If you are looking for teachable tidbits, educational experiences, or scholarly stories at Universal Orlando Resort, you’ll find plenty! From the physics of roller coasters to the marvels of dinosaurs to life-size renderings of some of the most popular novels ever written, Universal Orlando hides its learning possibilities in plain sight.
Many families sometimes take their children out of school to experience Universal’s theme parks—I am definitely guilty of this! Sometimes it’s to get more value for my money during the off-season or because my kids’ sports schedules kept us at home in Atlanta for the regular school holidays. My kids have to make up any school work they miss and often take scheduled tests and quizzes early. But if the kids miss school time for family time, I still want to give them opportunities to learn. Luckily, Universal Orlando fits the bill perfectly.
Most kids, like my own, enjoy education when wrapped in an entertaining package. They don’t even know they are learning. (I won’t tell your kids if you won’t tell mine!) Families can find math, science, literature, art, geography and history lessons easily at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure…as long as you know where to look. To help you out, we have created a short cheat sheet for easy ways to add educational elements to your next family vacation.
Learn About Science and Math
1. At Universal, kids of all ages can use the science and technology principles they are learning in school to better understand how to design and build their favorite Universal rides and attractions. Talk to your kids about the physics behind Rip Ride Rockit or any other roller coaster. Ask them to research why coasters can go upside down or how they can achieve such high speeds. You can have kids do this before arriving at the park or just before riding.
2. Before you experience the awesomeness of Men In Black: Alien Attack, take some time to talk about space. What do your kids know about the solar system? Do they believe there is intelligent life out there? What have scientists found (so far) regarding the existence of life on other planets? Put those googling skills to work!
3. When riding Revenge of the Mummy, ask your kids to research what a mummy is. I bet they will be surprised—my kids didn’t know they were actually real! We talked about the ancient Egyptians and my 5th grader made the connection that the ride looked like a pyramid from Egypt! After “surviving” the swarms of scarab beetles on this ride, families can use the experience as a starting point to talk about egyptology and the real-life history behind this attraction.
4. Plan to spend some time in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. This interactive, indoor activity center in the Jurassic Park area is a wonderful place to get out of the sun or rain and learn more about prehistoric times. My kids were awed when they examined the giant T. rex skeleton and had fun trying to name the bones. Kids can also play You Bet Jurassic and examine “dinosaur eggs” that are nearly ready to hatch into baby Velociraptors.
Learn About the Arts
5. Parents can encourage kids interested in drawing, illustration or comics in the Toon Lagoon and Marvel Super Hero Island areas of Islands of Adventure. The bright colors, exaggerated lines and comic-worthy architecture of the lagoon will make you feel like you stepped into the funny pages. Look for references to The Family Circus, Betty Boop, Flash Gordan and Popeye at Toon Lagoon. Plus some of mine (and my kids’!) favorite Marvel Comics Super Heroes and Villains are found in Marvel Super Hero Island. Like today’s graphic novels, Marvel comic books are a great foray into getting kids excited about reading.
6. Visit the New York section of Universal Studios to catch Beat Builders’ super entertaining show. Four people who look like construction workers on a typical NYC scaffold stop their “work” and put on an ingenious percussion show. Kids will love seeing (and hearing!) how the performers use everyday things like buckets and wrenches to make some hot beats. Hearing music played is great, but experiencing it live in front of you is much more enriching. Why not push your kids to see if they can recreate some sounds using unlikely “instruments” themselves?
Learn About History and Geography
7. If you and your family are singing the old song, “don’t know much about history…don’t know much about geography,” then you can learn something at Universal Orlando. Direct from Chicago comes the soulful tunes of the Blues Brothers Show. See New York by catching the Beat Builders show, enjoying Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon or listening to the sweet sounds of Sing it! and ¡Vamos! – Báilalo. You can experience parts of the greatest American cities without leaving the theme park!
Since my husband and I once lived in Chicago, we took some time pointing out the nods to Chicago within the New York area. (Insider tip: look for the City of Chicago sewer covers to know you are “in” the Windy City section.)
8. For those yearning to examine cultures outside the United States without having to get on a plane, Universal Orlando Resort can help you there, too. Get a taste of the seaside town of Portofino, Italy by strolling the cobblestone, cypress tree lined streets of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. My family loved having a gelato break in the Harbor Piazza listening to the delightfully romantic Italian music, (Musica della Notte) which happens nightly at sundown. Similarly, get a taste of the South Pacific at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Don’t miss examining their colorful Balinese umbrellas, called tedung. They are a symbol of protection, dating back to the 13th century.
Learn About Literature
9. Head to Seuss Landing in Universal’s Islands of Adventure to visit the All the Books You Can Read Bookstore. Kids of all reading abilities can find a story for them in this cozy shop. For those ready for more challenging books, stop by Owl Post in Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade for all kinds of stationary supplies as well as the “Harry Potter” book series. I found that a trip to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was enough to entice my kids to get started on the seven-book Harry Potter franchise. I love that this experience encourages my kids to read!
10. Check out a private VIP tour. My family got a taste of dedicated, hands-on learning on a recent visit, which included a private VIP tour. The kids were excited about learning from our guide and then experiencing firsthand the activity he mentioned. Riding a roller coaster is even more fun when you have just discovered the physics behind why it works! (It also made the ride less scary for my less-adventurous child.)
At Universal Orlando, kids of all ages can expand on the skills from their classroom to discuss and think critically about them using real world examples. Plus, I have found everyone learns best when they don’t know they are doing it!
Let us know in the comments below what teaching moments you’ve found at Universal Orlando!