Category Archives: Universal Studios

Under-rated Orlando: E.T. Adventure

Among the many great rides and attractions in Orlando, E.T. Adventure is not well-regarded.  Rumor has it that the only thing preventing E.T. from being replaced is the direct intervention of Steven Spielberg himself.  The movie the ride is based on was very personal to him and he has been involved in the development and evolution of the E.T. Adventure.  Putting that aside, Spielberg is right to protect this attraction because contrary to popular opinion it’s actually an important part of Universal’s line-up.

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Lebeau Family Trip Report 2017: Universal Orlando Resort Part 4

Up to this point, we faced some challenges during our Orlando getaway.  After a long drought, central Florida was getting such much-needed rain.  Unfortunately for us, we arrived just in time for daily thunderstorms.  My youngest daughter’s ankle was on the mend which limited her mobility and our oldest wasn’t going to be able to partake in any pool-related activities.  We were just past the half-way point on our trip and we had weathered the storms reasonably well.  So of course when I woke up on the morning of the fourth day of our vacation, I had a sore throat.

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Lebeau Family Trip Report 2017: Universal Orlando Resort Day Three

Our first two days at Universal Orlando were cut short due to rain and thunderstorms.  We still had three days left to tour the parks, but the weather forecast continued to be gloomy.  The girls really wanted to spend some time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter trying out their new wands.  But that was difficult during the busy afternoon hours and the evening was likely to be rained out.  So I set out to get an early start on our third day to take advantage of the early admission perk offered to guests at Loews Royal Pacific.

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Lebeau Family Trip Report 2017: Universal Orlando Resort Day Two

Today was the first full day of our vacation at Universal Orlando (Read about Day One here.).  One of my goals for this trip was to slow down and take it easy.  Usually on a Disney World vacation, we are racing around in an effort to get the most out of our time there.  But Universal is small enough that we should be able to get our fill in six days without driving ourselves crazy.  Especially since we were staying on property at Loews Royal Pacific which is both conveniently located and includes free Express Pass.  There was no reason for us to rush.  The question was, could I slow myself down?

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Lebeau Family Trip Report 2017: Universal Orlando Resort Day One

My family and I have recently returned from our latest theme park vacation.  When the kids were little, we made regular visits to Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Following our last trip in 2014, we decided it was time for us to explore some other options.  The following year, prior to embarking on our first family cruise (with Disney of course), we spent a day at Universal Studios.  This year, we settled on an extended visit at Universal Orlando.  I’ll tell you all about it after the jump.

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Universal Orlando: First Time in a Long Time and Potentially the Last Time

Last week, I reviewed a very long list of rides, shows, attractions and other experiences which would be new to my family on our up-coming Universal Orlando vacation.  I borrowed the concept from my old pal and blogging idol, Daffy Stardust, who posts similar articles prior to an excursion to Disney World.  His articles usually cover first, last and first-time-in-a-long-time experiences.  But as relative novies to Universal, our list of new-to-us experiences was long enough to fill an entire article unto itself.  So today, I am back to cover the other two categories.

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Universal Orlando Firsts

Frequent theme park travelers are always on the look-out for new experiences.  These have become something of a rarity for my family after regular visits to Walt Disney World which is one of the reasons we have been exploring other options in recent years.  In 2015, on our way to a Disney cruise, we spent a day on a whirlwind tour of both Universal theme parks.  We hit a lot of the resort’s highlights, but there is only so much you can do in a day.  After sampling what Universal had to offer, we’re going back this summer for a more in-depth excursion.  Let’s review some of this trip’s potential firsts.

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Under-rated Orlando: Universal

There may be no easier way to start a fight than to bring up Universal Orlando in a crowd of Disney World fans.  Ever since Universal set up shop in Disney’s backyard, fans of the central Florida theme parks have been debating which is the better resort.  I’m going to side-step that third rail by stating up front that both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are terrific vacation destinations.  I’m not here to argue that one is better than the other.  But I will make a case that Universal is under-rated.

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Universal Orlando’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong Preview

Skull Island Reign of Kong

Something big (and hairy) is coming to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park this summer.  US Today spilled the beans on some top secret details on Universal’s newest (and possibly scariest) Orlando attraction.

*spoilers for the new ride*

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NBC Preview of Skull Island: Reign of Kong


This summer, Universal is opening a new King Kong attraction at its Islands of Adventure theme park.  Over the weekend, NBC aired previews of the ride during a presentation of Peter Jackson 2005 remake of the original movie.  If you missed it, someone was kind enough to post it on YouTube.  We’ll take a look after the jump.

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Universal Dining: Three Broomsticks


Travel is not a science. The best-laid plans can turn out impractical, and sometimes the best experiences are those you could never actually plan for. A successful traveller knows the value in being willing to break from the established game plan based on the actual circumstances. On the other hand, there are reasons for doing that intense pre-trip research and planning. You’re not supposed to miss the Golden Gate Bridge if you go to San Francisco. You shouldn’t miss the Space Needle if you go to Seattle. If you go to Disney World, you take a picture in front of the castle. It’s just what you do. Now I’m not going to put Three Broomsticks on the level of these icons, but I’m trying to make a point here. As great as so many things are in locations like San Francisco or Seattle or Disney World, there are signature spots or experiences that define them, and when it comes to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and dining, Three Broomsticks is that thing.
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Underrated Universal: Dragon Challenge


The Universal theme parks in Orlando are completely in thrall to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, right? Just throw something up and slap Hogwarts or Gringotts on it and people will practically throw their money at you, right? Well, not exactly. Ever hear the three most important things about real estate? Location, Location, Location.
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Staying at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

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The Universal hotel resorts in Orlando, Florida offer a range of appealing benefits to guests who stay there. These include the advantage of locations close by the popular Universal theme parks, with convenient complimentary transportation, quality on-site shops and restaurants, early entry to the parks, and even (for the more expensive resorts) the inclusion of the express pass for most attractions at the complex’s theme parks. For several years, while these benefits were certainly tempting for me, the price point attached to Universal’s resorts had been prohibitive, motivating me to stay elsewhere during both of my previous visits to the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks.

For me, that meant flying in to the Orlando airport and renting a car so I could drive to an off-site hotel and then drive to the huge parking deck adjacent to the parks and CityWalk each day of the trip. It also meant gaining admission to the parks an hour later than on-site guests and paying extra for the Universal Express Pass if I wanted to make waits in most attraction lines shorter. I researched the pricing for the resorts and passes multiple times without ever feeling like the expense was within my grasp. I also never felt like any of the resort theming I was seeing featured by Universal on line was on the level of the best at Disney, with most of what I saw just reminding me of a really nice hotel. Then 2 years ago, Universal opened up their Cabana Bay Beach Resort and a lot of my objections to staying on site there disappeared. Finally, this March, my family and I spent a long weekend at Universal’s parks and spent our evenings in one of their resorts.
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