We already know that the new Harry Potter area at Universal Studios is due to open this summer and indeed there are signs throughout Universal Orlando promising that exciting new things lie ahead.
And, we know it will include a new ride called Escape from Gringotts and The Hogwarts Express will connect the new Diagon Alley at Universal Studios with the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. There is no official date for the grand opening yet and no doubt those of you travelling to Orlando in July and August are praying that it will open beforehand. Well, if the driver of my boat at Universal Orlando is correct, you’re in luck as he categorically told me that the opening was going to be in June. So, that’s the word ‘on the street’ in Orlando but it is by no means certain as he is not a key member of staff and there are hundreds of factors which can influence the launch of a new attraction; we’ll bring you the latest official opening information as we get it from Universal Orlando. Certainly progress is being made - the signs are up for Kings Cross Station and Leicester Square tube and the area now strongly resembles London.
Here are some of my other tips to help you make the most out of your Orlando holiday. Most of these are about Universal Orlando since that is where I’ve been this year.
1. You’ve probably read this before but it’s the best tip – GET THERE EARLY. Opening times vary from week to week and season to season but find out what time the park opens and get to the gates 20 minutes beforehand. If you do (and of course, if you have pre-purchased your real tickets from Attraction Tickets Direct
), you’ll be able do a couple of the most popular rides before the park fills up. (N.B. I was staggered by the queue sizes outside the park for people who needed to exchange their pre-purchased vouchers for Real Tickets. I would have been absolutely gutted to have been one of those families who’d arrived from the U.K. and had to endlessly queue, just to exchange a voucher. Needless to say, if you’ve booked your tickets with ATD, they are REAL and can be used immediately at the gate.)
2. If you’re in Orlando between October and April, go to an Orlando Magic NBA basketball game. I took my two boys for a ‘boys night out’ and despite not loving sport or knowing much about basketball, they absolutely loved it. There are four quarters of 12 minutes each but the evening lasts a few hours with pre-game drinks, half time and lots of time-outs. During these breaks the entertainment is superb family fun – cheerleaders, t-shirts and other prizes being fired into the crowd, stuntmen and the cameramen scouring the crowd for suitable ‘victims’ for the big screen. It’s a traditional and proper American night out with drinks and hot dogs at your seats, the national anthem sung before the game and the crowd shrieking and hollering as loud as they can. Plus, of course there is the actual sport to enjoy and these guys are enormous, powerful athletes who are a joy to watch. A picture of one of my sons enjoying the game is below and you can pre-purchase Orlando Magic Basketball tickets
which include round trip transportation (which will save you $20 on parking) at Attraction Tickets Direct.
3. If there are new rides, do these first. Head to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure and Transformers at Universal Studios first for example. The new rides always get busy first.
4. If you can stay for at least a few nights at a Universal Orlando on-site hotel, do so. Not only are they great places with loads going on but The Hard Rock Hotel, The Portofino Hotel and The Royal Pacific Hotel all include Universal Express (i.e. queue jumping) and early park admission. The new Cabana Bay Hotel at Universal includes early park admission but not Universal Express. You can buy Universal Express at the parks but the cost is up to $70 per person per day so treating yourself and staying on-site for a while can make financial sense.
5. If you do have Universal Express, head to the rides and attractions where it isn’t valid first. There aren’t many of these but Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey and The Pteranadon Flyers are two that I definitely know don’t have Express queues and you’ll have to join the main queue regardless of whether you have Universal Express or not.
6. If you follow my advice and get to the Universal Parks early, you’ll be needing some food by midday / 1pm. There are many options to eat at both Universal parks but if you need a break, I would recommend either eating at CityWalk or getting a complimentary boat to one of the Universal hotels and eating there as the quality of food is much better outside the parks. If you have one of our Universal Orlando Bonus tickets, you can come in and out of the parks as much as you want over a 14 day period so you aren’t restricted to eating at the parks.
7. And, on that note, I really cannot recommend pre-purchasing 14 Day tickets enough. Being at the parks is tiring especially if it’s hot and you’re with children so there is no point trying to cram everything into one or two days. Take your time, come and go as you please, go back and enjoy your favourite rides and attractions and relax knowing that your tickets are 100% flexible.
That’s it for now.
Founder, Attraction Tickets Direct