Hear the Incredible Hulk roar as he throws you out on to a roller-coaster that spins and turns, do real magic with a wand in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, become a Minion or end up on broken roller-coaster that spins out of control in the middle of the Simpsons. If you want to feel like a superhero, like you’re in the middle of the world’s best action movie or you would love to step into the pages of the Dr Seuss books you will adore Universal Orlando Resort. It is action packed, fun-filled and absolutely fantastic for kids (and grown ups) of all ages.
When we travelled to Universal Orlando Resort with Virgin Holidays at the end of October we didn’t know what to expect. We love our theme parks but had never been to Universal, at the end of the first day my nine-year old son declared that he wanted to move in to the park, that’s how much he loved it! And it wasn’t just him, all of us had an amazing time with four fantastic days of Universal Moments at Universal Orlando Resort.
We started our days at the parks by visiting Universal Studios Florida. With the beautifully warm Floridian sunshine on us every day we visited and really small queues we skipped around the park, starting with one attraction which was to become a family favourite – Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. Thrown backwards and forwards in this incredible 4D cinema complete with motion simulator, we loved the trip to Gru’s lab where we were sent off to be ‘minion-ised’ and of course chaos and hair-raising fun ensues. The kids shrieked, I shrieked and we all came dancing out in to the arms of two minions for a photograph. It was the perfect place to begin our adventures.
My nine-year old and I decided then to head to Revenge of the Mummy while the younger children and Mr Globalmouse headed to the Woody Woodpecker Kidzone where they bumped into the big purple dinosaur Barney, flew on bicycles to an alien planet with ET and dashed through the Curious George Comes to Town play area, complete with a wonderful water park area where kids can cool down in the spray.
I’m not quite sure what we expected from Revenge of the Mummy, I thought it was maybe a ghost ride (and we’re always on the look-out for a good scare!) but as we rocketed through the air on what turned out to be a terrifyingly fun roller coaster, in the dark, with mummies jumping out at us, real fire blasting over our heads, thrown around, screaming and screaming it was most definitely like nothing we had experienced before. We got off, legs shaking, holding hands, laughing as we stared at each other, unable to talk for minutes after that hair-raising experience. We certainly felt brave!
Once we’d managed to stop shaking we met up with the rest of the family to head to the place the children have been talking about visiting since we knew we would be going to Universal Orlando Studios – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The children could not contain their excitement and I have to say, neither could I! As we walked through the main park – all of which is themed beautifully around American streets – we suddenly found ourselves in altogether more familiar surroundings. There was a red telephone box, rows of houses that looked like they had been plucked from a London terrace and even down to the double-yellow lines on the road. We were there! We looked around the streets, stopping to talk to a Stan Shunpike look-alike who was stood outside the Knight bus.
It was all a wonderful creation, with Kings Cross Station standing in the middle of it looking properly authentic, with staff in the London underground station uniform stood around to help. After a little exploring we found ourselves in the magical Diagon Alley where we chose wands (or it would be more accurate to say that the wands chose us!) and got to do actual magic around the park. This was one of our favourite bits, waving our wands in certain ways to create spells at locations all across the Wizarding World of Harry Potter such as making water squirt at passersby or making eyes move in a shop window. All of us just could not stop smiling as we became part of the story.
We wandered the shops, spying chocolate frogs in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and Hogwarts school uniform on sale before heading to take flight on the Harry Potter and the escape from Gringotts Bank roller coaster ride – not for the faint hearted, and certainly one for older children but lots of fun.
As our feet could walk no more we took one last journey, heading through King’s Cross Station and on to the puffing, chugging Hogwarts Express, a real train that spans this park and into the second park, Universal’s Islands of Adventures. No ordinary train is this though, we saw amazing scenery from across Scotland and heard Harry and his friends as they made their way through the carriages. To say the children were spell-bound by the whole experience is an understatement.
While the Hogwart’s Express takes you to the second park, dropping you in Hogsmeade, we were exhausted by all we had done and headed out and to dinner at the wonderfully eccentric looking Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in Universal’s CityWalk area. This is a new restaurant for Universal and we couldn’t wait to give it a try.
We loved this restaurant, themed around chocolate but not in a way where the food is gimmicky and not tasty. We feasted on chocolate bread with maple butter, onion rings with a cocoa and ranch dressing which was so delicious and chocolate gnocchi which was spicy and creamy all in one.
The children had huge milkshakes which were a meal in themselves and talked to the characters who were wandering around like Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome herself (!) and a steam-punk style robot waiter that had them transfixed.
But it all became too much for our five-year old who, having eaten until he was ready to burst, promptly fell completely asleep…the sign of a very full and happy day!
