From the colorful sights and rich smells to the iconic sounds and on-point details in every corner — and even the wardrobe of the helpful Team Members — it all works together to transport you to an absorbing, totally encapsulating experience.
It’s amazing! It’s exciting! It’s unusual! It’s extraordinary! Truly. But, sometimes and for some of us… taking it all in can be a lot. If it’s your first visit, if you are an introvert, if you are with a family member of another generation, if you happen to be more tired on any given day, if you are neurodivergent, or if you are just perfectly you — whatever the reason — planning for a few breaks during your visit is definitely a good idea.
I like breaks because I want to stay at the theme parks all day and see everything. When I take 15-30 minutes to rest my body, my senses, and my mind, it increases my enjoyment of the next, wonderful experience. But how do you find breaks in an immersive, themed resort? Here are my best tips for taking a break when visiting the theme parks at Universal Orlando…
FOCUSED, SMALLER-SCALE ACTIVITIES
When your mind is processing lots of information and input, it can feel nice to give yourself something smaller to focus on.
- In The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, you can buy quills, stationery, and postcards at Owl Post. Then take your correspondence supplies across the way to Hog’s Head pub to enjoy a Butterbeer at a table out back while overlooking Hogwarts castle. Delight in the simple pleasures of writing letters to people you love and who can join you on the next visit. When you are done, walk back to the wizarding stores, have your post stamped with a Hogsmeade postmark, and mail them right there!
- Jigsaw Puzzle – The spacious lobby in Universal’s Great Movie Escape in CityWalk is there for you anytime you need a break, whether you plan to challenge yourself to an escape adventure or not! I like to visit the bar for a mocktail, buy a small jigsaw puzzle in a test tube, and find a marbled table to enjoy fizzy bubbles and complete my puzzle.
- Bring Your Book – Maybe the idea of reading a book in a theme park sounds a little strange, but don’t knock it until you try it! Find a good nook to settle in and spend a few minutes lost in the pages. Many experiences at Universal have ties to books, so it is only fitting to read here. Read the “Harry Potter” series at the Leaky Cauldron in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Read about Egyptian pyramids and pharaohs after enjoying a ride on Revenge of The Mummy. Read about dinosaurs and then learn even more in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. Forgot your book? Universal’s got you. Visit All The Books You Can Read in Seuss Landing to buy a book and/or a book-themed sweet treat!
- Collectible Pressed Penny Machines – Placed all over the resort, these machines can be a fun way to organize your day. Start at the entrance to Universal Studios Florida after grabbing breakfast at the TODAY Cafe. You’ll find a large, shaded entryway with plenty of space, a bench, and restrooms. Get your first collectible penny and take a moment to relax.
SLOW IS THE NEW FAST
Look. I absolutely consider Jurassic World VelociCoaster’s “High Hat” amongst my personal favorite experiences in life. No thrill can top it. But there’s also nothing like embracing the equally fascinating, more leisurely experiences at Universal…
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! – The secret may be out on this Universal Islands of Adventure fan-favorite, but no matter. It’s just so pleasant to move slowly up above with beautiful park views. I’ve been known to bookend my day with this ride at the start and finish.
- Hogwarts Express – Climb aboard to continue the journey and travel between King’s Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station in Universal Orlando. When the door to your train car slides closed, that wonderful sigh of relaxation is all yours. Settle in and enjoy seeing characters and creatures featured in the films. The experience on the Hogwarts Express is different in each direction, so if you need a longer break, you can join the queue again and return to your previous destination. NOTE: You will need a park-to-park ticket to experience the Hogwarts Express.
- E.T. Adventure – Just walking into the main E.T. Adventure queue is a calming experience. The dark forest rests your eyes and biking slowly through the sky on the adventure is smooth, calm, and captivating.
- Kopiko Wai Winding River at Universal Volcano Bay and/or Lazy River at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Call it winding, call it lazy, call it a yes. Staying at Cabana Bay not only puts you steps away from Volcano Bay on an easy mobility path, but you are also basically obligated to take float breaks on both slow rivers. Cabana Bay’s lazy river is right next to a sand beach and The Hideaway Bar & Grill. Personally, I’ll float two laps then get one of Hideaway’s three salads, float two more laps and balance the salad out with cheese fries. When you are ready, getting to Volcano Bay only takes minutes when you’re taking the dedicated walking path. I recommend going straight to Kopiko Wai because here’s the thing, until you’ve peacefully floated through Stargazer’s Cavern, you haven’t really reached the pinnacle of your relaxed Universal bucket list. Even if you’ve seen a picture, it can’t compare to the experience.
PATHS LESS TAKEN
Particularly in Islands of Adventure, you can find many paths behind main locations and away from the main thoroughfares. They are so wonderful!
