Orlando’s theme parks are known around the world. If your family can dream it, there’s a good chance they can do it here. The choices are never-ending and, thanks to new projects and attractions, constantly changing. Explore the world of ocean animals one day, then wake up and make friends with a famous mouse the next. If your family is a fan of the silver screen, Universal Orlando should be on your must-see list. Jumping into the action of some of your favorite movies has the makings of a magical vacation for all ages. (Parents too!)
Plan Your Universal Orlando® Resort Visit
Knowing what’s waiting for you can help you get a jump-start on your Universal Orlando® Resort vacation. With restaurants, nightclubs, mini golf and an AMC® Cineplex 20 with IMAX®, Universal CityWalk® is the hub that connects two theme parks and four hotels.
The two theme parks, Universal Studios® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® are within walking distance of each other. Where you start is up to you. The good news is, there really isn’t a bad choice.
Universal Studios Florida®
Blockbuster movies and hit television shows help create the fantasy adventure that is the Universal Studios Florida® theme park. With state-of-the-art technology, rides are designed to make you feel like you are part of the story. Attraction storylines and plots are a continuation of their movie or television predecessors. While fans will recognize their favorite characters, those who haven’t seen the ride’s namesake won’t feel left out.
In many cases, it’s the various special effects that have you talking when you exit a ride. In some cases it can be speed and fire, but in other instances it’s simple sprays of water or how a favorite fictional character is brought to life. The balance of heart-pounding explosions with more whimsical adventures makes the park a good fit for families with kids of all ages.
Toddlers to teens and every age in between will love Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. All of the favorite characters from the movie — Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes and the Minions — are on board this 3D ride to celebrate a special anniversary. There’s so much laughing, it’s hard not to be smiling when the ride comes to an end.
The fictional town of Springfield is the home to The Simpsons Ride and the cartoon’s iconic locales, like Duff Brewery, Moe’s Tavern and Krusty Burger. Parents may find they are especially sentimental when they climb on flying bikes to ride E.T. Adventure®. The only original attraction still remaining in Universal Studios Florida®, what it lacks in noisy special effects it makes up for with feel-good nostalgia.
The classic battle of good versus evil takes on new meaning when you’re fighting alongside Optimus Prime and the Autobots in TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D. Clips used in the ride were directed by Transformers director Michael Bay, upping the explosive authenticity even more. If your tween or teen starts to grumble about anything, head straight for this ride. There’s a good chance it will leave them happily speechless.
If you had to pick just one attraction that brings the magic of the silver screen to life for park goers young and old, the answer is easy. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley™ – turns scenes from fantasy to reality you can touch, taste and master with the just the right flick of the wrist. The wand chooses the wizard, or in this case, the park guest that visits Ollivanders™ dark and dusty London wand shop.
Get by the fire-breathing dragon, and the 3D Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ ride is your reward. A frosty Butterbeer™ provides just the right sugar rush before climbing aboard the Hogwarts™ Express at platform 9 3/4, bound for Hogsmeade™ in the neighboring Universal’s Islands of Adventure®. (Since the ride involves travel between both theme parks, tickets to both parks are required.)
Universal’s Islands of Adventure®
Sit back and enjoy the scenery as you make your way from King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios Florida® to Hogsmeade™ at Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme park. There’s a good chance you’ll run into some familiar faces; just watch out for those chocolate frogs.
You could spend a good part of your day in Hogsmeade™. Hogwarts™ castle is home to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ thrill ride. It’s a tour not to be missed. Get a hippogriff’s view of Hagrid’s home and pumpkin patch when you soar on the family-friendly Flight of the Hippogriff™ roller coaster. Have a budget before you enter, but plan on doing some splurging at Honeydukes™ sweet shop. Chocolate lovers won’t want to share their Cauldron Cake. Chocolate Frogs™ come with a collectible wizard trading card in each box.
“This is what magic tastes like,” said my teen after she popped one of many Fizzing Whizzbees into her mouth. If for some reason you missed out in Diagon Alley™ (or maybe you just need another) you’ll find a steady flow of Butterbeer™ in Hogsmeade™.
Harry Potter isn’t the only children’s book brought to life at Universal’s Islands of Adventure®. Oh, the things you can do in Seuss Landing™. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s hard to simply walk by the Caro-Seuss-el™. A moving couch transports riders through the pages of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat™. Seuss Landing is colorful and curvy. Since Dr. Seuss never drew straight lines, there are no straight lines in Seuss Landing.
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The explosive popularity of comic superheroes transcends all ages, but the champion-focused attractions and activities at Universal’s Islands of Adventure® seem to resonate especially with tweens and teens. While young siblings happily meet superheroes out and about in the park, heart-pounding action is waiting for the older set on rides like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man® and the Incredible Hulk Coaster®.
Knowing the ride and height requirements for all attractions at Universal Orlando® Resort can help parents steer little ones away from possible disappointment. But take advantage of child-swap areas at attractions. They offer a nice place to sit and allow parents to take turns watching the kids while the other rides.
It costs a good amount more, but what you save in time makes the VIP Experience a bargain for many families. Think of it as having a personal tour guide in the parks. There are all sorts of perks: behind-the-scenes tours, reserved seating at shows, and exclusive viewing areas for parades. But hands-down the biggest benefit is skipping the long lines at rides and attractions at both theme parks. Prices can vary depending on the date and availability, but 1-day, 1-park VIP Experiences start at $299.00, 1-day, 2-park VIP Experiences start at $329.00 per person, plus tax. At the end of the day it can be the difference between a smiling, happy family and an exhausted, grumpy group. And we all know vacation smiles are priceless.
Want Help Planning a Family Vacation to Orlando?
Need more comprehensive guidance? CB! Vacation Consultants specialize in helping families book travel to top destinations around the world. Our expert consultants do everything from recommending and booking accommodations in Orlando (including qualified options not featured on Ciao Bambino) to advising how best to navigate theme parks and this area’s plethora of activities with children. For more information and to request assistance, go to the CB! Vacation Consultants page.
Editor’s Note: Dana and her daughter were hosted by Universal Orlando Resort, but as always Dana’s thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of Universal Orlando® Resort except where noted.