Universal Orlando

Can you do it in just one day – Yes you can!

Holidays in Orlando, with or without grandkids, inevitably include theme parks and Universal is a must. The twin parks, Universal Studios and neighbouring Island of Adventure, appeal to all ages with retro themes from much loved films through to the man of the moment, Harry Potter. When you start to research your visit the thought of squeezing as much as possible into just one day is daunting. But I can prove it can be done, and have survived to tell the tale.

Universal Orlando The slick organisation, the fact that the two parks are linked, and the invaluable Express Pass, all helped my cause and my family and I experienced most of what was on offer.

We arrived punctually when gates opened at 09.00 and that was a real help. Parking is easy and before you know it you are following the crowds past the iconic Universal globe. Universal has a completely different atmosphere to the other theme parks in the area. Rock music playing as you walk through and an emphasis on thrilling rides gives the park an edgy feel that older kids will appreciate. But there are also areas for the youngsters, and plenty for all ages to enjoy.

Research is also a great help and we had pored over the ride and attraction options beforehand to create a wish list to suit everyone. But be prepared to deviate if you come across a ride that has no queues and hop on. We did just that with Despicable Me – Minion Mayhem, a gentle start for all ages.

The Express Pass, which you buy on top of your entrance ticket, came into play for the ever popular Transformers ride. Express pass means just that, walk past the queues to the front. It is worth every penny if your time is limited. Make sure you buy Express Pass this in advance as the price rises depending on supply and demand.

Universal Orlando Themed shops pull you in as you stroll along the walkways through the different areas. The Betty Boop store was an eye opener, with more merchandise than you could ever imagine along the Betty theme. Production Central is your first stop and where you will find Guest services and some great shops and eateries as well as popular rides such as Shrek4-D, all things Minion and Orlando’s highest and fastest roller coaster. Universal has some real tummy churning rides and I was just happy to watch rather than participate, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockitt being just one example!

Continue into New York with rides such as Twister and Revenge of the Mummy as well as the famous Blues Brothers live show. Into San Francisco where I was happy to sit and watch the world go by with a coffee and donut while my family enjoyed Disaster, a funny 3D adventure set behind the scenes of special effects. World Expo is home to Men in Black – Alien Attack and the Simpsons.

My young granddaughter especially liked Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone where she ran around and let off steam in the children’s play area.

Diagon Alley Top of everyone’s list, especially my 10 year old grandson, is Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, the must see attraction and an absolute masterpiece in creativity. Harry Potter’s world comes to life as you stroll along London’s Embankment, past the Knight Bus and Leicester Square Tube Station through a walled alleyway into the amazing Diagon Alley. The mysterious shops are huddled together around Gringotts Bank where the dragon perches on the roof guarding the treasures within. Be prepared to queue for the Harry Potter ride, Express pass cannot be used for this number one attraction. But it’s worth the wait! Universal have made waiting all part of the experience and you can enjoy lots of magic and mystery as you queue.

Don’t forget to try a Butter beer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour or a glass of the real Butter Beer at The Leaky Cauldron. 

Then take the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 ¾ to Hogsmeade and you are in Universal island of Adventure.  Hogwarts Castle looms over the famous Wizarding World and the whole area is a snow-covered version of Harry’s domain. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the big attraction and a breathtaking ride with lots of ‘close encounters’ of a wizarding nature.

Main attractions on the Island of Adventure are Seuss Landing, a great draw for all ages with gentle rides such as One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Caro-Seuss-el and my favorite, The Cat in the Hat, where you can meet Thing One and Thing Two.

Gringotts Bank The area known as the Lost Continent has a great special effects action show, The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad. I was particularly taken by the ‘talking rock’ at the entrance to the show!

Jurassic Park takes you back to the imaginary dinosaur world depicted in the famous film with the Jurassic River Park Adventure and the chance to create your own dinosaur at the Discovery Centre. For some watery fun cool off at Toon Lagoon and get wet on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges.

Finally Marvel Super Hero Island is where you can meet The Incredible Hulk Coaster (not one for me!) and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Dr Dooms Fearfall is pretty scary too, but fun to watch.

So we didn’t get to ride everything, or sample all the eateries, or experience all the attractions, but we had a wonderful day and what we did achieve we thoroughly enjoyed. Despite my successful day, if the chance arises to spend 2, or maybe 3 days, at Universal, well it’s a no brainer as they say!

More information

For park information and details of all the rides and attractions see  www.UniversalOrlando.co.uk

The Universal 2 Park Bonus Ticket includes unlimited park-to-park access to Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure for up to 14 consecutive days. The ticket costs £130 per adult and £120 per child aged up to nine, my trip was arranged by www.Americansky.co.uk and their knowledgeable staff can help with ideas and choices for you entire Florida adventure.

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