Guides and Tips

Summer Guide to Universal Orlando Resort

June 22, 2023
A woman walks away from the camera in a shallow pool of water that only reaches her ankles. She wears a yellow top with an orange-and-green object design, and turquoise-and-purple flowy bottoms. She holds a light brown hat in her left hand. Her head is not shown in the image. She walks toward a tan building, and a few tall, seemingly palm trees. The sun is very bright in the sky, reflecting against the hat.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, my favorite season has always been summer. It meant baseball games, long days spent at the neighborhood pool, family trips, and (probably most important) no school. The world felt so much more alive when there were places to go and constant activities to look forward to. It’s an incredibly nostalgic time for me still today — especially now that I work in the theme parks I used to only visit, home to some of the most thrilling activities imaginable.

There is truly no shortage of things to do at Universal Orlando Resort, so when it comes time to create your own summer vacation memories, how do you choose? Well slather on that sunscreen because I’m here to tell you. From beachy resort hotels to frozen delights, you’ll walk away knowing how to stay cool and content.

WHERE TO STAY | WHAT TO DO | WHAT TO EAT

WHERE TO STAY

A view of a lobby at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites. Eight surfboards stand next to one another, each displaying a different white letter of the word "Surfside." From left to right, the surfboards are colored red, green, purple, yellow, red, purple, yellow, and red. The lobby has a white-and-turquoise color scheme, and the walls are covered in glass windows. Two turquoise, round ottomans sit on top of the light gray tiled floor. The ceiling is turquoise and paneled, and several almost-translucent, white circles can be seen in the near center of the ceiling.
@michael_carelli

If you want to carry that summer vacation feeling with you 24/7 (and who wouldn’t?) you’ll need to find a place to stay that gives you true “sunglasses on, no responsibilities” vibes. 

Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort

A boy in a dark gray tank top with light gray lining and green shorts sits facing away from the camera at a window inside of a translucent blue tube, which has text on it that appears to say "beach resort" in a block-like, white font and says "Bay" in a curvy, white font. The boy holds green sunglasses in his left hand and wears a TapuTapu band on his right arm. He is facing a glass window, with a view of the Volcano Bay volcano during the day. The room he is in has a blue-and-turquoise striped carpet. To the boy's left is a red chair with a blue, turquoise, and white striped towel. To his right is a wooden table. There are light beige curtains on the far right side of the window, pulled to leave the window seemingly fully visible.

 Go retro with a 1950s-themed beach resort.

Must-have experiences:

·   Eat breakfast at Bayliner Diner and take in some old fashioned ’60s commercials. You’ll instantly feel transported back to your Saturday morning cartoons days.

·   Grab an inner tube and float down the lazy river for the ultimate in summer relaxation.

·   Stay in a Volcano View tower suite to look down on the island paradise that is Universal Volcano Bay even in your sleep.

Universal Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites

A view of a pool at Universal Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites. Two women recline on pool chairs, facing away from the camera and with their heads unseen. Between the women is a table with two beverages in glasses – a red one on the left with strawberries on the rim and a white straw, and an orange one on the right with a slice of an unclear fruit on the rim and a white straw. The glasses say "Surfside" in a blocky, blue font, along with other text that is too small to decipher. The women's feet point toward an empty pool. In the background is a blue sky with one cloud, and a long building with many windows. The building is primarily gray, though there is a blue stripe and a white, wider stripe at each window. The top row of windows are separated by light orange squares, and wide, gray stripes, with two horizontal white stripes, one on the top of the row and one on the bottom.

Adopt a lifestyle filled with perpetual sand and surf.

Must-have experiences:

·   Have an indoor picnic on the table in your spacious, affordable, beachy 2-bedroom Suite. 

·   Get your next cold drink at the poolside Sand Bar and let your feet rest from all the in-park exploring you’ve inevitably been doing.

·   Count how many surfboards you can spot around the hotel. Or at least take some fun photos to make your friends jealous!

WHAT TO DO

A wide view of the Volcano and surrounding water at Universal Volcano Bay. Several people sit in and around the water. The sky is blue and full of white clouds. On either side of the volcano are several beach-style buildings and structures.
@orlandoattractiontickets

Like I said above, there is so much at Universal Orlando Resort and you’ll want to try it all! But that Florida humidity is going to take more of a toll than you might think. For that reason, I’m choosing to focus on activities that will cool you down or give you a bit of a respite from the break-neck pace of hits like Jurassic World VelociCoaster.

