We are listing updates to The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2023 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.
Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2023 Updates (as of 1/10/2023)
10 In the third quarter of 2022 alone, Comcast’s theme parks generated $2.1 billion in revenue (up 42.4% over the previous year) for the division’s highest adjusted earnings ever. And TEA/AECOM’s 2021 attendance report estimated each of Universal Orlando’s parks received more visitors that year than any of Walt Disney World’s gates, with the exception of the still-dominant Magic Kingdom.
PART 1 PLANNING BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME
23 Universal Food Blog (uogrubhub.com) is now Thrills Taste Travels (thrillstastetravels.com)
39 Discounts: In Fall 2022 Universal sold 2 Day/2 Park Tickets with an additional two days free.
41 The Military Freedom Pass Promotional Ticket is still available for $199.99 through December 24, 2023, with blockouts on April 3-9, 2023.
57 Volcano Bay Early Park Admission: Kala & Tai Nui Body Slides has been removed from EPA.
PART 2 ACCOMMODATIONS
77 No pets (except for properly trained service animals) are allowed in CityWalk or any of the theme parks.
81 Business Centers: The quiet corner in Cabana Bay’s diner is being replaced by a malt shop.
95 Cabana Bay Flotation toys cost $5–$17 plus tax.
PART 3 ARRIVING & GETTING AROUND
144 On Halloween Horror Nights the self-parking fee is charged until midnight.
145 On Halloween event nights, Premier Pass holders are charged $40 ($50 for Preferred) if they don’t pick up from valet before 7 p.m.
PART 4 ESSENTIALS
162 The Darkroom green screen photo booths have closed.
PART 5 UNIVERSAL AND KIDS
195 The Grinch character breakfast returns to IOA on select dates between November 12 and December 29, 2022. Other character dining remains suspended.
PART 6 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA
200 Professional Fighters League (pflmma.com) will broadcast their 2023 PFL Challenger Series mixed martial arts competition live from Universal on Friday nights from January 27 through March 17.
201 Villain-Con Minion Blast, a glide-through shooting gallery, will open in summer 2023, along with Minion Cafe, transforming that portion of Production Central into Minion Land on Illumination Avenue.
204 The Transformers movie series will be represented in 2023 by Rise of the Beasts.
214 Ollivanders original wands are now available in 13 new styles (including one exclusive to Universal Orlando) that include an explanation of the wand’s lore.
220 The last day of operation for Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone is January 15, 2023. Curious George, Destination Dreamworks, Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Feivel’s Playland, and Shrek’s meet & greet will be replaced with new attractions featuring DreamWorks characters (opening date TBA). E.T. Adventure and Animal Actors continue to operate as normal.
227 After Sing It insert “¡Vamos! – Báilalo (3.5 stars), a 15-minute high-energy Latin dance show inspired by West Side Story and In The Heights, takes over the intersection outside Finnegan’s with a dozen colorful choreographed performers who coax audience members into partying along to tunes by Jennifer Lopez, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony.
228 Rock The Universe 2023 will feature Zach Williams, Skillet, and Matthew West.
233 HHN Express Passes reduce the wait to 25%–50% of what it would otherwise be
234 An additional Stay & Scream area is located in San Francisco at Richters, which provides early access to the house inside the Fast & Furious Supercharged queue.
234 A small overflow holding area is located in Hollywood near the TODAY Cafe (not Hello Kitty shop). Food and drinks are available.
235 after Finnegan’s Bar and Grill Holding Area insert:
Richters Holding Area: Enter the San Francisco holding area between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., grab some food or a cocktail from Chez Alcatraz, and wait to be released towards Fast & Furious Supercharged. Once you’re through the house found in that attraction’s queue, head towards the back of the park and hit the ones near MIB and KidZone before crowds build.
235 HHN Hollywood Holding Area: Check into the holding area outside the TODAY Cafe.
PART 7 ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
273 The Grinchmas meet & greet uses the Virtual Line feature found inside Universal’s mobile app. If meeting the Grinch is a priority, make a reservation as soon as the park opens and you are on resort property. You can also secure facetime with the Mean One and his dog Max by purchasing a holiday tour ($79.99) which also includes a meeting with Santa, reserved viewing for the holiday entertainment, and a buffet of treats.
273 The Grinch character breakfast costs $41.99 for adults, $26.99 for kids 3-9.
PART 8 VOLCANO BAY
PART 9 DINING & SHOPPING
291 Visit universalorlandovegans.com for more vegan menu information.
The Vegan Sausage Wellington (Finnegan’s Bar & Grill) has been replaced by a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie.
293 Pricing for the Grinchmas breakfast is $41.99 for adults, $26.99 for kids 3-9. Hours are 9-11 a.m.
304 Cafe La Bamba has reopened with a new Mexican menu of burritos, tacos, and bowls with your choice of meat, shrimp, or vegan fillings.
