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10 Awesome Moments from Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando

universal-studios orlando

Last time I looked at Universal Resort Orlando as a whole, the hotel, parks and dining. This time I promised to share the moments that really moved us at the two parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando – the magic that brought completely uninhibited smiles, cracked any scepticism and allowed us to play together and to suspend our disbelief. There are too many to choose from, but I have picked ten awesome moments that I believe really crystallise what Universal Resort Orlando is about.

Universal Studios Orlando

1. Handbrake Turns in a Transformers’ Universe

Before the ride itself we got to meet some Transformers, you can see Bumblebee in my video below, although at this point, 7yo Mr G wasn’t impressed. He’s at that funny age where he likes to try and work out how everything works – they were ‘too small,’ he said, and ‘not the real thing’. Nevermind,  he was totally blown away by the ride.

After giggling on the Minions ride, Transformers sets the tone for a more thrilling and adventurous day at Universal Studios, you’re flung right into being the hero as your car screeches around the city meeting new huge scale 3D Transformers and their battles at every handbrake turn. Exhilarating and VERY real indeed. We all loved this.

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2. Flying with ET

Stephen Spielberg is the Creative Director at Universal, and ET was the first ever ride at Universal Studios Orlando and was my favourite moment. It’s simple but beautiful, you fly off on a bicycle with ET in a basket in front of you, you can feel the wind around your legs and see a tiny town sparkling below you. For a child of the 1980s it’s a magical piece of nostalgia. It was also the moment I realised I was going to love Universal, the rides weren’t all crazy rollercoasters, they were filmic, magical experiences. I had a tear in my eye when we came off.

3. Your children, are not your children, they are…fearless

All L wanted was to go on the crazy rollercoasters. Luckily there was only one big one at Universal Studios and our tour guide was very happy to take her on The Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket. I felt sick watching this one, both in terms of imagining being on it and knowing she was on it – you can see it in action in the video – but as you will also see in the video, she thought it was incredible and it amazes me that it was truly water off a duck’s back for her. Mr A also went on The Mummy with her, they loved the double scare factor of a rollercoaster ride in a dark, and the mummy haunted terrain.

4. A shaggy dog story

Just before lunch G was finally won over from a funny mood brought on by a heady combination of uncertainty, overwhelm and jet lag. The Animal Actors show elicited the biggest smiles in my 7yo I have ever seen.

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Animal Actors are a huge favourite of G who has a big collection of DVDs with dogs that talk and act, it was brilliant to see the animal actors show live, and his giggles were positively infectious. This guy Buster was in the Chipmunks film!

5. All of your wizarding needs

Entering Diagon Alley and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the most perfect end to the day, I love that I captured us walking in on film. I’ve covered the whole experience in my last post, it’s utterly immersive and the scale will blow you away. In London I loved Harry Potter World, but it still feels like a quaint recreation of Diagon Alley, in Orlando it feels like actually being there, with full scale shops you can walk into selling all your wizarding needs. It’s no wonder people turn up fully cloaked.

There was this moment at the end of our first day @universalorlando - we had chosen our wands with help from the staff in Ollivanders, I was sat on a picnic table with a pint of Dragonsblood and a half of Butterbeer, me and my 10yo were daring each other to try jelly beans in some curious flavours and my 7yo was enthusiastically wandering around ticking off all the stops where your wand actually makes something happen in Diagon Alley. It felt liked we had crawled into the Harry Potter books and I couldn't have been more at home. New post with an overview of what to expect at Universal Resort Orlando on the blog, link in bio. #Seizetheholiday #universalmoments @virginholidays @mumsnettowers

There was this moment at the end of our first day @universalorlando – we had chosen our wands with help from the staff in Ollivanders, I was sat on a picnic table with a pint of Dragonsblood and a half of Butterbeer, me and my 10yo were daring each other to try jelly beans in some curious flavours and my 7yo was enthusiastically wandering around ticking off all the stops where your wand actually makes something happen in Diagon Alley. It felt liked we had crawled into the Harry Potter books and I couldn’t have been more at home. New post with an overview of what to expect at Universal Resort Orlando on the blog, link in bio. #Seizetheholiday #universalmoments @virginholidays @mumsnettowers

Choosing our wands was wonderful, the staff in Ollivanders had all sorts of ideas and suggestions based upon our birthdays, temperaments and personality. It really did seem like our wands chose us perfectly. Check out the kids’ reactions in the video, their faces say it all, this was such a magical moment.

