Wizards, Dinosaurs, Superheroes, Oh My! A Teen’s Guide to Universal Orlando

Wizards, Dinosaurs, Superheroes, Oh My! A Teen’s Guide to Universal Orlando

Share this post:

Theme parks aren’t just for kids! In fact, I think Universal Orlando Resort is the best place for teens. My recent trip was full of excitement! As a teenager myself, I experienced plenty of scream moments and true thrill rides.

Universal Orlando Resort consists of two theme parks, five on-site hotels, and a lively entertainment complex, Universal CityWalk, which features dining, shopping, and entertainment. I’m going to highlight what every teenager should add to their vacation bucket list, based off my recent trip with my family.

Here is a teen’s guide to Universal Orlando! Welcome to a thrill seeker’s paradise.

Universal Orlando includes two parks: Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Each park is divided into themed sections.

Universal Studios Florida
My absolute favorite ride in Universal Studios was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I was a screaming, crying, laughing mess and had a total blast.

What’s really special about Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is that you choose a song to listen to throughout the duration of the ride. You can choose from six genres: from pop to classical to country. Depending on what song you decide to jam to, every time you ride feels like a completely different experience.

My personal song recommendation is “Glamorous” by Fergie. I guarantee you will feel like a pop star.

3-DSC_0094

Judging by the Snapchat photos I posted afterwards, you’ll see that I have a love-hate relationship with roller coasters.

4-snapchat5-snapchat

Another personal favorite that I think teenagers will love is Transformers: The Ride-3D. I’m a pretty big fan of Transformers (Optimus Prime 4ever). This ride had plenty of action and adventure employing 3D effects and real sets. Even though you never leave the building, you’ll truly feel like you’re flying around a city battling robotic monsters.

Revenge of the Mummy is next on my list! It’s an Egyptian-themed indoor roller coaster, which seems pretty harmless (I know), but once you’re twisting and turning in the darkness while simultaneously having mummies pop out at you… well, it’s a whole different story. This was such a thrilling ride with quite a few steep drops in complete darkness!

The last part of Universal Studios that’s a must-see for every teen is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Most teenagers grew up reading the Harry Potter books and seeing the films, and I’m no different.

It was overwhelming to be in a place that symbolizes so much of my childhood! The beloved books and films truly come to life in Diagon Alley; simply walking down the street is magical. It’s such an immersive, nostalgic experience!

6-DSC_0856

While in Diagon Alley, you must ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This “multi-dimensional thrill ride” takes place in the underground caverns of Gringotts bank.

One of the best parts about this attraction is actually before the ride even starts! When you’re waiting in line, you’ll have the opportunity to walk through Gringotts bank itself and meet some very life-like goblins.

Once you’re on the ride, you’ll encounter Harry and his friends along with a few other evil characters trying to derail your journey.

7-DSC_0858

Before you leave, don’t forget to explore the mysterious Knockturn Alley. This passageway is sure to bring out your inner Slytherin, as it leads to Borgin and Burkes shop and is full of Dark magic. I was expecting to see a Death Eater as I turned the corner! At Borgin and Burkes, I bought a pretty fierce shirt that says, “I Served Time in Azkaban.” It makes me feel very hard-core when I wear it.

Universals Islands of Adventure
In addition to Universal Studios, there is another thrilling amusement park at Universal Orlando Resort called Islands of Adventure. I would recommend purchasing a park-to-park ticket, which gives you admission to both theme parks.

9-IslandAdventureResize

From The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, you can take the Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. The train goes directly from one Harry Potter destination to another!

You may think you’re boarding a simple, regular train, but it’s nothing of the sort. You are in for a surprise, because the Hogwarts Express is basically a ride in itself.

10-Hogwarts Express

Just like Diagon Alley, the level of detail in Hogsmeade is incredible. The Hogwarts castle architecture is breathtaking, especially at night. If you have the chance, see the castle during the day and again at night. It feels like two separate experiences!

12-unnamed

There is something magical hiding in every nook and cranny.