316 Panda Express serves a plant-based Beyond the Orange Chicken that is a close mimic of the meaty original.
316-319 Bayliner Diner: Shakes Malt Shoppe, serving ice cream treats, is now open in the back of the Bayliner Diner.
332 The Kitchen offers happy hour specials all day on Sundays, and an Acoustic Brunch (10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; $49 adults, $25 age 10-20, $19 age 3-9) that includes a carving station, salmon platter, and bottomless bloody marys and mimosas. The daily adult breakfast buffet costs $29
345 MIB Gear has added a small arcade, replacing the photo desk.
345-357 The Darkroom photo op, Williams of Hollywood prop shop, and Universal Orlando Annual Passholder lounge have all been turned into a new location for the seasonal Tribute Store, previously found in New York. The Brown Derby was turned into a temporary prop shop, which has now closed. The UOAP lounge is relocating to Islands of Adventure’s Toon Lagoon, replacing the Betty Boop Store.
PART 10 CITYWALK
357 Universal’s Great Movie Escape Room is now open, and costs $50-$60 per player for an hour-long game, which will take you through eight highly themed rooms from your choice of the two featured franchises. Puzzles are designed to adjust to your group’s size and skill level, so whether you solve the tasks quickly or get completely stumped, you’ll still progress through your adventure at roughly the same pace.
Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2022 (Archived Updates as of 8/8/2022)
p2 As of February 12, 2022, face masks are again optional in all indoor and outdoor locations. Guests who are not fully vaccinated are still encouraged to wear masks indoors, but no proof of status is required.
p20 change “an updated completion date has not been officially announced, but the theme park is anticipated to open by early 2025.” To “an updated opening date has not been officially announced, but the theme park is anticipated to be completed by early 2025.”
PART 1 PLANNING BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME
p22 The official Discover Universal blog (blog.discoveruniversal.com) produces podcasts and vlogs with behind-the-scenes interviews and trip-planning advice direct from Universal themselves.
P22 Unofficial Tip: delete “secure Virtual Line ride reservations”
p32 All Annual Pass prices have increased again. 2-Park Passes cost $424.99 for Seasonal Pass, $474.99 for Power Pass, $539.99 for Preferred Pass, and $754.99 for Premier Pass. 3-Park access costs an additional $100 for Seasonal Passes, $110 more for Power and Preferred Passes, and $190 more for Premier Passes. Peak prices for multiday tickets have also increased by $10-$20.
p34 The UOAP lounge is now open on a permanent basis. During peak seasons, operations may be extended from park opening until closing.
p35 Preferred Annual Passholders get 10% off at all Universal-owned in-park restaurants and merchandise, including outdoor carts (excluding alcohol). Premier Passholders get 15% off at all Universal-owned in-park restaurants and merchandise, including outdoor carts (excluding alcohol). All annual passholders save 10%-15% on merchandise, food, and non-alcoholic beverages at most resort hotel locations (including Endless Summer); select locations do not honor discounts during special events and holidays. See tinyurl.com/UOAPPerks for details.
P38 Tripster.com is another third-party vendor offering discounted Universal Orlando tickets.
p39 Eligible military service members can purchase a 2022 Military Freedom Pass Promotional Ticket now through Dec. 27, 2022, which is valid for admission every day through Dec. 31. 2022 without blackouts; the pass starts at $199.99 for 2-park access, with 3-park upgrades available.
p52 change “When EPA is offered at IOA, eligible guests may visit Marvel Super Hero Island and walk clockwise through Jurassic Park to Hogsmeade, but most head straight to Hogsmeade as soon as the gates open. Guests without EPA privileges can still enter early but will be held in the Port of Entry and Seuss Landing.” To “When EPA is offered at IOA, eligible guests may head to Hogsmeade and the VelociCoaster as soon as the gates open, walking clockwise through Seuss Landing and Lost Continent .”
After “Guests without EPA privileges can still enter early but will be held in the Port of Entry and Seuss Landing.” insert “Marvel Super Hero Island’s attractions may open to all guests up to 15 minutes before the official park opening time.”
P54-55 Early Park Admission is only at IOA during most of the year. Early Park Admission is only at USF in September and October, through the run of Halloween Horror Nights. Both parks offered early admission during peak holiday periods like Easter/Spring Break, Memorial Day and July, and Christmas.
p54 As of March 2, 2022, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is again offered during Early Park Admission at Islands of Adventure. Jurassic World VelociCoaster is now officially included in Early Park Admission. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is no longer part of IOA-only Early Park Admission.
p55 Two-Park Early Park Admission will be available March 5-6, March 12-19, and April 11-17, 2022.
p56 The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is no longer part of 2-Park Early Park Admission. Jurassic World VelociCoaster is now officially included in Early Park Admission.
