From cooler temperatures to shorter wait times, nighttime is my favorite time of the day at any theme park. Notoriously, parks also take on a whole new life once the sun sets, and it's no different at Universal Orlando Resort. Bright and beautiful lights can be found all throughout the theme parks, Universal CityWalk and even the on-site hotels come nightfall, giving the whole resort a luminescent glow — and, no, I'm not just talking about fireworks. In fact, there are many nights throughout the year that don't end in pyrotechnic displays at all (whether that be because of events, turnover between shows or some standard refurbishment). That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other ways to light up the night at Universal Orlando! Keep reading to learn about all the resort's electrifyingly illuminating experiences.
Scream and Shout on Universal's Rip-Roaring Roller Coasters
Scientifically, there are several reasons why coasters feel faster at night. The lack of depth perception and the build-up of oils throughout the day resulting in less friction are just a couple of these factors. That being said, speed isn't the only thing that makes coaster rides better after sunset. Universal Orlando's high-octane roller coasters all illuminate with stellar lighting effects come nightfall. Upon The Incredible Hulk Coaster's lengthy refurbishment in 2016, the ride was updated with a new track, an updated queue, new trains that feature enhanced onboard audio and special lighting effects that give off a vividly verdant glow. Over in Universal Studios Florida, the trains on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit are equipped with 36 super-bright rainbow LED lights that are programmed to change color and to either be steady, strobing, twinkling, racing or pulsing. (It truly makes for a frogtastic backdrop for concerts at the Music Plaza Stage!)
However, my favorite onboard lighting effect is over in Jurassic Park. The bright blue lights that illuminate the headrests of Jurassic World VelociCoaster not only make the ride breathtaking to look at in the dark but also serve a story purpose! Because they contain avian DNA, velociraptors are sensitive to certain wavelengths of light. Therefore, the LEDs deter the dinosaurs from attacking your ride vehicle, keeping you safe and sound within the confines of the paddock. Additionally, as Claire tells us in the pre-show briefing, the headrests contain infrared sensors which are used to track our train, allowing us access in and out of the paddock. How cool is that?!
Bask in the Magical Glow of Diagon Alley
From the glow emitting from the store windows to the way the street lights reflect on the pavement, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley is truly a sight to behold at night. Of course, the star of the show is the Ukrainian Ironbelly that keeps a watchful eye on wizards and muggles alike from the top of Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Newly escaped from the vaults deep underground, this fearsome dragon breathes fire reaching temperatures of 3,560 degrees Fahrenheit every 10 to 15 minutes. You'll know she's about to blow when you hear her start to rumble and growl. That's your cue to pull out your phone to capture her flames in action!
Another feature in Diagon Alley we love exploring come sunset is the spell locations — specifically, the one at Flimflam's Lanterns. Head toward the end of Horizont Alley and aim your interactive wand at the second floor. Cast an Incendio charm and watch in awe as the lanterns behind the windows illuminate the storefront. This specific spell is truly best appreciated when it's dark out.
Cast a Lumos Charm at Hogwarts Castle
On select nights throughout the year, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (and the starry skies above it) illuminate in a dazzling nighttime spectacular. During the spring and summer, show your house pride at The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle. Once Halloween season rolls around, fend off fiendish forces at Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle. Lastly, celebrate the spirit of the holidays with The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. All three shows feature magnificent projection-mapped displays all along the castle and a brief pyrotechnic finale. Check the official Universal Orlando app for showtimes.
Score a Hole-in-One at Hollywood Drive-In Golf
At the entrance to CityWalk, you'll find two of the coolest mini-golf courses in Central Florida. Welcome to Hollywood Drive-In Golf, a pair of state-of-the-art 18-hole courses inspired by 1950's era classic drive-in movies. Choose from "The Haunting of Ghostly Greens" where haunted houses, spooky cemeteries and petrifying pythons await or "Invaders from Planet Putt" where you'll conquer aliens, robots, UFOs and even a giant space worm ... OR make it a "double-feature" and play all 36 holes back-to-back! The reason we love hitting up these creepy courses at night is that they feature cutting-edge interactive elements and special effects, such as LED neon-edge lighting. You can even purchase a light-up golf ball to help illuminate your way through each course. This is actually one of our favorite things to do on a rest day during our vacation!
Embrace the Spirit of 'Aloha' at Wantilan Luau
Every Saturday night, frogs from near and far gather at Loews Royal Pacific Resort to enjoy an evening of authentic Polynesian food and entertainment. Wantilan Luau is a separately-ticketed event and is the perfect way to unwind after a long day in the parks or to start off your vacation on the right note. With your ticket, you can indulge in an all-you-can-eat buffet — including fire-grilled tender beef, coconut toasted jasmine rice and even the traditional pit-roasted suckling pig — heavenly desserts, such as Kona Coffee ganache pineapple macadamia tarts or passion fruit crème brûlée and all-you-care-to-enjoy mai tais, beer and wine (for frogs 21 and up).
This festive feast also features live musicians and dancers who take guests on a memorable journey through Polynesian culture. Prepare to experience the elegance and enchantment of Hawaii, the ancient and vibrating pounding of the Nafa drums of Tonga, the mesmerizing hip-shaking dance of Tahiti and the exhilarating and flaming art of the warrior fire dance from Samoa. (If you opt for premium seating upon purchasing, you might feel the heat of the blazing fire!) As the night goes on, you may even get the chance to show off your own hula skills!
Experience La Dolce Vita at Harbor Nights
Over at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, another separately-ticketed event occurs four to five times per year under the twinkling lights of the Harbor Piazza. An authentic Italian evening awaits frogs 21 and up at Harbor Nights, an incredible event where you can sip select wines, try unlimited gourmet food samples from the hotel's restaurants and enjoy live music and traditional opera performances to complete the elegant ambiance. Call (407) 503-1200 to purchase tickets and keep checking the Universal Orlando website for future event dates.
What's your favorite way to light up the night at Universal Orlando Resort? Is there any experience we frogot to mention? Let us know in the comments below!