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L’s wand had a little acorn which really moved me, it’s the symbol I have always used on the blog when writing about our little legacies, the little traditions, skills and passions, we pass down our family lines. G’s has a skull which thrilled him, he has been fascinated with bones since our trip to a beach littered with sheep skulls on Skye. Next it was outside to test out casting real spells…

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Discovering the spells on the spots on the floor was thrilling, when copied with your wand they actually work in the shop windows. G was a little obsessed with ticking all the spots off, I was just thrilled to discover I could wave my wand and turn the lights in a second floor window on and off!

 

Islands of Adventure


Day Two and we were much more into the swing of things and ready for all the fun of Islands of Adventure. Each Island is packed full of themed adventures…

6. Sweets in Hogsmeade

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We continued our Harry Potter experience by taking the Hogwarts Express from Universal Studios park to the neighbouring Islands of Adventure park, the snow at Hogshead made me so happy, as did the sweet shops, where G ate a giant frog and Mr G bought a cake and L and I ate chocolate insects filled with popping candy. Turns out eating chocolate frogs isn’t that easy, more in the video.

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Mr G loved the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster so much, he went on twice. Next it was time for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – like escape from Gringotts the day before, it is a fully immersive Harry Potter experience – this time you get to fly on a broom stick using the combination of the ride movement and 3D visuals with added heat and water for dragon breath and slobber. It was exhilarating flying over Hogwarts, or in G’s words ‘terrifying’ but I think that was partly down to me grabbing his knee in the dark in a very badly timed attempt to reassure him.

7. Meet Snappy the latest addition to the Alexander family…

The Jurassic Park Discovery Centre is something you could easily overlook as you seek out rides, but this was definitely G’s highlight. After playing on the exhibits he stopped to watch the palaeontologists at work and we witnessed the birth of a Velociraptor. G was picked to name him and called him Snappy, what happened next really blew his mind, you can see this in the video.

Meet Snappy. How to make a kid's day...7yo G's day was totally made by naming a newly born Velociraptor in the Jurassic Park discovery centre at Universal Islands of Adventure. The actors are so professional it makes the whole experience so magical. First we watched the scientists going about their work, then suddenly the mood changes as a dinosaur hatches from an egg. G was then asked to name it. As he turned around to leave, already beaming, a very serious looking Scientist was standing right behind him with a clipboard and a birth certificate and with great reverence for the birth of a new Dino, asked G for all the information he needed to complete the certificate, which he then presented to him. To say he was over the moon was an understatement, for the rest of the day he kept remembering and bursting into smiles. It takes a lot to impress him sometimes, thank you Universal! #universalmoments @universalorlando #seizetheholiday @virginholidays

Meet Snappy. How to make a kid’s day…7yo G’s day was totally made by naming a newly born Velociraptor in the Jurassic Park discovery centre at Universal Islands of Adventure. The actors are so professional it makes the whole experience so magical. First we watched the scientists going about their work, then suddenly the mood changes as a dinosaur hatches from an egg. G was then asked to name it. As he turned around to leave, already beaming, a very serious looking Scientist was standing right behind him with a clipboard and a birth certificate and with great reverence for the birth of a new Dino, asked G for all the information he needed to complete the certificate, which he then presented to him. To say he was over the moon was an understatement, for the rest of the day he kept remembering and bursting into smiles. It takes a lot to impress him sometimes, thank you Universal! #universalmoments @universalorlando #seizetheholiday @virginholidays

 

8. The Green Goblin kidnapping

It’s hard to explain the lengths the actors at Universal go to, to help you suspend your disbelief and play along. I loved what happened with this guy and you can see him in action interacting with the kids in the video.

