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Any Universal Studios Orlando area insights?

Any Universal Studios Orlando area insights?

Old Jan 17, 11, 1:21 am
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Any Universal Studios Orlando area insights?

Two adult females visiting Jan 22-25. We plan to go outlet shopping and do two days at Universal Studios (skipping WDW). We are particularly interested in the Harry Potter activities. Any insights? discounts, what to do/not to do, good restaurants (relatively healthy, mid-priced or lower nonchain), shopping, entertainment (what restaurants/activities in CityWalk are worth it--we are not into loud music/dancing).

We were planning on shopping on Saturday and doing the Universal parks on Sunday and Monday. thanks!
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Old Jan 17, 11, 6:44 am
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There are some ticket discounts here: https://www.orlandoticketsales.com/o...lando__C86.cfm
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Old Jan 17, 11, 7:15 am
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Stay onsite at one of the three Lowes Hotels. You will get unlimited front of line acccess (not valid at Harry Potter) with your hotel room key for. Stay one night and get the pass for two full days! Can make a huge difference in how long you wait for a ride.
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Old Jan 17, 11, 12:30 pm
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For outlet shopping the Orlando Premium Outlets are really close to Universal and they have some good stores. You'll probably pass the Festival Bay Mall on the way there but it's not really worth the stop.
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Old Jan 17, 11, 12:37 pm
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In January, FOTL is not needed at USO (except at Harry Potter, where it isn't valid anyway), so if you're on a budget, don't worry a bit about not staying at one of the Uni resorts. They're all fabulous places, but pretty expensive.

That being said, however, you should definitely consider visiting the resorts and having a look in the gift shops and at the grounds. They're all great places.

For dining at Uni, be sure to look at the resorts. There are a number of nice places at CityWalk, but the best dining options are in the resorts. My personal favorite is the Islands Dining Room in OPO, which has Asian food that's as good or better than anything else I've had at Uni. I also love Bubba Gumps in CityWalk, and I really like the Cuban sandwich at Jimmy Buffet's Margarittaville, also in CityWalk.

You may be skipping WDW, but are you at all interested in Disney souvenirs or clothing? If so, then visit the Pr1me Outlets, at the north end of International Drive, and look for the Character Warehouse. CW is a WDW outlet store carrying park merchandise, mostly from last year, at markdowns from 10%-30%. The mall also has a number of other high-end "outlet" shopping venues, though considering the prices at some of them, I wonder why they bother calling themselves outlets.
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Old Jan 17, 11, 2:48 pm
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Originally Posted by Skink View Post
For outlet shopping the Orlando Premium Outlets are really close to Universal and they have some good stores. You'll probably pass the Festival Bay Mall on the way there but it's not really worth the stop.
I agree. Skip Festival Bay. It's one step away from closure, but they're going to be getting a major makeover instead.
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Old Jan 17, 11, 4:29 pm
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Originally Posted by WillCAD View Post
In January, FOTL is not needed at USO (except at Harry Potter, where it isn't valid anyway), so if you're on a budget, don't worry a bit about not staying at one of the Uni resorts. They're all fabulous places, but pretty expensive.
They can be expensive, but their prices can go down (sometimes pretty extensively) if someone in the party has a season pass.

And while the lines tend to be smaller this time of the year, there may be sepecific times/dates where there can still be sizeable crowds. Also, while the Harry Potter ride itself doesn't have "front of the line" access, staying onsite will get you into the park an hour before the general public. You should be able to ride the Harry Potter line a couple of times before the general public comes in and makes the line too long.
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Old Jan 17, 11, 6:09 pm
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I wouldn't dream of doing Universal Studios without staying onsite ... last time we went, right after Harry Potter opened, they let us in the park like 90 minutes early and we polished off the Harry Potter stuff before the rest of the park even opened.

If you get a Preferred or Premier Annual Pass they have APH rates of $139 at the Royal Pacific Resort and $159 at the Hard Rock Hotel for the night of January 24th and/or 25th ($80 more if you don't have the annual pass). The Preferred or Premier annual pass will also get you food, drink, and merchandise discounts, so it looks like you'd be smart to get at least one, I think the Preferred is about $160.

