Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida was Universal's first theme park in Florida following on from a similar park in California. Covering more than 100 acres it first opened in 1990, just one year after Disney's own movie based theme park Disney's Hollywood Studios opened.
Both parks are working film and television studios though the level of production has gone down in recent years.
Like Disney's Hollywood Studios, Universal Studios Florida is themed around movies and entertainment with the original tag line "Ride the Movies!" but Universal has always tried to differentiate itself from Walt Disney World by going with a slightly more 'adult' theme in terms of more intense rides, shows and events.
No where is this more apparent than the comparison between the intensely scary Universal Halloween Horror Nights and the family fun Disney's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
Entrance to Universal Studios at Universal Orlando Resort
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As well as drawing on its own film characters it has also licenced in characters from other studios, including Marvel which is now owned by Disney. It has also enlisted the help of Steven Spielberg.
Most theme parks are divided into a number of areas or lands and Universal Studios Florida is no exception. From the main entrance, the park has seven lands surrounding a central lagoon:
- Front Lot - contains most of the administrative buildings including Guest Services, Family and Health Services, stroller, wheelchair and ECV rentals, lockers, Lost and Found
- Production Central - a collection of working sound stages including the attractions Transformers: The Ride - 3D, Shrek 4-D and Universal's latest roller coaster, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. The Universal Music Plaza Stage is used to host live concerts
- Hollywood - a Hollywood set with a number of restaurants and shops plus the Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time adventure and the live show Universal's Horror Make-Up Show
- New York - a realistic New York street set plays host to Revenge Of The Mummy and Twister: Ride It Out plus another live show, The Blues Brothers Live
- San Francisco/Amity - west meets east with San Francisco's Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You! and New England's town of Amity and Jaws. Also home to Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue and the live stunt show Fear Factor
- World Expo - themed on a modern World Exposition park with The Simpson Ride and Men In Black: Alien Attack
- Woody Woodpecker's KidZone - a child friendly zone including E.T. Adventure, the Curious George Goes To Town water play area and a children's coaster, Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster
In the evening, just before the park closes, The Lagoon is home to Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular which combines movie clips with fireworks. This event only takes place when the park is open late such as during the summer months and major holiday times.
Eating and Shopping at Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida offers a range of full table service and fast-food quick self service restaurants plus seasonal kiosks dotted throughout the park.
If you like a lot of fast-food, then you could consider the Universal Meal Deal which gives you "as-much-as-you-can-eat" at selected quick-service restaurants.
One thing that sets Universal Studios apart from Walt Disney World though is the ready availability of alcohol though it is strictly policed to prevent under-age drinking (21 in Florida).
Throughout the park you will find merchandising relevant to the area you are currently in plus the large Universal Studios Store at the front entrance.
If you are looking for discounted lines, then try the Universal outlet at the nearby Festival Bay Mall on International Drive.
Universal Studios Florida Park Tickets
You can buy single day or multi-day park tickets to Universal Studios Florida with or without the option to park hop to Universal's Islands of Adventure.
If you want to avoid waiting in line, there is also a Universal Express Plus ticket; similar to Disney's FASTPASS system but not free.
Getting to Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is approached from the multi-level parking garage. Moving sidewalks lead you to the Central hub. From here, you pass through the CityWalk entertainment area and then turn sharp right to enter Universal Studios Florida.
Straight ahead is Islands of Adventure, Universal's other theme park.
Universal Studios Florida Special Events
Universal Studios Florida plays host to a number of special events throughout the year. Some are included in the standard admission but events including Rock the Universe and Halloween Horror Nights are separately ticketed events:
- Mardi Gras (February-April) - New Orleans style street parade with floats, baubles and beads
- Fourth of July - spectacular fireworks display
- Rock the Universe (September) - Christian music festival
- Halloween Horror Nights (September-October) - Halloween horror event, one of the most intense in Florida
- Christmas (November-December) - New York style Macy's Holiday Parade
- New Year's Eve - street party with fireworks. The park usually stays open to 1:00 am to see in the New Year
There are also a number of live music concerts at Universal Studios Florida, featuring top line performers, usually included in the normal park admission ticket.