After nearly a year of homeschooling, game nights, swimming, biking, forcing my kids to watch and appreciate beloved 90’s movies — our family needed a break from the repetitive cycle of 2020 activities and tribulations. Both my husband and I lost our jobs right at the start of the pandemic. Our kids (and every other child in the world) experienced a sudden stop in sports, academics, friends, and other extracurricular activities.
We initially found a silver lining in being forced to slow-down with our kids — we were excited to sleep in and not drive from practice to practice. The downside, though, was that it turned into quantity time over quality time with each other. We were constantly together but disconnected, bored at home, and annoyed with each other. Our family needed to reconnect and unplug outside of our little bubble. We needed some excitement and something to look forward to.
When theme parks began to open in summer of 2020, I felt a sense of normalcy (and joy!) on the horizon, especially when Universal Orlando Resort reopened.
There’s not a better place than Universal Orlando when you have three boys and requisite bookshelves filled with the Harry Potter series. Not to mention all of the toy-bins filled with Jurassic World dinosaurs and superhero action-figures. We have our daughter, who thinks SpongeBob “must be real” and whose main goal in life is to see Squidward live and in action (well, preferably visit his house under the sea). And let’s not forget my husband’s obsession with the Grinch.
For my husband, Universal also holds a very special connection with his childhood, something he reflected on often during so much downtime in 2020. My mother-in-law was a movie fanatic and used to bring my husband to “ride the movies” at Universal when he was a kid. He would often talk about the laughter and smiles he and his mother had during those trips and how he wanted to recreate those memories for our children.
Once we had made the decision to visit Universal when it reopened, we went to work on our list of top things we had to do.
And now here I am to share with you everything you must do to make your vacation unforgettable when you’re visiting Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay…
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA
- E.T. Adventure Ride is a classic ride that will never get old. Every time I am on it, I get chills. We checked this off our list and my daughter Ella made me ride it six times and I didn’t mind a bit.
- Next on our Studios day, we headed to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. This 4D ride is a blast and the queue is wonderfully immersive.
- Third on our list was The Revenge of the Mummy. You can’t beat this suspenseful, indoor roller coaster.
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade! Hagrid’s! Hagrid’s! Hagrid’s! Can I chant it again? I have no words. In all seriousness — there is nothing like it. It’s simply the perfect amount of thrill, story, and suspense.
- The whole area of Jurassic Park is incredible! The boys and my husband loved Jurassic Park River Adventure (especially the lifelike dinosaurs and the buildup to the drop) and my daughter and I had a blast on the nearby Pteranadon Flyers. And seeing Jurassic World VelociCoaster up close was incredible — we can’t wait to go back and ride it soon!
- We loved Skull Island: Reign of Kong. The moment you get into the expedition vehicle, you’re immersed in the world of King Kong. The visual effects after the gate were breathtaking.
- You have to ride the Krakatau Aqua Coaster so you can now officially say you’ve rode an aqua roller coaster. Not everyone can say that!
- The daredevils in our family loved Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides – These slides take you straight down the volcano!
- Our first ride for the day, and my first water ride in a few years, was Puihi of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides. It was the perfect kickstart to our day at the theme park. It’s thrilling and helped release any tension that was held in the past year!
- If you plan on eating at Universal CityWalk (and you should!), Bigfire is a sure deal. Our family favorites were the Hearth Oven Baked Bread, Skillet Roasted Mussels, and the Tableside S’mores dessert.
- Even if you don’t eat dinner at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, you must come for dessert and order an Instagram-worthy milkshake.
- A trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter wouldn’t be complete without Harry Potter’s famous Butterbeer. We were a family divided: one son loved the hot, another loved the frozen, and I had love at first bite with the ice cream!
Watch the Lang family’s incredible, and much-needed, experience for yourself!
It’s hard to find the words to express how important this vacation was for my family at just the right time! Although there are so many changes in our world, Universal Orlando Resort made us feel right at home — a perfect mix between nostalgia and enough new and exciting to give a thrill. You know the saying, “I need a vacation after this vacation”? I’ve said it plenty of times in the past, but that was nonexistent after our experience. We still talk about Harry Potter, King Kong, and Jurassic Park every day. My daughter constantly reminds me how she will face her fears when she gets older and ride all the rollercoasters, which tells me I better hurry up and start planning the next adventure.
EDITOR’S NOTE: PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATION AND ACCOMODATIONS PROVIDED BY UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT.