This summer I went to Orlando with some of my extended family. We bought 4 day passes for the Universal theme parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. As of last month, there is a new Harry Potter park, Diagon Alley! This area is in Universal Studios, while the old Harry Potter world, Hogsmeade, is in Islands of Adventure. Here's the first part of a review of my trip and a basic guide for getting the most out of your Universal passes. There's so much to do in Universal that this blog will focus on Universal Studios, excluding the new Harry Potter world.
As I mentioned before, Universal has two theme parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios (the same way Disney has Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and more, but they're separate). You have to walk through CityWalk to get to either park, and a Hard Rock Cafe is in between. So you don't need a Universal ticket to enjoy the restaurants on CityWalk, but you still need to pay for parking (which is only $5 after 6 pm, $17 during the day). There aren't any rides or other real attractions at CityWalk.
For the most part, I personally prefer the rides at Universal Studios. If you love a calm but exciting ride or have kids, E.T. is a good choice. It's also a cool, air conditioned ride if you're looking for a break from the Orlando heat. E.T. is my favorite movie and was my favorite ride until recently. Next door is a Simpsons themed area, and even as someone who has never watched the show, I really enjoy the main ride; it's a motion simulator, so you're in a cart that moves while you watch a screen (like a 4-D movie). There's also a Men in Black ride where you shoot aliens, similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride in Disney's Magic Kingdom.
After the Simpsons and Men in Black comes London, a facade in front of the new Harry Potter park, but I'll get to that in another blog. Continuing past London is the brand new Transformers ride. I've never seen the Transformers movies, but the ride was my second favorite of the week; 45 minutes of waiting was definitely worth it! It's another motion simulator ride, but it moves more than the Simpsons. Next to Transformers, our favorite eatery of the week, Louie's serves pizza, pasta, and chicken parm. We ate there twice, and I recommend it for lunch or dinner.
Continuing down is Disaster, which is a fun show in which the audience participates to make a movie, and the Mummy. The Mummy is a dark and scary roller coaster (again, I've never seen the movie), and while I personally love the ride, I wouldn't recommend it to most kids or those who don't like roller coasters. Also in the area is Twister (a show about the movie and that simulates a tornado: I wouldn't recommend it for kids, as it made my brave 9 year old cousin cry) and Rip Ride Rock It (a roller coaster which plays music). Shrek is a 4-D movie which is great if you're looking for a break with kids, but I find it underwhelming, and the new Despicable Me ride is another motion simulator that's kid friendly.
Universal Studios also has a new show at 9 pm. As long as you can see the lake at the center of the park, you'll be able to see a screen, but remember to claim your spot early unless you want to stand! The show is about 15 minutes long and is just a series of short, 2 or 3 second long clips of memorable movies. As someone who loves movies but has yet to see many of the classics, I found the show extremely boring. Many of the clips were too short for me to recognize the movie, and there isn't really any guidance or narration. Overall, if you're already there that late and love movies, see the show, but I would say it's not that important.
I absolutely had a blast at Universal Studios; even as a huge Disney fan, I have to say that the rides at Universal are more exciting and interesting for teenagers and adults. The atmosphere at Universal was also extremely pleasant; every employee I encountered was extremely helpful, patient, and friendly. However, if for some reason 3-D rides bother you or upset your stomach, I would really only recommend E.T., Disaster, the Mummy, and the roller coaster. The food was also great (especially Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream!). I'd recommend Universal Studios to families whose children are over age 10 and any adult or movie lover.
Read some general travel tips to further enhance your vacation, and don't forget to have fun! Contact us with any insurance questions.