Universal Orlando Updates

Because COVID has led to many more changes at the Universal parks, we are listing updates to The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2021 here. The author will submit updates as needed. Please check back often for the latest information, or subscribe to the Unofficial Guides newsletter to stay up to date on all the news for Universal Orlando, as well as Disney parks.

As of April 1, 2021


INTRODUCTION

Page 19 As of March 3, 2021, construction has resumed on Epic Universe; an updated completion date has not been officially announced.

SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 AND UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Page 24 Volcano Bay reopened February 27, 2021, and is currently operating daily. 

Page 25 After “a date-specific admission ticket does NOT guarantee admission if the maximum occupancy is reached.”, add “On-site hotel guests, those with date-specific tickets, and reentering guests are granted priority admission over multiday ticket holders and annual pass holders when the parks approach their capacity limit.”

Page 26-27 Universal has resumed loading guests in all rows of ride vehicles at Transformers: The Ride 3D and The Adventures of Spider-Man. 

Page 28 Some shows are now seating guests in every row, with empty seats still left between unrelated parties. The Bourne Stuntacular has resumed leaving every other row empty, with two seats (instead of three) left unoccupied between each unrelated party. 

Page 29 Child swap rooms have reopened at Universal Orlando theme park attractions with minimum height restrictions.

Page 29 The extra-cost climbing wall at Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic Park has reopened; the one in New York remains closed.

PART 1 PLANNING BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME

Page 36 Another recommended podcast is Coaster101.com.

Page 45 Annual pass prices have increased by $30–$80, depending on the tier. Visit https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/tickets-packages/annual-passes/promo for details.

Page 50 After “or to the left of Toothsome Chocolate Emporium outside IOA.”, add “Annual passes cannot be retrieved from an automated kiosk but must be picked up at a ticket booth, Guest Services window, or hotel vacation services desk.”

Page 65 During rope drop at Volcano Bay, only guests eligible for Early Park Admission are allowed through the turnstiles when early entry begins; all others are held outside the entrance until the regular opening time. The queues can become chaotic prior to park opening, so ask a team member exactly which turnstiles will be opening.

Page 66–68 The show inside Ollivanders is no longer available during Early Park Admission. Interactive windows are active, and wands are available for purchase.

Page 76–77 On peak attendance days, Virtual Line passes are first distributed approximately 20–30 minutes before the park’s scheduled opening time, with the first return windows beginning 5 or 10 minutes before the official opening. On less busy days, Virtual Line passes may not be available until standby wait times build later in the day. Not all of the day’s allocated Virtual Line passes are available at once; additional batches of return times are released around 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.

PART 2 ACCOMODATIONS

Page 86 Sapphire Falls Resort is scheduled to reopen on May 18, 2021.

Page 93–97 The Mandara Spa at Portofino Bay reopened December 1, 2020.

PART 3 ARRIVING & GETTING AROUND

Page 140 Cash is no longer accepted for tolls on Florida’s Turnpike north of Orlando; transponder or pay-by-plate is required.

Page 142 Take Exit 75AB (Kirkman Road/International Drive) from I-4 W and bear left to Kirkman Road southbound; then turn right onto International Drive, and right again onto Universal Boulevard, to reach the Universal Orlando Resort parking garage.

Page 155 Prime self-parking at Universal Orlando’s garages now costs $50. Preferred Pass holders and guests with prepaid standard self-parking can upgrade to Prime for $24.

Page 158 When leaving Universal Orlando Resort, if you exit the north garage onto Universal Boulevard, you can reach I-4 E via a new entrance ramp by turning right onto Major Boulevard, and then right onto Kirkman Road.


PART 4 ESSENTIALS

Page 160 Delete “If you don’t have an AmEx card, you can stop by its membership center (next to security in the parking hub) to receive a $150 bonus statement credit, plus cash back on eligible in-park purchases, in exchange for filling out a card application.” (The AmEx kiosk in the parking hub has been removed.)

Page 160 UNIVERSAL PAY is a new feature in the free Universal Orlando smartphone app’s wallet that allows guests to charge purchases around the resort to a credit card simply by scanning a secure QR code. You can set up individual spending limits for each member of your party, and transactions are quicker than using a physical card or even tap-to-pay. The only catch is that it only works at Universal-owned locations, and not third-party vendors. 

Page 163 Wi-Fi coverage inside Volcano Bay has greatly improved, but cell service (especially AT&T) is especially poor inside the park.

Page 167 A two pack of FuelRods can be ordered from Amazon.com for $30.