P57 change “For rides that use a Virtual Line like Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, you’ll be able to enter the attraction lobby whenever you like without a prearranged return time.” to “If a ride that accepts Universal Express is using a Virtual Line instead of a standby queue, Express users will be able to enter the attraction whenever they like without a prearranged return time.”
P58 delete “though it does offer free Virtual Line return times”
p62 Lanyard ticket pouches cost an extra $1-5
p63 Universal Orlando has disabled the Virtual Line features from its smartphone app, and has been operating Fast & Furious: Supercharged and Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon with standby queues. Virtual Line may still be available for special events (i.e. for Mardi Gras float riders); or on select busier days for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure via a web browser at vltest.universalorlando.com.
P63 delete “In USF, Virtual Line is mandatory at Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon during select times of day and is offered as an option at Fast & Furious: Supercharged; return times are available at kiosks outside each attraction or through the official Universal Orlando mobile app. In IOA, Virtual Line is sometimes available for Pteranodon Flyers at a kiosk outside Camp Jurassic; all riders must be present to make a reservation.”
p63 after “its usage is mandatory on busier days.” add “Virtual Line has also been implemented on busy days at Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Fast & Furious: Supercharged, and Revenge of the Mummy in USF, and Pteranodon Flyers in IOA, but it was no longer offered for any of those attractions at press time.”
P63-64 Delete “To use Universal’s Virtual Line system, make sure…or close and restart the Universal app.”
P64 Change “At press time, Universal was testing…to claim a spot in the Virtual Line.” to
“To use Universal’s Virtual Line system, go to vltest.universalorlando.com using your mobile device’s web browser. Get started by tapping the ‘Log In’ button in the top-right corner of the webpage, and sign in with the same email address and password you use in the Universal Orlando app and website (or create a new account). Then select the attraction you wish to ride and the number of people in your party. If everything works and there is room in the virtual queue, you’ll receive a confirmation screen with a QR code, and an estimated countdown until return will be displayed; your actual return time may update to be earlier or later, depending on the ride’s operation. When your Virtual Line time does arrive, you’ll have 30 minutes to proceed to the attraction with your QR code in hand, or you can reschedule your entry for later. There may be an initial queue outside the ride for guests needing mandatory lockers; once past the locker logjam, you may still wait 20 minutes or more before boarding the attraction.
The Virtual Line system is usually activated only once the park officially opens for the day, so Early Park Admission visitors can go directly to the standby queue. Additional return times are released periodically throughout the day, so if you try to get in the Virtual Line and receive a message that it’s “temporarily at capacity,” keep refreshing the page or check back a little later. On less-busy days, Virtual Line passes may not be available until standby wait times build later in the day, if at all. You don’t need to be inside the park to join a Virtual Line, but your phone’s GPS must register that you are inside the geofence surrounding Universal’s property. That means you can access the Virtual Line system from the parking garage, CityWalk, or even your on-site hotel room, but not from off-site hotels (except a few nearby properties along Major Boulevard, like the Best Western Plus Universal Inn) or your home.”
P64-65 delete “On peak-attendance days, Virtual Line passes are first distributed…wait 20 minutes or less before boarding the attraction.”
p65 change “we’ve stood longer in Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit’s singles line than the posted standby wait.” To “we’ve stood longer in Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure’s singles line than the posted standby wait.”
p68 Free behind-the-scenes tours are also offered at Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts and Fast & Furious: Supercharged at USF, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, and Jurassic World VelociCoaster at IOA.
PART 2 ACCOMMODATIONS
P71 Epic Universe will open with a 500-room hotel attached to the rear of the new theme park’s central hub, as well as a 750-room hotel across the street from its main entrance, adding a total of 1,250 rooms to Universal’s inventory.
P72 delete “Free parking at the main CityWalk parking garage”; Delete “Free admission to CityWalk clubs (excludes concerts and special events).”
p77 The Pets Unleashed program at Hard Rock Hotel costs $150 for stays of up to one week, and includes a “sWAG bag” with a shirt for your pet, and customized “pet tracks” Spotify playlists available on Spotify; a percentage of the pet fee is donated to local animal shelters. There is a maximum of two pets (up to 50 lbs total) per guest room.
p81 Mears’ free shuttle to Busch Gardens Tampa: delete “(temporarily suspended at press time)”
p92 change “Reader ratings for Aventura are lower than almost all Disney and Universal resorts” to “Reader reactions to Aventura have been decidedly mixed compared to other Universal resorts”
P106 Boutique Hotels: add “We’ve also had great results using HotelTonight .com’s free smartphone app around the country and in Europe. If you don’t mind not knowing where you’ll rest your head until a few days (or even hours) in advance, you can score tremendous savings on properties near Universal, though not on-site.”
PART 3 ARRIVING & GETTING AROUND
p127 E-Z Pass is now known in Florida as Uni; visit GoWithUni.com to purchase a transponder.
p133 As of March 2022, the tolled express lanes are open on I-4 from Kirkman Road (near Universal Orlando) east to State Road 434. Usage starts at $0.50 per segment, or $3.50 to drive westbound for the entire distance; electronic toll transponders or pay-by-plate is required to use these limited-access lanes.
