A Universal Orlando Shocker If You Are Used to Disney World

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Orlando theme parks are major league on my mind right now because we are deep in the middle of finalizing our big family summer trip that will include Universal and Disney. However, I am also briefly in Orlando for work in the near future, so I’ve been thinking about how to make the most of that short stay. We have a decent handle on Disney and our options and strategies when visiting that family of parks, but Universal Orlando is tripping me up time and time again because I am so used to the way Disney operates.

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I recently covered how mind-bogglingly expensive Universal Studios can be (even more than Disney), but what I learned about Universal Orlando today shocks me even more than the price tag. If you are used to Disney but newer to Universal, you may also be very surprised to learn just how early the Universal Orlando theme parks close in the evenings.

Universal Orlando Theme Parks Close Shockingly Early

It is very common for Disney’s Magic Kingdom to be open until 10PM, 11PM, 12AM, and sometimes even later than that. With that as my reference point, today I naively suggested going to Universal Studios for a few hours in the evening when our nearby work commitments were over for the day. I thought it would be pretty fun to hit a few rides on a mid-week evening without terrible crowds, and then eat some bangers and mash in the Leaky Cauldron. It’s a little silly to buy a theme park ticket and only use it for a hours in the evening, but it is the kind of ‘right place, right time’ silly that is usually worth it to me.

Coming from a Disney World background, imagine how far my jaw fell when it was pointed out to me that the Universal theme parks close that day at 7PM. Not only that, but it gets worse. On many dates, the park closes as early as 5PM!

Closed at five in the afternoon? Who closes a theme park at five, six or seven in the evening – even on a Friday night?!

If I’m understanding this correctly, a visit to Universal Studios costs more than Disney, and the parks close significantly earlier. While at Disney, we love having a morning in the parks, napping and playing at the resort in the afternoon, and then returning at night for a whole different (cooler) experience.

Disney sun is setting, but the fun continues for hours.

While there are dates that Universal Orlando is open until 9 or 10PM, especially in the summer, don’t be like me and operate with your Disney paradigm assuming that evening park hours are automatically on the table. There are a whole host of dates when the Universal Orlando parks close as early as five or six in the evening.

I guess we will have to save Hogwarts themed bangers and mash for another day!

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Comments

    • I saw a handful of dates where that happens as far out as their schedule goes, but most of the time it looked like that is when they have a night event like Not So Scary that then kicks in. Also not as big a deal there as a different park will still be open until 9 – at least on all the dates I saw. Still, it would also be disorienting to be there for a true 6PM Magic Kingdom shutdown.

  1. Universal isn’t more expensive if you compare apples to apples. 1 day peak WDW park hopper ticket is $184 which is more than Uni 1 Day park to park. Also deluxe Disney hotels are around the same price if not more than deluxe Uni hotels – but with deluxe Uni hotels you actually get the awesome Express Passes!! Neither Disney nor Uni really makes much sense cost wise for one day only – they are way too expensive.
    And your calendar is for Universal Studios for Oct 2018. There is a hard ticket even almost nightly called Halloween Horror Nights – hence the early closures. Like the Xmas Party or Halloween early closures at MK but you definitely don’t want to take the kids :).
    We just got back from a very fun and very crowded Disney trip for Spring Break but honestly prefer Universal more – it’s just more relaxing and contained.

  2. We’ve always been surprised how quickly we can get through the Universal parks. We usually have their Express Pass (either by paying cash or via staying onsite). We have no problem doing two parks in two days and doing everything we want to do.

    I do agree though that 5pm is just stupid. People on vacation in Orlando tend to go all day…so not sure what Universal expects those people to do post 5pm. They actively target families with older kids. Not being open past dinner time leaves families with 10 to 18 years looking outside Universal for something to do.

  3. This is often because Universal rents the entire park out for corporate events. I was in Orlando for 2 specific conferences just last year that had the entire park rented out from 6-9pm.

    • Exactly. Universal does a lot of evening special events. Around this time of year, they have a lot of schools only evenings (like grade 8 nights, high school grad nights, etc) as well as corporate events all year round and special ticket events. They are rarely actually closed in the evenings.

    • Yeah, I figured that, but it is consistently closed early for weeks at a time so maybe a mix of corporate events and just normal closing time? Either way, someone please invite me to a corporate event with minimal Harry Potter waits and we can be buddies!

    • Ha ha – yeah SeaWorld is different in my mind. Also with animals, it used to make sense when Animal Kingdom closed earlier than some others…though they seem to stay open later now.

  4. Sea World? Yikes, haven’t thought about that place in a few years. Last time we were in MCO my teenage daughter wanted to go to Sea World – to picket!!

  5. Universal is currently running Grad Bash nights. Parks will be closing earlier for the next month or so until summer season starts. You just need to check the schedule carefully.

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