Water Rides

A view of a raft on Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges, full of people. The raft floats down a winding river, surrounded by brown canyon-like structures. The water is splashing around the raft. Trees surround the winding river path, in front of a blue sky.
@becca.travels.21

First thing’s first. You’ll be wanting to know how to put that new sunscreen to good use even in the drier parks. I like to save water rides for the time of day when the sun is at its peak and I can physically feel my tan lines forming for maximum effect.

My suggestions:

A wide-view of a yellow raft full of people finishing the drop on Jurassic Park River Adventure. Giant splashes of water surround the vehicle, landing in the river on either side of the ride track. Behind the river is the Thunder Falls Terrace building. Several people stand at various rock formations and gates separating the terrace from the ride's lake, waving. Many trees surround the building. The sky is blue and full of white clouds.

·   Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges: If you’re hoping to look as if you’ve been submerged in one of those hotel pools we discussed earlier, this is the ride for you. You’ll have water coming at you from all angles and a smile on your face as you laugh at your shocked friends and family.

·   Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls: Get your showers with a side of exhilaration when you careen down a steep drop in a hollowed-out log. Water in your face and wind in your hair? The perfect way to beat the heat!

·   Jurassic Park River Adventure: Start off slow with an awe-inducing boat ride past some of your favorite herbivores before you find yourself face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus rex and an 85-foot drop. If you want to get wet but not drenched, I consider this the perfect amount of splash.

Bonus: You don’t have to be on a ride to interact with water! Try taking your little ones to Camp Jurassic or finding any of the various splash pads throughout the resort to help cool off.

Indoor Experiences

A girl in a white shirt with a yellow and turquoise pattern at the center of her chest and turquoise-and-white striped bottoms smiles as she points a wand with her left hand. She stands at a counter, which has an empty wand box sitting on it. Behind the counter is a bearded man with glasses, wearing a purple robe over a mostly gray top, with a purple pattern on the center, and a matching purple, tasseled hat. He looks up toward where the girl is pointing the wand. A winding staircase with a lamp stands behind the pair and desk, and in the background on both visible walls are shelves with seemingly hundreds of wand boxes.

You’ll never appreciate air conditioning more than when you get hit with a cool blast in the middle of a theme park in July. The great news is that you can feel it again and again because there are a number of excellent attractions that will get you out of the sun for a prolonged period of time.

My suggestions:

The Bourne Stuntacular building's entrance on a relatively clear day. The building has three connected towers, with the two side towers displaying signs reading "The Bourne Stuntacular" in white in front of a man in a jacket's back. On the signs, the man stands against a blue, gridded background, and has a circular target surrounding and slightly covering him. The silver-colored marquee on the center building reads "The Bourne Stuntacular" with the first and last words in light blue, and the middle word in darker blue and larger font. Under the marquee is an empty sign on the left, a clock in the center, and a sign on the right that reads "Entrance." Under that is brown text reading "6 8 8 9." Surrounding the sign and numbers are two cylindrical lamps. Above the marque are two rows of seemingly five, rectangular windows each, though only one window (and the corner of a second) are visible from the lower row. On all three buildings are thin, turquoise panels with dark borders. A stick with a pointed top sits at the center and top of the center tower.
@tharinwhitephotography

·   The Bourne Stuntacular: A true crowd-pleaser, this stunt show blends practical stunts and effects with mind-blowing technology that will keep you on the edge of your seat. At a run time of about 25 minutes, it’s well worth a stop.

·   Ollivanders Experience: Witness a wand actually choose a wizard in an intimate show that’s guaranteed to make me teary-eyed every single time. With locations in both lands of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure, it’s a no brainer.

·   Universal Cinemark Movie Theater: Take a break from stepping into the movies and experience a summer blockbuster the old-fashioned way at a 20-screen theater. Those luxury recliners will feel so good.

Immersive Indoor Queues

People look at displays in the N.B.C-themed lobby of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. The glass displays feature various objects and photos from the history of The Tonight Show. Between some of the displays, the rainbow N.B.C peacock logo hangs on the wall. In the center of the room is a circular ceiling light. The floor is tiled, with every other tile containing a pattern of various rectangle outlines and a solid rectangle at the center.

Standing in line is underrated! I said what I said… When the queues are as thoughtfully designed as those at Universal Orlando, you won’t mind letting those behind you pass as you take it all in.