If you use the express toll lanes on I-4 Westbound, take the Grand National exit, turn right at the stoplight to head north on Grand National, then turn left onto Major Boulevard and cross Kirkman Road into Universal Orlando’s property. (See the second route described above for Exit 75AB.)
p134 Security at Orlando International Airport: Guests with hidden disabilities such as autism may request a Sunflower Lanyard from the Main Terminal Information Booths on Level 3, which identifies them to airport employees as needing special attention; see https://orlandoairports.net/site/uploads/Hidden_Disabilities_Flyer.pdf for details. If you require preferential treatment going through security, you can request assistance from TSA Cares at https://www.tsa.gov/contact-center/form/cares or by calling (855) 787-2227.
P134 To shorten your wait at security when departing from MCO, make a free reservation at reserve.clearme.com.
p138 change “six-passenger UberXL or LyftPlus” to “five-passenger UberXL or Lyft XL” and Change “UberSelect” to “Uber Black”
p138 Mears Transportation’s shuttle from Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando costs $24 per person round trip.
p139 change “ride-share will cost about half that” to “ride-share will cost about one-third less”
p141 change “using the pedestrian bridge at the northeast corner (where a new pedestrian bridge was recently constructed)” to “using the recently-constructed pedestrian bridge at the northeast corner”
p142 Prime Self Parking costs $60 ($50 during slower seasons). Prepaid standard parking can be upgraded to prime for $33.
PART 4 ESSENTIALS
p148 Universal Orlando’s partnership with American Express has ended; AmEx card members no longer receive special discounts, and the American Express VIP Lounge has permanently closed.
p149 change “Zip-top plastic or dry bags” to “Zip-top plastic bags”
P159 change “At USF, Package Pickup…but will deliver merchandise to on-site hotel rooms.” to “Packages purchased in USF or IOA can be picked up inside CityWalk’s large Universal Studios Store at least 3 hours after purchasing, from 11 a.m. until midnight. At Volcano Bay, packages can be picked up at Waturi Marketplace.”
P162 Photo Locations: The Shrek meet & greet has moved to Kidzone.
p163 change “Universal Orlando gift cards, meal plans, Express Passes, and Blue Man Group tickets” to “Universal Orlando gift cards and Universal Express Passes”
P165 delete “like Shrek 4-D”
p168 The service animal relief area in USF’s World Expo has relocated outside the Coke kiosk between MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack and The Simpsons Ride.
p168 Vegans can find almond-based chocolate Silk ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. There are now additional vegan options in the Wizarding Worlds, including a plant-based Irish stew, mushroom-jackfruit pie, and meatless shepherd’s pasty. Vegans ordering fried foods will want to enquire about the oil being used. For example, the french fries served at Burger Digs in Islands of Adventure are cooked in their own vegetable oil, but the onion rings are made in the same deep fryer as the chicken.
p170 change “ask for a single seat” to “request solo seat”
p172 After GAP information add: “Finally, while visiting Universal Studios Florida, you may want to take advantage of the designated “quiet room” located behind the Studio Audience Center at the front of the park. This specially-designed space, which features soothing decor and tactile toys, is available for 30-minute breaks on a first-come/first-served basis.”
PART 5 UNIVERSAL AND KIDS
P184 delete Shrek 4-D
P188 after “even smell” delete “. USF’s Shrek 4-D, for example, combines loud sounds, lights, water spray, and moving seats with 3-D cinematography”
p194 Social distancing restrictions have been lifted at meet and greets, allowing guests to make physical contact with characters again.
P194 Universal Studios Florida’s daily Character Party Zone appearances will end September 10, 2022. Characters will continue to appear periodically throughout the day on Hollywood Boulevard, and near their respective attractions.
P195 Shrek, Donkey, and Princess Fiona have moved to KidZone.
P195 after Beetlejuice delete “Classic Monster Cafe”
P195 Guests can meet & greet Global Discovery Group archeologists outside Poseidon’s Fury in Lost Continent (seasonally, when the attraction is not operating).
PART 6 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA
P198-199 remove all “VL Virtual Line”; Delete Classic Monsters Cafe; Delete Fear Factor Live; Delete Shrek 4-D
p200 change “TNA’s IMPACT Wrestling” to “AEW’s DARK wrestling”
Change “Call ☎ 407-363-8400 and select option 5 to find out” to “Call ☎ 407-224-6000 to find out”
P200 change “and Shrek 4-D” to “and the upcoming Minions ride”
p203 On Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, enter 182 in the secret menu to hear Blink 182’s “All the Small Things”
p204 Shrek 4-D is permanently closed as of January 10, 2022. The replacement for Shrek 4D is rumored to be an interactive attraction created by Holovis and Glidepath themed to VillainCon from the Minions films. Guests will stand on a moving walkway and be carried past various scenes that they can interact with using digital projection mapping. The attraction is expected to open in early 2023.
