Are you a thrill ride lover? I tend to be a bit of a sissy when it comes to some, but my family LOVES all thrill rides so I end up riding and screaming anyway. If you are looking to experience some great thrill rides on your next trip, Universal Orlando Resort is the place to go. You will have plenty of chances to scream at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
1. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida: This is the ultimate thrill ride for any Harry Potter fan! You will head down below Gringotts bank on this multi-dimensional 3-D attraction that puts you right in the middle of the action with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Voldemort, and Bellatrix.
2. Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida: You will surely feel the wrath of the awakened mummy on this indoor dark ride when you come face to face with him after racing past fireballs, beetles, and warrior mummies on this thrilling adventure.
3. Dragon Challenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure: This unique roller coaster is two different roller coasters, each with a unique experience! You can ride an aggressive Chinese Fireball dragon or a ferocious Hungarian Horntail dragon as you twist and loop across the sky.
4. Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt at Universal Studios Florida: You can rock and roll to your favorite song on this one of a kind ride and even take home your music video as a souvenir. This attraction is not only Orlando’s tallest roller coaster but also features the world’s first non-inverting loop.
5. The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure: This is one of the best roller coasters in the country. You will be transformed into the Incredible Hulk as you go from 0 to 40 miles per hour in just two seconds. You will experience thrilling speeds and seven upside down turns on this incredible ride. The Hulk is currently being reborn and will open in summer of 2016 even better than before.
Which one is your favorite?
Hidden Treasures of The Lost Continent at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Nestled within Universal’s Islandsof Adventure is an ancient and timeless hidden realm, The Lost Continent. Here are the top five hidden treasures recommended by Anthony Armenia, a Universal Orlando Intern and huge theme park fan:
Sinbad didn’t stop after his seventh voyage; his eighth was the biggest one yet. Join Sinbad in a stunt show of EPIC proportions cheering on the heroes and booing the villains in this live stunt spectacular. This is one stunt show that you don’t want to miss from the breathtaking feats to death defying stunts, guests of all ages will be engulfed in the adventure.
Go on an undersea adventure and no this one doesn’t involve mermaids. Join Taylor from the Global Discovery Group on a journey only built for the most curious explorer through the mysterious temple. But keep an eye out for ancient titans: Poseidon and the evil Lord Darkenon, as they are lurking under the surface battling for power.
3. The Mystic Fountain
What looks like an ordinary fountain is anything but! Carved from ancient stone, the mischievous Mystic Fountainnot only lives and breathes but speaks; telling riddles and jokes as well as occasionally squirting guests for a refreshing surprise. This is undeniably my personal favorite hidden treasure of The Lost Continent!
Just next to the Mystic Fountain, you can escape the typical theme park fare with some exotic cuisine. Chow down like a sultan or king on beef, chicken or vegetarian kebabs and Greek salads. There are also some more Greek inspired snacks including hummus, Greek yogurt and fruit cups along with the more traditional pretzels and churros.
5. Star Souls – Psychic Reading
Ever wanted to see what your future holds? Take a seat for a psychic reading and discover what the fates foretell. I don’t know about you but I’m holding out for some delicious kebabs in my future.
Of course there are further adventures to be had in The Lost Continent including dining like titans in the award-winning Mythos Restaurant and some truly unique shopping experiences featuring a variety of unusual items from across the ages.
Pete’s Dragon Opens Today! Check Out These Activity Sheets and Dragon Cupcakes
The most magical movie of the year, PETE’S DRAGON is finally opening in theaters everywhere TODAY! August 12th!This is one of the best family movies of the year and equally perfect for kids and adults alike!
Check out these Pete’s Dragon Activity Sheets and Dragon Cupcakes!
And don’t forget your Disneybound outfit when you hit the theaters this weekend!
Foodie Friday: Top 5 Universal Orlando Dining Spots
It’s no secret that I’m a Walt Disney World Resort lover. For years I visited Walt Disney World without ever going out of my way to visit Universal Orlando. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time at Universal (thank you very much Universal Orlando!) and was pleasantly surprised by my visit. I will always be a true Disney lover, but some of my trips will now include time at Universal Orlando too!
