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Introduction to the Universal Parks

Universal Studios opened its doors in 1990, with Islands of Adventure following suit in 1999. During all of 2006, Universal ranked as the sixth-most visited theme park in the United States, with more than six million visitors entering its turnstiles alone. Like all of the theme parks in America, Universal has peak seasons throughout the year, along with multiple special events that cater to its audience, particularly around the holiday periods. Universal Studios features many of the most popular dining experiences, shopping and attractions in not only Central Florida, but throughout the entire country as well.

Even though they are right next door to each other, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are two very different theme parks. Universal Studios has something for everyone, giving park-goers a behind-the-scenes look at film and television production, while also catering to thrill seekers and children alike. Universal has many ticket options for families, including annual passes, and they have many special services and facilities as well, ranging from car assistance to wheelchairs and pet care, among others.

There are plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining while at Universal Studios. There are more than a dozen places to feast while in the park, ranging from lobster to corn dogs. The shopping experiences at Universal are a tad more unique, as there are more than 25 shops throughout the park, most of which have merchandise that can only be bought in that one store, unlike the generic merchandise found at many theme park stores.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure, a billion dollar venture, was added to the area in 1999. The park is divided up into six islands, each with its own theme: Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent and Seuss Landing. A seventh island is expected to open in 2009 called “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” Like its counterpart, Universal Studios, Island of Adventure also has many ticket options and special services and facilities, many of which are meant to accommodate both parks. However, while Universal is more well known for riding and experiencing the movies, Islands of Adventure features some of the top thrill rides and attractions in the country.

Dining is also unique at Islands of Adventure, as a handful of full-service restaurants at the park go well beyond the standards that most theme parks prescribe to. And, much like Universal, the 20+ shops at IOA offer plenty of themed merchandise for the whole family.

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