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Universal Orlando Snapshot

This page is our totally up-to-date one-stop-shop for everything that is currently happening at Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and all of Universal Orlando Resort!

Now that you’ve found this page, you don’t have to worry about rummaging through thousands of message board posts or waiting until you get to the parks to find out about attraction refurbs, construction projects, special events, and everything else that could affect your visit. (Yeah, this is a good page to bookmark.)

By the way, we’re very happy to let you know that this is just one page out of over 200 we have in our next-generation ENCYCLOPEDIA of OBSESSIVELY UPDATED Universal Orlando vacation planning info.

Skip to: Promotions | Events | USF | IOA | CityWalk | On-site hotels | PASSPORT

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Last update

April 23, 2014

Today’s crowd estimate: Moderate.
Universal Studios Florida: 9:00am to 9:00pm.
Islands of Adventure: Early Admission, 9:00am to 8:00pm.
Special event: OI Forums Grand Opening: Win a $100 Universal gift card!.

 

Reporting live from Universal Orlando

We visit Universal at least once a week to bring our fans live in-park photo updates direct from Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure! To see all of our photo updates, we invite you to follow us on Twitter. If you don’t use that service, then join us on Facebook for highlights of our adventures.

 

Current promotions & resort-wide changes

Parking fee raised

As of Wednesday, Universal’s general parking fee has increased one dollar to $17. This matches Disney’s increase from over the past weekend. Preferred and valet parking at Universal has not increased as of this time (still $22 and $30 respectively). If you’d like to learn more, visit our Parking & Universal’s transportation hub page. Please note that parking fees at Universal’s on-site hotels is a whole separate discussion.

Admission price increase

Every spring prices go up at Orlando’s theme parks, and this year was no exception – although it did happen a bit earlier than usual. As of March 4, 2014, all Universal general admission tickets have increased. Here the the new online prices:

1-Day Single-Park – was $92.00, now $96.00
2-Day Single-Park – was $125.99, now $135.99
3-Day Single-Park – was $140.99, now $145.99
4-Day Single-Park – was $150.99, now $155.99
1-Day Park-to-Park – was $128.00, now $136.00
2-Day Park-to-Park – was $146.99, now $175.99
3-Day Park-to-Park – was $159.99, now $185.99
4-Day Park-to-Park – was $167.99, now $195.99
*Prices above are for adults and do not include tax.
**Gate prices are the same for 1-day tickets, $20.00 more for multi-day tickets.

Most notably, a 2-day Park-to-Park online ticket, likely the most popular option for first-time Diagon Alley visitors, saw a 20% increase. Remember that a Park-to-Park ticket will be required to ride the Hogwarts Express from USF’s Diagon Alley to IOA’s Hogsmeade.

As of the last update on this page, annual pass pricing has not increased this year, but that is expected to happen any day now. Curious about the FlexTicket? That option had an increase earlier this year, and it is not expected to go up again soon (although anything is possible).

Get an extra day free

Universal is now offering a 3rd day free to all U.S. and Canadian residents who purchase a 2-day ticket. The promotion is scheduled to end May 9, 2014. Visit Universal’s online ticket store to learn more.

FL resident annual pass promotion

Universal has set up their Mardi Gras promotion for annual passes. If you’re a Florida resident, you can now get three months free if you buy a new a new Preferred or Premier Pass (sorry, doesn’t apply to renewals), or you can get one month free if you buy a new Power Pass. The promotion says you need a special Coke UPC code to order online. If you can’t find one, just try calling and asking for the promotion: 407-224-7840 or toll free 1-877-801-9720.

Discount: DoubleTree across from the entrance

We’d like to take this opportunity to remind our readers that DoubleTree across from the entrance to Universal – our choice for the best park hotel off-site – offers OI readers a special discount. Learn all about the hotel, view over 100 full-screen images, and get the discount by clicking here.

 

Upcoming annual events & special celebrations

Mardi Gras 2014: Saturdays & select nights, Feb 8 – May 31

It’s the most spectacular celebration of the Big Easy spirit outside of New Orleans itself – Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida. Enjoy live concerts, a dazzling parade, colorful street performers, authentic Cajun food, and beads by the handful! New this year, Mardi Gras has been extended a full month. See the exact events dates and learn everything else you need to know in our guide to Mardi Gras 2014.

Easter Sunday: Apr 20

While Universal’s theme parks do not have any special activities just for Easter Sunday, if you’re hungry, you can enjoy a traditional Easter buffet at any one of Universal’s three deluxe hotels. For full details, see this OI Forums post.

