Are you a Harry Potter fan trying to convince your family to come to Universal Studios with you? Have you thought of Universal as just a place for teens and adults? Are you contemplating a stop at Universal Orlando but not sure the whole family will love it? Read on for my tips and reasons why you SHOULD plan a trip to the Universal Orlando Resort in 2015.
Who will enjoy the Universal Orlando Resort?
· Harry Potter Fans
· Muggles (if you don’t know what a Muggle is then you are one! And you too, will enjoy Universal)
· Kids of all ages
· Movie fans
· Book fans
· Ride fans
· Story fans
· Fans of Family Time
Universal Orlando is definitely a stop for the whole family. You probably know that the newest addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened up in 2014 and has drawn millions of Harry Potter fans to an amazing immersive experience like no other theme park. What you may not realize is that Universal has been creating amazing immersive experiences for the whole family for years. And they are always working on the next thing. The parks are constantly changing and that is exciting!
For kids there are attractions such as
· Seuss Landing (puts you right in the middle of the beloved Dr. Seuss classics with rides, shows, and characters to meet)
· Despicable Me-Minion Mayhem (help the minions save the day and learn how to become one!)
· Fievel’s Playground shrinks you to the size of a mouse so you can experience the world as Fievel did in An American Tale
· Curious George Goes to Town is a great play area for fans young and old of the Curious George books and cartoons
· Shows like A Day in the Park with Barney and Animal Actors on Location
· Ride a bike and help E.T. save his friends on the E.T. Adventure ride
· Jurassic Park Discovery Center is full of hands on learning and Camp Jurassic is a fun spot for kids to run around and play
· Shrek 4D movie ride
· Harry Potter areas have some great stops for kids as well including Flight of the Hippogriff, Ollivander’s Wand Shop and more!
· And of course, much more including a daily parade of your favorite cartoon friends!
For teens, tweens, and adults you can enjoy thrill rides and immersive experiences such as
· The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man
· The Incredible Hulk Coaster (and AMAZING coaster…so says my hubby and lots of other people who will actually ride it!)
· Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (even if you aren’t an HP fan, this is an incredible ride)
· Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
· Revenge of the Mummy
· Transformers-the ride! (One of my faves!)
· Shows such as the Horror Makeup show (a hilarious improv), Fear Factor Live, Blues Brothers, Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Review,
· The Simpson Ride and the recreated life-size town of Springfield…it’s unreal!
· Doctor Dooms Freefall
· Plus character meet and greets, shows in each land/island, street performers and more!
Not into thrill rides? No problem! The shows are great, there are plenty of great rides that won’t make you sick and most of the 3D simulator show/rides (such as the Simpsons and Despicable Me) offer stationary seats where you can still enjoy the show and avoid the movement that can cause motion sickness.
How Many Days and What Kind of Tickets Do We Need?
I recommend the Park 2 Park ticket to anyone heading to the Universal Orlando Resort here is why:
· Universal Orlando has 2 theme parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Unlike Walt Disney World, the theme parks at Universal are RIGHT next to each other. You could walk out of one park and be in the next in 3-5 minutes walking at a leisurely pace. So it really is a no-brainer to get the Park to Park ticket.
· The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually in both parks. Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is at Islands of Adventure. The Hogwarts Express takes you back and forth between the two. A Park to Park ticket is required to ride the Hogwarts Express and if you are a Harry Potter fan at ALL; Hogwarts Express is a must-do! So go ahead and plan on the Park to Park ticket to get the full Wizarding World experience.
· Even if you are not interested in the Harry Potter attractions, the Park to Park ticket is a must- do…just look at all there is to do that I listed above!
· If you plan ahead and go on days when the parks are less crowded (let your Travel Agent help you with that part of the planning!) you can really do a lot at Universal Orlando. So, go ahead and plan on the Park to Park ticket and enjoy! It really makes it feel like one really big park. No transportation required!
· 2 full days in the parks will let you see most, if not all, of what you want to see. That is IF you stay in the parks most of the day. If it’s a more crowded time of the year, or if you like to take it slow with lots of breaks, you might want to do a 3 day ticket.
· For more about Universal Ticket Options check out the article I wrote for the Travel with the Magic blog.
Where Should We Stay?
Of course there are tons of options in the Orlando area. But, just like when you are going to Walt Disney World, I highly recommend staying on property at Universal Orlando. I have stayed just off property (within walking distance) and I have stayed in 2 of the Universal Resort hotels and without a doubt, I recommend staying at one of the Universal Resort Hotels. But, aren’t they more expensive? It depends! You have probably heard of impressive Lowes Resorts at Universal such as Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, and the Royal Pacific. Each of these resorts is impressive from the theming, to the dining, the rooms, and the exceptional service. You won’t be disappointed by any pf those choices. But, I know you may be looking at off-site hotels to save some money. Well, guess what!? Universal has an answer- the brand new Cabana Bay Beach Resort, also operated by Lowes, with wonderful customer service, fun family theming, and GREAT value. Think of this as paying the price you would pay at a Disney Value resort (competitive with surrounding local value chains) but with the amenities of a moderate category Disney resort. Cabana Bay even has a huge gym, pools, and a bowling alley! Also large food court, and a Starbucks! Cabana Bay also offers Family Suites that sleep up to 6 at a GREAT rate per night. Universal is also working on a moderate resort called Sapphire Falls which will be open in 2016. So, your options for staying on site are really much better than staying off-site. Besides the great resorts, here are the benefits that, I think you will see, make it worthwhile and a great value to stay on site.
· Early Park Admission. All Universal Resorts give you early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley. The rides in the Wizarding World are not part of Express Pass so first thing in the morning is the best time to go without much of a wait. We did this in October and we did SO much in that first hour that most of the day as spent doing things other than Harry Potter! It really freed up our day to not wait in line.
· Free Express Pass. If you stay on-site at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay Hotel, or Royal Pacific Resort, you get a FREE ticket upgrade to the Unlimited Express Pass!!! The upgrade from an off-site hotel or the Cabana Bay Beach Resort could pay for itself with this benefit!
· Free transportation by Water Taxi or bus. Everything is within walking distance, but the buses tend to run much faster than at Disney World since Universal is smaller and closer together, and the Water taxis are just fun!
· Character Appearances at each Resort
· Complimentary merchandise delivery from on-site shops to your resort!
· Priority seating at restaurants through the parks and Universal’s City Walk. No need to decide months in advance where you will eat and make reservations, simply show your room key card to the host/hostess and your name gets bumped up the list if there is a wait!
The Universal Orlando Resort is such a great spot for families. Whether you are stopping in before or after a Walt Disney World Vacation, or making a trip just for Universal, I can help-and I would love to! I recently had a FANTASTIC stay that included time at Universal’s newest resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and the luxurious Portofino Bay and I can’t wait to help you plan your trip to experience all that Universal Orlando has to offer.
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Planner affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations including Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line