My Second Favorite Thing About Universal Orlando

by Gray Cargill on December 26, 2012

Universal Orlando

Knowing that many of you are still caught up in festive activities between Christmas and New Year’s, I figured this might be a good time for a light post. I have to liken the chaos of the holiday season to the chaos of a theme park. Lots of people, lots of noise, too much sensory stimulation. Sometimes, you just need a calm, peaceful place to go to escape for a little while. . . .consider this post your peaceful escape. You’re welcome.

As you know, I’m a huge fan of Disney World, and with so much to do on that property, I really felt no need to venture to other theme parks when I went to Orlando. But when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, that changed everything. I just had to experience it. There is no doubt about it: That was my favorite thing about Universal.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

What was my second favorite thing? You might guess Citywalk, and I’ll admit, that was a close third. Citywalk does rock at night, with its plethora of fun restaurants and nightspots, like Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, and Pat O’Briens dueling pianos. But no, it wasn’t that either.

My second favorite thing(s) about Universal Orlando were its beautiful walking paths around the property. You can stop by the concierge desk of any of the hotels for a map of the paths if you need one, but I found them fairly easy to navigate–and I get lost easily. They were such a peaceful respite from the crowds and noise and general insanity at the parks. I wish I’d had more time at Universal just so I could spend more time exploring those paths.

Can you blame me?

Walking path at Universal Orlando

I’m a sucker for walking paths next to pretty, winding bodies of water. (Assuming they don’t have alligators in them!)

Path between Hard Rock Hotel and Portofino Bay

When I walked around the corner of this path and saw Portofino Bay Resort for the first time, I caught my breath. It almost felt like I was in Italy.

Path facing Portofino Bay

You can sometimes spot some wildlife, like I did in the photo below. I thought it was cute that the squirrel and the bird were hanging out so close to each other, and neither seemed in the least bit bothered by the other.

Bird in water

I’m not a morning person, but with views like this, it’s a lot easier to wake up at the crack of dawn:

Early morning on the walking path

If you like flowers, you can spot many varieties along the paths as well. I was there in November, and there were still plenty in bloom.

Walking path at Universal Orlando

One thing that stuck me was that the walking paths were spotlessly clean. I don’t know if that’s because few people use them (there is a water taxi that many guests use to get to and from the resorts, the parks and Citywalk) or because grounds maintenance is right on top of any potential littering problems, but I was impressed.

Another pretty angle of the path.

Is it the same as going for a hike up a mountain or backpacking in the wild? Not hardly. But I think Universal has done a great job providing beautiful outdoor spaces that resort guests can enjoy for some exercise and a bit of peace and quiet. Best part? They’re absolutely free! They’ll be almost the only thing that is.


Barbara December 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm

What a great way to enjoy the outdoors and lovely Florida sunshine without all the usual crowds associated with the parks! Thanks for posting this, I will definitely be checking out the walking paths on my next visit to Universal.

Gray Cargill December 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Agreed, Barbara, it’s really great that they have these walking paths so you can enjoy being outdoors without the crowds of the parks. Sometimes, you just need to get away from other people, but you don’t want to be stuck in your room.

Becky November 7, 2013 at 10:39 am

I’m a little embarassed that I didn’t notice any of that when I went to Universal. All the more reason to return!

Gray Cargill November 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm

I wouldn’t be embarrassed. Most people are so focused on the parks when they go, it’s no wonder. But yeah, any excuse to return, right? 🙂

Teresa @ Working Traveling Mom January 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Beautiful! I can almost feel the Florida sunshine from your photos – which is saying a lot when it’s 27 degrees outside here!

Gray January 15, 2013 at 6:47 pm

It’s pretty cold here, too, Teresa. Keep looking at those photos of warm-weather destinations, it’ll get you through the winter! 🙂

Sere January 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Looks beautiful! I really enjoy walking paths like this as well. I walked down the San Antonio walking path along the river and that was really pretty, but more city-like then this path. If I ever make it to Orlando I will have to check these out. Happy New Year! Hope your 2013 is better then ever!

Gray January 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Thanks, Sere! Same to you!

D.J. - The World of Deej December 28, 2012 at 7:44 am

Completely agree…Universal is great to walk around when you get out of the chaos of CityWalk and the parks. It helps that I’m a big fan of their hotels…

Gray December 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I wish I’d had time to thoroughly explore all three hotels, too, DJ. I stayed at the Hard Rock, though, and that was certainly nice. I think I’d prefer Portofino Bay if I could afford it, though.

Tracy Antonioli December 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I love the walking paths, too. When I visited (the first time) I stayed at Portofino Bay, and I maintain that it is the single most beautiful hotel I’ve ever experienced (sorry, WDW, but Portofino Bay kicks the butt of every single one of your properties…) anyway…I walked from Portofino to the Hard Rock for dinner one night (which was lovely) and also from the park back to the resort one day (because the water taxis don’t run in the rain–which majorly stinks, when it is raining and you have to walk!)

Gray December 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Oh, I have to agree with you about Portofino Bay. It is breathtaking. And I didn’t even go inside! The water taxis don’t run in the rain? That seems odd to me. What, are they afraid of getting wet??? 😉

Jason December 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Love it! Like you, I would probably say Harry Potter was my favorite. But since I’m not a fan of the movies – at all – it’s hard to say. I might actually like the walk more. It looks great.

Gray December 26, 2012 at 5:34 pm

LOL. Well, Jason, I’ll give the walking paths this advantage: They certainly weren’t as crowded as the Harry Potter World was. Theme park crowds do wear pretty thin after awhile.

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