13-unnamed

One of the best features of Hogsmeade is the stores! There are a plethora of shops to buy the latest Hogwarts school supplies, from robes to notebooks. You’ll be ready to start the school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

14-unnamed

I have a big sweet tooth and wasn’t able to resist a stop at Honeydukes, the wizarding world’s sweetshop. You can indulge in Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans.

Another highlight is Ollivanders wand shop. I was impressed by the wand selection; not only did they carry Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s wands, but Ollivanders also had options like Cho Chang, Parvati Patil, and Dean Thomas replica wands.

You can even purchase an Interactive Wand, which creates real magic in the land at designated spots. Ollivanders has a location in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley too, so you can’t miss it!

As for the rides, they certainly won’t disappoint any Potterhead! Teens especially will appreciate seeing their favorite characters come to life in the phenomenal attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

It was composed of film sequences, animated figures, and multi-dimensional effects as you assist Harry and his friends. The queue line is a walk-thru of the Hogwarts castle and really enjoyable. You’ll recognize the outdoor greenhouses, the Headmaster’s Office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, and much more as you explore the corridors. I forgot I was even waiting in a line, because the décor was so much fun to see!

Next on my guide is Dragon Challenge. This ride contains two intertwined high-speed roller-coasters with plenty of stomach-turning drops.

P.S: Before you leave this area of the park, don’t forget to try the Butterbeer. What’s a trip to Hogsmeade without a mug of Butterbeer? I gulped mine down faster than you can say “Mischief Managed!”

15-unnamed

If you have a pass for both parks and want to head back to Universal Studios at any point, I would recommend taking the Hogwarts Express again. The journey is actually different both ways!

Universal’s Islands of Adventure has so much more to offer in addition to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Being a mega fan of Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park film, this area was at the top of my list.

16-unnamed

It seems like the Jurassic Park franchise is having a revival with the release of Jurassic World this past summer. But not matter which era of movies you love, you’ll have an awesome time exploring Universal’s replica.

17-unnamed

Teenagers will enjoy the exhilarating Jurassic Park River Adventure. You’ll embark on a river rafting journey through the jungle and encounter prehistoric creatures along the way. But it certainly won’t be smooth sailing; towards the end, you’ll meet a T-Rex and experience an 85 foot drop!

18-unnamed

You will probably get soaked, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It was actually a relief in the Florida heat.

19-unnamed

Now onto Marvel Super Hero Island… I am a mega Spider-Man geek, and I definitely fangirled a bit when I met the big shot himself! In Marvel Super Hero Island, you can meet your favorite Marvel superhero (if that’s not the perfect selfie moment, I’m not sure what is) and visit attractions themed around the comics.

20-marvel-islands

Of course, I had to make a stop at The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride. In addition to the 3D and motion-based technology, other effects like fire, wind, fog, and water were utilized. Add that to the spectacular storytelling, and it created an immersive experience. This motion-based ride still boggles my mind. It’s pretty crazy how the sensation of falling from a skyscraper can be re-created!

21-Spiderman

Universal CityWalk
Take a break from the theme parks and stop by Universal CityWalk. Enjoy an array of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. There is so much to do at this extraordinary, lively spot, and I think it should be at the top of your “must do” list!

22-DSC_0724

It’s the perfect opportunity to pick up some exclusive souvenirs and go shopping on the strip. From clothing to toys to jewelry – there’s something for everyone!

As for food, the options are endless. CityWalk is home to Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Bread Box, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, and tons of other great places to eat.

23-DSC_0173

For a fun atmosphere, delicious food, and an interesting combination… Get your taste buds ready for The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar! This restaurant is a unique place to eat at CityWalk, serving an eccentric combination of burgers and sushi. Not only was the food mouth-watering, the restaurant is also well-decorated and super cool looking inside.

cowfish re-sized

Afterwards you can take in a movie at the AMC Universal Cineplex 20 with IMAX. Catch the latest movie blockbusters and relax in the reclining, plush seats. This is the perfect way to end your day after an exhausting adventure in the Universal Orlando theme parks.