Celebrating Earth Week: Apr 22

Earth Week kicks off with the “Earth Week Recharge Experience” at the Universal Music Plaza stage in Universal Studios Florida on Tuesday, April 22 at 1:00pm. Celebrate Earth Day and “recharge” at Universal Orlando. Enjoy kinetic playground equipment that will “power” the event, live entertainment, giveaways, and a solar recharging lounge area.

IMPACT WRESTLING: Select dates Mar – May

IMPACT WRESTLING is one of the world’s most innovative experiences in professional wrestling. Airing in over 125 countries worldwide, this event features favorite stars such as Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, and Velvet Sky.

Guests can catch IMPACT WRESTLING live events and tapings at Universal Orlando’s Soundstage 20 on March 13 – 15, April 10 – 12 & 24 – 29, and May 7 – 10. IMPACT WRESTLING events are non-ticketed and seating is based on a first-come, first-served basis. Park admission is not required. Audience members are encouraged to arrive one hour prior to when doors are open. Please note: Taping times are subject to change, so for the most up-to-date information please call 407-224-6000. To learn what it’s like to attend one of these events, check out this blog post.

*On-site hotel events*

On Thursday, April 24, Hard Rock Hotel continues Orlando’s hottest lobby party with its “Velvet Sessions” series featuring Berlin. Purchase includes admission at 6:30pm with free specialty drinks, finger foods, warm-up tunes until the show starts, and complimentary valet parking. The featured entertainment takes the stage at 8:00pm. Regular guest tickets are $29 online, $30 at the door, and limited VIP tickets are $50 online only and include all the benefits of a regular ticket plus access to a special viewing area with private bar. Learn more

Then on Friday, April 25, celebrate spring Portofino-style at Harbor Nights Primavera, a wine, food and music event designed to capture the ambiance of the Mediterranean. Featuring 16 select wines and sparkling wines, gourmet foods, and live music by Johnny Cool and the Mobster Swing Band, Harbor Nights takes place under the twinkling lights of the majestic Harbor Piazza. You can view the menu (PDF file) or you can purchase tickets online.

Finally, on Friday, May 2, join your friends for Jake’s Beer Festival at Royal Pacific Resort’s Jake’s American Bar and under the outdoor Wantilan Pavilion, where you’ll enjoy samplings of more than 50 beers from Dogfish Head Brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Anchor Brewing Company, Angry Orchard, Boston Beer Company, New Belgium Brewing, and more – as well as specially prepared culinary creations. You can view additional details and order tickets online.

Hard Rock Live

Located at Universal CityWalk, Hard Rock Live is a multi-use performance center that features a variety of acts, from pop and rock artists, to standup comedians, to special events both public and private. (For those who have visited Downtown Disney, it is similar in size and scope to House of Blues.) Because Hard Rock Live has dozens of events scheduled, we aren’t able to list them here — so be sure to check out the their website to see if one of your favorite acts will be on-site when you’re on-site!

 

Universal Studios Florida

Cinematic Spectacular & Mardi Gras 2014 – This year Universal has decided to cancel its nighttime lagoon show on Mardi Gras dates. That means, for the 20 event dates when Mardi Gras runs, Cinematic Spectacular will not run at the end of the evening. Please note that Cinematic Spectacular is scheduled to run nightly on non-event dates, except when it’s canceled periodically for other one-time special events and Diagon Alley preparation as noted in the next paragraph. You can see all the Mardi Gras event dates on our Mardi Gras guide or on our free crowd calendar.

Diagon Alley / JAWS & the Amity area – JAWS and its home on Amity Island were closed permanently on January 3, 2012, to make way for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley set to open in 2014. This ‘London’ portion of the Harry Potter story will feature new shops, a themed restaurant, and two new attractions: a Gringotts Bank indoor coaster and a real Hogwarts Express running between ‘London’ and the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter over at Islands of Adventure. Visit our Diagon Alley page to learn so, so much more.

Hogwarts Express – As of October 24 the Hogwarts Express is on the tracks connecting Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. The actual attraction isn’t expected to open until the spring, so it isn’t easy to get a view of the train — but we found a good vantage point just off-site. You can learn more about the Hogwarts Express on our Harry Potter expansion page.

The list above is only a summary of the current attraction refurbishments, openings, and closings at Universal Studios Florida. For a complete list of the park’s attractions, scroll to the bottom of this page or visit the OI Universal Center table of contents.

 

Islands of Adventure

Starbucks – The new Starbucks at Islands of Adventure is now open. It’s located in Port of Entry, right next to Cinnabon, and it replaced the Arctic Express quick-service counter that sold funnel cakes and ice cream. The best news of all is that, unlike its counterparts at CityWalk and USF, this Starbucks also offers complimentary wifi access (which is not available throughout the rest of IOA).