A visit to Universal Orlando can definitely be a highlight of your next Orlando vacation, and with so much to do, the last thing you want to worry about is choosing the a good restaurant. Here are my 5 picks – in no particular order:
Mythos Restaurant is located inside a cavern on the shore of the park’s lagoon. Mythos serves salads, burgers, steak, fish, pasta, and a risotto of the day on its seasonally changing menu. This restaurant has received the Theme Park Insider Award 6 times for the world’s Best Theme Park Restaurant.
Finnegan’s Bar and Grill is a table-service restaurant that serves many of the same items you will find at The Leaky Cauldron. A great place to enjoy Irish food and drink. This is a family friendly restaurant complete with a Children’s menu.
The Three Broomsticks is located in Islands of Adventure. Here you will find some of everyone’s favorites such as fish & chips, roasted chicken, Cornish pasties, corn on the cob, and Butterbeer.
The Leaky Cauldron is a British Pub offering Bangers and Mash, Toad in the Hole, Cottage Pie, Fisherman’s Pie and Fish & Chips. They also serve breakfast, which includes some great Apple oatmeal with yogurt and fruit, and an egg, leek, and mushroom pasty. Specialty drinks are served, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Confisco Grille, also locatedin Islands of Adventure, serves salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches, fish, pasta, and fajitas, for lunch and dinner. Also has Gluten free items.
A Disney Fan Goes Universal
I recently had the opportunity to spend several days at Universal Orlando Resort. I have only been to Universal Orlando a handful of times over the years and the last time was probably about seven years ago. It was basically like visiting for the first time since so much has been closed, expanded and created since then. I visit Walt Disney World Resortconstantly regularly – at least 6 or 8 times a year, so it was a very different visit to Orlando for me.
As a Disney fanatic fan, I found myself constantly comparing the two resorts/theme parks. It’s only natural. Although I did enjoy Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventures and the CityWalk area, as well as the resort I stayed at (Portofino Bay Resort), there were several things about my experience and differences between the two that I think are important to share.
As all Disney lovers know, when you reserve a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort, before you leave home you will receive everything you need either via e-mail or by regular mail delivery. Your Magic Bands will have so much necessary information contained on them that all you really need is to snap on your band and head to Orlando.
AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION – DISNEY WINS
The first differences – Disney’s Magical Express– FREE! Easy to locate in the airport. Scan your Magic Band, get on the Magical Express and head to your resort. On occasion you may have to wait a short time for the bus to be full if you are traveling during a peak time but you are usually on your way before very long. Disney even collects your luggage for you. Universal does offer an airport transfer service. However, it is not free. There is a charge of around $35 per person round trip. Universal Orlando uses SuperStar Shuttle Service.Also you must collect your own luggage.
Even when paying in advance for the shuttle, once you arrive at Orlando International Airport you must collect your luggage and then find your way to the concierge desk in the Universal Orlando store in the airport to collect your packet for shuttle access. However, if you arrive after 8:30 at night you will have to call for pickup. At the time you pick up your packet, you will be told where to meet the shuttle. I admit they do give you a re-usable, fancy wallet type document packet but that doesn’t really make up for the inconvenience of having to go collect documents after traveling all morning. The shuttles are small, only seat about 12 people. I waited almost an hour for the shuttle to arrive even after I was told it would be there in 15 minutes. Once it arrives, it won’t leave until they are sure there are no others coming to board soon so you may also sit another 30 minutes waiting for others. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do after traveling for several hours is having to locate a store, stand in line for shuttle access paperwork and then wait around for a shuttle. It should be noted that the shuttle also makes multiple stops on the way to Universal Orlando Resort. Unfortunately, I also found the shuttle drivers to be rude and absolutely nothing like the Magical Express drivers. A person in my group on a different shuttle actually experienced her driver spit at and on a car!
