Our family trip to Universal Studios in Orlando

Plus tips on theme park survival!

By Jennifer Sheran, publisher Macaroni Kid McDonough, Stockbridge, Hampton, Locust Grove April 25, 2023

My husband and I, along with my daughter (14), her friend (14), and my son (12) went to Universal Islands of Adventure during Spring Break. We had planned one day to spend in the park and wanted to make the most of it. The weather was sunny and 97° in Orlando, but the heat wasn’t too intolerable. We bought the two for $15 souvenir refillable mugs at the park and stayed hydrated. Also, most of the lines were covered and had fans going. 

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure is a popular theme park in Orlando, Florida. It is part of the larger Universal Orlando Resort and features a variety of thrilling rides and attractions based on popular movies and TV shows, such as Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Marvel Comics. One of the main attractions of the park is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which includes two themed lands based on the Harry Potter books and movies. Visitors can explore Hogwarts Castle, ride the iconic Hogwarts Express, and even purchase their own wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop. Other popular attractions at Islands of Adventure include The Incredible Hulk Coaster, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and Skull Island: Reign of Kong. There are also plenty of dining and shopping options throughout the park.

Ticket prices for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure vary based on the time of year and type of ticket. A one-day ticket for an adult typically costs around $120, but there are also multi-day and park-to-park options available for those who want to explore more of the Universal Orlando Resort. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance to avoid lines and ensure availability.

Marvel Island Is Marvelous

We got to the park around 10 a.m. and headed straight to Marvel Island. Our first ride was Storm Force which was like the teacup ride at Disney. My son loved this ride because he loves anything that spins. After riding Storm Force Winds, we headed to the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride, where we were transported into the comic book world of Spider-Man and battled his arch-nemesis, Doctor Octopus. The 3D effects were amazing, and we felt like we were part of the action. Next up was The Incredible Hulk Coaster, an adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster with twists, turns, and a launch that went from 0 to 40 mph in just 2 seconds. We finished off our visit to Marvel Island by meeting some of our favorite villains Dr. Doom and the Green Goblin. Joey asked the Goblin why he didn’t like Spider-Man.

Next, we went to Dr. Seuss Land, and had fun riding the carousel and train, meeting the Cat in the Hat, and enjoying lunch. The menu had a variety of options including fried chicken, pizza, salad, and burgers.

Immerse Your Self in the Magical World of Harry Potter

Harry Potter Land at Islands of Adventure is a magical experience for fans of the famous wizard. The park features several attractions, including the thrilling Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, where you can soar high above Hogwarts and encounter some of the most iconic characters from books and movies. This ride is a virtual reality style ride and takes place inside Hogwarts. This was my favorite ride of the day.

Another must-visit attraction is Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a rollercoaster that takes you on a wild journey through the Forbidden Forest. The girls agreed it was a thrilling experience.

While in Harry Potter Island, you can enjoy a refreshing mug of butterbeer. I had to try it. It tasted like a butterscotch float. Guests can also purchase a wand at Ollivander's Wand Shop and explore the many interactive experiences throughout the park. While we didn’t buy a wand, Joey was able to cast a spell when a fellow wizard in training was kind enough to share his wand.

Overall, Harry Potter Land is a fantastic destination for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the wizarding world.

A Jurassic Adventure Awaits

Our day was winding down by the time we entered Jurassic Park Island, so we had to choose our ride carefully. We decided to ride The Jurassic Park River Adventure. Once we got in line, Joey got scared. He and I jumped out and the girls and my husband stayed in line. Joey and I watched from the observation area. While we were waiting, Joey got completely soaking wet as he stood on the bridge right where the rafts come plunging down into the water. He was wetter than the actual riders! Carlie, Kynzie and Chuck really enjoyed the ride and said you narrowly escape T-Rex before you take the big plunge.

Circling Back to Marvel Island

We only had time for one more ride and the lines for Skull Island were too long and no one wanted to brave the Velocicoaster.

We ended the day back in Marvel Island. Carlie and Chuck got to ride the Hulk ride once again. This time, they were front and center in the very first car. Even Chuck said it was almost too scary. The rest of us rode storm force once again.

Theme Park Survival

I made sure to pack ponchos and water shoes for any water rides. There are several water rides in the park and who wants to walk around in wet sneakers all day? I also pack sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and sunglasses. If you don’t like paper straws, you may want to bring your own as well.

Another thing I brought along was a pair of foam dice that we could play the to pass the time when we were waiting in line. Of course, we also had our phones, and several portable chargers to help keep us happy.

Five tips for waiting in line at an amusement park

1. Bring snacks and water to stay hydrated and energized.

2. Pack small portable fans to help you cool off

3. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing to make the wait more bearable.

4. Use the time to plan out the rest of your day at the park or chat with friends and family.

5. Bring cards or download a group game App to your phone. such as "Heads Up"

Pros and cons of getting the express pass at Universal Studios

Getting the Express Pass at Universal Studios has its advantages and disadvantages. The main benefit is that you can skip the long lines and enjoy more rides and attractions in less time. This is especially useful during peak seasons when the park is crowded. However, the Express Pass can be quite expensive and may not be worth the investment if you are visiting during a less busy time. Additionally, not all rides have an Express Pass option, so you may still have to wait in line for some attractions. Ultimately, it depends on your budget and the time of year you are visiting the park.

We didn’t get the Express pass because they cost a lot of extra money. If you don’t have an express pass, you should prioritize the rides you really want to ride on and keep track of the wait times to decide how many rides you can get in and what you might have to skip. Also, be sure to download the Universal App. I found it good for finding out wait times on select rides, but it doesn’t report wait times on all rides. In our experience, the map on the App is more difficult to use than the paper map they hand out as you enter the park, so be sure to pick one up.

Our Hotel Choice

We stayed at the Homewood Suites near Universal Studios, which was a great choice for our family. The hotel provided comfortable accommodation with two queen beds and a pull-out couch. In addition, the hotel offered a complimentary buffet breakfast, a refreshing pool, and a hot tub, which were perfect for relaxing after a long day at the park. The hotel also provided convenient bus transportation to and from the park, which saved us time and money on parking. Overall, our stay at the Homewood Suites made our trip to Universal Studios even more enjoyable.

In conclusion, our family trip to Universal Islands of Adventure was an unforgettable experience. From the thrilling rides to the immersive Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there was never a dull moment. Seeing the joy on our children's faces as they met their favorite characters and explored new worlds together was priceless. We made lasting memories that we will cherish for years to come. We highly recommend this theme park to families looking for a fun and exciting adventure.