks and a different experience.....All that to say our UNI passes are good till Sept and I just booked a weekend in Jan in the World, our whole family is ready to go back home.

    Enjoy
     
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  8. trr1

    trr1 Well-Known Member

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    how long will you be there? I am going to universal from June 25 thru July 2nd and staying onsite at the royal pacific because of the free Universal Express Unlimited access to SKIP THE REGULAR LINES, and Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter . I used Orlando informer for a lot of my planning then just had the travel agent book what I wanted
    here is a crowd calendar for april and may
    here are 2 of my favorite links that helped
    PLAN THE PERFECT UNIVERSAL VACATION
    ALL MENUS AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2016
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  9. DarthFiscus75

    DarthFiscus75 Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    I'm trying to decide between two or three days. We would probably head over to SeaWorld for one day. Maybe take a tour of Celebration, Fl. That's where I want to move :)
     
  10. Eckert

    Eckert Well-Known Member

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    • Stay on-site. The Big 3 (Portofino, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific) will give you Unlimited Express, which will eliminate the need for any strict planning regiment. Taking a water taxi to CityWalk is relaxing. Only about about a 15 minute stroll from each of the hotels.
    • If you start early and leave when they kick you out, 2 days will be just fine. These parks have the blessing of being compact and if you work hard enough you could do everything you wanted to do in one day, but rushing yourself won't let you appreciate the place if it's your first time. Spread your must-do's evenly among both days and leave space for unexpected spurs.
    • If you're not staying at The Big 3 and are staying at Cabana or Sapphire (which are both very nice and affordable!), a majority of the big rides have Single Riders queues (including the Potters) which will help you save some time.
    • Express is pretty damn expensive. If you're really dying for it, there's an after 4pm Express option that is much cheaper.
    • Eat at CityWalk! CityWalk has some solid dining offerings that are really affordable. The Cowfish is my favorite restaurant in tourist Orlando.
    • If you have to ride ONE ride, it's Spider-Man. Spidey changed the game and is a benchmark for raised standards in the theme park industry. You won't regret it.
    • Never wait more than 30 minutes for the train. If you're a big fan of Potter I'd understand, but ultimately the train serves as a way of getting to the other park more than an actual ride. You'll get to the other park much quicker on feet.
    • Hate to say it, but skip the parade and nighttime show. The parade isn't anything spectacular and the floats come out randomly throughout the day if you're dying to see them. The nighttime show isn't anything to write home to, you're better off using that time to get a head start on the dining rush @ Citywalk.
    • And most importantly, have fun. You'll find that there's a different energy at Universal that'll really excite you and make you happy you're there. It's an amazing alternative that packs some big thrills that you may not have been able to find at Disney.

    Hope these pointers help!
     
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  11. DarthFiscus75

    DarthFiscus75 Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Tha
    Thank you for the detailed answers. The place to dine is The Chocolate Factory Emporium. I'm a big Willy Wonka fan and it reminds me of the movie
     
  12. Disneyhead'71

    Disneyhead'71 Well-Known Member

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    As adults traveling without kids, I recommend Portofino Bay. It's quite nice and has a more romantic feel than the other resorts.

    Toothsome's Chocolate Emporium is great. Cowfish is also a popular and unique option. All of the Deluxe resorts have Signature restaurants. All three are excellent. BiCE at Portofino Bay is a very high end Italian restaurant. Palm at Hard Rock is a top shelf steakhouse. And Emeril's Tchoup Chop at Royal Pacific is a Pan Pacific (Asian/Polynesian) restaurant.
     
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  13. Magic Feather

    Magic Feather Well-Known Member

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    So beginning with Hitels, seeing as it is just the two of you, I would rule out Sapphire Falls, as that is both a convention resort, and "lacking". If you want to be able to easily walk to the parks, Hard Rock is your best bet, but the second priciest. Here are general rankings followed by averages

    Rankings of Hotels by Price (lowest to highest):
    Cabana
    Sapphire
    Pacific
    Rock
    Portifino

    By Walking Distance/ Ease of Getting to parks:
    Rock
    Pacific
    Portofino
    Sapphire
    Cabana

    By Amenities/ Theming:
    Portifino
    Pacific
    Rock
    Cabana
    Sapphire

    Average Rankings:
    Rock
    Pacific
    Portifino
    Cabana
    Sapphire

    Take that as you will.

