Friday, September 20, 2013

Universal Orlando Resort: Vacation Like You Mean It!

Universal Orlando logo
About 15 minutes from where I grew up, there was a small zoo with an attached theme park.

Not even a theme park really, as it was actually just a handful of rides run by folks who never seemed all that thrilled to be there (or maybe that's just what I remember, as the main image in my head is of the man running the Tilt-a-Whirl who wasn't at all pleased when I freaked out and screamed until he stopped the ride to let me off).

Looking back, it is most likely locations such as this one that cause there to be a strong distinction in my mind between places that can be called theme parks... and places that are truly entertaining, amazingly fun vacation destinations.

Standing squarely in the latter category is none other than the one and only Universal Orlando Resort.

Universal Studios Florida
© 2013 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

A world all of its own, Universal Orlando Resort is made up of two separate theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure), three on-site hotels, and CityWalk, a 30-acre nighttime entertainment complex.

Filled to the brim with entertainment of every kind, visiting Universal Orlando Resort can leave you laughing, frightened and in awe all within the same 100 yard stretch. From exhilarating roller coasters to wild water rides to family-friendly characters for the pint-size crowd, there is something for everyone — no matter if you want to walk away feeling courageous, outrageous or simply with a big grin.

As it had been quite a few years since I had last visited Universal Orlando Resort, I'm sure that I was just as excited as my kids when we arrived during our recent Florida vacation.

Universal Orlando Resort theme parks

Where to begin!

Separate tickets are required for each of the theme parks in Universal Orlando Resort, so before you show up you'll want to take some time to decide whether your family would like to visit Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure... or both! (Hint: opt for both!)

We opted to start the day at Universal Studios and jump right into the action of many of our favorite movies and television shows. Where else can you walk in and immediately run into Woody and Winnie Woodpecker, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, and Marge and Bart Simpson?

Universal character meeting

On a high from seeing such fun characters in person, we didn't hesitate to delve deeper into Universal Studios to take in more of the action and excitement.

What we found was that in each section of the park, there seemed to be just the right mix of attractions for "big kids" and "little kids" that we never had to worry that someone would be left out. For instance, while we were hanging out in Springfield, my daredevil Big Sister E had a great time on The Simpsons Ride while Little Sister B had a blast on the smaller (but still very fun) Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl.

And of course we all got a thrill from seeing so many iconic Simpsons locations and characters recreated right there in front of us! Although I may never actually visit Springfield, getting to see Krusty Burger, Lard Lad Donuts, Bumblebee Man and his Taco Truck, Duffman, Moe's Tavern and many more in the carnival-like midway of Orlando was nearly just as good!

Universal Studios Simpsons

Moving out of Springfield and into the nearby Woody Woodpecker's KidZone, Little Sister B's eyes lit up at the large number of options for her to choose from that are perfect for the younger crowd (although older kids and adults aren't left out either).

We rode on E.T. Adventure and Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster, played (and tried not to get too wet) at Curious George goes to Town and Fievel's Playland, watched Animal Actors on Location and A Day in the Park with Barney, met SpongeBob and Squidward, and more! What a great mix for everyone!

Woody Woodpecker's KidZone

The rest of our time at Universal Studios Orlando was spent...
  • Helping Shrek save Princess Fiona in Shrek 4-D (and then meeting Shrek and Donkey)
  • Hanging on tight during Twister...Ride it Out
  • Scratching our heads asking How'd he do that? at a magic show
  • Protecting the earth from aliens in MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
  • Giggling at the adorable Minions in Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (and loving the post-attraction dance party)
  • Meeting cute and fuzzy characters from the movie Hop
  • Catching some of Universal's Superstar Parade
  • Marveling at the bravery of riders on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit...

Universal Studios

...and, above all, having an incredible, action-packed time on Universal Orlando's newest attraction, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D.

One of the most highly anticipated entertainment experiences in years, this amazing ride opened this past June and brings riders right into the action of joining Optimus Prime and the Autobots as they fight Megatron and the Decepticons.

Between the 3D action, the high-definition animation that is so incredibly realistic and the fact that this ride is jam-packed with missiles, attacks, explosions and dodging the bad guys, you'll find that it takes your heart a few minutes to stop pounding after the entire experience! Incredible!

Universal Studios Transformers

While there was much more to our time at Universal Studios Orlando, don't forget that this is only half of the theme park possibilities at the resort! As much fun as we had experiencing being a part of the movies at Universal Studios, we still wanted to dive into the action at Universal's Islands of Adventure!

Due to the number of attractions involving water at Islands of Adventure, we changed into swimsuits (wearing swim shorts and rash guards makes it possible to be "clothed" while water-ready at the same time) and headed in to have some fun.

The kids were wide-eyed and excited right away when they saw all of the colorful, whimsical options at Seuss Landing and it wasn't long before we were riding One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!, The Cat in the Hat and the Caro-Seuss-el.

We also had a great time exploring the If I Ran The Zoo play area and meeting The Cat in the Hat and Sam-I-Am! — the whole area is just such a fun way to bring the creative, eccentric, comical world of Dr. Seuss to life for all ages!

