Weekend at Universal Orlando

 

January in Michigan can get really cold.  Where to go for a long weekend with a 12-year-old boy in January?  Hey, how about Universal Studios Orlando?

The only time I had visited Universal Studios Orlando was in the early 90’s so I decided it would be the perfect place to take my son for our getaway and his first visit.  I looked at all the resort options and decided on Lowe’s Royal Pacific.  I chose this resort for its moderate pricing, location, and the Unlimited Express Pass, an $80 per person value.  The Unlimited Express Pass allows guests to bypass long stand by lines on many of the park’s popular rides.  Early entry to the parks is another benefit of staying at one of the Universal Resorts.

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Royal Pacific is an absolutely gorgeous resort, we felt like we were on a tropical Pacific island.  My son loved the large pool, and spent most of our first night swimming, even though it was pouring down rain.  After his swim, we had a delicious dinner at Jake’s American Bar.  There are many dining options at Royal Pacific, including Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Islands Dining Room and the Orchid Court Sushi Bar. jr-blog-universal-d

We woke up early the next morning to make sure we were at Universal Studios for early morning hours.  The water taxi picked us up and took us right to Universal City Walk.  From City Walk it is an easy stroll to either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure.

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When Universal Studios opened we went right back to Diagon Alley to ride Escape from Gringotts.  Walking in to Diagon Alley felt as though we were walking right into one of the Harry Potter movies.  The attention to detail is simply amazing.  When we reached Escape from Gringotts there was very little line, we only had to wait about 5 minutes.  We loved the ride so much that we rode it again as soon as we got off.  Riding the train into the vault, running into Voldemort and Bellatrix then finally being saved by Ron, Harry and Hermione was a lot of fun!

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My son was looking forward to picking out his wand at Olivander’s, so off we went.  The shop has every wizard’s wand as well as interactive wands that activate spells at many locations throughout The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Kyle chose the interactive wand and had a blast following the included map to all of the interactive locations.  One of our favorite spells was in Knockturn Alley which allowed Kyle to control a skeleton in the window.

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As soon as it was time for us to visit Islands of Adventure Park, we made our way to King’s Cross Station for a ride on the Hogwarts Express.  To travel on the Hogwarts Express, which takes passengers over to Hogsmeade you must have a Park to Park ticket.  Once inside King’s Cross Station, passengers cross through Platform 9 ¾ where the beautiful Hogwarts Express awaits.  We had so much fun running through Platform 9 ¾, just like Harry and Ron do in the movie, that we did it several times, you may want to also!  On the ride to Hogsmeade we saw scenes from the English Countryside, and a few familiar faces.

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Exiting the Hogwarts Express was as exciting as walking through the brick wall into Diagon Alley.  I was looking around for Harry, Ron and Hermione, expecting them to pop out of Honeydukes!  Kyle and I wandered through Hogsmeade on our way to ride Flight of the Hippogriff, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and the Dragon Challenge.  All three rides were fantastic!   The Frog Choir, which is made up of students from each house and their frogs, was singing as we walked to breakfast and they were great.  Kyle wanted to try the Three Broomsticks but wasn’t so sure about trying porridge or black pudding so he opted to stick with pancakes.  I tried the Traditional English Breakfast, the black pudding was delicious.

After breakfast we walked back over to Hogsmeade Station and took the Hogwarts Express back to King’s Cross Station.  We spent more time exploring Diagon Alley, trying more spells and looking in all the shops.  Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was fun, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions had some unique souvenirs, Sugarplum’s Sweetshop had some yummy treats.  OH, and then there was our first of many stops for Butterbeer!  Did you know that there is no recipe for Butterbeer in any of the Harry Potter books?  Universal Orlando came up with 6 different recipes to send to J.K. Rowling in England.  She chose her favorite which is now served exclusively at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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When we finally left the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the day we were excited to start riding all of the other rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  The only ride remaining from my visit in the 90’s is ET’s Adventure and it was as fun as I remembered it!  Kyle loved the Transformers: The Ride-3D and Men in Black, and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, but we both agreed that our favorite Universal Studios ride was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  If you like rollercoasters you do not want to miss this one!  Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit reaches heights of 17 stories over the park and speeds of up to 65mph all while rockin out to your favorite music.

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After a quick burger from Krusty’s Burger in Simpson Land and a GIANT donut at Lard Lad we were on our way back to Islands of Adventure.   Instead of riding the Hogwarts Express we walked over to Islands of Adventure, a quick and easy walk.  We rode some great rides, our favorites were The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.  Suess Landing looks like a lot of fun for younger kiddos, especially Caro-Seuss-el.  Since we were back at Islands of Adventure we thought we should go back to Hogsmeade for some spell casting and another Butterbeer.

 

Our first day ended back at Universal Studios to watch Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, a nighttime show in which movie scenes are projected on to waterfall screens.  It was a nice way to end a full day of fun!  The water taxi took us back to Royal Pacific, such a convenient way to travel.

On day two we were up bright and early to get to the parks right when they opened.  Kyle had two goals for today, completing his map of spells in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and to get another giant donut from Lard Boy.  I was looking forward to riding all of our favorite rides again and seeing some of the shows we had missed on our first day, oh and more Butterbeer!

At the end of our second day Kyle and I were both exhausted but had such a great time, we can’t wait to go back.  We both decided we would like to stay at Royal Pacific again for a little longer next time.  If you are thinking of a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, I can help you plan the perfect vacation for your family.  My Wishes Family Travel Facebook page and Twitter page both have useful and fun information about Universal Orlando.  For a FREE, no obligation quote contact me at julir@wishesfamilytravel.com.

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