P206 Race Thru NY: When to go: First or last 2 hours of the day.
Change “Race Through New York offers Virtual Line passes instead of a standby queue…enjoy the lobby tributes to the previous hosts” to “Race Through New York begins in the NBC offices lobby with a museum paying tribute to the previous hosts.”
Change “The queueless experience and preshow areas get” to “The preshow areas get”
P207 change “Race Through New York typically opens…when walk-ins are usually accepted.” to “Race Through New York originally operated with a mandatory Virtual Line system, but walk-ins are now accepted throughout the day.”
P208 Fast & Furious: delete “optional Virtual Line reservations available (see page 63)”
P209 Fast & Furious touring tips: change “The free Virtual Line system for Supercharged kicks in…you’ll only save time if the standby wait is more than 30 minutes.” to “A Virtual Line option previously offered here has been discontinued.”
Change “lines are also available” to “lines are still available”
p209 At Fast & Furious Supercharged, ask for a “garage tour” when staff is available for an up-close look at the exotic cars and easter eggs in the queue.
p215 Non-interactive wands have been phased out at Universal Orlando, with only a limited supply of Harry and Hermione collectible wands still available. All other wands for sale at the resort are interactive.
p217 change “toys also found in Hogsmeade’s Zonko’s” to “toys originally found in Hogsmeade’s Zonko’s”
p218 Fear Factor Live has permanently closed. No replacement has been officially announced, but a virtual reality Harry Potter attraction is rumored.
p213 At Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, ask for a “bank tour” to explore the queue’s details without riding (when staff is available).
p223 Curious George Goes to Town has reopened to guests.
p228 Marilyn Monroe and the Diamond Bellas have returned to New York in front of the Macy’s facade.
p228 Sing It! (★★½) has returned to New York’s Delancy Street, near the Blues Brother stage. The live show is an a cappella “competition” loosely inspired by the riff-off scene in Pitch Perfect, featuring earworm pop tunes performed by powerful vocalists. During certain seasons this group may morph into the City Tones, harmonizing on Motown hits or holiday classics.
p228 You may spot a troupe of comedic improvisers disguised as a Second Unit Camera Crew or City Force maintenance workers (★★★) interacting with guests around Production Central.
P229 Universal’s Superstar Parade is being canceled as of the end of May 2022. No replacement has been announced at this time.
p232 Mardi Gras returned to Universal Studios Florida on February 5-April 24, 2022. Live musicians from Louisiana are no longer part of the event, but the parade and big-name concerts resumed. The 2022 parade has a “Planet Mardi Gras” theme, with six updated floats featuring midriff-baring astronauts and fanciful alien lifeforms. In 2022, the event’s international culinary offerings expanded even further, adding festive foods from India and Asia (including several plant-based options) to the lineup of flavors representing Carnivale-celebrating cultures around the world. Sampler lanyards are no longer sold, but guests can save money on bites and beers by buying a discounted non-expiring card valid for food and beverage from the Mardi Gras event booths, as well as select locations throughout the theme parks and CityWalk.
p233 There is no longer a reserved Mardi Gras parade viewing area for American Express cardholders in front of the Bourne Stuntacular, which is an excellent spot to watch the procession from and then immediately exit the park. Annual Passholder reservations to ride the floats sold out before the event began, but spaces may be available on a same-day basis inside the park using Virtual Line.
p233 Mardi Gras 2022 concert acts include Sugar Ray, Diana Ross, Barenaked Ladies, Styx, and Marshmello.
p234 Halloween Horror Nights 31 will run from September 2 through October 31, 2022.
p236 If you can’t wait for formal announcements of the event’s attractions, follow @HNNightmares on Twitter for “speculation maps” with rumored haunted houses and attractions.
P237 change “one is wedged between Men in Black and the Fear Factor Live stadium; and one takes over one of the two theaters inside Shrek 4-D.” to “one is wedged beside Men in Black; and one takes over the extended exterior queue of Fast & Furious: Supercharged”
p239 change “even more exciting than the standard lagoon show” to “almost as impressive as the standard lagoon show”
P240 change “and Shrek 4-D” to “and Music Plaza”
P240 delete “, and more of the classic king-size inflatables (such as Garfield and Grover) can be seen on stationary display around the park
PART 7 ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
P249 delete (seasonal) after Wimpy’s
P251 Ask for a free villains tour of the Doctor Doom’s Fearfall queue.
p260 change “which often has little to no wait” to “which (when available) often has little to no wait”
p261 At Jurassic World VelociCoaster, ask for a “facilities tour” (when staffing is available) to learn about the queue’s hidden details without riding.
