The first time I came to Universal Studios Florida, in 2008, my mom and I rode E.T. Adventure. Fifteen years later, this is something we still do and has become a tradition for every time we come to the theme park.
But let me share a little backstory first: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was one of my mom’s all-time favorite movies growing up. So, naturally, she would play it for me, too. And while I’m sure I loved it at first because we got to snuggle on the couch, just the two of us spending some quality time together, I quickly began to understand why she loved the movie so much. It represents her core values: love for her family, the importance of friendships, compassion, loyalty and trust — all of which she brought into my life. “E.T.” was just a way she found to inspire me and teach me about what really matters.
So, when I learned that I could actually experience in real life a story I had only seen on screen up to that point, I was thrilled. It meant that those special moments shared on the couch could now be shared on a bike, too — with ET on board, might I add!
The attraction soon became a safe space for me — and I mean that quite literally. When we first started going to Universal, I was terrified of the thrill rides. (So terrified that there’s actual footage of me sobbing on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.) So, E.T. Adventure became our safe go-to. But pretty soon riding it with her became less about it being the alternative to my fear of roller coasters and more about the love we shared for the story. It became more and more about the two of us continuing the tradition we had started all those years ago in front of a screen.
From standing in the queue and debating if we’re going to stick to real or fake names when we hand over our cards (we usually stick to our real names — lame I know) to getting on our bikes and helping E.T. return to his home planet, it all actually means bonding and catching up on life with mom. And that tradition became even more important to me as I got older and moved to another state for college.
Being away from home is a big challenge — E.T., I feel ya! I grew up having my mom around for anything and everything, and sometimes video chatting just doesn’t do the trick. However, my mom has made herself present in my life by doing little things, even from 675 miles away. Whether it is sending me a card for every holiday, never missing a good morning text, or even spontaneously driving to Florida to be with me (and ride our favorite attraction, obviously), she reminds me that no matter the distance she’ll always “be right here.”
Now, because we live far away, every time we see each other is a big deal. There’s so much of my twenty-something-year-old drama to update her on, and there’s no place better to catch up than on this ride. It’s where I feel most removed from all the stresses of the real world, where I can get in touch with that little girl inside me and be completely vulnerable with my mom (who now also doubles as my best friend.)
There is definitely something magical about E.T. Adventure — for some it’s the nostalgia, for others it might be the unmistakable smell of the forest in the queue. For me, though, the magical element of this ride is my mom and our shared love for Universal, which makes each time on this attraction feel like our first.
Do you have any memorable stories with your mother at Universal Orlando Resort? Share them with us on social media or in the comments below!