A runDisney race weekend usually includes time at Walt Disney World – enjoying the parks, eating at the restaurants, and experiencing the magic. However, there are other places to explore in the Central Florida area as well!
Universal Orlando Resort makes up another theme park complex in Orlando. Included are three theme parks – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. There are also six on-site hotels, each within walking distance or a shuttle bus ride from the theme parks. On a recent trip, we were able to experience two theme parks and a fabulous hotel – take a look!
*Since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter includes so much detail, a separate blog post will be dedicated to this area!
Universal Studios Florida
Step into classic movies at Universal Studios! Join E.T. on an adventure, party with the Simpsons, help the Transformers save the earth, cause chaos with the Minions, explore NYC with Jimmy Fallon, and much more. This park is smaller in size, which makes it (fairly) easy to navigate. There is also entertainment in the form of performers and shows, so be sure to see when and where they will be located.
Universal offers Express Pass as a ticket add-on, which is similar to FastPass (you bypass the main line), however you don’t need to make advance “reservations”. You just show up, show your Express Pass, and get in the shorter line! However, we did find that we waited anywhere from 5 minutes to 20, so while quicker than standby, it wasn’t always super fast. (Note: If you stay at the Hard Rock Hotel or Portofino Bay Hotel, your stay includes a free Express Unlimited Pass.)
Revenge of the Mummy was a fun coaster-like attraction. Transformers left us feeling a little woozy. (Many of the attractions throughout Universal included 3D glasses, which meant you felt as though you were moving on screen, however the ride vehicles also moved. For those prone to motion sickness, it isn’t a great combination.)
Our favorite parts were the character interactions! During our trip, the lines were almost non-existent. I chatted with Doc Brown from Back to the Future, joked with Scooby Doo and Shaggy, and sang songs with Bumblebee (Transformers). However, the best interaction was with the penguins of Madagascar! We have a series of at least 15 photos, and the penguins were in full character.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Enter a land where mystical creatures and super heroes are real! Fly high with the Hulk, head on a barge with Popeye and Bluto, go on an adventure with Spider-Man, explore Skull Island with Kong, take a train ride with Dr. Seuss, and much more. This park winds around, so it can take awhile to get from one land to the next.
Another tip – leave the bag behind, if possible. Most rides require you to put your bag and loose items in a locker prior to entering the line. While there is no cost involved (unless you keep them in longer than the allotted time), it adds some extra time to your park touring.
If you have little ones in your party, Seuss Landing is a must! Even adults will enjoy the laid-back train ride in the sky. For those who don’t mind getting wet (and I mean, soaked), head on the Jurassic Park River Adventure. (Or stand back and watch as they come down the chute.) Another favorite was Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, which blasts guests 185 feet into the sky! And don’t miss out on the entertainment and characters throughout the park.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
This luxurious hotel has an Italian flair, and is located within walking distance (or a short boat ride) from the theme parks. Just like the seaside town of Portofino, the hotel includes the Harbor Piazza, where you can enjoy gelato, do a little shopping, take in a meal, or even listen to live music!
The rooms are very spacious, including a king bed or 2 queen beds, marble accents, and even a separate shower and bathtub. Choose a Bay View to overlook the Harbor Piazza, or splurge for access to Portofino’s Club Lounge, among the best we have every experienced. Suites are also available for those needing extra space.
Throughout the hotel property are three swimming pools, including a pool with a waterslide, beach area, children’s pool, activities, and lawn games. Within the Mandara Spa is a fitness center that is complimentary for hotel guests. The walking path to the parks provides a great running trail, providing up to a 3 mile loop.
*Contact a travel advisor at Glass Slipper Concierge for exclusive Virtuoso amenities at Portofino Bay!
Also, don’t forget about Universal CityWalk! Similar to Disney Springs, this area does not require theme park admission. There are many restaurants and shopping areas to explore. A few favorites are Cowfish, Antojitos, and for those with a sweet tooth, the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Blue Man Group also has a show most nights.
Overall, Universal Studios Orlando is a great option for families with teenagers, in particular. Many of the attractions are in the thrill-seeker category, which definitely needs to be considered when making your plans.