Walking through City Walk and seeing the Universal ball and archways lining the entry of Universal Studios I start to feel like a kid again! One of my favorite things is walking through the Jurassic Park gates and hearing the classic Jurassic theme music, taking my back to my childhood when I first fell in love with the movie. There are so many sounds, smells, and moments as we return to the parks every year to create amazing memories with our family and friends.
This year our trip to Universal has provided so much more than that. Visiting Universal in 2020, gave us something to look forward to, a place to get away and a sense of normalcy-or I should say our new normal, outfitted with coordinating face masks, extra hand sanitizer, and our usual character shirts, it has been a time to enjoy each other, appreciate what we have and truly soak in all of the details of the park.
2020 has been so difficult for so many people, and Universal has stepped up their game with extra safety precautions and procedures. They continue to provide a space to get away from the mental load weighing so many down, especially this year.
COVID-19 Safety protocols
Universal is doing a fantastic job of keeping guests physically distanced, sanitizing surfaces, and monitoring guests for properly wearing face coverings at all times. You’ll first notice these extra safety measures as you walk from the parking garages, you’ll be met with one-way barricades to keep guests flowing towards the security checkers in the same direction. Just before the security/bag check, you will have your temperature checked. They have blue markers on the ground for families to stand on at least 6 feet away from other parties around you.
Employees are constantly sanitizing all guard rails and other surfaces guests may touch while entering and inside the park. In fact, we stopped for a break in the “U rest area” and just barely away from our table, while we were resting, we didn’t notice anyone in sight. Just as we gathered our belongings to make our way to ride Hulk, a guest services staff was already cleaning and sanitizing our table and chairs for the next tired feet to pause and take a break.
As guests enter each ride, Universal employees pump hand sanitizer on each rider’s hands just before being seated. After each ride, you will also find sanitizing stations at the exits. Plexiglass separators can be found on many rides to limit exposure between guests.
We also had several chuckles of the poor workers asking people to simply follow the rules and wear their faces covering their nose and mouth. When eating and drinking you are asked to be stationary to enable you to keep 6 ft. distance between you and others. We were pleasantly surprised at how they seem to be enforcing this, yet sad that so many adults aren’t following the rules.
These are just a few of the things you will notice while visiting Universal for the unforeseeable future. All of these safety strategies are able to help them keep the doors open and the rides rolling while keeping concerned guests like us, at the ease during our visit to the parks. As the pandemic evolves, the policies are sure to change, but for now, this has made our experience wonderful and allowed us to create new memories with so many great added safety protocols in place.
Universal Park must do’s
Both parks are continually adding great rides, shows, and attractions. Universal Studios- Recently opened Bourne Stuntacular and is an absolute can’t miss! This show is using state of the art technology that will have you saying “how did they do that?” It is amazing! Make sure you have this on your list for your next visit. Just outside of the Bourne show is another new addition, that you should make a pit stop at. The Central Park Crepe stand. They have many delicious crepes to choose from, my favorite is the brisket crepe. So delicious and not something I thought would go well together. Boy, was I wrong LOL!
For all of the Harry Potter fans out there, we highly recommend getting the park to park pass. It is such an amazing place to get fully immersed in everything that is Harry Potter. We love to start our day in Diagon Alley. Escape from Gringotts is the ride in this area and a must-do! Be sure to get yourself a butterbeer and some of Florean Fortescue’s ice cream. Make sure to also head down Knockturn alley for some secret surprises. The detail put into Diagon Alley is absolutely amazing and fully immersive! Our kids love the interactive wand experience in Diagon Alley and then again in Hogsmeade after taking the train from Kings Cross to Hogsmeade. For kids and big kids, a full day can be spent between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, if you choose!
For the Simpson’s fans, have a Lard Lad donut, or a Duff beer at Moe’s! And for the foodies and shoppers, the middle of the park lines many cute shops and places to stop for a drink or bite to eat. So much fun!
We love all the rides and attractions, but above are some of our favorites must-do’s at Universal Studios. There is something for all ages. If your visit lands in September or October, Halloween Horror Nights are a must!
Islands of Adventure
IOA has different “islands” or themes as you move through the park. We typically start in the back at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and enter Hogsmeade after catching a ride from the Hogwarts Express. As you arrive off the train at Hogsmeade you can jump in line to ride the newest and BEST ride, Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Without giving too much away, you must do this ride while visiting! Be sure to check out the amazing detail at the castle in the Forbidden Journey. So much
detail-that should be seen during the day and if you have the chance at night.
As you might have guessed from my introduction, Jurassic Park is another favorite of ours and is entered after leaving Hogsmeade. The water ride, raptor encounter, and coming soon, Velocicoaster, expected the Summer of 2021! This coaster has multiple launches and drops as you break out of the raptor cages! Looks like so much fun and looking forward to coming back when it is completed. .Seuss Landing is a must-do at Christmas time as it turns into Grinchmas! The last two Islands to see are Marvel and Toon Lagoon. Lots of fun to be had everywhere!
After enjoying the parks CityWalk comes alive at night! Enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants CityWalk offers. Check out a Blue Man Group concert or one of the many concerts around CityWalk or Hard Rock Cafe. Oh, don’t forget to sneak behind Hard Rock to see the section of the Berlin Wall that is there to see. Check it out. Not many know it is there.
Some of the many great restaurants are Toothsome, Antojitos, Big Fire, Margaritaville, and Cowfish. While at Toothsome get a tasty treat. Our kids love the milkshakes. My favorite is the chocolate mules for an adult treat before dinner. So good! If not there for dinner you can grab a donut at Voodoo Donuts before the parks open is one of our favorite things to do on our way in to the parks. There is so much to do here, these are just a few of our favorites.
Epic Universe coming in 2024!
Universal is in the works of building a brand new park with 7 lands that have yet to be released. It looks to include a monster’s land, Fantastic Beasts, and a Super Mario World land! So exciting to see what’s coming up! The pandemic has delayed construction so there may be a delay here. But more exciting things are just around the corner!
While we have not visited Volcano Bay it is the first thing you see as you get off I-4 to Universal Blvd. We have seen many good experiences by others here, so maybe worth us checking out soon!
Consider annual passes at a great value
We recently purchased annual passes to Universal. The value in annual passes definitely outweighs the single-day tickets for us. Not only is it a once a year fee. Some passes come with free parking, express passes included in the afternoon, discounts on merchandise, restaurants, etc. So I would highly recommend checking it out if you plan to visit the parks for more than one day. I figured our passes only costs us the same price as visiting the parks for two days.
We definitely go more than two days a year. So we are getting our money’s worth! We hope you enjoy getting some tips on how to do Universal and things to make sure you check out. Have a great trip while staying at Emerald Island Resort!
Post written by Cory