FASTPASS+ at DISNEY vs. EXPRESS PASS at UNIVERSAL
All Disney fans love their FastPasses! FREE. The same system called Express Pass at Universal costs about $40 per person per day for one ride on each of the rides that accept Express Pass for all who visit the park not staying in one of their on-site resorts. You pay around $60 per person per day for unlimited access to have an Express Pass for multiple rides per attraction. That is a heck of alot of money! Those staying on-site (excluding Cabana Bay Beach Resort) do receive free Express Passes Unlimited but you have to be sure to arrange it yourself through a lobby kiosk.
RESORT MISC. – SORRY UNIVERSAL. DISNEY WINS AGAIN!
I will say the Universal resort (Portofino Bay Resort) I stayed at was beautiful. Clean, convenient to the parks, beautifully taken care of and had great restaurants. There were, however, several problems I had with my stay there.
Check-in #1: I always do on-line check-in when going to Disney. On-line check-in makes the arrival process quick and easy. Even at peak times, there are cast members located throughout the lines with iPads moving the process along. The cast members at the desk are always welcoming and pleasant. At check-in at the Portofino, the line was fairly long with only 3 customer service representatives at the desk. One was ruder then the next. No pleasantries. No welcoming. It was very disappointing.
Check-in #2: As a frequent traveler I know that rooms are not always ready during peak times. I arrived at Universal several hours after my flight arrival due to the time spent waiting for the shuttle. After initially being told there was no reservation for me (because my name was entered in their computer incorrectly) I was told it would be several hours before a room was available. I must add that the customer service representative refused to correct the spelling of my name in the computer. It took me two days and several drawn out mix ups to get the spelling of my name corrected. I was at Universal Resort at Universal’s invitation for a media event starting at 2 p.m. After traveling all day (since 5 a.m.) I had no choice but to attend the first event without changing clothes or even freshening up. I finally received a text that they had a room ready for me at 4 p.m.
Check-in #3: When I checked in I was asked for my credit card. This is normal. However, at Disney you are asked if you WOULD LIKE to leave a card ON FILE for incidental charges. At Universal you have no choice. Not only do you have no choice but the card is not put on file. The card is charged – are you ready for this – $200 per night held against your card in case of incidentals. This is unacceptable as far as I’m concerned. If a family is staying at Portofino for 5 nights – that’s $1,000 held against their credit card! From what I understand the per night charge is different depending on which of their resorts you are staying at but that it does exist at each of their on-site resorts.
Portofino is a deluxe resort but has no mini-fridge in the rooms. There is an old style snack bar in the room that contains some bottled water and $5 candy bars. You can rent a mini-fridge for about $20 per day. Here’s the kicker! The candy bars and snacks sit on sensors. So you don’t even have to eat them to be charged for them. Simply pick one up to read the label or decide if you want it and if it is off the sensor for longer then one minute – CHARGED! This is a huge huge huge issue as far as I’m concerned.
CAST MEMBERS – NO CONTEST! DISNEY WINS AGAIN!
I know there are some that will disagree with me and some that have experienced un-Disney like behavior from cast members at Disney. I, however, have never experienced rude behavior from any cast member. I have never been treated rudely while on Disney property. My experience has always been cast members going out of their way. The same can’t be said for Universal. Starting with the shuttle drivers to the employees at the resort check-in to those working in the parks – there were several instances in the 4 days I was there that I experienced rudeness.
SECURITY CHECK POINT – UNIVERSAL WINS
There is one area that Universal wins. Unfortunately, it just isn’t a possibility at Disney due to the number of resorts and people being moved from those resorts, as well as the fact that most are being moved via bus. Universal Orlando resorts (except for Cabana Bay Beach Resort) all have boat transportation to the parks. Before boarding the boat you go through a security check point making it unnecessary to go through security at the parks with the bulk of the crowds. I have to admit that this was a nice convenience. Unfortunately Universal only wins where this is concerned because I just don’t think it’s a possibility at Disney.
Again, overall I found Universal Orlando Resort to be great parks with great attractions, a huge variety and selection of food. The resort was beautiful. I may just be a little tiny bit Disney spoiled and I do tend to compare any place I go to Disney standards.
If you will be visiting Universal Orlando, I hope some of this information will help!
Disclosure: I received Universal Orlando park passes, Express Passes, Resort stay and meals. All opinions are my own.