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The moment when the Green Goblin ran off with L yesterday. He also took over the comic shop and wrapped G's toy in about a hundred layers of paper and all the sticky tape. Love the lengths the actors go to, to make it an immersive experience. In Marvel Super Hero Island the characters make regular appearances on three wheeled motorbikes and in person. The Spider-Man ride was amazing. Using 4D film and a ride to take you right inside a spidery adventure - you even fall from a building and get caught in a spidey's web! #universalmoments @universalorlando #seizetheholiday @virginholidays

The moment when the Green Goblin ran off with L yesterday. He also took over the comic shop and wrapped G’s toy in about a hundred layers of paper and all the sticky tape. Love the lengths the actors go to, to make it an immersive experience. In Marvel Super Hero Island the characters make regular appearances on three wheeled motorbikes and in person. The Spider-Man ride was amazing. Using 4D film and a ride to take you right inside a spidery adventure – you even fall from a building and get caught in a spidey’s web! #universalmoments @universalorlando #seizetheholiday @virginholidays

9. Eating in the world’s best theme park restaurant

I admit I was cynical when I heard we were going to have amazing food in a theme park, but Mythos has won the best theme park restaurant for the last six years. It was a wonderful themed escape and the Greek starters were especially amazing. I loved the views across the lake to the park, and we also spent a lot of time near here just watching turtles swimming – I spent a bit of time filming the turtles, they are magic to watch.

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10. Getting soaked to the skin!

Islands of Adventure offers brilliant opportunities to get soaked on water rides, which you can totally enjoy in Florida sunshine! We’s recommend building up here, so start with Jurassic Park River Adventure, where a very pleasant river boat ride goes totally wrong when the dinos escape, this got a huge thumbs up from G, it’s a really imaginative ride.

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Next we headed over to Toon Lagoon to do Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls which is cracking family fun, especially when you have admired the view of it as you cross into Toon Lagoon!

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Finally we prepared to get totally drenched on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges- having had a giggle shooting water at people on this ride from the bridge on the way over we knew we were going to get soaked.

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Our guide had suggested we bring a change of shorts and I am glad we did, it was hot in October and you’d be okay if just heading back at this point, but we still had an air conditioned restaurant to review, more on the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in my last post, and in the video below – the milkshake cup cake pudding was nearly a moment in here, but I tried to stay focussed on the parks – check it out in the video!

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The VIP Experience

We were really lucky at our time at Universal to have  VIP Tour Guide to show us round, this isn’t just for press trips, the public can buy tours too. Many families spend months preparing for this trip, we had just 2 weeks to prepare and 3 days in resort, so I was ever grateful for the incredible Bre who looked after us for two days and really made sure we made the most of our short time at Universal Orlando Resort parks.

The staff really do make the place. The customer service, the enthusiasm and the commitment to the magic and the roles they play is pretty incredible, like nothing I have encountered before and it really does make the place feel alive, and coaxes even the most reluctant to suspend their disbelief and inhibitions and join in the fun.

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So many laughs and magic moments, I feel like I just scratched the surface. It’s magic looking back at all those big grins though, and it really is the little things as well as the big things that make the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando experience unique.

You can watch the whole experience in our video of our trip.

Keen to know more about Universal Orlando Resort?

See my first post on our journey to Florida with Virgin Holidays and our arrival at Cabana Bay and my second post on exploring the Universal Orlando resort as a whole. To start planning your trip to Orlando checkout Virgin Holidays and Universal Orlando Resort.

Awesome moments you might experience at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Orlando

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. 

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19 Comments

  • Reply JuggleMum, Nadine Hill

    haha your daughter sounds like mine – rollercoaster mad!! We have been to Universal Studios Orlando too and it was absolutely brilliant. You really need time to explore as there is so much there, it’s impossible to get bored but very possible to get tired – you do a lot of walking! It was lovely to read your post and I’m glad you all had a fun holiday.
    JuggleMum, Nadine Hill recently posted…Christmas lifestyle gift ideasMy Profile

    23/11/2016 at 2:33 pm
  • Reply Mini Travellers

    I loved reading this post, it brought back so many memories. We also got utterly soaked at Island of Adventure so much so Matt could wring his t-shirt out and literally pour water out of his shoes!

    23/11/2016 at 2:34 pm
  • Reply Cathy ( Mummytravels)

    I’ve read so much about Universal’s Harry Potter attractions, which I would absolutely love to try but it’s lovely to see what some of the other highlights are. Just reading about the ET ride made hairs stand up on my neck.
    Cathy ( Mummytravels) recently posted…22 things to do on the Thames, LondonMy Profile

    23/11/2016 at 5:18 pm
  • Reply Sarah Ebner

    We absolutely loved Universal when we went and would love to go back! My son, in particular, is as you say, fearless, so adores rides, but even I managed ET (and it was great!)

