It’s been about three years since I’ve visited Universal Orlando with my husband. Back then we chose to visit alone to celebrate our anniversary, plus I was waiting for my “shorties” to get taller so they could really enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
But with my kids taller and me obsessed with holiday fun, we had the opportunity to attend a Family media event at Universal Orlando for the holidays. In 2.5 days we discovered that Universal has plenty for my boys to ride, see and do. It was an experience like no other, where Christmas traditions begin.
***WHERE TO STAY***
Loews Royal Pacific Resort: This was our second time at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. It is pet-friendly, if you are traveling with your four-legged family members. Bring a bathing suit, because it has a Lagoon-style swimming pool that gently gets deeper – kids will love it. There is a small store near the front that sells a few souveneirs and toiletries.
I counted 6 restaurants in the hotel. We had the breakfast buffet at the Island’s Dining Room in the morning. It was a nice mix of healthy options to sweet choices. I tried the scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, fresh fruit, and smoked salmon with capers. My little picky eater chose boxed cereal, Fruit Loops. And my oldest ate waffles, fresh fruit and bacon.
On our last night we ate at the Orchid Court Lounge & Sushi Bar. We ate there our anniversary weekend years ago and my oldest loves sushi, so we decided to visit there again. The servers were amazing, quick and attentive. My husband ordered the sushi when I stepped away, so I can’t say exactly what he ordered – but it was a delicious spread. I do know there was a Spicy Tuna in the mix with quite a kick. They serve a darker Plum Wine, compared to the restaurants I usually visit. It’s got a deeper flavor to it. And if your kids don’t like sushi, you can also order them pizza or chicken strips! They bring it from another part of the restaurant. For dessert we had tempura cheesecake and the boys were able to build their own Sundaes.
Saving the best for last – staying at Loews Royal Pacific Resort means you receive Universal ExpressSM Unlimited ride access to SKIP THE REGULAR LINES on most rides in both theme parks all day. This can turn an hour wait into a 5 minute wait. You will also receive Early Park Admission† to Universal’s Islands of Adventure®, one hour before the theme park opens, which I suggest you use to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There is no Express line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and that section can get very crowded.
|Autographed Blue Man Group Ticket||Turning Blue|
|Meeting a Blue Man from the Group|
***AT CITY WALK***
BlueManGroup Orlando: My husband has seen Blue Man Group in Orlando before, but I haven’t. I always thought it was simply men painted blue doing percussion on a variety of objects. I was SO WRONG. It was a 2 hour extravaganza of humor, music, skits and audience participation. They brought people on stage, they painted with human bodies, they had giant inflatable balls going through the audience – and all without speaking. Oh, there was an announcer over the speakers who would talk at times, but more was said through the silent expressions on the Blue Men’s faces. Wide eyed, curious and inventive. It’s a show for the whole family!
My boys LOVED IT. I would suggest noise-cancelling headphones for kids who are sensitive to noise, because the percussion on a variety of drums and tubes can get loud at times.
We had the opportunity to meet one of the Blue Men, along with one of the background instrumentalists. He amazingly stayed in character, with those wide eyed expressions. If you have a chance to meet one, ask for an autograph on your ticket! They give you blue fingerprints on them! And the blue is contagious – as you can see from my son’s nose!
Click here for showtimes and tickets: See the BlueManGroup in Orlando.
|I was amazed by the Rat King||The New Happy the Hippo|
|The Macy’s Star|
|Snowmen Tap||Snowmen Float|
|Walking Candy Canes|
***HOLIDAY EVENTS AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ORLANDO***
Macy’s Holiday Parade: My birthday is late November, so I always feel a special connection to the Thanksgiving Holidays. One of my favorite things on Thanksgiving is the Macy’s Day Parade. One day I hope to see it in person, but New York is pretty far from Florida. And it’s COLD for my Florida blood.