My suggestions:

·   Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: Any big Wizarding World fan will definitely want to spend some time here. The winding halls of Hogwarts castle are filled with amazing details and references to the movies from the Mirror of Erised to the Sorting Hat. Each turn brings new surprises.

·   Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon: One great thing about this queue is that it’s not a traditional queue! Instead, you’ll wander freely through a series of rooms and hallways that represent the iconic NBC Studios in New York City while you wait for your group to be called to the actual ride. Browse memorabilia or just lounge on the couches and you might be serenaded by the Ragtime Gals.

·   Revenge of the Mummy: I think one of the more underrated aspects of this ride is that the story starts well before you board a vehicle. Meander through the queue and take in film props, concept drawings, and a (fictional) behind-the-scenes documentary detailing how production on “The Mummy” (1999) was cursed.

Breezy Rides

A woman wearing a black hair bow, circular earrings, and a green, button-up dress covered in orange and white flowers looks down and to her left, while pinching the bottom-right of her dress. She stands in Seuss Landing at Universal Islands of Adventure, surrounded by brightly colored structures and blurry plants in pebble patches. Behind her, the multi-colored and striped trolley vehicle of The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! passes by, containing five cars of differently colored versions of the same striped and starred patterns. The Incredible Hulk Coaster is visible in the distance, though blurry. The sky is bright blue, and has a few clouds.
@mallory.drew

Now I consider myself quite a thrill-seeker, but there’s a time and place for every type of ride. Sometimes you just want to be carried along at a leisurely pace while you look at pretty scenery, right?

My suggestions:

·   The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!: Gently weaving around the Seuss Landing treetops, this trolley gives you amazing views of Islands of Adventure along with whimsical representations of Dr. Seuss’s indelible characters. Plus, it has multiple tracks which means you’ll need to ride more than once.

·   Pteranodon Flyers: Before we go any further, it’s important to note that this ride has a height maximum. Yes, it’s only for kids and their accompanying adults, so if you don’t have a little one with you, you’re out of luck. However, young adventurers will have a great time slowly gliding about Jurassic Park and any extra adults can hang out in the shade of Camp Jurassic. It’s a win-win.

Universal Volcano Bay

A man and woman stand smiling in a pool in front of the Universal Volcano Bay volcano, which has water falling down, seemingly from its unseen top.. They are both submerged up to their shoulders. The woman's hands are on the mans shoulders, and the man appears to be holding the camera to take their photo with him right arm. Other people stand and swim in the water, though separated from the pair. Behind the pair is a bridge, seemingly made of bamboo, decorated with various brown, white, and turquoise patterns. The right side of the bridge extends into a hole in the volcano, and people can be seen walking toward the hole. The left side of the bridge seems to end at a platform, which has a circular canopy, also seemingly made of bamboo. There is a hole at the canopy's center, with a turquoise strip lining it. A long tree-like structure sticks up from the top of the canopy. The sky is blue with white clouds.
@russellmarkpusateri

It’s arguable that the sole aim of this article should be imploring you to go to Volcano Bay. This water theme park will make you feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a tropical island oasis in Central Florida, and I don’t know a better way to soak in summer (literally). You’ll absolutely want to plan a full day taking advantage of its charms.

Must-have experiences:

A picture of a woman facing away from the camera, laying with her arms out in a letter V shape above her head at TeAwa The Fearless River at Universal Volcano Bay. She wears sunglasses, a bright yellow-ish-green life vest, and a blue TapuTapu band on her left wrist. Everything between the end of the vest and her ankles are submerged in the water. On both sides of the pool are winding pool walls, matching the shape of the winding water. The top half of the walls are more yellow, and solidly patterned, though have an uneven-like texture. The bottom half of the walls are tiled indifferent shades of brown. Scattered along the bottom half at various intervals are numbered markings on brown tiles. On top of the walls are various trees, many seemingly palm trees. On the left, among the trees, is a green umbrella. A bit in front of it is a blue sign reading "TeAwa The Fearless River" and other, smaller words. On the right is a light hanging from a pole, seemingly made of bamboo. An orange, tubed waterslide is visible in the background. The sky is blue with white clouds.
@jcnicholsphotography

·   Relax on Waturi Beach and take in the mighty Krakatau volcano while the surf nips at the nearby shore.

·   Slip and slide your way through Krakatau Aqua Coaster, a coaster-water slide hybrid that will hype up everyone in your group.