- Behind Me Ship, The Olive – The winding pathways behind this colorful, imaginative play area could be the best kept secret at the resort. They don’t lead to another area of the park, so most guests chose the main path on their way to another adventure. If you take these wide paths, you’ll be right next to the peaceful lagoon, you’ll find benches and trees, and you can take what could be the second best-kept park secret: a photo of your face “wearing” the VelociCoaster’s high hat.
- Behind Cats, Hats and Things – Take a look around the store for souvenirs and then walk through the back doors into a small courtyard. You’ll find a circular bench around a beautiful, green tree. You’ll also find a sign asking you to watch the nest of a Seuss character who needs a rest (our theme!). Restore yourself and snap another of the most special-yet-uncommon photos in the park.
- Behind Mythos Restaurant – The rockwork at the award-winning Mythos Restaurant is among the loveliest in the park. It’s also cooling and calming. As you wait for your table or any time you need a break, stroll around the side and back of the restaurant. There are several pathways that get you close to water.
- Hotel Walking Paths – While the Water Taxis are super fun and a soothing transportation option themselves, did you know about the beautiful, green pathways leading back to Universal hotels (where you can also grab a nap in your room before round two in the parks)? The Garden Walk near the entrance to Universal Studios Florida leads to the Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. The Garden Walk near Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville leads to Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Universal’s Aventura Hotel.
Lastly, here are my truly next-level tips when I’m serious about building breaks into my day at Universal Orlando Resort.
- Rent a Cabana (ahead of your visit!) at Volcano Bay. There’s no tip for building breaks into your day more next-level than renting a Cabana at Volcano Bay. It’s a private retreat with concierge service just for you and your guests. Combined with the TapuTapu wearable’s virtual queuing, your whole day alternates between immersive and thrilling ride experiences and restful breaks.
- Book a Hotel Right Next to the Parks Really all Universal hotels are great for taking breaks (close proximity, free transportation, a bed waiting for you…), but when I want to balance stimulation with serenity, I book a room at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Returning to this Italian-esque paradise during your theme park day is easy via walking path or water taxi. Once there, you’ve got many options for breaks. One: a calming Mandara Spa appointment in a low-sensory environment. Two: the Villa Pool, which offers private cabana rentals. Three: the can’t-miss standby, a nap in your room. Four: the Hillside Pool known for additional privacy and quiet. Five: a self-guided, nooks-and-crannies walk of the property, on which you’ll find small fountains, staircases, and courtyards that feel like secrets.
- Double Cool: Ice Cream + Knockturn Alley. No lie: I’ve had friends who have never found Knockturn Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley. And that is a true shame because it’s the actual best. Hidden, dark, a little spooky, quieter, and full of fascinations. My next-level tip for giving yourself a break is taking a cold treat (I opt for Salted Caramel Blondie in a waffle cone) from Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour into Knockturn Alley. The triple-cool effect happens when you enter Knockturn’s Borgin and Burkes where the dimly-lit shelves hold some of the most interesting, unusual, and powerful collectibles. This inside-outside pairing of cooler temperatures has a lovely calming effect.
- Caricatures. Between Toon Lagoon and Marvel Super Hero Island, you’ll find a booth with caricature artists, which are so fun! In Universal Studios, you’ll find one across from the Animal Actors On Location! Theater. Here’s the thing: since the art is unique to the individuals, the artist draws you while you sit on a shaded bench for several minutes. Solo or in a pair, this break allows you to rest and leave with a special memory.
SUPPORT FOR ACCESSIBILITY AND SENSORY OVERLOAD
Universal Orlando Resort puts a high emphasis on accessibility to support our broad diversity of guests. Knowing how to find support is key. Prepare for your visit by checking out our know-before-you-go accessibility guidance.
Specific to taking breaks, here are some helpful things to know.
- Quiet Room – Universal proudly introduced a Quiet Room in 2022, specifically designed for guests who need a thirty-minute sensory break. You can find it near Health Services – Production Central at the front of Universal Studios Florida. This first-come, first-serve room offers a quiet and low-stimulation space for guests. It is equipped with rubber floor tiles, an activity wall panel, dimming lights, and two hiding tunnels.
- Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities – Universal Orlando Resort offers a detailed guide to support Guests with cognitive disabilities, and to help ensure they, along with their friends and their families, have a positive experience.
- Service Animal Rest Stations – Speaking of a particular kind of break, trained service animals supporting guests at Universal Orlando Resort also need a break. Universal has recently expanded the various locations all around the property for these important guests to get their rest.
What are your go-to spots to take a break at Universal Orlando Resort? Let me know in the comments below!