Today’s post is a lot of fun. I’m sharing my bookish guide to the Universal Orlando Resort, where I recently vacationed. There is so much at Universal for bibliophiles, from Seuss Landing to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and beyond.
Before I provide my version of a book lover’s guide to Universal Orlando, I should provide a bit of context about my trip so you know where my opinions are coming from. On my recent family vacation to Florida we visited with my brother who works at the Universal Orlando Resort. During our time in Orlando we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel on property, so we had early access to Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure park. We also had and really enjoyed Express Passes which helped us to skip some of the lines and get on more rides.
Universal Orlando is (*currently*) made up of two parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. A third park called Volcano Bay, a Universal Resort water park, is slated to open in a few months.
Today I will be writing about the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks, with the exception of the portions of each park that make up The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For a Potterhead, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter provides more than enough inspiration for its own post. I’ll post that guide tomorrow so be sure to check back.
The biggest bookish draw at the Universal Studios Florida park, in my opinion, is the Diagon Alley portion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Hidden from view in the London section of the park, Diagon Alley is entered by winding through an area of brick walls. Stepping through this barrier is magical, the experience is like stepping onto the set of a Harry Potter film. I’ll talk more about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in my next post, as there is just too much to say to fit it all in with the rest of the Universal attractions.
For bookish families, there is a Curious George themed children’s area. While it isn’t something my family visited (since we’re all a bit too old), I can imagine the area is as on theme and well-executed as the sections of the park that we did visit. Curious George Goes to Town includes a water play area as well, making it a good middle-of-the-day stop for cooling off in the hot Florida sun.
Rides We Enjoyed:
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, Revenge of the Mummy.
Islands of Adventure
The entire concept of the Islands of Adventure theme park is based on literature (which I learned from my brother the Universal employee), so it’s no surprise that I found more to love in this park than at Universal Studios.
From Marvel Super Hero Island to Seuss Landing to Hogsmeade (which I’ll get to more tomorrow), there’s something for every kind of book nerd at the Islands of Adventure park.
Seuss Landing was a lot of fun! This bright, fun area provided a ton of opportunities for cute photographs. I especially loved getting my husband to sit on the egg from Horton Hears a Who; there’s just something about vacation that makes him much more pliable.
Dr. Seuss was my first favorite author, before I could really even explain what a “favorite” or an “author” was. My parents read me a Dr. Seuss book almost every night when I was a baby. I was particularly fond of The Foot Book, and in middle school I memorized Fox in Socks on a whim when I had too much time on my hands and I found myself stuck at the pediatrician’s office. Now that I work with preschoolers on a daily basis, Dr. Seuss is back in my life in full force. When we read Green Eggs and Ham or There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, there’s always at least one child reciting the rhymes along with me, so I know I’m not the only one who feels the way I do about Dr. Seuss. That being said, I loved Seuss Landing. It was probably my favorite park area after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Families with small children should definitely make Seuss Landing a priority stop as the rides are gentle and age-appropriate. That doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy the rides as well. We rode two rides in Seuss Landing: The Cat in the Hat and The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. They were fun, simple rides with a whimsical feel that was true to Seuss’ illustrations and artwork. Other rides in Seuss Landing are One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Caro-Seuss-el.
Children will also love Seuss Landing for the colorful design and the larger-than-life renditions of scenes from various Seuss books. If I Ran the Zoo, a children’s play area, can also be found in Seuss Landing. This attraction, which I didn’t visit, includes tunnels and a water play area according to the Universal Studios website.
My family had lunch in Seuss Landing at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous. This cafeteria style dining location is particularly cool because The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride goes through on tracks along the edge of the circus tent above the diners. It was cool from both perspectives, as both a diner and a rider. While the food wasn’t anything special – with choices like jumbo slices of pizza, chicken, and salad – the line wasn’t prohibitive and there was plenty of seating. Families with children or Seuss super fans would enjoy dining at Circus McGurkus, as would visitors hoping for a literary themed location without the lines of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s The Three Broomsticks or Leaky Cauldron.
