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Rock the Universe at Universal Orlando: What to know before you go

by Jon Self

Rock the Universe celebrates its 25th anniversary at Universal Orlando Resort on Jan. 27-29, 2023. Rock the Universe markets itself as Florida’s largest Christian music festival.

Rock the Universe logo

Since Rock the Universe is primarily an after-hours, separately ticketed event, it’s not included with regular daytime admission at Universal Orlando. As a result, guests should know a few things before attending this event.

How much does it cost?

The standard Rock the Universe ticket allows entry at 4 p.m. to Universal Studios Florida. The event starts to ramp up at 6 p.m. when the park closes to daytime guests. The one-night ticket (either Friday or Saturday) will cost you $79.99. A two-night ticket is $119.99. Universal Orlando annual passholders receive a small discount on these tickets.

Universal Orlando also offers group tickets focused primarily on church youth groups. Guests may select a Rock Your Weekend ticket. These tickets include admission to Rock the Universe but also allow guests to enjoy the parks during the day before 4 p.m. Those ticket prices start at $135.99.

What concerts and activities should guests expect?

The concerts function as the primary draw for this event. One set of headliner contemporary Christian musical artists will perform on the Universal Music Plaza Stage. Most of the event’s attendees will stand there enjoying the hour-long sets of each musical artist. Yes, be prepared to stand. Also, once the concerts start, the crowd level in this area compares to crowds at a Mardi Gras concert. Guests desiring an up-front view of the musical artists should arrive early.

Matthew West on Music Plaza Stage
Matthew West performing on Music Plaza Stage during Rock the Universe 2022.

In addition, a sizeable temporary stage is used at the end of Hollywood Boulevard near Central Park Crepes during Rock the Universe. This stage feels more intimate, and, at least for the early shows, you can find yourself within 50 feet of the performers. However, with a traffic flow issue in that location, you still should find a place to view the concerts early.

Rock the Universe FanZone 2020

A FanZone stage offers entertainment in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida. This stage will feature live performances from up-and-coming acts, and DJ Promote will perform on both nights. The artists there for 2023 include Ryan Ellis, Jordan St. Cyr, Gable Price & Friends, Ben Fuller, and Stephen Stanley.

An indoor FanZone experience happens in a backstage soundstage. In this area, guests can receive autographs, meet-and-greet sessions will happen, and merchandise can be purchased from each musical act. Guests should know some of these experiences are limited, so availability could run out.

Since this is a theme park, many theme park attractions remain open.  Universal Orlando states in their marketing for this event that “Rock the Universe attendees have exclusive access to thrilling Universal Studios attractions during event hours. Rides include Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Transformers: The Ride – 3D and Revenge of the Mummy, to name a few.” If the attractions function as a priority for your group, Friday historically offers lower wait times for the rides than Saturday. You can also purchase “Express Passes” for the evening.

Transformers: the Ride - 3D

Beyond those options, attendees can enjoy a memorable Sunday morning worship experience. These non-denominational Sunday morning worship services conclude the weekend at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. The Mosaic Church Band leads the musical elements for this. If you plan to attend a Sunday worship service, you must register in advance on Universal Orlando’s website.

Will I know any of the musical artists playing?

The answer to this question depends on your experience with this concert series, contemporary Christian music, and familiarity with Universal Studios Florida. If you rarely, if ever, listen to contemporary Christian music, then your knowledge of groups playing this year may be limited. Still, almost all the musical artists on the two main stages bring popularity and credibility within the Christian music culture. For example, this year’s headline acts have 14 nominations for the Grammy Awards.

For Universal Orlando’s frequent visitors, Skillet, a headliner band this year, sometimes can be heard using secret song code 782 on the Rip Ride Rockit attraction at Universal Studios Florida. Also, the Transformers Bumblebee character interaction will often feature the song “Hero” by Skillet.

Skillet will be performing at Rock the Universe 2023
Skillet

On Friday evening, Tauren Wells, Skillet, and Rend Collective will perform on the Music Plaza Stage. Bethel Music, Evan Craft, and Katy Nichole will perform on the Hollywood Stage.

Zach Williams
Zach Williams

Saturday’s headlining acts on the Music Plaza Stage are Zach Williams, Matthew West, and Anne Wilson. Also on Saturday, Hollywood Stage’s musical acts include Dante Bowe, We Are Messengers, and CAIN.

What other things should I know before attending Rock the Universe?

This event happens in the Florida winter. Even though this is not winter in Minnesota, it could get quite cool for Florida. The long-term weather forecast calls for a low of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, attendees will be outdoors, so it might rain. Guests will need to plan for that.

It would be best if you prepared for many teenagers. Primarily, this event targets faith-based teen groups. Most people attend to enjoy the concerts. Even teens with genuine faith values can sometimes seem like roaming hordes during Halloween Horror Nights.

Also, as you may know, there are many different tribes of followers of Jesus. In some tribes, there is a concern about anything involving magic. Since Universal Orlando has areas dedicated to a boy wizard, you might hear some people negatively talking about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Though you are unlikely to hear much of this talk, one should be prepared and not enter this event wearing rose-colored glasses.

Have you ever attended Rock the Universe? What practical tips would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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