Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure – Super Fun!

So you’re probably at the point where the kids are back in school after Christmas, and you aren’t even thinking yet about summer vacation! Have you considered a trip to Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida?

We just took a trip there this past Christmas, and we were simply delighted by all of the beautiful (and fun!) Christmas decorations that are abundant in both parks! This just threw us headfirst into the Christmas Spirit!

We actually visited Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure all in one day, plus took in the Blue Man Group at the end of the day. Whew! It was tiring, but oh-so-fun! There’s also Universal CityWalk, which is right in front of the parks and offer some of the hottest and most popular restaurants and shops around.

The rides are based on hit movies and television shows. Some are thrill rides and some are more ‘kid-friendly’. But all are loads of fun. There were many times throughout the day when you felt as though YOU were the star! We loved the Despicable Me show and the Shrek 3D show was super!

Did you know that Universal Studios actually has a movie production studio inside? After all, that’s how it all originally started. And they do film movies and shows there. In fact, just by virtue of you being in the park, you are agreeing to be an extra and maybe on film in one of their movies! Now THAT is cool!

We had an express pass that allowed us to skip most of the lines, and I have to tell you, it is worth every penny! You have to remember, Florida (even in December) is hot! Waiting in line is no fun when the temps are moderate, but pretty miserable when it’s hot. It was in the high 80’s when we were there and with all of the pavement, HOT! But our express pass gave us access to (in most cases) walk right in to a ride or attraction. And when you have little kids, it’s worth it just to cut down on the whining that you might hear otherwise. We are very blessed that our little guy is very patient and waits in line like a champ, but I have to say, it was pure bliss to bypass the long lines!

We were also impressed to see many child swap areas. If you have kids that are too small to go on a ride, or they simply don’t want to, one adult can wait with the kids in (usually) a nice cool room while the other rides, then you switch out. Plus this gives the kids a little bit of rest time, too.

When is the best time to go? Probably around September after school starts. Expect it to pick back up around the holidays. But again, just because it’s September, don’t expect cool temperatures. Bring and apply sunscreen!

In this photo, our little guy looks wet…yeah, he is. We had just gotten off a raft ride that soaked us all to the bone. Really. But you know what? The cold water felt kinda good on that hot day! And speaking of cooling down, we loved that there were so many water elements and misters throughout the park. Nothing cools you off better and makes for happy smiles from the kids!

So, moving on. In our house, we love the Grinch. Not sure why…maybe his overall grouchiness and grumpiness resonates with us. Or maybe we just love the fact that we realize that he ultimately figures out what Christmas is all about (after he steals the gifts, eats the roastbeast and generally terrorizes Whoville, including cute little Cindy-Lou Who). We love the Grinch so much that we actually have a life-sized (if you’re only 5 feet tall…like me) animatronic Grinch that comes out at Christmas. He turns his head and sings, too. When our little guy was real small, the Grinch used to scare him to death, especially since I would move it from one place to the next, so he’d never know when he rounded a corner if the Grinch would be standing there staring at him. Poor thing. Now he loves Grinch, too! And he was thrilled to visit the Grinch in person at Grinchmas! There are several character meet and greets that occur throughout the park.  There’s a schedule inside the park maps.  The meet and greets can change depending on when you’re there, but usually you’ll find SpongeBob Squarepants, Shrek and Donkey, Star Toons (Including Woody Woodpecker, Shaggy and Scooby and others), Madagascar Characters, and Hollywood Characters, including classics like Marilyn Monroe. Each of the characters will also sign autographs.

Some extra tips that I love:

1. If you’re going to eat at least two meals inside the park, consider purchasing a meal plan. This will absolutely save you some money (as long as you were planning on two meals!) and you’ll have a huge selection of restaurants and food choices. This is not just simple hamburger and hot dog fare – you can get everything from fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasties, turkey legs and fresh vegetables to fresh seafood, pasta and salads. And you absolutely must try the ButterBeer (available in the Harry Potter area). This non-alcoholic beverage comes frozen or not, and is just like having dessert in a cup. It is soooo good!

2. Don’t fret if you forgot to bring something for the baby. You’ll be able to purchase diapers, wipes and all sorts of baby items.

3. Worried about the kids getting too wet? Towels are available for purchase, or take advantage of the ‘full body dryer’. Or consider taking your own ponchos and hand towels.

4. Bargain? Buy the refillable pop corn tub. It’s around $5.50 or so, and you get refills all day for only $.99. Well worth it for a snack! And water is free. They will fill your water bottle for you if you ask.

At the end of the day, we still had some super fun to look forward to…the Blue Man Group show! It’s right at CityWalk and this is a must see show. It’s almost impossible to describe – I will just say that you’ll see things that are indescribably cool!

Sorry this picture is poor quality – the light was low in there, but our little guy was still amazed and impressed!

Fast forward to later that evening, back in the condo. We were all spent. But in a good way, you know? So our little guy was kind of wrapped up in a Christmas movie and asked if he could stay up to watch it. Hey…it’s vacation…I’ll let him stay up. So I told him he could stay up, but to make sure to turn the TV off when the movie was over and go to bed. He’s usually very responsible for a six year old. The next morning when I got up and went into the living room area…this is what I saw. Yep…that’s where he slept. All night.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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