P262 Pteranodon Flyers: When to go: delete “, or use Virtual Line”
P264 Chocolate Frogs are now available in milk or dark chocolate
Delete “, or look for Virtual Line kiosks outside…2 hours before the park closes.”
p271 At Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, ask for an “alumni tour” (when staffing is available) to explore the castle queue without riding.
p277 In 2021, the Grinchmas show was presented inside the former Blue Man Group theater between IOA and USF; access to the venue is via a pathway behind Circus McGurkus. The large theater provides ample comfortable seating with good sightlines, but arrive early if you want to ensure a seat up front.
p278 change “with Potter-bound guests racing clockwise from Port of Entry through Marvel Super Hero Island” to “with Potter-bound guests racing counter-clockwise from Port of Entry through Seuss Landing”
PART 8 VOLCANO BAY
PART 9 DINING & SHOPPING
P297 after “the more creative menus at the Today Cafe” delete “and Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe”
P298 Quick Service Kids’ Meals are available at most indoor fast food restaurants for $7.49, and include a child-friendly entree – hamburger, chicken fingers, mac & cheese, etc – with a side of fruit. Unlike at Disney, Universal’s child menus don’t include a beverage. Kids’ meals are usually not listed in the online menus or mobile ordering system, so you’ll need to seek out a cashier to purchase one. Adults with smaller appetites or finicky palates can order quick service kids’ meals for themselves.
p299-300 When using Mobile Ordering, talk to a team member as soon as you pay for your meal and verify that you are at the dining location; don’t wait for the app to alert you that your food is ready.
P300 add “Mandatory mobile ordering may be enforced at select restaurants during peak periods. You may need to manually input the code number on your table (instead of scanning it with the app) to get your food delivered.”
P301 change “For licensing reasons, Universal refuses to serve the drinks without the topping—even if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant.” to “Fortunately for those who are vegan or lactose-intolerant, Universal will now serve Butterbeer without the topping upon request.”
P305 add “A Minion-shaped souvenir popcorn bucket is available for $25, including the first fill-up.”
p307 Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck has replaced its Korean beef (our former favorite) with equally flavorful pork carnitas. Guacamole is no longer served, but you can now ask for green salsa with more kick than the mild red variety.
p312 Today Cafe has Mobile Ordering
P312 Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe has permanently closed; it is rumored to be replaced by a Minion-themed restaurant.
p313 The Burger Digs herbivore portobello mushroom sandwich with tempeh bacon replaced the previous vegan burger.
p313 Circus McGurkus no longer serves pasta
p314 Comic Strip Cafe has an expanded and greatly improved menu, replacing the dire “stir fry” with Asian noodle bowls and Latin American cornmeal arepas stuffed with meat or cheese, alongside the same below-average burgers and pizza. Try the char sui ramen with pork belly in unctuous tonkotsu bone broth, or vegan edamame dumplings; skip the egg rolls, which are still sub-par.
P315 Green Eggs and Ham Cafe’s Pizza Tots are now also available with vegan pepperoni and cheese. Brisket Philly Tots have been replaced by roasted pork carnitas tots with salsa and lime crema.
P316 delete (seasonal) after Wimpy’s
p320 Voodoo Doughnut mobile order pickup is now located at a booth across the walkway from the shop entrance.
p338 Mythos Restaurant was voted world’s best theme park restaurant by visitors to the website theme parkinsider.com—an honor it has earned ten times, most recently in 2021.
p340 change “The Cowfish and Fusion Bistro at CityWalk” to “The Cowfish at CityWalk and your local supermarket”
P345 Wantilan Luau at Royal Pacific Resort has reopened as of June 24, 2022. Prices are $89 for adults, $39 for kids (including gratuity but not tax). Premium Seating gets you a souvenir tiki mug and a reserved table near the stage for an extra $20 per person.
P348 delete “as well as serving as the park’s package pickup point”
P350 Williams of Hollywood prop shop is permanently closed as of June 26, 2022.
P351 The Marvel Boutique is now a superhero character meet & greet location.
P351 delete “and package pickup location”
p352 The Coin Mint in Lost Continent has closed, and is now a stall selling colorful clothing.
p352 Shop of Wonder, located next to The Mystic Fountain in Lost Continent, has been permanently converted into an All Hallows Boutique, selling spooky seasonal merchandise in a haunted house-like atmosphere.
P352 change “$16 pearl” to “$17.98 pearl”
PART 10 CITYWALK
P358 As of August 2022, all unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 must leave CityWalk by 9 p.m. on Friday-Sunday nights, unless staying onsite or attending a movie.
P360 The Groove at CityWalk is permanently closed. In late 2022, Universal’s Great Movie Escape Room will open in the club’s former space, with immersive games themed after Back to the Future and Jurassic World.
