Universal Orlando is made up of two amazing amusement parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure (IOA); they are by-far my favorite amusement parks of all time. Combined, Universal Orlando is a place where I can be transported to my favorite movies like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Dr. Seuss. It’s my happy place, my home away from home, and a place where my inner kid can come out and run wild. Here are the Top 5 Reasons why:
It has THE best amusement park food ever
Located in the Lost Continent area of IOA, Universal’s Mythos restaurant overlooks the lake in the middle of Universal. It looks like just a mountain on the outside but, inside, it is a fine dining experience that transports you to mythical Ancient Greece. Their food is top notch – all the way down to the butter (which are in the shape of Universal’s signature globe). The steak medallions are one of my favorite dishes they serve. If you go to Universal, this place is not to be missed. Make your reservation a day or so in advance at the kiosk at the entrance of the park by the movie theater.
Waiting in line is part of the experience
At Universal and IOA, the lines for rides are part of the experience. Most are covered and/or have fans to keep people comfortable in hot temperatures and out of the sun. So much imagination and attention to detail is put into the ride queues to keep people entertained while they wait. For Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, you enter and wander the halls of Hogwarts, everywhere from the Botany Greenhouse to Dumbledore’s Office. In the Dr. Seuss Trolley Ride, illustrated pages of The Sneetches line the walls, and, in the middle of the building, Sneetches travel through Mr. McBean’s Machine to get “stars upon thars.”
Universal/IOA has rides for everyone’s tastes – from the gigantic thrill rides like The Hulk and Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket to the slower yet cute rides like E.T. and The Cat and the Hat. Plus, the park has a magnificent variety of character-themed rides – Minions, Shrek, Harry Potter, Marvel, Transformers, Dr. Seuss, Jurassic Park, Simpsons, the Mummy, King Kong, and more. They have 4-D screen rides, thrill rides, classic rides, roller coasters, drop towers, and water rides. Universal/IOA is known for having new, state-of-the-art ride experiences that are hard to find anywhere else. The amount of innovation and detail that goes into building these is astounding!
Behind the Scenes Easter Eggs
Did you know there is more than meets the eye to the normal Universal/IOA experience? Sometimes, when a Team Member is available, you can request behind-the-scenes experiences on some rides. On Men in Black, the secret tour will take you down to the Immigration Room. When Twister was still running, you could go to the Control Room to watch the show and see how all of the effects are created. There’s even a Production Tour on The Revenge of the Mummy, that highlights the backstory and history of the ride, as well as seeing the ride from another perspective. Just ask the Team Member for the respective tours at the entrance of the rides! If they have the extra staff and the time, you just might get lucky!
On-Site Hotel Experiences
So far, I’ve only stayed at the Cabana Bay Hotel, but I’ve heard nothing but good things from all of the On-Site Hotels. A free Express Pass is given when you stay at one of the Preferred (Sapphire Falls or Royal Pacific) or Premier Hotels (Hard Rock or Portofino Bay). However, all of the hotels come with Early Entry into Harry Potter and free transportation to and from the park. Also, purchases in the park have free delivery to your hotel, so you don’t have to carry them around all day. One thing I especially love about Cabana Bay is their pool areas. One side has a lazy river to help you relax your weary legs after all that walking around the park, and the other side has a humongous pool, complete with a fun slide! The pools are empty until around 10am in the morning, too – Perfect for an early morning swim! Plus, at night, they show free movies by the pools.
So, there you have it – my 5 Top reasons why I love Universal Orlando. I encourage you to plan a trip to Universal and stay at one of their on-site hotel properties. I’m certain you will really enjoy the experience.