You all know how much we love Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. We go every year, and this was year six and counting. We can count it by Des’ age because that first family vacation to Florida happened when he was one. He was barely walking at that point, but went from being unstable on his feet to totally cruising through the parks with my aunt. It’s one of my finest memories. The kids grow so fast and our experiences are different every year. You can really mark the passing of a year when you line up for a roller coaster and are let on, when only the previous year, you weren’t yet tall enough. I have grown braver with rides because of my kids, and because of Universal Orlando Resort as a whole.
A huge thank you to the sponsors of this post – Universal Orlando Resort – for their generosity and awesomeness. This was our best year yet, and we have a LOT of good years. It was our longest day at the park – from morning until closing – and it was also the year both kids were most excited for. Over the years, the kids have discovered the things WE love that are at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. I’m talking Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, Back to the Future, MARVEL superheroes, E.T., and more. This was the first year in which all four of us had fallen in love with both Harry Potter and with Jurassic Park. Oh, the excitement! We woke up, put on Harry Potter robes, and got there early!
I’ll go into more detail and more fun recaps in my top ten list below, but I can’t stress enough how much of a family place this is – definitely for my family – and for most that I know. There was an online conversation yesterday in a local mom’s group about Universal Orlando Resort and if the three parks – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay – are good for families of all ages and sizes. It was unanimous that there was something age-appropriate for everyone. I agree. Des was one when we first went and he loved the parades, the small child play area, the water play, and some of the rides – on my lap! And we got to do some of the best people watching and ride watching!
10 of Our Favorite Family Experiences at Universal Orlando:
1 – Lunch at Three Broomsticks. This really goes under The Wizarding World of Harry Potter category as a whole, but since it’s lunch, I absolutely had to keep it separate. You can get Butterbeer in several places throughout Universal’s Islands of Adventures, and here we can sit down with a cup of it – along with a much-needed lunch. We always get kid-friendly food, like macaroni and cheese, but Cassidy and I love to split a 1/2 roasted chicken, potatoes, and corn on the cob. All you have to do is order – and they’ll find you seating and bus your table. Plus, they’re always friendly and it’s scenic in there!
2 – The E.T. Ride. Can I just say, that this ride – located in Universal Studios Florida – is actually my favorite ride, on earth. Not just at Universal Orlando Resort. Favorite EVERYWHERE. This ride makes me feel like I’m flying and it makes me feel all the feels and it’s excitement and nostalgia all in one. You’ll be put on a mission and will even fly across the moon! Plus, it’s family friendly. When we go as a family of four, we can sit all four in a row on our bicycles. You can drape camera bags, diaper bags, and purses on the black handlebars. When we have an extra kid with us, like last time, we just take up two or three rows and maybe share with kind strangers. The. Best. One of the most memorable rides for both of my kids.
Meeting Blue is a highlight!
3 – The Magic of Jurassic Park. Now, I’ve always been a fan. I get nostalgic when I hear the theme music because I think back to our 1st year when Scarlet and Cassidy went on Pteranodon Flyers™ and I played with Des in Camp Jurassic™. This year, Des and I rode the flyers ride together and it was a rush! We also met Blue! This was one of the more incredible adventures:
Between meeting Blue, the rides, the music, and the fun, this is not to be missed by my family. I think this is the year in which we were the most excited about this part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Des was, and I really was too!
4 – Riding the Hogwarts Express Between Parks. This is AWESOME. It’s one of the perks of having the 2 or 3-Park Ticket options. This is the REAL Hogwarts Express and it’s such fun! When you’re in Diagon Alley, you can even cross platform 9 3/4. There’s an interactive part of riding the train and there’s a different one for going to Hogsmeade, and then coming back to Diagon Alley in London. It’s so lifelike and the best part is that it’s also a real form of relaxing transportation.
Another big perk!
5 – Meeting Superheroes. We finally visited Marvel Super Hero Island in Universal’s Islands of Adventures last year and it was really worth it. We met Spiderman and Captain America and love watching the the Incredible Hulk Coaster go around and around. (it’s NOT family friendly but super fun to watch) What I love is that the heroes walk through the streets and put on a show, and you can meet them! They are super into it and who’s to say they’re not the real deal??
6 – Getting Lard Lad Donuts, and Other Treats. We make it a point in Simpsons Land, to always always get a nice big pink donut for a treat at Lard Lad Donuts. We also love Chocolate Emporium, Butterbeer, Chocolate Frogs, and much more.
7 – The Parades and Characters That Pop Up. Oh, is this fun. Parades are always a joy but these parades make you sing and dance! Also at Universal Studios Florida, you can meet Beetlejuice and Doc from Back to the Future and can see The Blues Brothers Live! While I was waiting for my family to get out of the awesome Minions Ride, Marilyn Monroe drove by on the top of a car and waved to me, and then The Blues Brother did too, and one of them raised his eyebrows at me. Loved it!
Can’t Miss Alert!
8 – Staying For the Light Show. The The Nighttime Lights At Hogwarts™ Castle was a must-do for us. We were surprised at how easy it was to see. We got off the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster at dusk and lined up to see them.
9 – Childhood Nostalgia in GREAT Technology. This place is like a warm hug for those of us adults who grew up loving TV shows and films, and watching them with stars in our eyes. Sharing that with the next generation is priceless.
10 – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Get ready for a lot of photos for this one, which is why I saved it for last. That said, that doesn’t mean it’s my favorite part of Universal Orlando Resort. I think all parts of the resort add a lot to the family experience. It’s just that Cassidy and I both fell in love with Harry Potter while we were split up for two years. It’s been magic for us, and Scarlet has read all seven books, plus “The Cursed Child” and has seen it on Broadway! We love the fire breathing dragon, the walk through of the castle ride (while Cassidy and Scarlet went on it five times) and the fact that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has the third roller coaster I ever went on! Ahh.. And in the front row at dusk!
Arrive early and head straight to Ollivander’s Wand Shop. They do a performance and only let 25 people in at once. There, they select someone from the crowd to get their wand! Scarlet was selected our first year visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it was super memorable! We usually like to then ride the Hogwarts Express and do Jurassic Park during the early part of the day because it can get crowded. There is just so much to see and do! And have little ones? Seuss Landing and Toon Town are AWESOME for kids and adults of all ages.
Lastly, for some fun background info, Universal Orlando Resort is comprised of three fabulous parks – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. There’s also an entertainment complex – Universal CityWalk – and it gets bigger every year! We love to walk around there. And, there are six on-site hotels at Universal Orlando Resort – Universal’s Aventura Hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Hard Rock Hotel. This is literally our perfect family vacation!