I recently had the opportunity to travel to Orlando, Florida and participate in a travel agent training session for Universal Studios Resort. These trips are so helpful for me, as I am updated with new information, am able to participate in site tours of the resorts where I can see guests rooms, and of course visit the theme parks!
Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure
I wish I could have had more time to spend at these parks! I really only had a couple of hours so the first thing on my list was to try out a frozen Butterbeer! Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this or not. I’m not a huge butterscotch fan so the thought of drinking something with a butterscotch taste wasn’t sounding that great. Thankfully the other agent that I was with was craving one and suggested I try it. I was wrong!! I tried the frozen Butterbeer and it was fantastic! Not too sweet or strong tasting. Just right for a hot Florida day, and it was hot outside. I will say that I wouldn’t mind trying out the hot version that is offered during the cooler months. As far as the regular version goes, I couldn’t do it. It has too much carbonation for me.
While most people would probably head straight for the roller coasters, I went for Hogwarts Express. As long as you have a park to park ticket you can ride this attraction between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Just board the train at either King’s Cross Station in Universal Studios or at Hogsmeade Station at Islands of Adventure. Look out the window as you wind your way through the British countryside to London. I thought that it was very cute and something that Harry Potter fans (especially young children) (or even a 41 year old) would enjoy. Kids will particularly love picking out their own wand at Ollivander’s Wand Shop at Universal Studios. Maybe they will be the lucky wizard where the wand chooses them. I loved how detailed everything was in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I thought that the parks did a great job with the details and theming!
I really do wish that I could have had more time to ride some of the attractions. At Islands of Adventure you can journey through the worlds of heroes, myths, and legends. Take a walk down the comic book streets of Marvel Super Hero Island and brave the jungles and dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. Top attractions here consist of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and brand new Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure. This is definitely the park you want to be at for thrill rides! You would probably find me more often at Universal Studios though. Big roller coasters are not for me, so the shows, entertainment and world of movie magic at Universal Studios are more my speed. If you want adventure and are a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, then make sure you check out the newest ride Fast and Furious Supercharged. Take a ride with Jimmy Fallon in Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon, and save the world with the Transformers. I have to rely on my husband and teenager to experience these rides and tell me about them since I will not step foot on them ha! Now, give me E.T Adventure, talking to the shrunken head at Knight Bus, and Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration and I’m good.
Welcome to a tropical paradise with thrill rides! At the heart of this water park sits Krakatau, a fire and water volcano that towers 200 feet above the park. This water theme park offers over 30 unique experience and 19 different attractions. You definitely want to spend an entire day here! Visiting when it’s a little chilly outside? No worries, the pools are heated! Seriously, Volcano Bay has something for EVERYONE! If relaxation is what you are looking for, you can float along the lazy river, visit the leisure pools and calming lagoons at Waturi Beach, or rent a private cabana where you can sit back and relax with concierge services! Private cabana rentals are typically anywhere from between $200-$500 to rent and come with bottled water, a fruit basket, towels, a fan, and an attendant. Yes please! These cabanas are very limited and must be booked in advance, so plan ahead if you want one!
If you are a thrill seeker, there is plenty of action at Volcano Bay! You can ride Florida’s only water coaster, the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. 4 person canoes glide upward through the mists of the volcano, experience dark twist and turns, before emerging from the volcano with a plunge through the waterfall! Try the Ohno and Ohyah drop slides. With the Ohyah slide you plummet down the twisting waters and drop out 4 feet above the pool, but on Ohno, you plummet 6 feet above the pool! If you are REALLY brave, try out Ko’okiri Body Plunge. A 70 degree fall through a drop door with 125 feet of screaming. Go for it…and let me know how it is ha!
Don’t worry, there is plenty for young children to do as well! Runamukka Reef is a favorite play area for young children features bubbling geysers, water guns, slides, and dump cups. This area is also shaded to protect little one’s skin from the hot sun. Tot Tiki Reef is a great option for the youngest of children. This area features a tot sized volcano with shallow water, small slides, and tikis with spraying fountains. The cutest thing are the whales that sing and spray water as the kids raise and lower their hands. Entertainment for hours!
Introducing TapuTapu. This is a wearable wristband that you are given at arrival. My favorite way to use TapuTapu is the virtual line. Yes, that means no long waiting in a line. Each ride posts a wait time near it’s entrance, and to join the virtual line you just tap your TapuTapu against the symbol to reserve your spot. While you wait for your time, grab a bite to eat, relax, enjoy the pools, or ride a different attraction as long as it has a posted “ride now.” Your TapuTapu will alert you once it is time to return to your attraction. You will have 1 hour from the time that you are notified to return and check in. So no worries if you get an alert while you are in the middle of eating or visiting a different attraction. Finish up what you are doing, then return within that hour. Another way to use your TapuTapu is to pay for your food and drinks inside the park. You will need to download the Universal app onto your phone first and connect a credit card. You then setup TapuTapu Pay on your app. That’s it! No need to carry your wallet around with you! You can also use your TapuTapu for pictures! Interactive selfie spots are located all throughout Volcano Bay. Stop at these locations, take a picture, and your TapuTapu will automatically link your photo to your account where you can view, purchase, and share! Finally, you can use your TapuTapu for locker access should you choose to rent a locker for the day. So many possibilities with TapuTapu!
Here is where I could spend a lot of time! Know as the Epicenter of Awesome, CityWalk has something for everyone. This area sits right outside of both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and is accessible by water taxi from Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort, Lowes Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel. With plenty of restaurants, bars, entertainment, and open until 2:00am you will not get bored. Catch a movie at Universal Cinemark, purchase tickets to see Blue Man Group, sing karaoke at CityWalk’s Rising Star, or visit the groove dance club. If finding the perfect souvenir to bring home is on your list, you have plenty of stores at CityWalk. If food is what you crave, you have 26 options to choose from. Yes, I said 26! Dine at Hard Rock Café Orlando, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen, The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, and…VOODOO DOUGHNUT! Expect to wait in a long line here.
While I will be returning to Universal Orlando Resort this summer for a work trip, I can’t wait to return in the future with my family alongside! If you have any questions about Universal Orlando or wish to plan a trip there yourself, feel free to contact me at Cathy@yellowshoetravel.com.