Previously, free parking in the evenings had been available to Florida residents, but not to out-of-state visitors. Universal Orlando charges $20 for regular parking during the day.
The change puts Universal Orlando's CityWalk dining and entertainment district on the same footing in the evenings with Walt Disney World's competing Disney Springs district, which offers free parking to all in its garages, all day long.
Of course, Disney Springs doesn't provide parking for any of the Walt Disney World theme parks, so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison here. Don't bother trying to park at Disney Springs for the parks — there's no direct bus transportation that will take you from Disney Springs to any Walt Disney World theme park. You'd have to go to a hotel first, then transfer, which would take so much time that you're better off just paying the parking fee and saving yourself a couple of wasted hours.
Universal will continue to charge its parking fees before 6pm, when the vast majority of guests are coming to visit the parks for the day. But after 6pm, the free parking should make a trip to CityWalk as logistically attractive to out of state visitors as driving over and parking for dinner or a movie at Disney Springs. At least, that's Universal's hope.
Do note that the after-6pm free parking will not be available on evenings when Universal Orlando is running Halloween Horror Nights. So no freebies for HHN fans.
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