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How Does Priority Seating Work at Universal Orlando?

Scheduling your time at Universal Orlando can be a challenge. There are many details to consider, including which rides and attractions to visit, what shows to see, and where to eat in the parks.

If you choose to visit one (or more) of Universal’s world-class restaurants, it’s best to make a reservation or use priority seating to skip the lines and avoid the wait.

Guests at the Hard Rock Hotel, the Royal Pacific Resort, or the Portofino Bay Hotel receive priority seating at Universal Orlando restaurants by showing their hotel key cards. Visitors not staying at these hotels should reserve their tables in advance.

The following article will discuss priority seating, including how to use it, who can get it, and which restaurants allow it.

It’ll also include information about dining reservations and the best times of year to visit Universal restaurants.

What Is Priority Seating at Universal Orlando?

Universal theme park or CityWalk visitors can skip the line at most on-site restaurants with priority seating.

Priority guests are seated before walk-in guests; however, those with reservations are seated first. Because of this, you may have to wait for a table, even with priority seating.

Who Gets Priority Seating at Universal Orlando?

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios Orlando

Priority seating is only included with reservations at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, or the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

Universal’s other hotels and resorts do not offer this perk.

How Do I Use Priority Seating at Universal Orlando?

To use priority seating, show your valid premier hotel key card to the front staff.

Which Universal Orlando Restaurants Have Priority Seating?

Exterior view of the Hard Rock

Many of the restaurants at Universal Orlando honor priority seating, but not all.

The Universal Orlando restaurants with priority seating are:

  • Amatista Cookhouse at the Sapphire Falls Resort
  • Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food at Universal CityWalk
  • Bice Ristorante at the Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Bigfire at Universal CityWalk
  • Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom at Universal CityWalk
  • Confisco Grille at Islands of Adventure
  • Finnegan’s Bar and Grill at Universal Studios Florida
  • Hard Rock Cafe at Universal CityWalk
  • Islands Dining Room at the Royal Pacific Resort
  • Jake’s American Bar at the Royal Pacific Resort
  • Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Universal CityWalk
  • Lombard’s Seafood Grille at Universal Studios Florida
  • Mama Della’s Ristorante at the Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Mythos at Islands of Adventure
  • Palm Restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel
  • Pat O’Brien’s at Universal CityWalk
  • The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar at Universal CityWalk
  • The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel
  • Trattoria del Porto at the Portofino Bay Hotel
  • VIVO Italian Kitchen at Universal CityWalk

Should I Still Make a Reservation if I Have Priority Seating?

Dining table with a reserved sign

Since guests with reservations are always seated first, booking a table in advance may help you avoid long waits, even if you have priority seating.

Also, while priority guests are seated ahead of walk-in guests, some restaurants are booked days or months in advance. In that case, priority seating can’t do much to help.

However, more spontaneous guests may not want to restrict themselves to eating at certain times. Fortunately, there are many dining options at Universal Orlando, so these guests can likely find a table somewhere when they’re ready.

That said, guests who want to visit the most popular restaurants at Universal Orlando will almost always have to make a reservation, likely days or months in advance.

You should make a reservation at the following Universal Orlando restaurants, regardless if you have priority seating:

  • Bice Ristorante at the Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Mama Della’s Ristorante at the Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Marvel Character Dinner at Islands of Adventure
  • Mythos at Islands of Adventure
  • Palm Restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel

How Far in Advance Should I Make a Universal Orlando Dining Reservation?

Guests at Universal Orlando should make dining reservations at least a few days in advance. Visitors during peak seasons should make reservations at least a month before.

If you’re set on eating at a specific restaurant, especially a popular one, you may be able to make a reservation up to six months in advance.

After you’ve booked your trip, contact the restaurant as soon as possible to guarantee your table.

How Do I Make a Dining Reservation at Universal Orlando?

You must contact the restaurant to make a dining reservation at Universal Orlando.

You can find contact information for Universal Orlando restaurants here.

When Is Universal Orlando the Most Crowded?

When dining at Universal, it helps to know when the park is most crowded.

Typically, the most popular times to visit Universal Orlando are during major US holidays, when the kids are out of school.

The busiest times of the year at Universal Orlando are:

  • Christmas Break (mid-December through mid-January)
  • President’s Day weekend (third weekend of February)
  • Spring Break (usually between mid-March and mid-April)
  • Memorial Day weekend (the last weekend of May)
  • Summer Break (typically from early June to mid-August)
  • Halloween (the week of October 31)
  • Thanksgiving Break (last two weeks of November).

If you visit Universal Orlando during these peak times, consider making dining reservations or opting for a hotel that offers priority seating.

When Is Universal Orlando the Least Crowded?

2022 Calendar on a mobile phone

Generally, the least crowded periods at Universal Orlando are just before or after major US holidays and school breaks.

Universal Orlando is less crowded in:

  • Late January and early February
  • The first week of March
  • Late April and early May
  • Late August
  • September (Labor Day weekend – first weekend of September – may be a bit more crowded)
  • October, except Columbus Day weekend (the second weekend in October) and Halloween (the week of October 31)
  • Early November
  • Early December

Although these are the least crowded times to visit Universal Orlando, there can still be a wait at the restaurants, especially the popular ones.

So, regardless of the time of year, making a reservation is usually best.


Priority seating at Universal theme park and CityWalk restaurants is a perk given to guests staying at Universal’s premier hotels. These guests can show their hotel keys at participating locations to skip ahead of walk-in diners.

However, even if guests have priority seating, they should still make a reservation for popular restaurants, when visiting during peak times, or if they don’t want to wait long for a table.