OI Share: Jim Z reveals his family’s insider tricks from their visit to Universal Orlando & Hard Rock Hotel


Hi OI readers,

My family returned a few weeks ago from our vacation to Universal Orlando. We enjoyed using the touring plans from this site (Editor’s note: learn more about OI’s touring plans). We also figured out some insider tricks to add to the touring plans, especially if you are staying at Hard Rock Hotel.

First, here are a few tips for the theme parks:

  • There is a surprise at the bar at Hogs Head. It’s fun to examine all the details behind the bar, but then the Hog on the wall moves – yikes.
  • While eating or having a cup of coffee at Three Broomsticks, notice the occasional shadowy movements above you.
  • Visiting Camp Jurassic when everyone is still at WWoHP in the early morning (before 9) surreal with all the undisturbed fog. We were the only ones there! Spooky.
  • When lines to WWoHP got too long, sometimes extending over the bridge to Jurassic Park, but we needed a WWoHP fix, we simply went into the castle shop first and entered the tour only line via the locker rooms. I always preferred going through the Tour only line as opposed to the Single rider entrance. It gave me time to decompress and cool off. Of course, both entrances end up at the same place.
  • The single rider line always gives one the best seat on Forbidden Journey (far left when approaching the ride vehicle, right side when seated). When you are in this seat, the dragon breathes on your face most directly!
  • While waiting around the immediate ride exit area at WWoHP, I was watching the people departing the ride. Observing their excitement of the experience is great. It helped remind me of my first time on this truly awesome ride.

We were fortunate enough to have 6 days at the parks with express and early admittance–a single day visit does not give one the time to absorb the details.

Our family with the Simpsons in Universal Studios Florida.
Our family with the Simpsons in Universal Studios Florida.


Now let’s talk about Hard Rock Hotel.

Our typical travel route in the early morning to USF from Hard Rock Hotel elevators was to go through the employee parking lot to save time. The pool gate didn’t open until 8:00 am so we couldn’t take the direct path that starts from the back of fenced-in area. Everyone at Hard Rock (except the front door man) told us we must take the path starting at the water taxi boat dock, which is almost twice the distance to the park. Here’s the route we used: Exit front of hotel (or the Plams exit), turn left and walk past the entrance to the Palms. Go down the stairs, turn left and walk through the parking lots. There are a couple of hidden paths that connect the parking lots. It’s understandable why Hard Rock doesn’t want you to take this route.

Take a look at the map I created:

Paths from Hard Rock Hotel to Universal Studios Florida.
Paths from Hard Rock Hotel to Universal Studios Florida.

The [sws_highlight hlcolor=”33ff66″]green path[/sws_highlight] is our secret path – GPS indicated about .24 miles. You get to see glimpses of hotel operations behind the scenes (ok, stretching this a bit, looking for a silver lining). The [sws_highlight hlcolor=”ffff00″]yellow path[/sws_highlight] is a bit longer but worth it due to the landscaping. But if the gates (red) are locked as they were at 6:30am, they tell you to take the [sws_highlight hlcolor=”ff9933″]orange path[/sws_highlight], twice the distance as green path. Keep in mind, there is another 1/4 mile to get to IOA once you reach USF.

That’s it for now. Thanks again to OI for the touring plans.

– Jim Z

[sws_author_bio user=”OI-Share-a-Story” size=”105″ name_format=”About this post”] [/sws_author_bio]