Family vacations aren’t a regular thing for the November Sunflower family. It all turned around in 2015. We attended outstanding, deeply discounted events at places my kids wanted to visit. Let me rephrase that statement. My kids BEGGED to go to the destinations we went to back in May, and just recently in September. Blessed with a “professional” blogging life, for sure.
Our #UniversalMoments during Family Forward 2015
Our trip started a couple of days prior to the opening event for Family Forward. We flew in a couple of days early, so we could enjoy a little extra time together on our own. Family Forward secured us great rates at the host hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and we wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the hotel a couple of extra days! After we arrived at the hotel, our first thought was “we are HUNGRY, let’s go eat!”
Universal CityWalk was the perfect place to find a place to eat that all of us would love to eat at. Our little family of four hopped the Water Taxi from the hotel, and got off at Universal CityWalk and set off to find the perfect place to chow down. It didn’t take long before we came across Pat O’Brien’s®. Burgers were the perfect menu item for all of us, and the dueling pianos was a lot of fun to listen to at the Piano Bar. It was the perfect start to our family vacation, and one of the #UniversalMoments that brings a smile to all of our faces! Great prices, great burgers, and fun entertainment – nothing wrong with any of those things!
It had been a long day, so we headed back to the hotel and decided to hit CityWalk again the following day. The kids spotted the miniature golf, and insisted we return to play a game. How could we say no to those faces! Of course, tomorrow’s first activity after hitting the hotel pool, of course.
Back to CityWalk for more fun
Our second visit to CityWalk came after a full morning in the hotel pool. We decided pool first, then lunch, followed by mini golf. Sounded great to everyone! After pool time, and waiting for our delivery from Garden Grocer at the hotel, we headed to CityWalk to enjoy lunch at Burger King Whopper Bar, off we went for some mini-golf.
It was rather hot, so Little Miss started to lose some steam. However, we found a couple of fans, with misters that cooled us off. She was ready to get her game on! The Boy seemed to not notice the heat, and managed to score not one, but TWO holes in one! We had to celebrate.
The entire course was pretty cool, and not as easy as one would think.
After golf, there was a lot of visiting of air conditioned stores, plus a stop to “ride a wave,” and then back to the hotel to hang at the pool again! We had a few more visits to Universal CityWalk, because it’s the center of everything at Universal Studios Resort. Plus, it’s got great places to eat, and shop at. It’s also got a ton of entertainment at night.
Harry Potter isn’t all Universal is about
Let’s just put this out there for all who need to know: our family isn’t a Harry Potter loving family. We aren’t reading the books, we’re not watching the movies, and we’re totally content with the current situation of being oblivious to all things Harry Potter. I tell all of you this, because Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure seem to be synonymous with Harry Potter. In previous years, I didn’t attend Family Forward, because we weren’t Harry Potter fans. I figured we’d have nothing to do, but in reality, there’s so much more to Universal Studios Resort than Harry Potter.
Of course, our first experience with Universal on the night of our welcome dinner, included visiting both The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade at Universal Islands of Adventure. We started out over at Universal Studios, so we could hop on the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station to get to Universal Islands of Adventure’s, Hogsmeade Station.
All of this was fun, but the kids were most interested in sampling the frozen Butter Beer, and riding their first Universal coaster, Flight of the Hippogriff Ride.
Universal Studios & Universal Islands of Adventure
Both parks are truly amazing for kids of all ages, especially if you love thrill rides. Luckily, my kids love thrill rides, and are big fans of simulated thrill rides, like Transformers and The Simpson’s Ride. I do believe Despicable Me Minion Mayhem was the ultimate favorite for the kids, which makes sense, since they are total minion lovers. Surprisingly, The Simpson’s Ride, which is a show they’ve never seen, was a huge thrill for them! Go figure.
Family Forward hooked us up this year with V.I.P. Experiences, which meant we had a guided tour of both parks. Groups of twelve visited top rides, and given first dibs on riding without waiting on ANY lines. Since our group had a lot of younger kids, we didn’t hit a ton of coasters, but we got in classics like E.T., Transformers, The Simpsons Ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, and so much more.
Six hours of fun, and we enjoyed every last ounce of it! Anyone can purchase this kind of experience, too. It’s a big price tag, but I have to admit, it’s definitely something families should put on their MUST DO list the next time they head to Universal Studios. Heck, we didn’t even have to wait on the massive line to take Hogwarts Express! Got right on.
Beyond the VIP Tour
Our second day at the parks was another big group of us, because our families just loved spending the previous day together. Only this time, we didn’t have V.I.P. Experience tickets, we just had our Universal Express Passes to use, which worked well for us! Shorter waits on lines, and still hit a ton of our favorite rides. We even got to see one of the last showings of DISASTER! The show closed the following day, and will be replaced by Fast & Furious! Exciting stuff.
Family Forward surprised us with amazing moments, but nothing could compare to capturing my kids in front of Mel’s Diner at Universal Studios. Over twenty years ago, my family went to Orlando together. Of course, we visited Universal Studios all those years ago. The only things that were the same from all those years ago? E.T. and Mel’s Diner. There’s a photo of us kids in front of Mel’s Diner from our family trip, and now, I’ve got one of my kids in front of Mel’s Diner and that ALMOST made me tear up. Almost. It takes a lot to get me going, people. It was damn close, though!
Wet ‘n Wild
A little bonus trip during the conference: Wet ‘n Wild in Orlando. Sadly, the park is closing down at the end of 2015. Don’t shed too many tears, though. Universal is creating their own water park for visitors, and it’ll be within walking distance from every resort hotel, along with Universal CityWalk. Even though Wet ‘n Wild is closing, it’s still a great park to visit before the end of the year. The kids had a blast dragging their father to every ride, and then fell in love with the wave pool!