APPENDIX & TOURING PLANS
P383 #8: delete “or get a Virtual Line return time for early afternoon if the standby entrance isn’t available.”; Delete #15; Delete #17
P384 delete #5; #7 delete “, or get a Virtual Line return time for midafternoon if the standby entrance isn’t available.”; #14 delete “and use your Virtual Line reservation for Race Through New York, if you didn’t ride earlier.”
P385 delete #5
P396 #15 change to “Ride Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon if the wait is short.”; Delete #17
P397 #8 delete “Virtual Line reservations shouldn’t be necessary, but”
Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2021 (Archived Updates)
Page 5 To contact the authors, email Info@theunofficialguides.com.
Page 19 As of March 3, 2021, construction has resumed on Epic Universe; an updated completion date has not been officially announced, but the theme park is anticipated to open in early 2025. NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell has said that the park will be Universal’s largest in the U.S., and will included characters from DreamWorks, Nintendo, and Illumination.
SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 AND UNIVERSAL ORLANDO
Page 20 As of May 29, most social distancing restrictions have been rescinded at Universal Orlando.
Page 22 As of May 6, Universal Orlando is no longer conducting temperature checks for arriving guests at the parking garages or hotels.
Page 22 Face masks are now optional for all guests while outdoors, and are optional (but strongly recommended) indoors for fully vaccinated guests. Guests are not required to provide proof of vaccination.
Page 23 Most social distancing markers have been removed around the Universal Orlando Resort, although guests are still encouraged to maintain space between themselves and other parties.
Page 24 Volcano Bay reopened February 27, 2021, and is currently operating daily.
Page 24 Universal is no longer leaving extra spaces between cars in the parking garages.
Page 24 Valet parking has reopened at Universal Orlando; availability may be limited.
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 As of May 6, all ride vehicles at Universal Orlando are being filled to maximum capacity.
Page 26 Preshows are once again operating at most Universal Orlando attractions, including Escape from Gringotts, MEN IN BLACK, and Race through New York starring Jimmy Fallon.
Page 27 More single rider queues have reopened, including Reign of Kong and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Page 27 Single Rider queues have reopened at almost all attractions that offer them, including Reign of Kong and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Page 28 All theater shows are now being filled to capacity, with no empty seats or rows to separate parties.
Page 29 Camp Jurassic and If I Ran the Zoo have reopened at Islands of Adventure. Fievel’s Playland has reopened at Universal Studios Florida, with some climbing elements still off-limits; Curious George’s playground is the only one that remains closed.
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 34 The Universal Food Blog (uogrubhub.com) features dining reviews and handy links to all of the resort’s restaurants.
Page 36 Another recommended podcast is Coaster101.com.
Page 36 Best Universal Social Media Feeds: Please follow @theunofficialguides on Instagram and Pinterest.
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 67 Spider-Man will operate instead of Incredible Hulk during EPA at IOA (seasonally).
Page 67-68 As of May 3, early park admission returned to Universal Studios Florida only. Olivanders in Diagon Alley does operate during EPA.
Page 68-69 2-Park Early Park Admission returned starting June 14, 2021, through the peak summer season. Olivanders is open during Early Park Admission at both parks. VelociCoaster is not officially included in EPA, but it may open its queue to early guests and begin running about 30 minutes prior to regular park opening. Guests participating in EPA at Islands of Adventure walk clockwise through Marvel Super Hero Island to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; day guests may enter early but are held in Seuss Landing until regular opening time.
Page 74 Lanyards at Universal now cost $13-$15, plus $1-$3 for the ticket pouch.
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, if at all. 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. Some off-site hotels along Major Boulevard, such as the Best Western Plus Universal Inn, are inside the Virtual Line geofence.
PART 2 ACCOMMODATIONS
Page 86 Sapphire Falls Resort reopened on May 18, 2021.
Page 88 Onsite hotel guests can use an online pre-check-in service to shorten their wait upon arrival. Guests purchasing packages directly from Universal Vacations can add travel protection for $44.95 per person (ages 3+), allowing them to cancel for any reason up to 24 hours prior to departure, and receive a full refund and/or air travel credit.
Page 93–94 The Mandara Spa at Portofino Bay reopened December 1, 2020.
Page 103 Aventura Hotel reopened on June 16, 2021
Page 107 Cabana Bay lazy river flotation rafts cost $12-$15 plus tax, and are provided unpackaged and pre-inflated; they can be exchanged for an uninflated packaged tube prior to departure (during pool operating hours).
Page 108 Endless Summer Resort Surfside Inn and Suites reopened on May 26, 2021.
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 146-148 FlyFlair (flyflair.com) now flies to Sanford International from five Canadian airports, including Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
Page 153 The pedestrian bridge over Kirkman Road at Major Boulevard is now officially open.
Page 154 Traffic at the toll booths tends to back up with idling cars as the free parking hour approaches, so avoid arriving shortly before 6 p.m.
Page 155 Prime self-parking at Universal Orlando’s garages costs $40 ($50 during peak attendance periods). Preferred Pass holders and guests with prepaid standard self-parking can upgrade to Prime for $14 ($24 during peak periods).