    PS: Sorry for lack of organization
     
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  14. TJ Vazquez

    TJ Vazquez Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to piggyback off the OP. You mentioned you are not a fan of large drops or inversions of any kind. Did you ride The Mummy by chance? I have ridden Space Mountain and Rockin Roller Coaster at Disney but was curious to see what this ride has as I have never been to Universal. I have read it has a large drops but just wanted to hear from the people of this board if this one is intense.

    Thanks in advance!
     
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  15. Disneyhead'71

    Disneyhead'71 Well-Known Member

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    Mummy has a steep drop. It is only 25 feet though.
     
  16. TJ Vazquez

    TJ Vazquez Well-Known Member

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    Thanks! Doesn't seem like that should scare me from riding this one!
     
  17. JoeCamel

    JoeCamel Well-Known Member

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    If you liked RnR then you will love Mummy
     
  18. Jones14

    Jones14 Well-Known Member

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    Alright, here's some random thoughts cobbled together:

    Toothsome, Antojitos, Red Oven Pizza, and Vivo Italian Kitchen are all reasonably priced restaurants with excellent food in Citywalk. The food quality in Citywalk (in my experience) is on a higher level than in the parks themselves, so eat there whenever you can. Don't bother with the chain restaurants (Moe's Panda Express, etc.), though. The prices are jacked up from what you'd find off property, and there's less options to begin with.

    If you're gonna do Despicable Me, do NOT get in line for it if it's higher than 30 minutes. It's a cute ride, but not worth the waits that it gets (low capacity is what causes them to skyrocket).

    If you're a coaster fan, prioritize The Hulk, Dragon Challenge, and the Mummy.
    If you're not, Men In Black, Spider-Man, and Forbidden Journey should be your top priority. However, all six attractions in that list are among the parks' best, and should be prioritized in general.

    Do NOT do Shrek. It's a decent (but outdated) 3-D movie in a terrible chair that throws you around as much as an old wooden rollercoaster. It's bad. Similar experience for Simpsons. It's just not worth it.

    ET and Terminator were great attractions ten years ago, but they've been run into the ground as of late. Skip them unless you really really really like their respective franchises. Ditto for Cat in the Hat.

    Everything Harry Potter related is top notch. Do it all, but don't wait more than thirty minutes for any of the rides if you can avoid it. Make sure to catch the shows in Carkitt Market (Celestina and the Tales of Beedle the Bard).

    Make sure you pack some water clothes to do Popeyes; it's the best river rapids ride I've ever been on.

    Also, if you wear glasses, wear contacts if you can. There are a lot of rides and shows that utilize 3-D glasses.

    Overall, Uni is a blast. Expect something more fast paced than Disney, and make sure to take breaks from the big rides if you get sick or wiped out easily. It's a lot of fun, but know your limits.
     
  19. Disneyhead'71

    Disneyhead'71 Well-Known Member

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    Random thoughts:

    The Hollywood Horror Make-up Show is a hidden gem.

    The bar at Finnegan's (USF) is a nice place to chill. And they know how to pour a Black and Tan.

    For 2 adults CityWalk is an attraction all to itself. Cowfish, Toothsome's, Pat O'Brian's, Rising Star, Margaritaville, and 1am Drunk Mini Golf FTW!

    Don't do Shrek. It is the worst attraction in Orlando. And painful too boot.

    2 nights/3 days on property would give you a chance to enjoy CityWalk and the hotel/pool. And just a more relaxing vacation.
     
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  20. TJ Vazquez

    TJ Vazquez Well-Known Member

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    All fantastic advice. Thank you!!
     
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