25-unnamed

Insider tips:

  1. Purchase a Universal Express pass for the theme parks. Having an Express pass allowed me to make the most of my trip and spend little time waiting in lines. You’ll be able to skip the regular wait and enter the shorter express line on participating rides and attractions
  2. Bring an external charger for your phone. Your battery will die quickly as you’re posting pictures and updates to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and whatever else (make sure to hashtag #UniversalMoments). Having an external charger is handy and convenient.
  3. Download the official Universal Orlando Resort app. The free app will help you keep track of attraction wait times, ride statuses, and upcoming show times for both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It makes planning ahead super easy!

26-DSC_0230

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Attention teens: grab your parents, pack your bags, and head to Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort for some excitement and old-fashioned fun! I had the opportunity to stay and had such a wonderful time at this retro-themed hotel. It’s the perfect place for teenagers and their families.

Cabana bay re-sized

The entire hotel is themed 1950s and 60s Americana. I have a deep love for all things vintage, so as soon as I stepped through the door of my hotel room, I was swooning. It was a blast from the past!

My sister and I had the pleasure of staying in a Family Suite, which can sleep up to six people with two queen-size beds and a sofa that pulls out into a full-size bed. The 1,800 room hotel also offers standard rooms that typically sleep four. The family suite was very spacious, and included a bedroom, living room, kitchenette, and a three compartment bathroom. There was free in-room wireless internet access too, so that was a big plus!

28-DSC_0713

The two queen-size beds were vibrantly colored and a flat-screen television as well. There was also a partition between the bedroom and the living room, making two separate quarters.

29-DSC_0722

The living room was very funky, and I loved the furniture! The orange colored seats and bright pillows gave off a fun vibe. There was an additional flat-screen television in this room too.

30-DSC_0717

The kitchenette had a mini-fridge, microwave, small sink, and bar counter with two stools.

I really liked having a kitchenette that included a mini-fridge and microwave. There were a couple nights that we had dinner at the great restaurants on Universal CityWalk, and if we had food leftover, we were able to bring it back to our hotel room and heat up later for a midnight snack!

31-DSC_0719

The bathroom was one of the best parts of the whole hotel room (and I know that sounds really odd). It was set up with three separate compartments, which was a design I had never seen before.

Several people were able to use the bathroom area at once, and overall we were able to save time. I thought the set-up was brilliant! It’s super-efficient – especially when girls are vacationing together! (hey, we spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning).

32-DSC_0715

In addition, the bathroom featured toiletries from throwback brands like VO5 and Zest. The small details of our hotel room did not go unnoticed.

33-zestsoap

The hotel is on-site, so you’re only minutes from Universal Orlando’s theme parks and Universal CityWalk. A big benefit of being a Cabana Bay Beach Resort guest is that you can enjoy Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the park opens. You also have complimentary transportation to and from the Universal parks and Universal CityWalk.

34-DSC_0236  35-DSC_0233

Teens and their families should consider spending an extra day solely at the resort to enjoy all the fun the hotel has to offer! There is so much to do right on property. I loved swimming in the Cabana Courtyard pool (awesome waterslide included). There was also an interactive water play-area for kids, private cabanas that could be rented, and a beach area complete with volleyball, ping pong, and more! There were twinkly lights in the recreational zone that looked especially pretty at night.

36-DSC_0114

There is also a whole second pool area called the Lazy River Courtyard, which included the titular Lazy River. Throughout my lazy river float, there were small waterfalls, mist,  interactive water cannons, and more. A simple part that I really appreciated was the towel bin supplied in the pool areas. It was convenient to have the towels right there, and not have to bring a beach towel with you to the pool.

38-DSC_0108

Overall, I think the coolest aspect of the courtyards was the poolside movie screenings. Movies played on a huge screen in both swimming areas at dusk. The week I stayed there, there were screenings of Men in Black, The Hunger Games, Captain America: The First Avenger, among other teen favorites.

