It is a lot more fun to talk about the attractions, but for first-time visitors it is just as important to talk about what Universal Orlando looks like as you arrive. Let’s go over the details…
Parking and guest drop-off – the basics
Here’s the first thing to know about arriving at Universal Orlando: there is one enormous parking and transportation structure for Universal CityWalk, Universal Studios Florida, and Islands of Adventure. (The on-site hotels are the only component of Universal Orlando Resort with their own parking lots.) So, unlike Disney World, you park once and forget about your vehicle for the day. No matter what you do at Universal Orlando – whether you are just going to one park or if you are going to both parks, CityWalk, and the on-site hotels – you won’t go to the parking structure again until you are leaving for the day.
The Universal parking structure consists of two enormous parking garages and a centralized transportation hub. Once you have parked or been dropped off, you walk straight from the transportation hub into Universal CityWalk, and on through CityWalk to the destination of your choice. The security bag check station is located in the transportation hub, not in front of the two individual theme parks – except for Halloween Horror Nights, when they also have security in front of Universal Studios Florida. It usually takes about 5 to 8 minutes to walk from your car to the central transportation hub. Then it takes about 15 minutes to get from the hub to the entrance of either theme park. If needed, wheelchairs can be rented at the hub.
Security checkpoint at Universal’s transportation hub on a busy summer morning.
Universal CityWalk is the gateway to Universal Orlando Resort. Can you see IOA’s Dr. Doom in the distance?
Let’s talk driving
If you are driving to Universal Orlando, write yourself a big sticky note that you need to put 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando into your GPS. If you put in Universal Orlando or Universal Studios, you will likely be brought to 1000 Universal Studios Plaza. That’s the employee parking lot – there is nowhere for you to park there! The guest parking structure is on the opposite end of the property, at 6000 Universal Blvd.
Check out where the marker in this map is pointing and Click here if you want to input your address and get directions
View OI’s Universal Orlando Resort Map in a larger map.
You have three options to park your vehicle. General parking is $20, and you will get a spot somewhere in one of the parking garages. If you arrive after 6:00pm, the price may be lower – see the FAQs below.
Preferred parking is $30. What exactly do you get for six dollars more? You are supposed to get a spot closer to the central transportation hub, but that doesn’t always happen. Here is the best advice we can give: If you are arriving first thing in the morning, you should have a superb chance of parking closer using Preferred. On the other hand, if you arrive after the morning rush, Preferred Parking probably will not get you significantly closer to the transportation hub.
The valet parking area is separate from the garages so be sure to watch for the signs as you drive up! If you do not mind spending the extra money, valet parking will get you quite a bit closer to the CityWalk entrance and only about a 10 minute walk from the theme park gates (it has its own security checkpoint).
2 hours or under: $20
Over 2 hours before 6pm: $40
Over 2 hours after 6pm: $35
Preferred Annual Passholders receive $15 valet. Premier Annual Passholders receive free valet. These special discounts are not valid during Mardi Gras, Halloween Horror Nights, New Years Eve, and July 4th.
Universal Orlando’s Valet parking rates in December 2011. Note the new rates above.
I am just going to CityWalk… do I still have to pay for parking?
Yes. Remember, there is only one parking complex for Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Universal CityWalk. Therefore, if you are going to any one of these three destinations, you have to pay for parking. However, there is one exception. As you can see in the image above (click it to view the image full-screen), if you are just going to CityWalk for lunch then participating venues are able to validate Valet parking, so you don’t have to pay. Once you have chosen which CityWalk restaurant you are going to, we’d recommend contacting them directly to make sure it is one of the venues that validates Valet parking.
I just need to stop at Universal for a few minutes… do I still have to pay for parking?
Yes. For General and Preferred parking, you pay upon entry to the parking complex. And, as you already know, it is a flat rate. So whether you are parking for 10 minutes or 10 hours, it is the same price. Even if you decide on Valet parking, there is still a charge of $15 for less than two hours, except for the CityWalk lunch exception as noted above.
The only sure way to avoid a parking fee is to have someone drop you off at the parking complex (discussed further down this page). Then you can run into CityWalk or wherever you need to go, do what you need to do, and meet your driver back at the drop off spot. Keep in mind that the driver will need to leave the drop-off area and circle around until you are ready to be picked up, so make sure everyone involved has a cell phone.
What if I have a pet?
Universal Orlando offers kennel services for a flat rate of $15 per pet. For your pet to be eligible for Universal’s kennel service, you need to provide a Vaccine Certificate from your vet indicating that your pet(s) have received: Rabies, D.H.P.P. (Distemper) and Bordetella for dogs & Rabies, Panieukopena, Rhinotracheitus and Calcirus for cats. In addition, No native or exotic species are allowed in the kennels.
Please note that Universal does not walk or feed your pet – you are still responsible for that. Also, the $15 per pet fee is in addition to the parking fee.
If you have any questions about pet requirements or fees, we encourage you to contact Universal directly by dialing 407-224-9509.
Do the prices go down in the evening?
Universal states that parking is $5.00 after 6:00pm. Throughout most of the year that is correct. However, if Universal is anticipating a busy night (like during Halloween Horror Nights or New Year Eve), they may keep their regular parking prices straight on through the evening. Likewise, parking is usually free after 10:00pm, but again Universal might decide to keep staff at the parking booths if it is busy enough for them to make money!
Florida resident special: Like the evening discount explained above, Florida residents actually are offered free parking after 6:00pm with a valid Florida ID. However, do remember that Universal may waive this offer on busier nights.
If I leave Universal, do I have to pay for parking again if I come back the same day?
No, you do not. Just be sure you hang on to your receipt! Also, for first-time Orlando visitors, we should mention that paying for parking at Universal Orlando does not cover your parking at any other destination, like SeaWorld or Wet ‘n Wild. (The only exception to this is if you purchased an Orlando FlexTicket, but that is a whole different discussion.)
“Welcome to Universal Orlando. That will be $20 please.”
Last but not least, don’t think you are going to trick anyone by parking at one of the on-site hotels! Unlike Disney, Universal’s on-site hotels charge guests to park their cars, and for day-guests it is actually more expensive than parking in the regular garages. The easiest way to park for free is to park across Kirkman Rd in the TGIF lot, but that will put you about a 30 minute walk from the gates to either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. It also puts you in risk of being towed.
If you have additional questions about parking at Universal Orlando, visit the official website.
Let’s talk about getting dropped off
If you have hired transportation, you will be brought to a large drop off area right beside the transportation hub. From there you will take an escalator up to the security checkpoint inside the hub. Please note that the drop off area is outside of the parking garage toll booths, so you can be dropped off without having to pay for parking. This is also the same area where you can catch a cab back to your hotel at the end of the day.
Guest drop off area. You can see one of the large parking structures in the background.