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, not at 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.
Page 174 The Spider-Man meet and greet inside the Marvel Alterniverse store has reopened.
PART 5 UNIVERSAL AND KIDS
Page 207 The Barney characters no longer appear in KidZone. A new DreamWorks Destination character party can be found inside the former Barney theater.
Page 207 New interactive explorer characters can be found in Port of Entry at Islands of Adventure.
PART 6 DINING & SHOPPING
Page 212 Most restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort now accept dining reservations 180 days out. Some restaurant reservations do not appear inside Zomato’s app, but they can be found using the links on tinyurl.com/unidinres. Reservations at in-park restaurants are only guaranteed for 7 minutes after you receive notification that your table is ready.
Page 214-215 Universal Orlando has suspended selling all Quick Service Dining Plans and Table Service Dining Plans. Guests who have already pre-purchased plans will still have them honored. No replacement for the dining plans has been announced yet.
Page 220 Hot butterbeer is now served year-round in the Wizarding Worlds.
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. Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in Jurassic Park now offer “island nectar refresher,” a combination of strawberry, lemonade, orange and peach.
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 229 Mobile Ordering is no longer available in Islands of Adventure or at most Universal Studios Florida venues; it may return in the future. Kids’ meals are available through mobile ordering only at Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron.
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 237-238 Bend the Bao opened in CityWalk on June 15, replacing Fusion Bistro Sushi. It serves small Chinese steamed bun sandwiches stuffed with duck confit, pork belly, crab cakes, and fried chicken.
Page 238 Panda Express’ mobile app may be used to order food at the CityWalk location, allowing you to bypass the cashier queue (availability may vary).
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 242 Aventura Hotel’s Urban Pantry has reopened, and is using robots to deliver dishes to diners.
Page 256-257 At Lombard’s, add PEI Mussels frites to our list of featured dishes. However, the chewy charred octopus appetizer is not recommended.
Page 268 The Hello Kitty and Betty Boop stores also stock a selection of Funko figurines and Loungefly bags representing various Universal-affiliated franchises.
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 Ollivanders may distribute free return time reservations when the standby wait becomes excessive, which can all be claimed by mid-morning on busy days. Ask an employee at the attraction entrance for details.
Page 292-293 Interactive wands now cost $59. Standard non-interactive wands cost $55, and limited edition collectible wands cost $75.
Page 298 If you enjoy playing the custom carnival games around The Simpsons Ride, or any of the other skill games found in Islands of Adventure or resort hotel arcades, invest in a Game Play card for $25, which saves you $1 per game on 5 plays; annual passholders get an extra play for free. Larger cards with deeper discounts are also available.
Page 298 Kang & Kodos is no longer seasonal, and it now opens daily at 10 a.m.
Page 301 A Day in the Park with Barney has permanently closed. DreamWorks Destination, a dance party and photo opportunity with characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Trolls, and other DreamWorks films, has temporarily opened inside the former Barney theater.
Page 302 Fievel’s Playland has reopened, including the water slide. Some climbing elements remain off-limits.
Page 303-304 The Bourne Stuntatcular now accepts Universal Express.
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–May 2, 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 336 Camp Jurassic has reopened, but some portions of the playground (including the net climbs) are still off limits.
Page 337 The interactive exhibits in the lower level of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center have reopened.
Page 338-339 The Jurassic World VelociCoaster officially opens in Jurassic Park on June 10. Previews for employees and selected annual passholders have been completed, and intermittent technical rehearsal for the general public are expected in the weeks leading up to the grand opening. See our VelociCoaster review for more details.
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.
344-345 Universal is currently testing a new Virtual Line system for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which is accessed by visiting vltest.universalorland.com in a web browser (instead of through the app). Guests must sign in with an email address and password, before selecting the number of people in their party. If there is room in the virtual queue, an estimated countdown until return will be displayed, which will update depending on the ride’s operation. When your virtual line time arrives, you will be permitted to enter the queue, and should have a short wait before boarding. The system is activated once the standby queue becomes full which may happen within minutes after opening with additional return times released periodically throughout the day, and users must still be on Universal Orlando property to claim a spot in the Virtual Line.
Page 349–350 Ollivanders may distribute free return time reservations when the standby wait becomes excessive, which can all be claimed by mid-morning on busy days. Ask an employee at the attraction entrance for details.
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.
Page 361 Guests renting Cabanas or Premium Seating lounge chairs get the ability to Mobile Order upscale appetizers (such as conch fritters and pork belly pizza) that aren’t offered on the regular menus.
PART 10 CITYWALK
Page 370-371 The former Dippin’ Dots kiosk in CityWalk has become the Riverfront bar, serving craft cocktails and appetizers.
Page 376-377 Blue Man Group has permanently closed at Universal Orlando.