Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Day Trip to the Universal Orlando Resort

Just a few weeks ago, my brother, who lives in Orlando, wanted to take me over to Universal Orlando.  He'd been talking about taking me there for a while, and this time, the stars aligned, our schedules worked, so we said yes, we'd go.

The first thing to note is that at Universal, you park in a parking garage.  There are two different garages to choose from, and each level is labeled.  Make sure to make a note of where you're parking, because the garages can be confusing.  (She says from experiences her brother has shared with her!)

You make your way over to the main resort and you enter a shopping and dining area, CityWalk.  CityWalk has seen a lot of upgrades over the last year, with many new restaurants being introduced.  I have to admit, some look pretty darn awesome.  But, we weren't here to eat.  We were here to play.

So, we went to the kiosk to pick up our tickets (we did the park to park so we could see both areas) and entered.  We decided to go to Islands of Adventure first. What was unique about our visit to Universal was this was my first visit ever with Brian and it was the first time my brother and I had been since 2002.  So, it was pretty cool to get to experience the park this way. (I had been to Islands previously in 2011).

We decided to go on Hulk first.  One thing to note about Universal.  There really are a lot of thrilling attractions here.  Because of this, for many attractions, you will need to put your bags in a locker that are located near many of the attractions.  Keep in mind that these lockers are free for a limited amount of time (usually how long it should take you to wait in line, ride the ride and then come back out.)  Just be aware that you will need to store bags at many attractions throughout the day, so if you can, try to carry what you can minimally get away with. 

Next, stayed in the Marvel area and we went for The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, which to me, is one of the greatest attractions anyone has done.  It utilizes video screens and physical sets (something that again, Universal is well known for) to tell the story.  It's such a creative attraction. 

We then went to ride Jurassic Park, which yes, I rode, even though I don't like dinosaurs.  Do keep in mind that this is a water ride and you will get wet...likely pretty drenched.

From there, it was time to enter the land we were most excited about (well, Brian and I).  Hogsmede.  Brian and I are both big Harry Potter fans, and this was his first experience in Hogsmede.  He loved it.  The land is just so well done. 

We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which made him a little ill.  (The screens moved a little too fast for him).  After exploring the area a little bit more, it was time to head to uncharted waters.  It was time to take the Hogwarts Express and head to Diagon Alley.

It was really so neat to get to head to the train station and see that massive scarlet train in front of me.  I couldn't believe it was real!  We very much enjoyed the attraction.  (Do keep in mind that if you want to take the Hogwarts Express, you MUST have a park-to-park ticket.  You aren't getting on it if you don't have one).

I stepped into London...I mean Universal Studios Florida and was blown away.  I had seen photos, but the scale of London was massive. 

Then, stepping through the jagged brick entrance of Diagon Alley....I couldn't believe it.  If I thought Hogsmede was fantastic, I would be blown away of the detail in Diagon Alley.  It was so realistic.  There was the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and yes, the statue out front really does move and a rabbit does appear as if from nowhere!

Then there's the Leaky Cauldron.  It's like it is in the movies.  I kid you not.  I loved the touch of the actual leaky cauldron!

This is where we had lunch and it was fantastic!  I had the Cottage Pie, which is meat and veggies, covered by a mashed potato crust.  The meat was good and the mashed potato crust was cooked just perfect.  Crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside.  I also enjoyed that they served the meal with a salad.  I really appreciated the outside-the-theme-park-box food choice.

Of course, I also had to try warm butterbeer.  This was a new addition and it was heavenly.  It was butterscotchy with a hint of vanilla and the warmth of it was perfect.  It wasn't like coffee, but like flavored milk.  It was fantastic.

After lunch, we wandered around for a while and I absorbed the atmosphere.  It really is crazy how realistic it was.  And yes, the dragon is as cool in person as it looks on videos.

We then rode Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.  I had managed to avoid most spoilers from this attraction.  (Yes, I knew a few bits and pieces, but I completely avoided watching videos of the attraction.)  Holy was incredible.  The themeing of this attraction is beyond.  It's really almost as good as my favorite...The Haunted Mansion in regards to detail.  I was so happy I avoided major spoilers, because I was certainly surprised by it all!