Page 170 New outdoor lockers at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey reduce overcrowding.

PART 5 UNIVERSAL AND KIDS

Page 207 The Barney characters no longer appear in KidZone.

PART 6 DINING & SHOPPING

Page 212 Most restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort now accept dining reservations 180 days out.

Page 222 Souvenir cups and nonactivated Freestyle cups can still be filled with soft drinks at most quick-service dining locations and snack stands for $1.59 per one-time refill. However, this offer is being phased out and may not be available during your visit.

Page 223 After “Freestyle machines are now found at nearly every quick-service restaurant, with more than a dozen dispensers in each theme park and a handful at Volcano Bay,” add “and CityWalk.”

Page 223 Souvenir Cup drink packages at Endless Summer Resort now cost $9 each for one day, $12 for two days, $15 for three days, $18 for four days, and $3 for each additional day.

Page 231 Ben & Jerry’s next to the Starbucks in New York has closed. Häagen-Dazs ice cream has replaced Ben & Jerry’s at Schwab’s Pharmacy and across the Universal Orlando Resort. 

Page 233 At Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous: Change “Dippin’ Dots sundaes and floats for dessert.” to “Brookie chocolate chip brownies for dessert.” Dippin’ Dots are no longer available at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous or anywhere else at Universal Orlando Resort. Similar Mini Melts frozen desserts can be found at Pier 8 Market at Endless Summer Resort’s Dockside Inn & Suites, and Bayliner Diner at Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

Page 234 Green Eggs and Ham Cafe: Brisket Philly Tots (with onions, peppers, and cheese) have been added to the menu. S’mores are no longer available.

Page 236 Kohola Reef at Volcano Bay no longer serves breakfast.

Page 237 Bread Box sandwiches no longer include fries or potato barrels; sides now cost $2.50 extra.

Page 239 The menu at Hot Dog Hall of Fame, which was simplified during the pandemic, has been restored with Vienna, Kayem, Koegel, and Hebrew National sausages available again. A vegan field dog comes topped with roasted corn and chilies. Platters include fries for $1 more. 

Page 242 Most Universal Orlando table-service restaurants, including BigFire, Bob Marley’s, The Cowfish, and VIVO, are again operating daily; exact hours are still subject to change.

Page 269 Change “The Comic Book Shop has a good selection of current releases and trade paperback classics,” to “The Comic Book Shop has a small selection of trade paperback classics.”

Page 270 A new supersize Universal Studios Store has taken over a large swath of the retail space on the right side of CityWalk heading toward Universal Studios Florida, offering one-stop shopping for all theme park souvenirs, including the best selection of Harry Potter products outside the parks. The previous Studios Store has been rebranded as the Universal Legacy Store, stocked with nostalgic throwback merchandise and museum-style displays of artifacts from extinct attractions.

PART 7 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA

Page 278 The side entrance to Universal Studios Florida is currently closed while the Blue Man Group is being removed from its former theater. On peak attendance days, this gate may be opened during select hours to provide direct pedestrian access to and from Seuss Landing in Islands of Adventure

Page 292 Free same-day reservations are no longer available for Ollivanders; the show is now standby only.

Page 301 A Day in the Park with Barney has permanently closed.

Page 306 The Horror Make-Up Show’s lobby exhibits have reopened to guests.

Page 309 Universal Orlando presented a modified version of its Mardi Gras celebration February 6–April 11, 2021. The big-name concerts and nightly parades were canceled. Parade floats became static displays around the park, and stilt walkers and street musicians performed intermittently. International food and drink were sold from booths around the park, and a Mardi Gras Tribute Store was located in the New York area. Visit https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/things-to-do/events/mardi-gras for more details.

Page 311-312 Halloween Horror Nights 30 will take place on select nights September 3–October 31, 2021, with Beetlejuice as the featured headliner.

PART 8 ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE

Page 339 Guests visiting the Jurassic World VelociCoaster will be able to bring phones, wallets, and other loose objects into the queue; free small lockers can be accessed immediately before and after riding the attraction. Larger paid lockers are available inside the lower level of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center.

Page 349–350 Free same-day reservations are no longer available for Ollivanders; the show is now standby only.

PART 9 VOLCANO BAY

Page 359 Volcano Bay is currently operating daily. However, some food and merchandise locations are closed, and select attractions—including Taniwha Tubes and the Kopiko Wai lazy river—may not open until 1 hour after regular park opening. 

PART 10 CITYWALK

Page 376-377 Blue Man Group has permanently closed at Universal Orlando.