I prefer the Hard Rock Hotel because it's the closest to the parks, and if you have a car (which I'd strongly recommend since you want to shop), it also has very convenient parking (though you will have to pay for parking at the hotels).
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Old Jan 17, 11, 6:57 pm
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Originally Posted by WillCAD View Post
In January, FOTL is not needed at USO (except at Harry Potter, where it isn't valid anyway), so if you're on a budget, don't worry a bit about not staying at one of the Uni resorts. They're all fabulous places, but pretty expensive.

Depends on when in January you go. Niece and two kids just left. The lines were an hour long for many rides. Even on the "slow" days, the front of the line pass means you have zero wait to get on. Still better than a 10 or 15 min wait.
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Old Jan 17, 11, 7:00 pm
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Whatever you do don't eat at Pastamore in City walk. It was horrible with bad service!

There is a Margaritaville that has good service. Standard Margaritaville menu but you can sit on the "porch" and watch the world go by.

For a more expensive but awsome meal eat at Tchop Tchop at the Royal Pacific Resort. Totally worth the money!
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Old Jan 17, 11, 9:26 pm
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Thanks everyone! Hope the lines won't be too long as we are using a Marriott certificate and earning Hilton bonus points so we won't be staying on property. We probably won't be back this year. Read that everyone tends to rush for Harry Potter at opening so it may be better to wait an hour or so. Anyone have recent experience? We will go on Sunday or Monday.

How far is the walk from Citywalk to Harry Potter? Is there anything decent to eat inside or should we plan to eat before/after?
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Old Jan 17, 11, 9:45 pm
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Originally Posted by stravels View Post
How far is the walk from Citywalk to Harry Potter? Is there anything decent to eat inside or should we plan to eat before/after?
Citywalk is between the two Universal parks and very close. The park entrances are very close together. You won't need to take some type of transportation to get from one park to another like you would for Disney.

I've more than once had lunch at Margaritaville and walked back to the park. No issues. (Though Margaritaville is closer to the Islands of Adventure entrance (where Harry Potter is) than Universal Studios.

As for restaurants inside the park. Very close to the Harry Potter section in Islands of Adventure is the Mythos restaurant. I do believe it has been voted as the single best "in park" restaurant for any amusement park for many years running. It has been a few years since I last ate there, but the food is actually very good.
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Old Jan 18, 11, 5:03 am
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This Bing map of the Uni complex may help you to get some perspective on the distances between the parks, resorts, and CityWalk:

Universal Orlando on Bing
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Old Jan 18, 11, 7:12 am
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The counter service restaraunt, the Three Broomsticks, in the Harry Potter section is actually very good. Mythos is a proper sit down restaaurant and also good. I found most of the food in both parks to be of a high standard and quite edible. we don't eat the burgers and such but have seen them passing by. I wouldn't hesitate to eat at any of the places in either park. There is a proper bar at the back of the Three Broomsticks if all you want is a beer/drink.

The best time to see Harry Potter is right aat opening, so yea do rush to it, or at the every end of the night when everyone is heading out. any other time and there will be lots of people. If you go 30 min before park closing the lines will be a lot less and you might be able to get on with only minimal wait.
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Old Jan 18, 11, 7:58 am
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Originally Posted by stravels View Post
Thanks everyone! Hope the lines won't be too long as we are using a Marriott certificate and earning Hilton bonus points so we won't be staying on property.
I don't think I can stress enough how much better your trip to the parks will be if you stay on site, you will literally save several hours each day of waiting in lines at rides. Alternatively you can purchase Express passes, but they are limited to one use per ride (though it is not always enforced at every ride) and you will spend as much on four passes (2 passes x 2 days) as you would for the room at one of the Loews hotels. I am Diamond with Hilton and Hyatt, but when I go to Universal, I stay on-site even though I get no benefit from the Loews program (they don't provide benefits or elite credit in the Loews First program on Annual Pass Holder or AAA rates, which is about all I ever use at the hotels). The HHonors bonus points you're earning can not possibly make up for what you're giving up not staying on site.
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