One area that was particularly cool was Knockturn Alley.  This is the dark wizard area and I loved how it really was dark and spooky in there.  We went inside Borgin and Bourkes and I loved that you could see the Vanishing Cabinet!  (You have to have read Harry Potter to get that reference.) 

I really could have spent hours in both Hogsmede and Diagon Alley, but unfortunately, we still had the rest of Universal Studios Florida to do and we had half a day to do it in.  Now of course, we didn't see everything, but we did see most of the highlights.

On our way back into London, I managed to find Kreacher watching out of 12 Grimmauld Place and of course, I tried to enter, but alas...muggle.

We headed towards Men in Black Alien Attack, a shooting game, where you try to hunt down aliens, and something I find to be far superior to both Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.   We also did Revenge of the Mummy, which I was kind of nervous about.  It is a roller coaster-type attraction, but what I was most nervous about what that I don't like when things pop out at me and I had heard that there were things that popped out at you on this attraction.  I'm glad I did it though, because it actually ended up being really fun and not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. 

After The Mummy, we went to do Transformers.  This was an attraction Brian was particularly excited about because he loved Transformers as a kid.  I enjoyed it as well, and it's very similar to Spiderman.  The best things about these attraction are that you don't have to be well-versed in the lore to understand the attraction.  That's true for all of Universal's offerings.  (I am not well-versed in Transformers, but I got the gist of it all.)

We then went to an attraction that my brother and I both remember doing as kids and that was Twister-Ride it Out.  Twister, for some reason, is a movie we both identify with from growing up...and the attraction is super hokey and silly.  But we had such fond memories of it and we enjoyed the heck out of it!  It was good to get to see it with him again...especially because rumors indicate that it will be removed soon.

My brother and I then went to try Rip, Ride, Rockit.  I don't love roller coasters which start out going vertically up, but I didn't have time to fret on that.  We literally walked on the attraction as it was boarding. This is a ride where you get to pick the music that plays, so I was busy fiddling with that and I didn't have time to think about the vertical portion until I was in it!  And then the ride took off and I swear, I haven't laughed that much in a long time.  It was one of the most thrilling things I'd ever been on.  

After we got off Rockit, it started to rain, but we pressed another attraction we both went on as kids...E.T.  I only remembered the name portion and nothing else of the attraction.  Holy cow is that one a drug trip!'s just crazy and fantastical!  I really have no words.  It's a classic and really trippy.

As we got done with E.T., we passed by the beloved Back to the Future Delorean.  Now we know where Doc Brown ended up in 2015.....

And then the heavens unleashed and the rain started coming down in buckets.  We ran into Springfield, where we quickly ducked in to Moe's Tavern, from The Simpsons.  This was another area that impressed the heck out of me.  Again, it is spot on to the hit TV show.  I felt like I really was in Springfield.  There was the Love Tester (which we all tried!) and Barney.  On our way into the bar, we passed the Bumblebee Taco Truck and Lard Lad Doughnuts, and of course, Chief Wiggum.  

We really wanted to ride The Simpsons Ride, so we ran over to the main entrance, thoroughly drenching ourselves in the process.  (Seriously, raining buckets.)  The ride was so much fun!  We loved how they made fun of theme parks and themselves all in one full swoop! 

From there, since we were already drenched and it was getting late, we decided that we wanted to head out, but first, we had to make our way back to London because I wanted to have one more ride on the Hogwarts Express.  (There are two different shows that play, depending on the direction you are going.)  This is where you go through Platform 9 3/4.  It's a really neat effect! 

We then hightailed it out of the park, soaked to the bone.  But all in all, it was a successful day at Universal Orlando.  We got in quite a few attractions and had a wonderful time.  I won't lie, the parks are different than visiting Disney World, but I don't think that's a bad thing.  They are both unique theme parks that should be experienced.  Walt Disney World will always be my home park, but sometimes it's nice to see what other places have to offer.  

Now, I didn't want to make this too long of an article, I just wanted to give you a taste of what the Universal Orlando Resort has to offer, so if you have any questions, please, don't hesitate to ask.  You can do so in the comments or you can email me at  I will be happy to help with any thing you may want to know.

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