My daughter and I soared above a castle’s spires, spun through city streets narrowly dodging bombs and plummeted through underground tunnels all in a single day thanks to a recent trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures during the Family Forward conference.
It’s been more than 14 years since I’ve been to Universal Studios, and one thing hasn’t changed: they still know how to make virtual feel very real. And we loved every minute of it.
When it comes to amusement parks, Nee, my 13-year-old, and I are kindred spirits. While we tend to shy away from rides with huge drops, everything else is fair game. And Universal had plenty to offer.
Our adventure started in the new Diagon Alley, where the fire breathing dragon atop Gringott’s grabbed our attention. From there we headed to the newest ride Escape from Gringott’s. Undeterred by the reportedly three-hour wait, we got in line. However, we opted for the single rider version and found ourselves pulling down the lap bar within 45 minutes.
The ride was decidedly worth the wait.
The ride’s highlights were a virtual but extremely realistic looking snake, which came a little too close for comfort, and the moments we were suspended in mid air on the precipice of a drop.
Equally realistic in the sister park was Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey. Whether you’re a fan of the books or not, the visuals on this ride are not to be missed. You truly feel as if you’re on a broomstick with Harry.
Universal understands the importance of placing you inside the story. Each ride whether featuring Despicable Me’s minions or Spiderman has a story to tell. And it gets the rider involved from the moment you step in line, which quite honestly caused a bit of anxiety for my youngest son.
Thankfully, Universal even considered this detail. They have what they call a Child Swap area available on most of their rides. This is an air-conditioned room, where a parent can wait with a child who is too young or frightened to ride, while the other parent takes the other child on a particular ride. Once one parent has ridden, he can swap spots with the mom and the mom rides without waiting. Thanks to these rooms, no one had to miss out on the fun – or wait in a line twice – because one or two people didn’t want to ride.
While the newer parts of the park were amazing and captivated my kids (they loved Minion Madness, Transformers and Spiderman), my favorite was an oldie but goodie: The Mummy. Nee and I had a blast on this indoor, pitch-black rollercoaster with its twists, dips and turns.
Despite two days and one night at the parks, we still didn’t get to see and do everything on our list. That means we’ll have to head to Universal again, and hopefully it won’t take me 14 years to return this time!