Today I’m continuing with our Orlando 2017 Trip Report. Last time we gave our views, opinions and top tips from the Disney Parks, today it’s all about Universal Orlando Resort – here are our thoughts.
1. Universal Studios
We both love a good movie park and you don’t get much better than Universal Studios. We adore the theming here as it’s subtle but beautiful and has some stand-out areas such as Springfield and Diagon Alley.
The latter was our first destination during our week at Universal Studios Orlando. It wasn’t built the last time I visited and as a massive Harry Potter fan, I couldn’t wait to walk through the wall behind the Leaky Cauldron. Diagon Alley didn’t disappoint, this is without a doubt the best-themed area I’ve ever seen in a theme park and it felt exactly the way JK Rowling described it. Even the most ardent of Harry Potter haters will struggle to argue it’s anything less than amazing.
It was a similar picture over in Springfield where Carl had his own fangirl moment. There were some great photo spots here and it always seemed quiet enough to have a good look around.
When it comes to attractions there are enough fantastic ones to even out the bad. I hated Minions and Transformers but loved The Mummy, Rip Ride Rock It and Men in Black. If you’re interested in Carl’s opinion, check out his Universal Orlando Hits & Misses.
It was sad to see some of the more experiential attractions I remembered (like Disaster! and Twister) be replaced by screens but I guess this is the direction Universal is heading and rides like Escape from Gringotts really show what the technology can achieve when it’s done right. Overall, we loved Universal Studios and can’t wait to go again.
Our Universal Studios Tips
1. If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure you take anti-sickness tablets. There are a lot of simulator and 3D attractions here that will make you feel a bit woozy if you’re prone to motion sickness. We were ok, but we know a lot of people could get a shock if they aren’t prepared.
2. The food options are particularly bad so choose wisely. Fast Food Boulevard in Springfield has plenty of choice – the chicken and waffles were really good – but for the safest bet, head out of the park and grab something from City Walk.
3. Lockers here are free but the ones at Escape from Gringotts get really busy and can take some time getting in and out. If you can manage to go without one, leave your bag at home. If you can’t, send just one of your party in to try and help with the congestion.
2. Islands of Adventure
Ahh, my personal favourite. Islands of Adventure is just beautiful. I love that the areas are themed around books and that each one is so completely unique.
Islands of Adventure is also home to the best attractions at Universal Studios Orlando – in my opinion anyway. Spiderman, Forbidden Journey and The Incredible Hulk Coaster are just three of the rides I absolutely love. And I couldn’t mention Islands of Adventure without talking about Hogsmeade – what an area. So beautiful and everything my Hufflepuff heart could have hoped for.
We spent a lot of time in this park – much more than we did at Universal Studios – and we loved every minute of it. If I could write a whole post about my love for IOA I would, but it’s a place you really need to explore for yourself. If you’re planning your first visit to Orlando, you simply don’t want to miss this!
Our Islands of Adventure Top Tips
1. Take your waterproofs. This is where all the resort water rides are and you get absolutely drenched. As we were staying on site, we tended to visit at the beginning and end of the day so missed out on Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges because we didn’t want to be soaked before our evening meal. If we’d have been a bit more prepared with ponchos, we’d have had our chance on this one.
2. I know it’s considered to be a kids attraction but try and take the time out to go on The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. Not only is this a really fun ride, but the views of the park from up high are fantastic – and you can actually take the time to enjoy them. Carl doesn’t agree with this one but I never see anyone go on it in videos so I thought it was worth a mention.
3. Speaking of views, by Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges there is an amazing vantage point with the hulk in the background. Make sure you scope it out for some truly fantastic pictures. There are a few benches dotted around here as well so it’s a great place for a rest. We stopped there for a good fifteen minutes and never saw another soul so I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem.
3. Volcano Bay
We visited this stunning new(ish) addition to Universal Studios Orlando after it’d just opened so there was a lot of noise about it being unorganised, really busy and impossible to get on a slide.
As we stayed onsite at the Royal Pacific hotel, we decided to brave it with our early entry advantage. In terms of busyness, it really wasn’t too bad first thing. We got straight on Krakatau the aqua coaster – which was so so so much fun – and also managed to do a fair few rounds of the lazy river before it started to get full.
We used the Tapu Tapu to virtually queue for Honu of the Honu ika Moana and walked on to ika Moana of the Honu ika Moana. Both were great and much scarier than they looked. Tapu Tapu is a good idea in theory, but we both felt it slowed the day down. Once you join a virtual queue, you’re kind of stuck until your window opens which can often be hours after you’ve joined the queue.
After these were all completed, it did start to get overwhelming with people so we decided to leave but we’d enjoyed a fun three hours in the park and felt we’d had our fill. Would I rush back? No, but water parks aren’t really our thing. It was fantastic though and visually beautiful, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a waterpark as gorgeous as this.
Our Volcano Bay Top Tips
1. If heights scare you, this might not be the water park for you. I’m totally fine with the height on roller coasters but climbing up the stairs here made me feel a bit queasy – and we didn’t even brave the tallest rides. The ones in the volcano looked plain terrifying so there was never a chance of me heading their way. I will say though, that the stairs didn’t have gaps in them which made it much easier than it could have been for me with a fear of heights.
2. The same as above can be said if swimming isn’t your strong suit. Carl never really learnt how to swim so there wasn’t much he could do here. Not Universal’s fault but as the slides are more for thrill seekers, it’s something I thought was worth mentioning.
3. I’m not sure how busy Volcano Bay is at the moment, but absolutely make the most of the extra hour you get in the morning if you stay onsite. This was a bit of a godsend for us as it allowed us to get a good spot, ride Krakatau and take a swim in the lazy river before the crowds poured in.
Have you visited Universal Orlando Resort? Which is your favourite park?