For our second day we set out for the Islands of Adventure which is a whole separate park of rides, attractions, restaurants and entertainment. It sits alongside the first park and is reached by either a main entrance or you can arrive on the fantastic recreation of the Hogwarts Express which links both parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We had seen that the latest addition to the park – Skull Island: Reign of Kong had recently opened its doors so we headed straight for what turned out to be a thrilling jungle adventure. Like many of the rides and attractions at Universal it’s an immersive in-the-middle-of-a-movie style attraction which is filled with thrills and spills. While I was a little worried that my youngest would be scared of the giant gorilla and roaring dinosaurs while being bumped around in our jungle truck, we all loved it.
The park is split into different island areas and next on our list was the Marvel Super Hero Island where another motion simulation ride awaited us – this time on an adventure with Spiderman swinging through New York and rescuing us from a group of evil bad guys. It’s so incredible how they mix 3D films and animatronics to create an experience which makes you believe the adventure is unfolding around you.
This island is also home to the stomach churning The Incredible Hulk roller coaster and a host of Marvel themed rides, but for us the absolute highlight was a chance to meet many of the characters on a specially arranged meet-and-greet. My children were in awe of having so many superheroes around them and my eldest loved being shown some amazing moves by Spiderman while Storm talked to my daughter about female superheroes. My youngest who hid behind me for most of the experience did manage to peek out to see his favourite Captain America who was telling him he had the most amazing invisibility skills.
Back in the world of Harry Potter but this time in the Islands of Adventures we loved the opportunity to step through the streets of Hogsmeade, performing magic along the way with our newly acquired wands and then we were off to Hogwarts to ride the ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’ attraction, which whisks you out of the school, across the quidditch pitch and off for a terrifying adventure where you’ll need Harry’s help to rescue you from danger. Definitely for older children it’s a brilliant recreation of the world you see on-screen, complete with the actors appearing in the filmed sequences.
While there’s so much to explore in the park which you could spread over several days to enjoy fully and revisit your favourite rides, with one day you can still cover a fair bit of the park if you’re organised. We loved exploring the Jurassic Park attractions where my daughter was delighted to be picked to name their ‘newly born’ dinosaur and we took a swooping ride through the treetops across the park in the Pteranodon Flyers, where you’re suspended below a gigantic flying dinosaur and whooshed along a suspended roller coaster which is both graceful and thrilling.
Like the Universal Studios Florida park, there’s so much here for kids of all ages and we loved the fact that there was a huge island – Seuss Landing – dedicated to the creator of the Cat in the Hat and his amazing stories. This really felt like we had walked into his books, with a number of lovely gentle and quirky rides, along with a brilliant water park where my children rushed around ducking jets and sprays (and I got totally soaked whilst laughing at them getting wet, my just deserts!). We adored it here.
After a packed day at the park we headed out for some evening entertainment courtesy of the weird and wonderful Blue Man Group. The trio have their own theatre sat alongside the parks. My eldest two went along for the show which was absolutely brilliant, mixing mime, music and comedy from three child-like blue-faced people. There’s lots of audience interaction and fun and my children couldn’t stop themselves from laughing at the antics. It was the perfect way the wrap up a busy exciting day.
We spent our two final days revisiting both parks and all of our favourite rides which meant that we rode Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem three times, travelled on the Dr Seuss tram which recited stories as we rode high above the quirky land and went back for more terrifying thrills on Skull Island.
We did more meet and greets with characters which are really special at Universal Orlando Resort as they are properly in character and pull you in to their world as you meet them. We laughed along with the Scooby Doo gang as they wondered if our oldest could be a replacement for Fred (who wasn’t there), Marilyn Monroe rasped huskily over at us as she waved her hand daintily and we were all in hysterics as The Grinch tried to stop our son being in the photo we were trying to take!
We ate burgers in the world’s largest Hard Rock Cafe, fajitas in Confisco Grille and best of all got to drink butterbeer (not alcoholic, a Harry Potter creation which tastes like cream soda mixed with butterscotch and is yummy) in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We came home with armfuls of souvenirs from my favourite, a Cat in the Hat holding the two Things who now sits next to me on the sofa to Harry Potter figurines and souvenir picture frames. But way more than anything brought home in our suitcases were the memories we created on four amazing, jam-packed, fun-filled days. It actually brings tears to my eyes to remember the happy smiles and looks of astonishment on my children’s faces every moment we were at Universal Orlando Resort. This is somewhere magic is created, you can be an action hero, a wizard or just feel part of a beautiful movie set which springs to life with every step you take. It is truly immersive and it’s a wonderful experience to be part of it. This may have been our first trip to Universal but it is most certainly not going to be our last. Every year Universal bring out a new ride and revamp others, it is ever-changing and we can’t wait to see what it next has in store.
Check out our film of our visit to Universal Orlando Resort here.
Like this post? You can pin it here for later: