Periodically, I like to take my sons on a weekend trip called Mancation. It gives of an opportunity to have fun, bond, and leave the toilet seat up.
On our last Mancation, we hung out at the beach. This year, we decided to have more of an adventure and travel to Orlando to spend a couple of days at Universal Studios Florida (disclosure: Universal Studios covered all of our travel expenses).
I managed to travel over 900 miles by plane with a 5-year old and a 9-year old without incident. That, in and of itself, was a spectacular accomplishment. Things were off to a good start.
Whenever I visit Orlando, I always have to get a Cafe Con Leche from Zaza Cuban Coffee shop in the airport. I usually take my coffee black, but this sweet, creamy Cuban elixir is like a siren’s song. After I got my caffeine fix, we met our driver, gathered our luggage (only 1 bag thanks to my awesome packing skills), and headed to the hotel.
As we loaded the Escalade, my 9-year old son asked, “Is this a limo?”
“No,” I said. “But it’s a pretty fancy SUV.” He grinned and slid into the soft, leather seats.
We arrived that the Loews Royal Pacific Resort and were instantly transported to a tropical paradise. The palm trees and island decor was the perfect backdrop for our Mancation.
We dropped off our bags in our room, grabbed some Universal Express Unlimited ride access passes (to avoid the lines), and walked to Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
When we entered the gates, Spider-man invited us to pose for a photo. Of course, we obliged. How could we say no to Spider-man? My sons and I are huge comic book fans and we couldn’t wait to meet more of our favorite Marvel Superheroes. As we walked through the park, we encountered several more superheroes including Captain America, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Rogue. We also faced a couple of super-villains such as Green Goblin and Doctor Doom.
We spent another hour in the park visiting Seuss Landing, riding attractions and taking photos with characters from the books.
As the evening drew nearly, we made a quick visit to Universal Studios where we were greeted by Mardi Gras stilt-walkers. My sons and I did a little dance and earned some beads. Later, we attended a magic show and both boys were amazed by the tricks.
“That was so cool!” said my 9-year old after the show. “I think I want to be a magician.”
We ended our adventure by riding a few rides and watching the Animal Actors show.
Back at the hotel, the boys were worn out. We grabbed a pizza and watched some wrestling. The boys were asleep before the last body slam.
The boys and I got up early to enjoy breakfast at The Island Dining Room. My sons had Hawaiian Packages while I indulged in the breakfast buffet. With full bellies, we rode the boat to the parks to enjoy a couple of more hours at Adventure Islands. We decided spend the bulk of the morning at Jurassic Park and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We watched a students from two schools of wizardry display their skills on stage. Too bad the students from Hogwarts never showed up. At Jurassic Park, we watched a baby dinosaur being hatched from the egg. It was so life-like, that my 5-year old son thought it was real.
Our favorite part of the day, was firing water cannons onto the unsuspecting Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges passengers.
Next, we rode my kids’ favorite attraction – Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. This ride was so much fun that we wanted to ride it over and over again.
As dinnertime approached, Universal Studios treated us to some fine Cajun cuisine. We dined on Jambalaya, Red Beans & Rice, Gumbo, Beignets, and King Cake (they also had kid friendly dishes). During dinner, we also got our faces painted, interacted with Mardi performers, and loaded up on beads. While I was getting my face painted, my 9-year old decided to take advantage of the opportunity and stuff his face with beignets. I just shook my head and pretended not to see him.
After dinner, we rode Shrek 4D. My kids were surprised when Donkey sneezed and they were sprayed with water and when the spiders crawled off the screen and onto the floor. The looks on their faces were priceless.
Later that evening, we found a spot to enjoy the Mardi Gras parade. Universal Studios did a great job of recreating the Mardi Gras Experience without the drunkenness and debauchery. My sons grabbed so many beads that they looked like Mr. T by the end of the night.
We wrapped up the evening with a Matchbox 20 concert. Sadly, we couldn’t watch the whole show because the boys were tired. We arrived at the resort just in time watch the last part of “Despicable Me” at the resort pool.
When we finally reached our hotel room, we saw fireworks outside the window. As we watched the show, my 5-year old son asked, “Daddy, can we bring Mommy and Nee here and stay forever?”
“I wish we could,” I said. “But we have to get back to our own house.”
Maybe we can build a replica of the Minions ride in our garage.
Join the Conversation: What is your favorite thing about Universal Studios Theme Parks? What is your favorite family vacation destination?