Universal Studios and the World of Harry Potter

We all know that the Orlando area is a great vacation spot for families- well-known for its theme parks and attractions.  One long time landmark, Universal Studios, is introducing new rides and attractions, so if you haven’t been for a visit lately, now could be the time.  Universal Studios now consists of two major parks: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios of Florida.  There is also City Walk, an entertainment area complete with night clubs and a movie theater.  Three hotels are now found on the property also, providing 2,400 available rooms.

Universal Studios Florida features attractions and rides that are based on popular movies and TV shows, such as The Simpsons, The Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black, Terminator 2, and others.  You’ll find indoor roller coasters and many thrill rides, including the new Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, which travels at speeds of 65 mph and is a height of 17 stories.  This new high-tech coaster even comes with a personal touchpad so that riders can select their favorite music while on the ride.

City Walk is the place to go for great dining  It features restaurants like Emeril’s, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Pat O’  Brien’s and more.  You will also find entertainment here.  Hard Rock features live music and top rock and pop bands. The Blue Man Group Theater features nightly performances of this amazing group.  Several nightclubs also offer entertainment and dancing.

Islands of Adventure is divided into six different areas, each tied to a famous book, story, cartoon, or super hero.  But clearly, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is what has everyone talking.  After returning from a recent visit there myself, I can truly say that there is no other theme park like this one!  This “park within a park” is based on J.K. Rowling’s books and characters.  In fact, she even helped design this area of the park.  If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will be immersed in the world of Hogwarts.  When you enter Harry Potter World, you are entering into Hogsmeade which contains a replica of the train Hogwarts ExpressThe Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head Pub all feature traditional English food, complete with Butterbeer.  As you wander through the alleys, you will find Zonko’s, a joke and trick shop, and Honeydukes, which features chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.  You’ll also find the Owl Post, where owls roost and await their next deliveries.  In my opinion, the most fascinating shop of all is Ollivanders Wand Shop.  As all you Harry Potter fans know, this is where you purchase your magic wand.  Actually, the wand chooses each wizard and when you visit Ollivanders you will become part of an interactive experience where a guest of the shop goes through a wand selection.  As you leave the wand selecting area, you enter a souvenir shop which features robes, wizard’s apparel and Quidditch equipment.  Parents, take plenty of money with you because these items are definitely pricy!  Sitting in the center of Harry Potter World is Hogwarts Castle.  Inside the castle is the park’s most exciting ride- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  You will feel just like you are riding on Harry Potter’s broom as you get chased by a dragon, come across a Whomping Willow and get right in the middle of a Quidditch match.  This is the ride that everyone will remember and the one that also attracts the longest lines.

Universal Orlando has one other feature that none of the other parks have- the Universal Express Pass. This is a free pass for guests who stay in one of the on-site hotels or can be purchased if you are staying off the property.  With this pass, you can bypass the main lines to almost all of the attractions in both theme parks.  Universal offers several discount packages for families, so be sure to call your local travel agent to get all the details before you plan your trip.

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