Even though we visit Orlando, Florida multiple times a year, I haven’t been to Universal Studios in a long time. We have skipped it for the past several years mainly because our kids just aren’t big enough. Before I go any farther with this post I need to throw that disclaimer out there. Universal Orlando Resort is great! There are so many things we loved about all the parks and our resort, but if your kids are under 44″ tall I would just wait. At the time of this trip our kids were 5, 5, 4, 2 & 7 months. The baby and 2yo could do two rides and just a couple more for the 4yo. Even Seuss Landing which is designed just for kids was a bust for the baby and there was still a lot of rides that our 44″ tall 5yos couldn’t ride. If you’re a group of adults or have kids that are middle school and up, Universal is awesome!
Universal Orlando Resort consists of 2 theme parks Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay water park, 8 hotels and City Walk which is an outdoor shopping and dining district.
For this trip I chose Royal Pacific as our resort. There were a few reasons why but the main one is because it’s a “Premier” or top tier Universal Resort which means you get Express Unlimited Passes included! Express Unlimited Passes are a paid for pass that allows you to skip to the front of the line. Unlike the Disney FASTPASS system, Express Unlimited allows you to skip the line as many times as you want on any attraction all day long and you don’t have to book time slots (there are only a couple rides that don’t do express pass) Since I did a lot of waiting around with the babies Express Passes were absolutely necessary so that Andrew & the bigger kids didn’t have to wait in lines and I didn’t have to wait long on them to get through! Express Passes are pretty pricey though, the ones we had sell for $120 per person per day and that adds up quickly! The great thing about staying at one of Universal’s premier resorts though is that they are included in your room. It was much more cost effective to upgrade to a nicer resort than to stay somewhere cheaper and buy the express passes separately. Not to mention the resorts are nicer, more conveniently located to the parks and have better amenities.
Royal Pacific resort is a beautifully South Pacific island themed resort. It’s about a 5 minute walk to both theme parks and City Walk and it’s about a 15 minute walk or 5 minute bus ride to Volcano Bay. Royal Pacific also features several restaurants, bars, and dining experiences such as the Despicable Me character breakfast and the Wantilan Luau. The pool area has a large zero entry pool, small kiddie pool and a big splash pad.
We started our trip off at Islands of Adventure which in my opinion is Universal Orlando’s best park! IOA features Universal’s newest roller coaster, Velocicoaster, which just opened in June. This is unlike any coaster you’ve ever been on! Other thrill ride fan favorites here include The Hulk & Hagrid’s. For our family though Seuss Landing is here at IOA and it’s so cute for the little kids! We aren’t Harry Potter people but I know most everyone else is so I can’t leave off the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter and all the butterbeer stands! We had lunch at Circus McGurkus inside Seuss Landing. This is an adorable quick service restaurant that the Seuss Trolley ride goes through. That night we had dinner at Confisco Grill inside IOA. The food and service was excellent, I highly recommend the Pad Thai!
Our second day we spent at Universal Studios. Universal Studios is the original Universal Florida theme park. It has fan favorites like Transformers, The Mummy & E.T. Unfortunately there is even less for small children at this park than there is at IOA. We had dinner at Lombard’s Seafood inside the park and it did not disappoint.
I’m a huge fan of water parks and was most looking forward to our day at Volcano Bay. Volcano Bay is a water park done right! You never have to carry a tube around and you never wait in line! All ride tubes are sent to the tops of the slides on belts so you don’t have to lug them around. When you enter the park you are given an electronic wrist band that looks like an Apple watch called a Tapu Tapu and this is how you virtually wait in line. You simply walk up to the ride your want and scan your band then your band will tell you when it’s your turn to come back to the ride. While you wait you can go do anything else in the park! Even though our kids weren’t tall enough to ride any of the big water slides this still allowed Andrew and I to take turns riding because we didn’t actually have to stand in line to wait! Volcano Bay has a special area for babies and kids under 48″ tall called Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef. TTR is a little splash pad with 2 small slides designed just for babies and toddlers and RR is a larger play area with 5 bigger slides. These areas were a huge hit with our kids. The 5,5,4&2yos could all go up to and down the big slides by themselves and the baby enjoyed playing in the splash pad area. There is only one entrance and exit, no deep water and lifeguards everywhere so it felt very safe!
After our day at Volcano Bay we headed over to Big Fire American Grill at Universal’s City Walk. This restaurant has table side s’mores which I knew would be a hit with our kiddos!
We had one “extra” day on our trip so we decided to go back to IOA for a little bit that morning and then go back to our resort to play at the pool. After some pool time we walked back over to City Walk for dinner at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium. It is a chocolate factory so their specialty is milkshakes and desserts but they have really great food too!
Universal has an airport shuttle service called the Superstar Shuttle. It was quick and easy to get on the bus at the airport and they picked us up and took us back for our return trip. Our bus actually broke down on the way back to the airport to go home and we were stuck on the side of the road but they immediately sent another bus to pick us up and our poor driver was so nice and handled it well.
I was overall impressed with everything Universal Orlando Resort has to offer and I really look forward to going back when our kids are a little bigger!