Written by the Warrior

 

When I told people that we were coming to Orlando, the automatic assumption from everyone was, “so you are going to Disney”.

This is a true reflection of the prowess of the advertising power of the Disney Corporation. And I have to admit that it even worked on me several times.

Never one to judge anything before trying, I’ve been to Disneyland in California in the early 2000’s; took the family to the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in Orlando in the early 2010’s. Both trips made me realize that Disney simply doesn’t appeal to us. The parks were really really crowded, which meant that the lines for rides and shows were really really long. This was made even worse by the searing Florida heat. The vast majority of the rides weren’t all that exciting. Even photos with characters required standing in line for 30 minutes plus, and since I didn’t grow up with Disney, I didn’t even know who the various bunnies, princesses and Phineas & Ferb’s were. The Dragon also hated the experience, since almost all Disney movies has a dark side, and that’s really scary for a kid. The Tiger princess was only a few months old at that time, and cried all the time. That Guy, ended up going on lots of nap duties like other dads we saw there, walking the stroller around in desperate attempts to get their babies to sleep.

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with Disney. In fact we met many wonderful and friendly people who loved it, who brought their entire family back year after year, since for them, it is magical. It just wasn’t magical for my family.

Universal Studios, however, was a totally different story! I did grow up with ET, Back to the Future, Terminator, The Simpsons and more recently Shrek and the Harry Potter series. The Dragon currently loves Transformers and the Tiger Princess loves Minions.

During the twelve and a half hours we spent at Universal Orlando, we went on some thrilling and state of the arts 3D rides.

We were attacked by dragons and wizards on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride here.

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We rescued a city from destruction on the Transformer ride here. (Look, it’s the creation of Optimus Prime).

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After our Transformer ride, the lines for popular rides got too long (150 minutes +), so we went on tamer rides/activities instead. We went to an alien planet on the ET ride, we went on the Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Roller Coaster ride, we got soaked at Curious George Goes to Town and we went on a water slide at Fievel’s Playland.

I would like to mention that Universal Studios installed water mists fans to help cool down those waiting in line, which was a really nice gesture. I am sure you are wondering why we did not get the Universal Express Pass that would allow us to skip the lines. After all, I raved about them for SeaWorld. The answer is, the Universal Express Pass cost $129/person on top of the already ridiculous ticket prices, and for that price, I chose to stand in line.

Now, the shows did not require much waiting since there usually is a large seating capacity for each show. So showing up only a few minutes early enabled us to see some spectacular shows like Shrek 4D and Terminator, a very cute Animal Actors on location show, as well as the surprisingly good and really funny Horror Makeup Show. We even ran into Homer Simpson and Bart Simpson after the Horror Makeup Show! Or rather, Homer’s big belly knocked the Tiger Princess over when he walked by us. I still can’t figure out why he was there in the first place – it’s not like we were anywhere near Springfield. Homer was of course horrified over the incident, he helped the Tiger Princess up and kissed her on the head. If only my brains worked fast enough for me to get a picture!

No photos were allowed on the rides or in most of the shows, which was a bummer – so you will have to experience it all for yourself.

While there, we also visited the famous Sunset Boulevard.

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Okay… it was only a replica.

Along the “Hollywood” strip, we could not move 2 steps without running into a parade.

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Here was the Animal Actors on location show, and the Pug in the photo with the tuxedo was THE Frank, from Men in Black.

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After our run-in with Homer Simpson, we did visit Springfield.

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Of course we “rode” the knight bus to…

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Daigon Alley.

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No Christmas in Orlando is complete without a Christmas parade…

For my dear friend Claudia who is planning on visiting Orlando soon, I have the following advice…

  1. Get to the park early. If possible at least 30 minutes before the scheduled opening. Because it takes that long to walk from the parking to the gate.
  2. There are two parks attached by the Hogwarts express (Universal Orlando and Universal Island of Adventure), only choose to go to one park in a day. There is not enough time to do both parks.
  3. Be prepared to be shocked by the price of the tickets, it’s expensive!
  4. Apparently the cheapest tickets are the online ones at Universal’s website, but I am told that you will have to exchange them at Customer Service (or something) before heading to the gate. So, if this is the option that you choose, get to the park even earlier than previously suggested.
  5. Have a good plan to get the maximum out of your day.
  6. I recommend to go to the Despicable me ride first (after the first hour of park opening, I never saw the line to be less than 150 minutes), then the Transformer ride, then the Harry Potter ride, then the Simpson ride, and the Men in Black ride if the line is not too crazy. Try to get on these most popular rides within the first two hours of park opening – during this time don’t stop to check out anything, you’ll have plenty of time later.
  7. And finally, be prepared to be seduced. If it’s not Harry Potter robes and quills, it’s cute minion hats.

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Even adults gets seduced.

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We didn’t get seduced by merchandise, but we were seduced by ice cream and desserts… Still working on our will power.

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