Harry Potter expansion / Hogsmeade Station – The construction project currently in progress on the edge of the Wizarding World will one day become the Hogsmeade Village Station for the arriving Hogwarts Express, which is being built on the ‘London’ side of Harry’s world over at Universal Studios Florida. Visit our Harry Potter expansion at IOA page to learn more.

Zonko’s Joke Shop – The original joke shop inside Hogsmeade has permanently closed as of March 11. In case you didn’t hear, Universal had announced that the shop would close – and Honeydukes will expand – because the new Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley will sell the same type of products. For now, much of Zonko’s merchandise has been transferred to the main gift shops at the entrance to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. If you’d like to look back at old times, we have a full HD video tour of Zonko’s right here.

The list above is only a summary of the current attraction refurbishments, openings, and closings at Islands of Adventure. For a complete list of the park’s attractions, scroll to the bottom of this page or visit the OI Universal Center table of contents.

 

Universal CityWalk

Eight new venues – On December 12, 2013, Universal announced the largest expansion in CityWalk history, which includes the addition of eight new venues: The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, Pranzo Italian Kitchen, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Bread Box, Cold Stone Creamery, and Menchies Frozen Yogurt. For full details and analysis, see this blog post.

Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food – Universal CityWalk’s newest venue, featuring the famous street food of Mexico City and over 200 varieties of tequila, is now open – you can read our review by clicking here. Also, we’re happy to let you know the full Antojitos menu is now available as a PDF file, and better yet, you can now reserve a table online. For all the links, visit our Dining reservations page.

Cold Stone Creamery – This quick-service ice cream shop officially opened at Universal CityWalk on March 10. You can view a photo tour at the bottom of our March 13 photoset on Flickr, or you can see a quick video walkthough on our YouTube Channel.

Red Oven Pizza Bakery – The quick-service section of Pastamore is now the quick-service Red Oven Pizza Bakery, open every day for lunch and dinner. You can take a ‘first look’ at the restaurant, menu, and Alla Benno pizza (prosciutto, pineapple). For more help with booking your dining plans, visit our Dining reservations page.

Starbucks – The new downstairs Starbucks location at Universal CityWalk is officially opened Friday, March (and offers free wifi!). We’ll get photos and a video soon, but when we were on-site the day before it opened, we did get to take a peek at the space – it’s made a very good first impression. The upstairs Starbucks location is now closed, and it will be rebuilt as The Cowfish.

Looking for CityWalk events? They are included in our Events section near the top of the page — skip up there.

For more information about Universal CityWalk, scroll to the bottom of this page or visit the OI Universal Center table of contents.

 

Loews on-site hotels

Free wifi – Standard in-room wireless internet access is now offered for free at all of Universal’s on-site hotels as of late January 2014. (It’s worth noting that free wifi was already available in the hotels’ public spaces.) We mention that the access is standard because, while it is good enough for basic social media browsing, etc., it is not fast enough to handle massive photo gallery uploads or HD movie streaming. Guests wishing to have faster internet speeds can upgrade to a premium service for $14.95 per day.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Phase one of Universal’s new Cabana Bay Beach Resort (North Courtyard) has opened to guests for the very first time as of March 31, 2014. To learn more, visit our Cabana Bay pages in the OI Universal Center.

Portofino Bay Hotel: Despicable Me rooms – Debuting on October 1, 2013, Universal’s flagship hotel property now features 18 Despicable Me themed Kids Suites. To learn more, and to see a video showing how the rooms were built and furnished, visit our Portofino Bay: Rooms page.

Royal Pacific Resort: Character Breakfast – New last summer and continuing through 2014, every Sunday families can enjoy traditional breakfast favorites with an island twist at Jake’s American Bar while Universal characters stop by for photos and unforgettable laughs. For pricing and reservations, call 407-503-DINE. See the menu (PDF file)

Looking for hotel events? They are included in our Events section near the top of the page — skip up there.

The list above is only a summary of the current projects relating to the Loews on-site hotels at Universal Orlando. For complete details about these properties, including over 700 full-screen photos, scroll to the bottom of this page or visit the OI Universal Center table of contents.

 

Universal Orlando PASSPORT newsletter

The Spring 2014 PASSPORT mailer for Annual Passholders is out. If you missed your copy, you can view it here (PDF file).

Universal Orlando PASSPORT newsletter - spring 2014.

Universal Orlando PASSPORT newsletter – spring 2014.

If you’d like, you can also view the Fall 2013 PASSPORT or the Winter 2013 PASSPORT.


Do you have a question about the information on this page, would like to provide feedback, or did you spot an inaccuracy? Please let us know by posting in the OI Forums.


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Universal Orlando: Please pardon our dust.

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