“It’s my happy place.”
Clint Gamache has experienced the parks in every way you could imagine. As a child coming with his family for the first time, as a Team Member working his favorite Halloween event, as a longtime Passholder, as a father of three, and nowadays as a theme park expert sharing his love for theme parks and all things geeky with his own news site and podcast ThrillGeek.
“Universal is joy to me. Entering Universal Studios (especially during Halloween Horror Nights) or Islands of Adventure brings me so much joy. It’s an escape from reality. A place to experience rides and attractions that you cannot experience anywhere else in the world.”
One event in particular stands out as being Clint’s home away from home. Halloween Horror Nights has created some “monstrous” memories for him whether it’s having worked with his wife back in 2005 during Tales of Terror to recording the 100th episode of ThrillGeek’s podcast with his friends and fellow ThrillGeek hosts at Universal Studios’ Radio Broadcast Center last year. “There are friends I will only see at Halloween Horror Nights every year. That event is particularly special to me because I’ve met so many amazing friends through it.”
For over 20 years, Clint has been coming to the theme parks that have made Orlando the vacation capital of the world. To him, they’re more than just the popular rides at that time or the new. It’s about creating memories that last a lifetime. “Sure, everyone remembers their favorite ride, show, or food at the park. But it’s creating memories at Universal with my friends and family that’s really special and gives meaning to those rides, attractions, and shows.” To Clint, there’s something about sipping a hot Butterbeer (his favorite) on a “Florida” winter day or riding front row with his son on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (his son’s favorite) that you just can’t beat. “It’s my happy place. There are no other theme parks I feel more excited to enter every single time then those at Universal Orlando.”
It’s All About the Thrill Rides!
One of my favorite things has always been the thrill rides at Universal, which probably makes sense because ThrillGeek (I’m a nerd, I know!). I’m always up for The Incredible Hulk Coaster over in Islands of Adventure or riding front row with my son on his favorite Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit in Universal Studios. I’m also really looking forward to Universal’s best kept secret that’s popping up over in Jurassic Park.
Try ALL of the Butterbeer Options
If you didn’t have a Butterbeer, did you even go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Just kidding. But in all seriousness, you need to try all six of the Butterbeer options. Beverage-wise, there’s cold, frozen, or my personal favorite, hot Butterbeer. I also always find myself getting a Butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s in Diagon Alley.
Explore the Parks and Stay Late If Possible
Slot some time during your visit to just explore the parks. There’s so much to look at and you never know what you’ll find. Like, did you know there’s a Radio Broadcast Center in Universal Studios? Also, I can’t recommend staying late enough. The parks are beautiful at night, and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is especially life changing at nighttime. (Make sure to check park hours!)
Stay at a Hotel and Get the Perks
I’m a huge sucker for staying at one of Universal’s Premier hotels that offers complimentary Unlimited Express Passes as part of your stay. You also get to take advantage of what is called Early Park Admission if you stay at one of the hotels. Not only do you get to go into the park one hour early before everyone else, but you also get a pass that gets you to the front of the ride lines quicker!? Can’t beat that.
Halloween Horror Nights (HHN)
As a self-proclaimed HHN aficionado, I have an endless supply of tips for experiencing the event. Get there early, or do Stay and Scream if that’s an option for you. Go with a group of friends. Nothing is more exciting than going through haunted houses with a group of your closest friends. Dress comfortably and be prepared for anything… like rain.
Universal has some of the most amazing characters at both of their theme parks. Not only are they fun to get pictures with, but they’re all great to interact with. Getting up close and personal with Jurassic World’s Blue with a Raptor handler’s help will leave you in awe… and a little bit scared. I’ve even had full blown conversations with the Mystic Fountain over in the Lost Continent.
Bread Box for Lunch or Dinner
I’m pretty flexible when it comes to food, but I do love a good sandwich from Bread Box in CityWalk. It’s a great spot for lunch or a pit stop after HHN. Another favorite that’s inside the parks is Mythos!
One of the best things to do before you visit is to look up all the best ticket options and recommendations. You should buy tickets in advance to save not only $, but also time the day of your visit. Get a park-to-park ticket for the best experience (you need this in order to ride the Hogwarts Express!). And if you’re not staying at a hotel that offers complimentary Unlimited Express Passes (although I still say you should), you can buy Express Passes, too.
Get an Interactive Wand
Another thing I always recommend in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is getting an interactive wand. You can either get one before your visit or you can get when you arrive. You get a map of all the locations in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and you’re ready to cast spells. It’s so much fun and a big hit with the kids!
Download the Universal Orlando Resort App
Now more than ever, the Universal Orlando Resort App is one of the most useful things for the parks. There’s the Virtual Line experience, which makes it easier to do the busier attractions (you can also see wait times!). You can use Mobile Food & Drink Ordering to place your food order ahead of time, so it’s ready for you when you arrive at the restaurant. Basically, it just makes your visit that much easier.
Want to make sure your favorite ride is open for your upcoming visit? Click here to learn more about the current operational adjustments and safety measures that are in place at Universal Orlando Resort.