Conventional wisdom says that you should arrive at the theme parks very early—before rope drop—and hit as many attractions as you can. Then, around lunchtime or shortly after, head back to your hotel for a midday break. After a nap and a swim, return to the parks to enjoy the evening.
This advice works pretty well if you are staying on property and are a natural napper. But what if you are on a day trip from the surrounding area, or at the mercy of an off-site hotel’s bus schedule? I grew up in Lakeland, about 40 minutes from the parks—much too far to go home for a break, but way too close to justify a hotel stay. Fortunately, the parks are filled with places to relax and recharge without having to leave. Here are a few of my favorites at Universal Orlando.
1. Horror Makeup Show (Universal Studios)
Universal’s Horror Makeup Show has the distinction of being one of only three opening day attractions still operating, along with Lucy: A Tribute and E.T. Adventure. The show mixes horror and comedy as guests learn the secrets behind the special effects makeup in some of Universal’s most legendary films.
Although the show is terrific, there is rarely much of a line even on crowded days, making it a perfect spot to escape the crowds. The theater is dark and cool, and the seats are reasonably comfortable, providing an excellent chance to kick back and relax. The lobby is filled with fascinating displays of props from Universal’s extensive horror film collection. You are welcome to peruse the lobby collection at your leisure, both before and after the show.
2. Garden of Allah (Universal Studios)
Rumor has it that the expansive collection of buildings here will soon become a sort of walk-through attraction, but it is the gardens themselves that provide a wonderful place to relax. Surrounded by greenery that provides plenty of shade, the gardens go unnoticed by most visitors. Perch on a low wall and watch the world go by, or walk back a little further for privacy. The back side of the Garden of Allah opens to the outdoor seating for the KidZone Pizza Company, and the tables on that side are rarely in use, providing an alternate seating option for those in the know to take a break.
3. Animal Actors On Location! (Universal Studios)
This show, currently in its third incarnation, features highly trained animals from dogs to pigs. Although the amphitheater is outdoors, it is covered and cooled with fans, making it a shady and comfortable spot to take a break. The show is fairly lengthy and you are allowed to bring food and drinks inside, so grab some snacks and take time to rehydrate.
4. E.T. Adventure (Universal Studios)
This bicycle ride to E.T.’s home planet is arguably Universal’s best pick for families of disparate ages and interests, but the queue is what makes it a top choice for a midday break. One of the most immersive queues anywhere, it winds through a dark and cool pine forest, complete with piped-in scent. Skip the Express queue here, even if you are eligible, and spend some time getting “back to nature.”