Earlier this year, my 10-year-old daughter and I flew around the world in two weeks, visiting seven destinations in six countries on four continents. The planning was fun—we created a list of our favorite places from previous travels as well as places that we wanted to go and we asked ourselves: what’s the coolest, most fun, most adventurous trip that we can put together? Our final itinerary included big cities (Paris and Sydney), desert locations (UAE and Oman) and islands (Java and Bali in Indonesia).
But there was only one place to start it all: Universal Orlando Resort. After all, it’s cool, fun and adventurous!
We had visited the Universal Orlando parks three times the past five years. They’re our kids’ favorite theme parks anywhere—which says something since we live in Southern California and we’ve visited a lot of parks around the world.
So before we headed off to Paris, we stopped off at Universal Orlando for a visit. And sure enough, we had an absolutely amazing time.
What keeps impressing us trip after trip?
My kids LOVE Harry Potter. And at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade (at Universal’s Islands of Adventure) and Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios Florida), they feel like they’re in that magical world.
The Harry Potter attractions are extremely well done. And as much time as we’ve spent in the two areas (and on the Hogwarts Express train traveling between them), they never get old. A highlight was our visit to Ollivanders where we were chosen by our wands! Acquiring two wands meant carrying them with us for 22,000 more miles of travel, but no complaints – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter wouldn’t be the same without interactive wands.
Plus you never know when a magic wand may come in handy in the deserts of Oman…
Beyond The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we love everything that Universal Orlando has to offer. Current favorite rides include Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Revenge of the Mummy, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, The Simpsons Ride and Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
We go on everything multiple times – easy with Express Passes. Plus there are new rides every year, and our kids are older and taller every year, so each visit is different.
I’m always blown away by the details at the Universal Orlando parks, from Halloween Horror Nights to the themes within the parks to every one of the rides. I’ve been able to meet several of the attraction designers and they’ve all mentioned the backstory – the story that’s developed early on in the planning process that guides all design elements.
Before even boarding an attraction, you’re already experiencing the story. In fact, waiting for Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction is almost as much fun as the ride itself. My kids still talk about the large moving creatures in the research facility that you walk through, and there are even real actors along the queue. I’m not going to give away exactly where those actors are, but when’s the last time that you were entertained by live people while waiting for a ride?
The food throughout the parks and at Universal CityWalk is several steps up from normal theme park food. We’ve loved our meals at Mythos, Lombard’s Seafood Grille, The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, Vivo Italian Kitchen, NBC Sports Grill & Brew and The Cowfish.
It’s actually fun to decide where we want to each lunch and dinner every day—I’ve never said that about a theme park before! And the restaurant options were a perfect complement to the wide range of cuisines we were about to experience on our around-the-world trip.
The Age Range
The Universal parks definitely have an older age demographic in mind than other theme parks, which makes it far easier to find things that everyone wants to do. And my kids appreciate that the Simpsons area, Springfield, has the same irreverence of the television show—and that they’re old enough to be trusted with that humor.I particularly loved the roller coasters and thrill rides, and we continued those adrenaline rushes by paragliding and tubing in Oman just a couple of days later.
To sum it up, Universal couldn’t have been a better place to start our around the world trip! And it’s funny how often we made references to Universal Orlando during the rest of the trip.
The desert sands between Dubai and Oman were straight out of Revenge of Mummy. When our planes hit turbulence we closed our eyes and pretended we were back on the roller coasters. And when we were watching the sun rise over Borobudur Temple in Indonesia, we were both thinking about how similar the jungle around the temple was to Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Luckily there weren’t any large apes there! Of course at Bali’s Monkey Forest the next day, as the monkeys were coming after us (for bananas), we definitely felt like we were back on the ride!