2014: The Year of Universal Studios?

universal_studios

Back in 2010, I speculated about the idea of taking a Disney World trip in 2014.  Part of my thinking was that the Fantasyland expansion would be done as would the Art of Animation Resort.  I also speculated about the possibility of something new coming to Animal Kingdom.  Turns out, I was partially right.  It’s just that Avatar won’t be around for quite a few more years.

As it turns out, my family ended up going to Disney World for a week in 2012.  During that trip, we experienced most of the new Fantasyland and stayed at the Art of Animation resort.  Sure, Disney is going to be opening the Seven Dwarfs mine train and debuting the Festival of Fantasy parade this year.  But none of that interests us enough to merit a return trip so soon.

Our 2012 trip was a lot of fun.  But it was also exhausting.  (Not to mention expensive).  After the trip, I vowed not to go back to Disney until we were done with strollers, naps, height restrictions, etc.  Disney has aided me in this goal by not providing me with any compelling reason to come back to their resort.

My thinking on Universal Studios has always been that it was something we would do when the kids were “older”.  How much older?  I don’t know.  When they are big enough to ride all those coasters, I guess.

But I have been rethinking that stance this year.  We’re not quite out of the strollers and naps stage.  But Universal is quite a bit smaller than Disney World.  You can walk from one side of property to the other.  The buses which are the bane of our existence at Disney are not a concern at Universal.

In a weird way, Universal’s relatively small size makes it more appealing.  At Disney World, we struggle to squeeze in all the parks in one trip.  This in spite of the fact that three of the four parks actually don’t have a lot for our kids to do.  Weird, huh?  At Universal, we could see and do everything in a weekend trip without having to miss a lot of school.

But what about those height restrictions?  I’ve got a four-year-old (s0on to be five as she frequently reminds us).  She is what you might politely describe as “not tall for her age”.  There would be a lot of rides at Universal that my youngest couldn’t ride.  In fact, there are rides my oldest couldn’t or wouldn’t want to ride.

So today, I looked up the offerings at Universal Studios Orlando with an eye towards what my kids would and wouldn’t do.  I was actually surprised by how many attractions would potentially appeal to my young kids.

wizarding-world-expansion

The big draw at Universal this year is bound to be the new Diagon Alley Harry Potter expansion.  My wife is a long-time Harry Potter fan. My oldest recently read the first book and watched the movie.  So she is a fan in the making.  They both really want to see “Harry Potter Land”.  I’m not a fan myself, but as a fan of theme parks I definitely want to check out this highly-themed offering.

Additionally, we still haven’t seen the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure.  Whereas most of Disney World is old hat to us by now, Universal is filled with new (to us) experiences.

universal-diagon-alley-kings-cross-station-art

The height restrictions are currently unknown for the new ride, Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts.  Though it is expected to be less restrictive than Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  I expect my youngest will be excluded from both attractions.  Even if she met the height requirements, I think they would be too much for her.  My oldest, on the other hand, would probably enjoy Escape From Gringotts.

The main appeal of the Harry Potter expansions is the expertly-themed lands themselves.  I have no doubt my girls would enjoy spending all of daddy’s money in the tiny, cramped shops selling over-priced wands.  I suspect butterbeer would be consumed.  And I am putting in my order for that peanut-butter and strawberry ice cream at the new ice cream shop.  I may just camp out there.

harry potter ice cream

So even if the kids are unlikely to ride Forbidden Journey or Dragon Challenge (I rode Dragon Challenge back when it was Dueling Dragons and I’m unlikely to ride it again), I know they will still enjoy exploring and riding the new Hogwart’s Express.

Posted on February 11, 2014, in theme parks, travel, Universal Studios, Walt Disney World. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Let’s see if I can cover everything I know which touches on your post.
    – The E.T. ride was one of my least favorite attractions when I visited Universal the first time and because of this I have not given it a second chance. Your girls might enjoy it, though. It is not scary and has a lot of goofy aliens at the end.
    – The Simpsons ride is pretty stimulating, but also very funny. The girls may not “get” a lot of the jokes, but there are A LOT of jokes. Maybe prepping them with Youtube videos would help them worry less about the dangerous situations in the story and enjoy its cartoony qualities.
    – The horror makeup show is probably a little too scary (I like it a lot, though)
    – If Scream is not too scary, then the rest of the Spider-Man ride should be fine, but Scream is kind of scary.
    – That huge T-Rex at the end of the Jurassic Park River ride is Definitely too scary!
    – The Seuss section is absolutely charming. You could easily spend 3+ hours there with the girls.
    – Flight of the Hippogriff is a very good “family” coaster.
    – My family attended the Christmas party at Disney World in 2012, but with the brand new Fantasyland stuff to see, my obligation to sit through Stitch’s Great Escape, and my family’s commando approach to light thrill rides, I really didn’t experience it at all. That was reflected in my trip report, which included only passing mentions of the Christmas happenings.
    – If you end up down there during holiday dates, let me know, because I tend to be in Tampa when school is out. It would be awesome to meet face to face at a theme park.

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    • I wouldn’t bet on a trip actually happening this year. There are quite a few things that need to snap into place. Not the least of which is that the blog needs to have a record year. If I take the trip, it really will be for blog-driven reasons. If the blog has a record year, it could absorb much of the cost of the trip as a travel expense. So I really should write more WTHH articles ASAP.

      Realistically, my kids aren’t the ideal age for Universal. I wouldn’t take the trip if I was paying entirely out of pocket. We will have to skip a lot of big attractions. And even some of the smaller attractions may be too much for Kara. I can easily see her balking at the idea of riding anything more challenging than the spinners. She still lectures me for having put her on the Little Mermaid ride because “Ursula is creepy”. If she can’t ride a Fantasyland dark ride, I’m not sure about anything at Universal. But we do have most of a year to see if that changes. I’m hoping she’ll have a good summer at Kings Island this year and maybe that will change.

      So for now, I’m mostly just wondering out loud on a cold winter day. Dreaming of a trip that may not be realistic. Time will tell.

      I thought you had gone to the Christmas party, but I did a quick search on the blog and it didn’t pull up anything. Now that you mention it, I recall that you went but didn’t experience all that much of the party events. If I have to scale down my trip for budget or time reasons, I could possibly see just flying down for the party to cover it for the blog. That would still allow me to write up the finished Fantasyland in addition to the party which we haven’t covered in depth yet.

      Still, fingers crossed for the full Uni experience.

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