Universal Seuss Landing

As with Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure has a great mix of attractions, rides and shows that there is something for everyone, whether full of action and excitement or more laid-back laughter.

Our favorites included getting soaked on Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, plunging down into the water on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, crashing into the waves on Jurassic Park River Adventure, seeing the high-flying uniqueness of the Pteranodon Flyers and exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogwarts! Hogsmeade! Butterbeer)!

Universal Islands of Adventure

We ended our time at Islands of Adventure on a high note, riding on the award-winning attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

If you've ever wanted to join Harry, Hermione and Ron and soar above Hogwarts, this state-of-the-art adventure first winds you through the familiar classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts before bringing you face-to-face with magical creatures as you fly through the air.

While my logical side knew that I was part of a ride, this attraction is so realistic and interactive that you'll swear that you've actually been magically transported into the action with Harry Potter!

 Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Note: If you are prone to motion sickness, take the warnings about this ride twisting, spinning and dropping seriously!

Whether you choose to visit Universal Orlando Resort for a fun-filled family vacation or specifically plan your trip during one of their special seasonal activities (Halloween Horror Nights in the fall, Macy's Holiday Parade and Grinchmas in the winter, Mardi Gras in the spring and Summer Concert Series in the summer), you are sure to find yourself kissing your worries goodbye and kicking up your heels for a fantastically great time.

Rides, shows, waterparks, dining, nightlife, hotels, shopping, events, fireworks, great customer service, easy parking... Universal Orlando Resort has it all! You'll definitely want to visit their website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out much more about all there is to offer, vacation planning tips, Universal Express Passes, their impressive Green is Universal initiative, and more.

If you haven't headed to Universal Orlando Resort recently to experience why it is known as one of the top vacation destinations in the world, then what are you waiting for? This is one trip that will result in memories to last a lifetime!

I was provided complimentary tickets and Universal Express Passes for Universal Orlando Resort in order to help facilitate this review, but they in no way affected the amazing time that we had and my honest opinions in this post.


scottsgal said...

what a great review! Hubby and I visited both parks 2 weeks ago and had a great time. It had been several years since we visited those parks - stayed the night at Royal Pacific hotel so we got the express passes and walked onto everything - what a great way to see the parks! Loved the HP world and the new Transformers ride. Spiderman is a fave too.

Ellisen said...

Super fabulous review! Love the photos.

Nicole Becker said...

WOW!! It has changed so much since 1997 when I was there last!! I wish I could afford to go again!!

Remus said...

I love your pictures... looks like you guys had a blast! I haven't ever been there, but I have been dying to go since I found out about the Harry Potter ride.....

slehan said...

2 weeks from today my friends and I will be in Orlando for 3 days. We'll be visiting Harry Potter on Saturday. Looking forward to it.

slehan at juno dot com

Jean Brinkley said...

I had no idea Universal Orlando had so much to offer. We are taking our girls to Disney for the first time this December. I know we'll be going back for Universal. My girls are just getting into Harry Potter, so that will be a big draw, I think.

Rose-Marie said...

wow - what a smorgasbord! It is a vacation with a capital V. The rides looks so much fun, but also safe! and so many characters- I'd luv to have my picture taken with Marge & Bart Simpson. I didn't realize how much there is to see & do, for sure the kids will tire themselves out having a Blast!

Mer said...

Wow, that's a lot of activities! I really like the variety of attractions, perfect for those with an age spread. This definitely looks like a vacation the whole family would love.

Nichol said...

So much to do. YOu know I have never been, never. I even lived in FL 6 years lol. We are going though with the kids in the next couple of years. A family vacation everyone is sure to enjoy!

Terra H. said...

Sounds like you had a good time! I briefly visited Universal Studios and City Walk a couple years ago during a blog media event. I mainly saw the Harry Potter ara and didn't get to see much else. I had a wonderful time and would love to go back someday to explore and see more.

LeeAnn said...

I finally made it over here to read this post, and it sounds like you guys had an awesome day! I absolutely LOVE Universal (that's why we have season passes, duh!) and I can't wait to get out there again next month. There is so much to do that you really need at least two days there to experience everything. (Or one day with the kids, and one day with just the "big kids" to ride the coasters. haha)

Maria Iemma said...

We've been to Universal Orlando several times. So much to do and see for us as well as the kids. Hope to be back next year during spring vacation.

bxcrochet said...

looks like fun. can't wait to go again.

knickgirl_3 at yahoo dot com

Mike M said...

Seems so much better in Florida compared to the California one!

Dawn Goss said...

This looks like so much fun! My kids would love a trip to Universal!

GoGreen said...

I am not big on theme parks, I think they are great for kids, though.


DG Middendorf said...

Ok, just one more place to add to my bucket list. Maybe in a couple of years after the grandsons are a little older, just not when Grandma and Grandma are too old. We aren't yet!!

Shannon said...

WOW I would love to go here. Thank you for sharing your review.