So in my last post all about our family Christmas in Orlando, I told you about our journey in Virgin Atlantic’s new Economy Delight class, and what it’s like to stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach resort. The next morning we hit Starbucks early ready for a full day at Universal Studios. The weather forecast was sun and showers, but still, it was so much better than the weather in the UK – shorts and t-shirts in December? Bring on Christmas at Universal Studios!
Is it worth booking a VIP Experience at Universal Orlando?
On this trip, we were lucky enough to have a Universal guide with us all day in the park. The VIP Experience includes lots of extras, including breakfast and lunch, reserved seating at shows and some interesting behind the scenes experiences, as well as the huge benefit of Universal Express Unlimited access so you don’t have to wait in line for all your favourite attractions. Plus, the guides are incredibly knowledgeable and have all sorts of insider tips and tricks to make the absolute most of your time in the park. They can also cut through places where the general public aren’t allowed to go. However, it’s not cheap so you have to weigh up if it’s worth the money to get the absolute best out of your day at Universal. Our guide, the lovely Dustin, had his work cut out with us, with the full span of age ranges, a couple of people who wanted to do ALL the coasters, a couple of pukers who didn’t want to do any 3D rides, and quite a big hit list of must-dos. He did an absolutely fantastic job and managed to keep everyone happy too. We were well impressed and feel that, if you’re splashing out on the holiday of a lifetime, this could be the way to go!
Our top 10 must do experiences at Universal Studios (in no particular order – some of these are Christmassy, but most are just things we think you should do at any time of year!)
We started the day strong by bumping into SpongeBob and Patrick…
…then headed straight for our #1 choice for the adrenaline junkies to get their fix, The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. After getting securely fitted into your seat, you get to choose your own music for this ride, which takes you up at a 90 degree angle before whooshing you around some serious drops and loops at up to 65mph – it’s not for the faint hearted!
For some reason, our #2 choice, Revenge of The Mummy has always been one of my favourite attractions at Universal Orlando. My family cannot understand this at all, but there’s something about the theming that I really like. I think it reminds me a little bit of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I can’t tell you the bits I like without giving spoilers away, but it’s brilliant (also, Dustin took us behind the scenes and actually underneath the tracks, so I can now truthfully say I’ve been run over by a roller coaster). We even got Grandma Rita on this one!!
I was desperate to take the boys to #3: Fast and Furious: Supercharged. I wrote about Fast & Furious back in April when it first opened, and if you’ve got anyone in your party who loves the Fast & Furious franchise (or frankly just loves cars), this is an absolute must-do.
For proper, competitive family fun, you just can’t beat our #4 choice: MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack, which is a brilliant shoot-em-up ride, and for a serious dose of nostalgia, taking everyone to ride on #5: ET, is another must as far as I’m concerned. It’s the only original ride left from when the park opened and it’s just gorgeous.
Another family must-do on the list was to have a Duff beer in #6: Moe’s Tavern. One of the nicest things on this trip was that everyone had places they wanted to see and things they wanted to do, and even if I’d done them before, it was so nice to experience them through fresh eyes again. This quick beer, sipped in the sunshine outside Moe’s was such a lovely moment, and one of the highlights of the trip for boys brought up on The Simpsons.
I love the whole area outside Diagon Alley, with the Knight Bus (have a chat with the conductor), and all the gorgeous Harry Potter theming. Make sure you head to Grimmauld Place, just to the right of Diagon Alley, and watch the windows very carefully!
Next up, of course, was #7: Diagon Alley. Again, it was absolutely lovely to watch Charlie and his girlfriend Amy walk through into Diagon Alley for the first time, see all the shop fronts, and watch the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon breathe fire on top of Gringotts Bank. We pottered about, walked in and out of the shops, took part in our #8: the wand choosing ceremony at Ollivander’s, and spent ages looking at all the beautiful decorations. The Diagon Alley Christmas decorations were cleverly in-keeping with the feel of the Harry Potter books and films, with natural foliage and decorations reflecting the interiors of the properties. Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions was decorated with fir garlands and delicate pink ribbons in the same shade as Hermione’s yule ball gown.
Next, we made our way up Diagon Alley to another of my favourite attractions, #9: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which is absolutely brilliant, and very difficult to explain – it’s a mixture of thrill ride, 3D, and a bit of coaster action that takes you deep into the vaults beneath Gringott’s Bank on a really exciting adventure. Everyone absolutely loved it (and we all came back another day to do it all again, it was that good!).
Finally it was time to head to King’s Cross Station to board #10: The Hogwart’s Express to take us across to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, so we could experience the gorgeous Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular and Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, plus loads more, all of which I’ll tell you all about very soon.
I’ve tried to include as much information as possible as I know from your messages that a lot of you are considering Christmas holidays in Orlando next year. As always, if there’s anything you want to know, or questions you want to ask, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’ll be as honest and open as possible, and if there’s something I don’t know, I bet I know someone who does!
As always, massive thanks to all our faves at Universal Parks and Resorts and Virgin Atlantic & Virgin Holidays.