Universal bills its annual Rock the Universe event, which is held after-hours at Universal Studios Florida, as Florida’s biggest Christian music festival. Whether that’s technically true or not, you’ll be more than ready to “rock, ride, and rejoice” when the celebration occurs on Friday, January 29 and Saturday, January 30, 2021 – more than just being a collection of the biggest names in the Christian rock scene, Rock the Universe also encapsulates a few other experiences across its weekend-long event.
If you’re still not used to seeing those event dates in the beginning of the year, don’t worry – you’re not alone. After 20 years of throwing the annual shindig in early September, just before Halloween Horror Nights, Universal moved Rock the Universe to late January/early February in 2019, the time frame that was previously occupied by A Celebration of Harry Potter. Since that wizarding event has been cancelled (at least, for the time being), it created a new window for the faith-based party to be held in, just a week before Mardi Gras kicks off.
Or, as Universal itself put it in 2019: “Now in winter. Cooler than ever.”
Rock the Universe 2021 – overview and explanation
Rock the Universe was initiated by Universal in 1998 as a way to directly compete with Walt Disney World Resort’s own Christian rockfest, Night of Joy, which had begun 16 years previously; up until 2018, when Disney suddenly pulled the plug on its celebration, the two companies tended to schedule their rival events during the same exact weekend (and to also swap the same musical acts back and forth, as well).
To tip the scale in its own favor, however, Universal has added several sweeteners to the pot over the decades, building out a more robust experience than what Disney typically offered. In addition to the main action at the Universal Music Plaza, there typically also is a secondary stage, autograph sessions, a live DJ, candle-lighting ceremony, and a Sunday morning prayer service.
Finally, if you arrive as the head of a youth group, special lounges have been set up for you to take a break from all the rocking, riding, and supervising.
NOTE: since no 2021 details have yet been made available, the following info from ’20 will serve to give you an idea of what to expect.
Rock the Universe 2020 – tickets
The biggest thing to know about Rock the Universe is that it’s a hard-ticketed event, meaning that daytime admission won’t get you access to all the concerts and other associated experiences at nighttime. The second most important item to know is that Universal offers up several different ticket variations, ranging from night-only passes to weekend-long vacation packages.
A basic Rock the Universe ticket will allow you entry to the event, which starts up at 4:00 pm but doesn’t get fully swinging until 6:00 pm, when Universal Studios Florida closes to day guests. This comes in one- or two-night varieties; the former costs $71.99 and allows you to chose which night you’d like to attend, while the latter is $111.99. (Yes, if you’re an annual passholder, you get a special discount.)
The Rock Your Weekend ticket couples admission to the music fest at night with entry to Universal Orlando Resort’s various parks during the day. These passes come in a couple of different configurations, so you first must figure out whether you want the three- or two-park version (the three parks in question encapsulate Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and the Volcano Bay water park, while the two-park option just includes the two theme parks) and then whether you’d like your ticket to be park-to-park (allowing you to hop from one park to another on the same day) or be just a base one (you can only visit one park per day, though you get to choose which that is).
Here’s what the prices for all these various permutations look like:
- Two-park base – $127.99
- Two-park park-to-park – $172.99
- Three-park base – $127.99
- Three-park park-to-park – $172.99
Does that pricing look a little funky? For 2020’s event, Universal is running a promotion of sorts: buy two parks and get the third (that’s Volcano Bay) for free. Since Orlando is warmer than most other locations in the country even during January, you may as well take advantage of the offer and dip your toes in the waters surrounding the 200-foot-tall Krakatau volcano.
(We should additionally note that a Rock Your Weekend pass will also nab you entry to the park[s] on Sunday, January 26.)
Are you going as part of a youth group? As long as you have a gathering of at least 10, you’re eligible for group pricing and benefits. Let’s tackle that last item: not only will the event’s youth-leader lounges (which come replete with complimentary snacks and/or refreshments) be available to you, you’ll also get an extra ticket for free for every 10 that you purchase (please note that they all have to be the same type).
Express Passes do what they always do – allow you to skip the main line to get on a particular ride faster. Much as with Halloween Horror Nights, Express must be specially purchased for Rock the Universe; the normal, daytime version of the tickets won’t work at all. A basic Express Pass (which costs $19.99) can only be used once per participating attraction, while Unlimited Express ($29.99) can be used as many times as you’d like. (For a full accounting of what Express Passes are and how they work, please see our complete guide.)
Rock the Universe 2020 – concerts
Friday, January 24:
- Tenth Avenue North
- Tauren Wells
- The Afters
Saturday, January 25:
- Chris Tomlin
- Bethel Music
- We Are Messengers
- I Am They
Rock the Universe 2020 – additional experiences
First up is the Coca-Cola FanZone, located in the New York section of the park. Beyond offering a chance for fans to connect with – and get autographs from – their favorite musicians at night, there’s a smaller, secondary stage set up for a whole other round of performers during the day. For 2020, this additional roster looks a little something like this:
Friday, January 24:
- DJ Promote
- Leanna Crawford
- Land of Color
Saturday, January 25:
- DJ Promote
- Spencer Kane
- Caitie Hurst
On Saturday night, at 11:45 pm at the Music Plaza stage, there’s the candlelighting ceremony, a type of mini-service that includes a special appearance by one of the headlining bands, and Sunday morning sees a “powerful,” non-denominational Worship Service held at the Blue Man Theater (times are 9:30 am and 10:45 am, and the admission is covered with your Rock the Universe ticket). If you’re interested in the former, we recommend arriving at the scene early; for the latter, however, you’ll need to register in advance, as space fills up quickly.