But, the next best thing is seeing the Macy’s Holiday Parade at Universal Studios! Better weather, a variety of day and time options that fit your schedule and the ACTUAL FLOATS from the Macy’s Day Parade – including the new “Happy the Hippo”! She is sure to delight kids and adults of all ages, wearing lipstick, a ribbon and her awesome purple color!
Other highlights to look for on the parade are the tap dancing snowmen, walking candy canes and – my personal favorites- characters from the Nutcracker. Check out the Rat King on the bike! Amazing!The Macy’s Holiday Parade is at Universal Studios from December 7th, 2013 to January 4th, 2014.
- Visit the website for exact dates: When to See the Macy’s Holiday Parade
- And see more photos at our Facebook Album: theMomBuzz Universal Holiday
|Meet & Greet with the Grinch||The Wholiday Spectacular|
GRINCHMAS: One of the most classic holiday stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I always love how the Grinch helps illustrate that Christmas is not just about presents and things, but about love and family. And then there was the live action The Grinch with Jim Carrey, which really added so much more personality to the Grinch, the confusion of Cindy Lou Who, the competitive nature of getting Christmas “just right” with presents and decorations and how what really matters can’t be gift wrapped or bought from a store.
So I have to say that I am incredibly ecstatic about Grinchmas at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. There are a lot of ways to enjoy Grinchmas – you can enjoy a character breakfast, meet the Grinch for a photo opp and even watch The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular.
We started our Grinchmas fun with The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular. It is a way to experience The Grinch and How the Grinch Stole Christmas with a live action show. The Grinch is snarky, sarcastic and hilarious. The show has classic songs from the movies, as well as new mixes that gets Who-booties shaking.
We also had the opportunity to meet the Grinch. He had jokes for everyone he met – offering sharp and witty humor to the adults and green hugs and furry high, low and behind-the-back fives to the kids. He is completely true to what you see on stage and the movies.
If you really want to see The Grinch at Universal Studios Orlando Islands of Adventure, I suggest booking a Character Breakfast with the Grinch. The prices for the breakfast are fab! Otherwise, the line to meet the Grinch was pretty long.
|With his Wizard Wand||Wizard Snowman|
|Honeydukes Candy Shop|
|Hagrid’s Hut, as seen from Flight of the Hippogriff|
***FAMILY RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS****
One of my worries was visiting Universal Studios Orlando with kids – what could they ride and experience. It turned out we managed to do a lot of memorable rides with my 42″ children.
At Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure:
At the Wizarding World of Harry Potter we visited various wizard stores, drank Butterbeer, listen to the Frog Choir, walked through Hogwarts castle, bought a wand from one of the carts, and rode Flight of the Hippogriff … TWICE. There were muggle jokes at Zonkos, amazing sweet displays at Zonkos and my husband even had a chance to sneak on Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey. If you want to go on that mix of video, animatronics and a “flying car” with kids who are too short, you can make use of the Parent Swap area. Plus, get a certificate for your child so that they can have front-of-line access when they are the right height to ride.
In Seuss Landing we had what was probably my 6 year old’s favorite ride – the Clean-up ride. Wait, you can’t find that at the park? Maybe because you know it as The Cat in the hat People Mover. But my son loves the rush as Thing 1 and Thing 2 have to clean up the house with the kids before the parents come home. I also really enjoyed the High in the Sky Trolley Train Ride, too, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. The line for this one can get really long, so the Express Pass was a lifesaver.
I have GREAT memories of Jurassic Park at Universal Studios from when I went YEARS ago with my sister. We had a blast back then! One of my favorite rides was Jurassic Park River Adventures, but I couldn’t chance getting soaked before watching the Macy’s Day Parade. So instead we checked out Jurassic Park Discovery Center, playing with the giant dinosaurs and looking for fossils. Then we stopped inside Camp Jurassic to ride the Pteranodon Flyers. What’s unique about the Pteranodon Flyers is that you actually have to be under a certain height to ride. Or you can ride with your children if they are under the maximum height. So, I got to ride with my son! It was AWESOME flying along on these gliders! I am so glad I have a shorty to ride with!
