Some family vacations are too good to be true and last week’s trip to Universal Studios Orlando is one my family and I will remember forever.
When we take a family vacation, we go all out; and, if you happen to be in or near our house, we might bring you too, since our general feeling is “the more the merrier.” We’re not afraid of road trips, and the 11 hour drive to Orlando is something we’ve done quite a few times. The kids read books, watched movies, told us jokes and we might have even sang along to their favorite songs on the radio –because we are really dorky like that.
This year, instead of doing Universal on our own, we joined other families at Family Forward – an event focused on building “superhero families” as my friend Jyl explained. And that we tried to do, bringing our current exchange studen Laura and Cristina, another exchange student we’ve had with us eight years ago (also Jaime’s sister).
I want to build a “superhero” family, one that is strong, is close, and can overcome any challenge we might face. So why not take the opportunity to build that while on vacation? I also thought it would be a terrific idea to let someone else do all the planning and focus on enjoying the Universal experience as a family.
We started with a Hulk-themed opening party where we were able to ride the Hulk and the Spiderman rides after hours without lines. After that, we were welcomed with an all-out ice cream Sunday bar and dessert tables. Sugar-overload at 9pm? No problem, only on vacation.
The sugar rush continued the following day after our first bowling experience at Cabana Bay Beach, a gorgeous retro-themed on-property resort. It was a short walk from our Loews Royal Pacific hotel. Watching my youngest pick up a bowling ball for the first time and screaming in joy telling the ball to “move to the pins” and “stay off the bumpers!”
That night, we enjoyed our dining experience at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, where the kids (and adults) couldn’t get over the 19th century-inspired atmosphere, complete with funky gadgets and the staff wearing fun costumes.
The warm welcome by Doctor Penelope Toothsome and Jacques was only the beginning. The menu expanded into every adult and child’s meal fantasy imaginable and my children couldn’t have been happier with their dessert selection.
The next day, after breakfast at Antojitos, we headed out to our VIP tour experience. This means that a guide takes your group through the park, into any and all rides, without waiting in line. Wait, what?! No lines? Yes!
In some rides, I stayed back with our youngest in the child swap area and talked to Fredrick, our guide, about food and learning how to cook healthy recipes on a budget. The entire day we escorted us through the park, pointed out landmarks and secrets hidden in plain sight, and offered recommendations on how to navigate through the park the following three days without him.
We also had a few surprises waiting for us in our hotel room when we returned, and the boys just had a blast being cool.
As you can imagine, after a non-stop excitement-filled day; getting seven people up, fed, and out of the hotel room was a slow process. None-the-less, we went back to the park for more adventures.
That night, we also took the kids to The Blue Man Show. The kids loved it and it was the most entertaining show for both adults and kids alike. It’s a must-do, at least once, when you go to Universal.
While Universal Studios and Island of Adventures offer a lot of attractions, we spent a lot of time in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter –both at Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. My youngest loved taking the Hogwart’s Express so we rode it quite a few times making sure to not let the station lines discourage us.
We closed up our trip with a Harry-themed party at Diagon Alley where we were served the famous Butterbeer and ice cream. Of course, my Potter fans were as thrilled about finally tasting the infamous flavor as they were about it being sweet.
Between the non-stop fun at the parks, glorious food and desserts, VIP tours, express passes, and awesome accommodations, I’d say this trip was a huge success!
Did we succeed at building a Superhero family? You bet. We’ve bonded in more ways than we could have imagined, our kids had a blast with each other and the other kids around us, and we now have conversation material for months! As I write this in the car on our way home, I can still hear them talk about the rides they loved and which ones they can’t wait to revisit from the second and third row.
Have you been to Universal Studios? What did you love most about it?