Although readers of MouseInfo are accustomed to us sharing info on the Mouse, we do from time to time take other adventures that might be relevant to our Disney-loving crowd. Last month, we visited Universal Orlando Resort and found a whole bunch of great memories and new things since our last visit.
You might have seen that we stayed at the brand new Universal’s Aventura Hotel and absolutely loved it. But that was just the start of magical memories that we made on our 3-day visit.
In full disclosure, we paid for the entire length of our hotel booking but did receive a media rate discount on the overall price of the room in exchange for posting about our honest experience. We were also provided comped admission to their three parks.
Here’s NINE new discoveries that we made on this trip…
NEW: Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration
Introduced last summer, the epic nighttime spectacular takes place on the lagoon in the center of the park utilizing the park itself as part of the backdrop for the World of Color-style fountain and projection light show. It all comes to life with some of Universal’s most iconic properties including new hits like Minions and Harry Potter to classics like ET and the Universal Monsters.
NEW: Fast & Furious
It’s hard to exactly call this one “new” for Southern California locals like us as the main ride portion of this attraction at Universal Studios Florida is essentially identical to the tram tour experience at Universal Studios Hollywood. In Florida, though, the attraction is fleshed out more completely with a queue that cleverly sets up the garage and two pre-show rooms that help make the wait feel shorter. The biggest difference is that unlike Hollywood, where we’ve boarded a gigantic tram, the story here is on a party bus!
The full ride makes for a rather enjoyable time that, while not as robust as what we saw just a year earlier with the Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction, is a fun escape into this movie franchise. It really does fulfill an old Universal mantra of being the place where movies come alive and with this, you’re completely enveloped.
NEW: Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
Although it opened in April 2017, the attraction was new to us on our visit as we’d previously visited the park just a few months prior to its opening. We don’t watch Fallon’s show on television but walking through that the queue was actually a really great experience. The setup of being AT the studio works quite well here not just for the attraction but for the theme of the park itself. It’s a great introduction for what would ultimately be an ok ride.
Universal is often criticized for heavy reliance on attractions with screens and this one continues that legacy. Most of the in-jokes and references were lost on us since we don’t know the show but the attraction is overall enjoyable. Certainly, the overall experience is better than other uses of this format such as the immensely disappointing Minion Mayhem.
Getting Read by Vol, Spirit of Krakatau
An unexpected surprise awaited us at Universal’s Volcano Bay water park where we explored the insides of volcano and encountered the mystic spirit of the mountain! We got to spend some time with the spirit of the volcano and she offered to give Becca a description of her aura’s color. I wish Volcano Bay had more interactive story elements like this integrated through-out!
We Rode E.T. Adventure… a lot
Four times to be exact. The lower than average January crowds made doing so quite easy. It was surprising how the park was so much less crowded than on other visits we’ve made during the year.
With such low crowd levels, we walked onto the E.T. Adventure as many times as possible. We always fear our current visit will be the last time we can experience the awesome retro adventure so we always make sure to give a wink and a nod to the classic bit of theme park history. We hope the sad day never comes that ET finally goes home and stays there on the green planet.
I Cried Meeting Barney
We had time to kill so we went to see “Day in the Park with Barney.” After the show, you get to meet Barney and take pictures. I was evidently NOT prepared. A rush of emotion washed over when he came out to say hello. Sensing my emotion, he gave me the biggest, strongest, and most sincere hug. I had no idea the emotion that was stirring inside of me and it all just came out. A completely unexpected and absolutely memorable bit of magic made right on the spot.
Below is a video from the show’s finale where Barney sings his famous “I Love You” song. Good luck not having that in your head the rest of the day.
Toothsome is still REALLY awesome
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is a both a mouthful and a gem. A novel steampunk concept incorporated with an expansive and imaginative menu that we’ve found is bound to never disappoint. As one would expect, the dessert and milkshake selections are extensive and plenty of them with chocolate; but even savory menu items — such as the Braised Short Rib (with a cocoa gremolata) that I had — find ways to sneak in chocolate.
This place is forever a MUST-TRY. I really hope Penelope and Jaques — the dessert foundry’s proprietors — find a way to expand their adventures to Universal Studios Hollywood in the future.
Universal’s Aventura Hotel is really great
Unlike any Disney hotel we’ve ever stayed at in Orlando, Universal’s Aventura Hotel is really duplicitous in that definitely works for families but seems to be oriented more towards adults looking for a simpler more stylish experience. A relaxation-focused pool and hot tub, a sleek lobby in whites and natural tones, tons of natural lighting, it all works together to create a FRESH new lodging experience in the world of theme park travel. We were seriously impressed and it’s not even priced as a top-tier hotel. You can see more in our pictorial below.
MORE INFO: PICTORIAL: What to expect when you stay at UNIVERSAL’S AVENTURA HOTEL
There’s more pool than you can handle!
We spent an entire day just pool-hopping. One of the less often publicized perks of staying at a Universal hotel is that you can hop to any of their pools and enjoy the various facilities. We fully intended to hit every pool in one day and found it was just not possible. But you can take a look at what we WERE able to see in our pictorial below!
MORE INFO: PICTORIAL: We tried to pool-hopping all 6 Universal Orlando Resort’s hotel pools
See it for Yourself
Prior to our trip this year, we were always pretty content to just have a “Universal Day” during a Walt Disney World vacation and on this trip we really found that we really enjoyed what Universal Orlando Resort has to offer. There’s a lot to appreciate when you stop to take the time and absorb it all.
Between the two theme parks, the water park, and all of Universal CityWalk you can easily spend a few days here. And to be honest, going forward, we probably will!
MORE INFO: Learn more about Universal Studios Florida at their official website