Finally, we LOVED Marvel Super Hero Island. You HAVE to ride The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, which combines a people mover and 3-D video. He brings you along for the news story of the … day! He always manages to get in trouble, doesn’t he? So you get to be see multiple villains, like Doc Octopus, Scream, Electro, HobGoblin and Hydro Man. Every time you think one will destroy you, Spider-Man manages to swing your people mover to safety.
And of course, my husband and boys had a blast on Storm Force Accelatron. I skipped this one, because it’s one of those spinners within a spinning ride. But my kids go crazy for that kind of ride and lucky for them, they have a dad who will make it go even faster. He said it was faster than other spinning rides that he’s been on.
Finally, he used his Express Pass to gain entrance to The Incredible Hulk coaster with only a 5 minute wait. From my point of view, it was nice not having to wait too long for my husband so that the kids and I could continue exploring the park.
|T-Rex Photo Bomb||Decepticon Photo Opp|
|Storm Force Accelatron|
At Universal Studios Florida:
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: The minute you enter the inside queu line you are engulfed in a sweet banana candy scent. You pick up your 3-D glasses and wait as Gru turns you into one of hundreds of minions he needs for his latest project. The videos you watch while you wait are highly entertaining, helping it go by faster. The kids barely seemed to know they were waiting on a line! The ride itself has up-to-date graphics and wonderful seating. There is no bad seat, even if you are in the back or off to the side. The glasses pair up wonderfully with the graphics and the movement of the seats. And the banana scent rocks.
Men in Black Alien Attack: The Men in Black ride is one of my favorite rides. I always love rides that you let you shoot! So here you are training to be one of the MIBs when a real emergency occurs and you have to zap aliens in the city. Various aliens are worth different points. And be sure to listen to the orders to push the red button at the end for even MORE bonus points. I forgot to do it, but my 7 year old heard the order and managed to score those bonus points.
Shrek 4-D: When my kids saw there was a Shrek 4-D ride, they HAD to do it. Compared to the graphics of the Minion Mayhem, Transformers and Spider-Man rides, I think you can tell that this is an older process. Ideal seats in this instance would be in the middle, but remember you have to move ALL THE WAY DOWN when going on this ride. So don’t be in a rush to be the first from the waiting room to the seating – let yourself move with the pack and maybe you can get a seat in the middle. Once seated, you will be immersed in a short 3-D video about Shrek and Fiona’s honeymoon that immerses you into the video, where you feel like you are riding a carriage, have creepy crawlies going underfoot and you are riding a dragon.
Transformers 3-D: This is similar to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, although I do think they did a better job combining the people mover, theatrics, and video on the Spider-Man one. I figure that really immersing you in a world of Transformers and Decepticons might be harder than immersing you in a world of villains in heroes. Although, this IS one of my favorite rides at Universal Studios. You are entered into a world where you have to get the AllSpark to safety. You see favorite Transfomers like Optimus Prime and Bumble Bee and villains like Megatron.
|Universal Holidays with the Shorties
***ARE YOU A VIP***
Now, theMomBuzz and some other bloggers had the opportunity to be VIPs for part of the day and my husband is now hooked on that idea. You can choose to be part of a bigger tour group or simply just your immediate group. They will give you exclusive tips, access to a VIP lounge, head of the line access to some popular rides, shows, meet and greets, and more.
Prices vary depending on the package you book, but you can learn more here: VIP at Universal Studios.
So that was our whirlwind experience at Universal Studios. Be sure to use Universal Orlando Resort’s newly launched online vacation planner to help plan and customize your own Universal Orlando vacation from the comfort of your home before you go. You’ll be inspired by videos, personal recommendations, travel tips, sample itineraries, vacation packages and more to plan the perfect Universal Holiday Vacation.
***TheMomBuzz was part of a Family Blogger Media Group and received access to the park for a Holiday review. This is her opinion on the Universal Holidays and what she suggests.