Unlike Walt Disney World , Universal Orlando  doesn’t really mess around with “value” accommodations; whether due to limited real estate or the fact that dozens of moderate and inexpensive chain motels are located less than a half-mile from the park’s entrance, the result is a trio of hotels that are unabashedly upscale.
Guests staying at resort hotels can use their guest room keys as “Universal Express” passes, allowing them to bypass the line at the theme parks’ major attractions. This perk, along with the availability of discounted ticket-accommodation packages, make an on-site stay an attractive option for some visitors, but again, there are considerably cheaper hotels nearby, most of which offer complimentary transportation to the park (and the Disney parks) as well as their own discount packages.
For on-site reservations, call 888/273-1311.
The best and most exciting of the three Universal Orlando resort hotels is the excellent Hard Rock Hotel (from $309 d), which incorporates the chain’s rock-and-roll theming with extensive touches of modern luxury. Flat-panel TVs, in-room stereos, and deluxe contemporary furnishings make the spacious guest rooms welcoming and comfortable. The 12,000-square-foot pool at the Hard Rock is as glam as it gets; with water piped in underwater, high-tech and sumptuous cabanas, Jacuzzis, and a volleyball court, during the summer this pool is a destination in and of itself.
The Loews Portofino Bay Resort (from $339 d) is even pricier but is considerably more sedate and traditionally swanky. The re- creation of a waterfront Italian village is something of a stretch (the designers even installed cobblestone sidewalks), but for a moment you almost believe that you’re not a few hundred yards from roller coasters on one side and the Florida Turnpike on the other.
At the “low” end of the resort hotel offerings is Loews Royal Pacific Resort (from $274 d); ironically, it’s also the most secluded and quiet. The Polynesian motif lends itself to long days lounging at the pool, sipping tropical drinks. The guest rooms, however, are decorated in neutral tones and dark woods, rather than tropical shades and lots of wicker.
As mentioned earlier, there’s no shortage of moderately priced chain hotels near Universal Orlando . There’s also no abundance of remotely interesting places to stay. Most nearby hotels are located on the busy tourist strip of International Drive  or the almost-as-overwhelmed Kirkman Road.
Both the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites (5905 Kirkman Rd., 407/351-3333, from $74 d) and the Doubletree Hotel (5780 Major Blvd., 407/351-1000, from $109 d) are located immediately adjacent to the park. The quality of the Holiday Inn isn’t that high, but it’s a decent budget option. The Doubletree gets high marks all around.
A mile or so from the park entrance is the Four Points by Sheraton Studio City (5905 International Dr., 407/351-2100, from $125 d), which despite its Hollywood facade isn’t all that glamorous, and the hotel can often be crowded with tour groups; nonetheless, guest rooms here are clean and reasonably appointed.
Orlando’s “Restaurant Row” —home to a high concentration of upscale and midscale restaurants—is located in the tourist district along Sand Lake Road, near International Drive  and the Orange County Convention Center.