    23/11/2016 at 5:43 pm
  • Reply Liz Burton

    It looks like you had so much fun Penny. Lovely to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

    I think the Animal Actors would have been a big hit with us!

    23/11/2016 at 5:46 pm
  • Reply Kirstie

    Rip ride was the most terrifying and fun of our trip. If I ever get a job there I want to be the green goblin!

    23/11/2016 at 6:32 pm
  • Reply Fozia S

    Oh wow that all looks and sounds sooooo amazing!! Hope to visit one day!
    Fozia S recently posted…Growing Old and Breaking BarriersMy Profile

    23/11/2016 at 6:41 pm
  • Reply Chloe (Sorry About The Mess)

    The last time I went to Universal was around ten years ago, but reading this I have remembered turning a bit green after The Mummy Ride, and that the water rides at Islands of Adventures get you REALLY soaked.

    23/11/2016 at 7:49 pm
  • Reply Sarah MumofThree World

    Wow! It all looks and sounds amazing! I love anything to do with Harry Potter, so the idea of actually going into Ollivander’s and choosing a wand sounds brilliant. I would love the ET ride too. I love the photos from the Animal Actors show.
    Sadly, I’m not very good with flying, so can’t imagine myself ever travelling this far!
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…Leotard and jazz shoes from Dance DepotMy Profile

    24/11/2016 at 6:42 am
  • Reply Erica Price

    Choosing a wand is kind of special. I was a bit dubious when we went and had to queue up for a while before going in, but it was a magical experience.
    Erica Price recently posted…Going To A Ball Game (Spring Training In Florida)My Profile

    24/11/2016 at 11:37 am
  • Reply Mary Louise

    So much to do there, i loved all of your images as it really helps to understand the resort so much better.
    Not sure about that green goblin though!

    24/11/2016 at 12:26 pm
  • Reply Michelle Ordever

    We visited Universal Studios and IOA back in September for the first time since 2013. I had forgotten how awesome the two theme parks are! I personally LOVED Diagon Alley, and the train ride to and from Hogsmeade, so cleverly done!
    Michelle Ordever recently posted…How To Make Sushi At HomeMy Profile

    24/11/2016 at 1:32 pm
  • Reply Candace

    It certainly looks like you had a fantastic time. The smile on the kids faces speak volumes

    24/11/2016 at 1:51 pm
  • Reply Jen Walshaw

    I want to go back so much. We ate in Mythos as it was the Husbeasts birthday when we visited. The boys are already pestering me to go back.
    Jen Walshaw recently posted…Wonderful Ways to Celebrate AdventMy Profile

    24/11/2016 at 10:12 pm
  • Reply Kara

    I want to go to Universal purely for Harry Potter – I am obsessed with the wizarding world and would happily turn up in full costume. The animal actors look super cute and I fancy the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket – it looks like a lot of fun!!
    Kara recently posted…A Segway Tour of Upton Country ParkMy Profile

    25/11/2016 at 8:21 am
  • Reply Cass Bailey

    It looks like you had an amazing time Penny -your photos really show what a fab place it is to visit x
    Cass Bailey recently posted…5 Minute Nutella FudgeMy Profile

    26/11/2016 at 2:27 pm
  • Reply Kate Williams

    Oh Penny I dreamt about going there last night!! That’s how much I’ve been enjoying your posts about your trip! It looks absolutely amazing x
    Kate Williams recently posted…Is My DIY Dangerous?!My Profile

    27/11/2016 at 8:27 am
  • Reply Sonia

    This is on our list next time we go to Orlando. We really want to visit Harry Potter studios! Awesome photos, looks like you had an amazing time! xx
    Sonia recently posted…Instagram Weekly 21st-27th NovMy Profile

    29/11/2016 at 9:46 am
  • Reply Erik Brenner

    These moments are precious. Treasure it. Those memories can’t be replace.
    Erik Brenner recently posted…Cama Control Paquete Con 50% DescuentoMy Profile

    01/12/2016 at 10:12 am
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