Like a true book nerd, though, my favorite stop in Seuss Landing wasn’t The Cat in the Hat ride or Circus McGurkus or even the egg where I made my husband pretend to be Horton the elephant. My favorite part of Seuss Landing was the bookstore. All the Books You Can Read was an actual bookstore located inside the theme park. A bookstore. In a theme park. Of course I loved it! They had what was probably every book ever written by Dr. Seuss available for sale, along with other Seuss themed merchandise. I had intended to go back to All the Books You Can Read before the park closed to pick up a copy of my beloved Fox in Socks, but I forgot by the end of the day and came home without.
There is a show performed at various times throughout the day in Seuss Landing called Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! We caught the tail end of the show after we rode The High in Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, and it looked quite adorable. I wish I had had the chance to see the whole thing. There are also character encounters including The Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am and the Lorax.
Marvel Super Hero Island
As I mentioned in my latest post The Nintendo Book Tag, I’ve never read a graphic novel. I’ve also never read any manga or comic books. But Marvel Super Hero Island makes me wish that I had. This portion of the Islands of Aventure park is bright and colorful. There are meet and greets with a variety of Marvel heroes and villains, and the rides in Marvel Super Hero Island were some of my favorite in all of Universal Orlando.
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall was my favorite ride. My husband and brother were terrified to ride it which made the experience twice as fun, but they both ended up loving it and are new fans of drop tower rides. My mom’s favorite ride at Universal is also in Marvel Super Hero Island. She just loves The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. It was fun, but not quite at the top of my ride list for the day.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster was intense to say the least. My husband loved it, but I thought I was going to pass out or something from all the flipping around. I’ve never been sad about a roller coaster before, so I like to think that maybe if I’d eaten beforehand I would have been okay and had the time of my life.
Just like Seuss Landing, my favorite part of Marvel Super Hero Island was the store where you could buy far too many books, the Comic Book Shop. There were so many comics that looked interesting, and comic themed books including this cute one for raising nerdy children. My brother loved the life-sized Captain America statue. If it wasn’t incredibly expensive he probably would have bought it for himself. I was just impressed by the sheer number of comic books and books available in the Comic Book Shop, and I spent quite a bit of time rummaging around the store.
The other sections of the Islands of Adventure park include Port of Entry, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park and The Lost Continent. We didn’t spend a lot of time in these areas of the park because we had to fit in two parks in one day, but for those into dinosaurs, water rides, King Kong or adventure these areas of the park could have a lot to offer for you.
Rides We Enjoyed:
The High in Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk Coaster.
The Hard Rock Hotel
The day after we ravaged the parks, I spent the majority of the day relaxing by the pool with a strawberry daiquiri and my copy of The Girls by Emma Cline.
We had a ton of fun racing kids to go down the water slide, and while the pool was closed for maintenance and cleaning I read my novel and sipped my drink. The cold water of the pool felt great on my lobster red sunburn, and the family bonded as we spent our evening hours relaxing in the adult only hot tub. Just another day in paradise.
Universal Orlando was wonderful, from our top-notch hotel room and our day at the parks to our dining experiences. As a theme park addict and movie lover, I was happy. As a lady used to cold Buffalo winters I was toasty warm. And as a book nerd, I was inspired. Universal Orlando can certainly provide a bibliophile’s dream vacation, if that’s what you’re looking to get out of it. There is so much to enjoy at Universal, and we haven’t even gotten into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter yet!
Have you ever been to Universal Orlando? Have you been to one of the other Universal locations? What’s your favorite ride? Or if rides aren’t your thing, what do look for in a good theme park? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for Part Two of The Book Lover’s Guide to Universal Orlando all about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade felt like sets from the Harry Potter movies, which made the experience realistic. It is largely for this reason that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was my favorite part of my Universal Orlando vacation. Come read my thoughts on the experience tomorrow.