This year has been a fun because I have been able to visit one of my favorite places in Orlando, Fl, not once, but twice! Universal Studios is by far my favorite theme park. Nothing against Disney, I see many visits to that famous destination in my future when my kids get a little older, but when it comes to parks, especially when I am not with my little ones, Universal Studios is it for me!
The first time I visited I had stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific, which meant direct access to the Universal Studios park, either via a 10 minute walk on a pretty, winding path, or via a free ferry ride along a lagoon that dropped us off right on a Citywalk port.
The park is divided into two: Universal Studios Islands of Adventures and Universal Studios Florida. Loews offers guests express passes onto rides at the parks (these passes also serve as the hotel room keys), so my oldest, who had accompanied me on the first trip, and I rode on every single roller coaster there was to ride on, as much as we could before we had to leave.
On that first trip we also got to watch The Blue Man Group perform. I expected it to be a cheesy, touristy sort of show, but it was actually pretty fun and I wouldn’t mind seeing them again. Meeting them back stage was a bonus. Not getting my white top covered in blue paint, even during photo ops: a miracle.
We did a lot on that first visit to Universal Studios. Except visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That was because it had not opened yet, and all we got to see on our first visit was a far-off view of Hogwarts.
However on this recent trip to Orlando, I got to go and though I am not really the type to get all giddy and sappy about things, visiting this new section of Universal made me teary from excitement.
What. Too much? Well, that is NOTHING compared to the absolute fans that have been visiting the park every day since it’s opening June 18th of this year. You can find pretty much any type of Harry Potter paraphernalia your little fanatic heart desires, whether you are all about the movies or the books, it is all there. You can find the jelly beans that taste like boogers or barf, and chocolate frogs, the owls and wands, you can even order yourself a nice mug of butter beer.
Taking pictures of it all to show it here on the site was close to impossible. But it wouldn’t matter. Pictures do not do it justice. Expect to wait on long lines, especially during high tourist seasons (unless of course you have a nice VIP access pass which our group had*, but which can be purchased by visitors as well).
I had already gotten on what is now called the “Dragon Challenge” ride, but this time I rode with Tina from Carrots N Cake, who had never gotten on a roller coaster before. As fun as coaster can be, there is nothing more fun then getting on one with a Roller Coaster Virgin! My absolute favorite ride was the Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey because before the ride even happens, you walk through the halls and stairways of Hogwarts and see a lot of the favorite places familiar to us from the movies and books. The ride itself is also a lot of fun!
Normally I wouldn’t even highlight the gift shop, except this one is pretty awesome and worth visiting.
My oldest would have totally enjoyed this experience, and he was a bit jealous when I told him I had gone. Which makes for a great excuse to re-visit. My advice: buy the two-park pass. It’s worth the money, and if in a group, it allows you to separate and focus on the rides you like.
Both parks have plenty of rides for the younger ones, though Islands of Adventures has Seuss Landing with a Cat and The Hat ride, perfect for kids 10 and under.
Oh, and make reservations to eat at Mythos. I highlighted this eatery in my Orlando Theme Park Restaurant guide, but it’s worth the repeated mention here. The food is really, really good and the service is top notch. I ordered the tomato soup again. If it’s on the menu, I will order it, no matter what the weather.
And if you get a chance to spend some time at the restaurants and bars along Citywalk, go for it. Universal Studios also hosts one of the most fun Halloween celebrations I have ever experienced on a theme park, so make sure to stop by if you are in the area around that time!
For more information on Universal Studios Orlando’s parks, tickets, rides, and more, please visit their website at http://www.universalorlando.com/home/home.aspx.
Disclosure: This review is based on a complimentary, all-expense paid visit to Orlando, FL by the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, including complimentary meals in featured restaurants. I received no other compensation and no requirements that I express a particular point of view. To view all posts related to Orlando’s Magical Dining Month experience, please visit this link.