39-DSC_0105

In regards to food, there is an awesome food court filled with an abundance of choices right on hotel grounds. You can even have pizza delivered straight to your room from Delizioso Pizza, the on-site pizzeria. And to boot, there’s a Starbucks on property. (“I’ll have a double chocolaty chip crème Frappuccino, please!”)

40-DSC_0252

Want to get in a workout before you hit the parks? No problem! There is a gym on-site called The Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio, named after the famous exercise guru, of course. I didn’t have a chance to work-out because my schedule was jam packed (and I felt like my roller-coaster-riding sufficed as exercise). But I was able to peek in, and the gym was much larger than I expected, filled with lots of equipment and exercise options. It seemed like the perfect spot to get your sweat on!

41-DSC_0257

Don’t forget to take in a game of bowling. Located at the resort is Galaxy Bowl, a 10-lane bowling alley. Right next door to the bowling alley is Game-O-Rama arcade.

42-DSC_0253  43-bowling

We had a wonderful stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and we’re already planning our next visit back.

Every single part of my trip to Universal Orlando Resort was perfect… it was only when we checked out of our hotel that burst the bubble!

I hope this Teen’s Guide to Universal Orlando Resort helps you get the most out of your stay. To help figure out what kind of Universal Orlando vacation you want, check out this interactive Vacation Planner. And have fun!

Share this post:

Leave a Reply

*

9 comments

  1. Joanne

    As the mother of 2 teens, I can tell you this was a fantastic, and accurate, review of Universal for teens! We’ve been going to Universal since the kids were little and they will never outgrow it – there is so much there for kids of every age, especially teens. Thanks for the great pictures of the Cabana Bay Hotel. We usually stay at the Hard Rock but may just have to switch to the Cabana Bay resort one of these years 🙂 Thanks for a great post!

  2. Charlie

    We just took our daughter— a huge Harry Potter fan, to Universal Studios Orlando for her 13th birthday in September. It appears our family had a very similar vacation, staying in a similar family suite at the Cabana Bay Beach resort. I concur with all your sentiments about the trip, right down to the part about bringing a back-up for your phone. I will only add that bringing flip-flops and taking plastic ziplock bags into the park with you to enjoy attractions like Dudley Do Right’s Ripsaw Falls or Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges without ruining things like watches or portable devices. YOU WILL GET WET!

  3. Gina

    I haven’t been to Universal since 1994, and I’ve been dreaming of taking our girls, ages 11 and 14. Your post pretty much sealed the deal that we need to go- my husband can now see proof that even though the girls and I want to experience Harry Potter, there is so much more there that he would love too!

  4. Peggy Murphy

    As a NJ grandmother of tweens, I will probably never get to Universal in California! But reading your blog actually made me want to be there. Kaitlyn, you have a wonderful writing style, keeping the excitement throughout all the various details. Dotting it with humor and those great colorful photos kept me reading through to the end. Consider a career in writing!

  5. Kelly

    Wonderful article! Thinking I need to take my teens to Universal over Christmas break. Thanks for posting.

  6. Josephine Palermo

    Just an awesome guide Katelyn !!! Thank you so much for all the information and tips. Looking forward to the next one!!!

  7. Kathydarrow

    We just got back on November 6th two weeks at Universal and Islands of Adventure and we snuck in a few days at Disney. We stayed at the Pacifico so those front line passes were free… loved reading your review it took me right back to the fantastic time we all had there. Also when you stay at the Pacific or the Cabana you are free to Resort hop and try out the pools… we love the pool at Portofino and probably will be staying there next!!!

  8. Renee

    Thanks so much for this. Would love to take a family trip to Orlando but have never been so this is very helpful and informative. We don’t really want to go to Disney…Universal sounds more our style, especially after reading your post! I have one teen and a pre-teen and I think they would have a blast there. I personally would be excited to stay at Cabana Bay! Will definitely check it out!

  9. Gitty

    As a mother of a teen girl I loved to read your blog. We are planning to go back for our third time and will be staying at a universal resort for the first time. I really liked your description of cabana bay and wonder if you have an opinion on how to compare cabana vs hard rock. I would love to hear your thoughts.