·   Let Kopiko Wai Winding River whisk you away or conquer TeAwa The Fearless River if you’re looking for more of a thrill.

·   Get a drink at Dancing Dragons Boat Bar if you’re over 21. My personal favorite is the Volcano Blossom draft beer, but you’ll also want to try something colorful with an orchid on top for maximum summering.

If you want to go beyond what’s listed, here is a detailed account of how I like to spend a Volcano Bay day.

WHAT TO EAT

A collage of two images of the same two women, with ice cream on the left and drinks on the right. In the image on the left, the woman on the right is wearing a light beige, spaghetti-strap dress and a blue TapuTapu band on her right wrist, smiling toward the woman on her left, who is wearing a white romper and smiling back at the other woman. They each hold rainbow ice cream in cones, which are wrapped in white paper with red polka dots. They stand in front of blurred trees, and a blue sky. In the image on the right, the two women switch sides. A blue TapuTapu band is visible on the other woman's right wrist. They are drinking pink bevarages out of glasses with white straws on a red bridge with a light brown, wooden floor. The glass on the left has an orange on the rim. They stand in front of blurred trees and a blue sky with clouds.

I know what you’re thinking… “You want me to do all of these activities, but when am I going to eat?” We’re burning a lot of calories here. Look no further than the below!

Table Service Restaurants

I would definitely recommend making reservations for at least one sit down restaurant every day you plan to spend in the parks. Not only is the food amazing, but you’ll get to rest your feet and leave your worries in the heat while cold drinks are brought to your table.

My suggestions:

A view of two people eating at a wooden table. Neither person's face is visible, but their hands show them eating the food. On the left, a person puts their fork into a bowl of food. On the right, a person breaks apart a piece of fried fish, which came from a dish covered in newspaper. The dish has a lemon and a small glass bowl with a dip. Two beverages sit behind the dishes of food.

·   Mythos Restaurant: This is my pick for Islands of Adventure, but also just an all-timer. Step inside a cool grotto for a mix of Mediterranean, Asian, and American fare with options elevated far beyond your typical popcorn and turkey legs. You’ll never want to leave.

·   Finnegans Bar & Grill: A great choice if you find yourself starving in Universal Studios Florida, this is a traditional Irish-American pub and a lively bar. Grab a pint and you might even get to enjoy some live music.

·   Universal CityWalk: You can also always pop over to Universal’s premiere entertainment district, conveniently located just outside Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. With restaurants for every imaginable taste and budget, you’ll find something worth your while. One of my favorites is Bigfire, where you can pretend you’re back at summer camp and roast marshmallows or just commandeer a corner of the bar for drinks and appetizers.

Frozen Treats

A woman in a yellow shirt and black-white-and-yellow patterned bottoms drinks butterbeer out of a clear mug. She stands in front of bright, multi-colored buildings at Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida.
@disneyinspiredlife

To quote a song played more than once at my middle school dance, “What’s cooler than being cool?” There are plenty of deliciously ice cold options available throughout the resort.

My suggestions:

·   Frozen Butterbeer: There is no better feeling on a hot day than when this slushy concoction reaches your lips and you’re instantly hit with a flavor reminiscent of butterscotch and shortbread. Prove me wrong.

·   Milkshake at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen: Whether you go for Key Lime Pie or the classic Confetti topped with an entire slice of cake, these are perpetually a crowd pleaser.

·   Pineapple Fire and Ice Margarita at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food: If you’re 21 or older, this is the perfect mid-summer refresher. Tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime, and a whole pineapple ice pop. Cheers!

Just Feels Like Summer

A close up of a girl eating a super long hot dog, covered in various toppings and condiments. The girl is wearing a bright pink tank top, and an earing on the ear that is visible in the photo. The hot dog sits inside a cardboard basket-shaped container, on top of a dark brown, wooden table.

Ok, we’ve covered the deliciously practical. But there are a couple additional dining experiences to which I wanted to call specific attention, because they are perfect for the season.

My suggestions:

·   Hot Dog Hall of Fame: The nation’s best hot dogs have all assembled here to provide you with some big league taste. Close your eyes and you can practically hear the chatter from the bleachers.

·   Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville: This one might be a bit personal, but as someone whose parents played Jimmy Buffett on every Florida road trip, nothing serves me sun-drenched nostalgia like this restaurant.

So what did I miss? Tell us how you like to spend summer at Universal Orlando Resort in the comments below!

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