Something I’ve been wanting to do when writing reviews is include the opinions of the other members of our family more often. After all, this is a blog about all of us and I love having different perspectives to share. My 7 year old enjoys different attractions than my 13 year old as much as I have different favorites than Norman or Vince. And since you, the reader, might have any combination of us in your family, I thought it would be fun to break down what each of us liked most about a given destination.
So with that being said, below I have broken down different aspects of our trip to Universal Orlando Resort into categories and asked each family member to give me their “must-do” picks. (For context, Zoe is 7 and Caleb is 13)
Erika and Zoe: Voodoo Doughnuts – Even though we have one local to us (literally about 15 minutes from our house at Universal City Walk, Hollywood), Zoe and I still insisted on getting doughnuts from Voodoo while on vacation. One might argue that the donut shop is the same on both coasts, but my instagram-fashionista-in-training and I would argue that this one is better because of the Doughnut Throne located just outside that makes this an awesome photo op.
Vince and Caleb: Toothsome Chocolate Emporium – “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but make it steampunk” is my best attempt at describing this whimsical restaurant. We came here for lunch and had such a great time trying different chocolate flavored cocktails and their exclusive chocolate stout (a must-try if you like beer). The kids loved the decadent dessert options, of course, but we all really enjoyed the well crafted and flavorful lunch options as well. There are also performers roaming about with stories to share of inventions and time travel. I don’t know how I hadn’t previously heard about this place, but we had a great time there and it’s a must-visit now for future trips.
Norman: (aka Mr Practicality) enjoyed how close City Walk was to our hotel and honestly, so did I. Dining and entertainment options were literally just steps (or a ferry ride) away when staying on property and that really adds to the resort vacation feel.
Islands of Adventure
Vince and Caleb: These two agreed once again, this time choosing the Marvel comic book themed Super Hero Island as their favorite part of Universal Islands of Adventure Theme Park, and honestly… same. As a family of nerds, I think we all agreed that that Marvel anything will almost always win a vote. But despite of this area having a Spider-Man ride, meet and greets with some of my favorite characters (like Storm from X-men), and what just might be my favorite roller coaster ever (Incredible Hulk), in the interest of not getting stale, the rest of us chose a few other favorites to recommend.
Norman: Toon Lagoon – Appropriately adjacent Super Hero Island in its Marvel comic glory, is an area themed with classic cartoons and Sunday comic favorites like the ones our parents grew up with. Here you’ll find beloved classics such as Popeye, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Garfield, and Dagwood… none of whom my children were even slightly familiar with, but it was cool for us adults and I know that it’s an area my mom would enjoy.
Erika: Seuss Landing – I’m pretty sure this area is designed mainly for children, but I’m a sucker for nostalgia and cute theming and stepping into Seuss Landing is like stepping into some of the most whimsical memories my own childhood. All of my favorite Dr Seuss stories come to life to create the rides, shops, and characters in this land and I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I was there.
Zoe: Camp Jurassic – For my little bundle of energy, it’s no surprise that a Jurassic Park themed play area that allows guests to run through obstacles and mazes while exploring “Jurassic Park” would be her favorite. She also played a carnival game and won a plush baby dinosaur, so that was definitely a highlight.
Zoe: Hello Kitty Store – Please understand that this is not just a typical Sanrio that you can find in your local mall. We’re talking a full out Hello Kitty paradise that would make any fan of this adorable icon weak in the knees. 4 words: Hello Kitty Themed Snacks!
Caleb: Diagon Alley – You might have noticed that there’s been no mention of Wizarding World yet in this post. I intentionally tried to have everyone choose non-Harry Potter related favorites for each category because Wizarding World is so incredible, it’s getting a category of its own. But my eldest child insisted that the absolute best thing about Universal Studios is Diagon Alley. How can I argue with that? He’s not wrong.
Vince: It’s a tie between Rip, Rock It, Ride It and MIB: Alien Attack. Two very different attractions, both great for their own reasons. Rip is a thrilling coaster set to a rock soundtrack that you get to choose. MIB has great theming and a really fun element of co-op play with your ride vehicle vs the others. Both excellent choices.
Norman and Erika: We both agreed that the best thing about Universal Studios is the overall theming and atmosphere. I just love how you can be roaming the streets of New York one moment and be in Hollywood the next. There’s so much to see and it’s so well done and we loved being in the midst of it all.
It is my completely biased opinion from a die-hard Harry Potter loving Hufflepuff that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is by far the absolute best thing about both Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando. Even still, we each have our specific favorite parts so I wanted to be sure to share those as well.
Zoe: Flight of the Hippogriff – This is no surprise because it’s her favorite ride at Universal Studios Hollywood as well. It a small roller coaster that’s fast enough to be thrilling and fun, but small enough that “your belly doesn’t do flip flops.”
Caleb: ”I like visiting the different shop windows and using my wand to make magic.” – Someday I’ll get around to sharing the video, but for Caleb’s 11th birthday, we took him to Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood and had our own “sorting ceremony.” We later took him to Ollivander’s for a wand and he has had the same wand that chose him ever since. It’s always very special for me to see him using his wand in the theme parks as well.
Norman: We argue about this constantly because he thinks he’s a Slytherin, but he has the heart of a Gryffindor. His Pottermore test results are inconclusive so most days he rocks the green and silver. It’s no surprise that when I asked him his favorite part of Wizarding World, he said Knockturn Alley.
But to be fair, I really enjoy this dark and dingy area of the park that you could almost walk right past if you’re not paying attention. What looks to be not much of anything is actually and entire area filled with all things involving the dark arts. It’s honestly pretty rad… ya know, if you’re a death-eater.
Erika: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Remember reading (or watching) Harry Potter and thinking how cool it would be if they turned the mine car to the Gringott’s Bank vault into a ride? Well yeah, they did that and it’s amazing. I don’t even know if it’s my absolute favorite thing about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (after all, butterbeer exists), but I felt like it at least needed to be mentioned.
Vince: Hogwarts Express – At Islands of Adventure, guests explore Hogsmeade, the magical town that neighbors Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Universal Studios, you slip behind a wall in London and find yourself in Diagon Alley, an area for all your wizard shopping needs. And the Hogwarts express connects the two. In the stories, students coming from muggle (non magical) towns board the Hogwarts Express to get to Hogwarts and then take it back home at the end of the school year.
“I think it’s brilliant that Universal has incorporated this key element of the Harry Potter universe into the theme parks.”