Orlando is full of incredible things to do, but ask anyone what comes to mind when you mention “O-Town,” and they’ll probably say Orlando’s theme parks. That’s because they are some of the largest, most immersive parks in the world. As good as that sounds, navigating the parks can be a bit daunting.

Whether this is your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, this guide will share the best theme park secrets to take your experience to the next level. When you stay at one of our vacation rentals, you’ll be that much closer to having the time of your life!

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your park tickets, and let’s dive in!

1. Drop a Pin Where You Parked

This always seems obvious –  but often, not until it’s too late. By dropping a pin where you parked as soon as you get out of the car, you’ll save yourself a big headache at the end of the day.

2. Valet Your Car at Universal Orlando Resort

If you valet your car at Universal Studios Florida, you can skip those chaotic security lines. While there is a fee, it can be worth it on busy days as it allows you to access the parks quicker and not have to contend with the airport-like security for regular parking.

3. Or Use the Magic Kingdom Monorail Hack

After parking your cat at the ticket and transport center, you’ll have two options for getting to Magic Kingdom—the boat or the monorail. If the lines are long for both (which they typically are), opt for the monorail labeled “Resort Monorail.” The ride is slightly longer since you stop at the resorts, but overall, it’s faster than waiting in line.

4. Visit Animal Kingdom First

Visitors to Disney’s Animal Kingdom are understandably disappointed if they don’t see the animals at Kilimanjaro Safaris. If you want to guarantee not to miss them, we recommend going there first. Animals are early risers, and the earlier you visit, the more likely you are to see them!

5. Ride During the Non-Peak Hours

Photo Credit: Eudaimonic Traveler

If you’ve ever been to an Orlando theme park, you know all too well how long the wait times can be. Popular rides like Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey and The Incredible Hulk Coaster can have wait times of over an hour during peak season.

To avoid the large crowds and long wait times, visit during the slower times of the day, like early when the parks just open, during parades, or during fireworks shows. You’ll often see wait times dip or even disappear during these times.

6. Download Theme Park Apps

Several theme parks have apps that allow you to make ticket or restaurant reservations, look up wait times and showtimes, and even find the nearest restroom. Walt Disney World’s app makes it easy for you to instantly locate yourself on their interactive map.

7. Wait for the Rain to Pass

In Florida, the joke goes that if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour. Many visitors will leave during a rainstorm thinking that the day is ruined, but these are common (especially mid-afternoon) and typically only last an hour or so.

8. Visit a Speakeasy

Did you know Disney World has a speakeasy? It’s called Enzo’s Hideaway, and it’s located under Maria and Enzo’s in Disney Springs. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a prohibition-era cocktail menu served alongside Italian fare in an intimate 1920s-era setting.

9. Find the Easter Eggs in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Photo Credit: Solarisys

We could dedicate an entire post to explaining the easter eggs hidden around your favorite parks, but few do as good of a job as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here’s a short list of our favorite hidden details:

  • Purchase an interactive wand and use it to flutter curtains, light up lanterns, and even make wildflowers bloom.
  • Visit the women’s restroom in Hogsmeade and listen for the haunting sounds of Moaning Myrtle.
  • Check out the Leaky Cauldron, a British restaurant that features a cauldron at its entrance that actually leaks.
  • Walk down Diagon Alley and peer down the hidden entrance to Knockturn Alley, where you can indulge in dark arts and perform spells.
  • Look for the hidden nods to the old Jaws ride, like the shrunken heads who sing “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” a song featured in the film.
  • Send your muggle friends back home a postcard from Hogsmeade by visiting the Owl Post to purchase your postcard.

10. Pick Up the Pay Phones

If you happen to walk by one of the pay phones at Universal Orlando’s parks, wait for it to ring. When you pick it up, you’ll likely hear a familiar voice. There are a handful sprinkled around the park, like The Simpsons over by Cletus’s Chicken Shack or outside The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in Islands of Adventure.

Lastly, there’s the red pay phone in the London area of Universal Studios. If you dial “MAGIC” (62442), you’ll receive a wizarding message from the Ministry of Magic.

11. Use the Single Rider Line

If you want to experience the best rides at Universal Orlando but don’t care if you’re split up from your group, look for the single-rider line at the roller coaster’s entrance. They aren’t always clearly marked, so they often go unused, but they can save you tons of time waiting in line.

12. Take Advantage of Credit Card Perks

Many credit card companies offer perks throughout the parks, such as access to the performers with minimal crowds, discounts on certain restaurants and merchandise, specialty-priced photo packages, and even complimentary concierge services. This goes for AAA cards as well, which often allow you to save a small fortune on admissions and dining.

13. Find the Secret Tracks on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

Photo Credit: Box Lab

When you hop on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, you’ll be prompted to select the song you want to listen to on your ride. If you press and hold the logo for 10 seconds, you’ll be prompted to enter a 3-digit code that corresponds with a secret list of songs. You can find that full list here.

14. Bring a Packed Lunch

The theme parks can be pretty lenient when it comes to bringing in food. While coolers and alcohol are not permitted, you can bring a packed lunch. Not only will this save you a small fortune, but it’ll be faster than waiting in line, allowing you to spend more time exploring the park.

15. Visit in the Fall to Experience Halloween Horror Nights

Photo Credit: Inspired By Maps

If you’re able to, one of the best times to visit Orlando theme parks is in the fall. Not only does it allow you to beat the crowds and enjoy beautiful weather, but you’ll also be able to experience Halloween Horror Nights.

Beginning in early September, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure transform into a horror-centric overhaul, with haunted houses and attractions that pay homage to Universal’s horror films. You can even take a RIP Tour, which grants you priority access to the haunted houses, preferred seating for shows, and a Universal Express Pass to hop to the front of every line.

16. Take a Free Behind the Scenes Tour

If you happen to visit when the park isn’t overly crowded, you can ask for a free behind-the-scenes tour from one of the available team members. This allows you to get up close and personal with your favorite attractions, like the Men in Black Alien Attack, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Revenge of the Mummy, or Jurassic World: VelociCoaster.

17. Look for “Adam” Written All Around Marvel Super Hero Island

Photo Credit: VIAVAL TOURS

Marvel Illustrator Adam Kubert designed the massive images of the comic book characters found across Super Hero Island. But unbeknownst to most, he also hid his name within each artwork. The next time you’re at Marvel Super Hero Island, take a closer look and see who can find his name first!

18. Don’t Leave After Islands of Adventure Closes

If you purchased a park-to-park pass, don’t fret when Universal Islands of Adventure closes. Several days of the month, the theme park closing times are staggard by 2 hours, meaning you have two extra hours to explore Minion Mayhem or hunt for more hidden easter eggs!

19. Enjoy a Private Fireworks Cruise

Gone are the days of standing your ground in order to get the perfect view of the evening fireworks. For about $450, you and 9 of your friends and family can reserve a small pontoon boat from one of the resorts and sail for about an hour, culminating in an unfettered view of the fireworks at either Epcot or Magic Kingdom.

We’ve Got One More Secret: Where to Stay Around Orlando

Visiting Orlando’s theme parks is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not take advantage of the hidden gems and best-kept secrets?

When you book your Orlando vacation at one of our vacation rentals, you won’t have to worry about “taking advantage” of anything. We make it easy with comfortable spaces and fun amenities. That way, you can focus on what really matters—riding the Hogwarts Express!