Thursday, March 6, 2014

Universal Studios - Islands of Adventure

We've been to Walt Disney World with the kids many times throughout the years.  It never grows old, and we do love it there.  However, for the first time ever, we decided to drive a short distance away and experience the Universal Studios theme parks.  We didn't regret it!

So on Thursday, January 9th, we went to Universal's Islands of Adventure. We met Steve's step-mother from Tampa at the park.  She wanted to spend time with the family on this particular day because... it was OUR TWINS' 18TH BIRTHDAY!

This theme park is divided into six areas:

- Marvel Super Hero Island
- Toon Lagoon
- Jurassic Park
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- The Lost Continent
- Seuss Landing

Of those, Marvel Super Hero Island was the favorite for our younger boys, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the favorite for the older boys.  Toon Lagoon, which is essentially a water park, was closed for the season.  Seuss Landing is a Dr. Seuss inspired kiddie land, and all of our kids were just too old to enjoy it.  We did ride on a few of the rides in Seuss Land, but it wasn't as thrilling as the other parts of the park.

Our 10yo son (and to a lesser extent, our 7yo son also) is very much into super heroes at this stage in his life.  To be at Marvel Super Hero Island was an absolute thrill for him!  While he was too short to ride on The Incredible Hulk Coaster and had no interest in riding on the Storm Force Accelatron (spins too much) or Doctor Doom's Fearfall (a plunging ride), he rode on the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man too many times to count!  And I have to admit, that high-tech 3-D thrill ride was pretty neat!  We got to help Spider-Man save the world!

Additionally, costumed actors came out on the street dressed as the Marvel super heroes (or villains) periodically, which naturally caused a thrill for our boys. The entire Marvel area is pretty neat.

The older boys, meanwhile, were enjoying The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  While no one in our family is crazy-wild about the Harry Potter series, the boys have read all the books and seen all the movies.  Universal did an OUTSTANDING job replicating Hogwarts Academy.  We all rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey multiple times.  The older boys enjoyed riding the Dragon Challenge roller coaster, while the younger boys enjoyed the junior roller coaster nearby called the Flight of the Hippogriff.  The entire Wizarding World has a very Disney-esque feel to how it was done, and I offer my kudos to Universal Studios for a job well done!

The last two areas of the park are not to be forgotten.  In the Jurassic Park area, the younger boys rode the Pteranodon Flyers several times and did some of the hands-on learning at the Jurassic Park Discovery Center.  Unfortunately, it was too cold to ride the Jurassic Park River Adventure (brr!), but the younger boys enjoyed climbing and exploring at Camp Jurassic.

Lastly, The Lost Continent area of the park held some treasures for us.  We saw a captivating magic show while we were there, which enticed us to buy some of their magic kits for our 13yo son who really enjoys showing off his magic skills.  Additionally, we watched The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad stunt show where Sinbad attempts to rescue the beautiful princess Amoura from the evil witch Miseria.  And lastly, we waited for a long time to explore the ruins of Poseidon's ancient temple in Poseidon's Fury.  Unfortunately, our 7yo son started feeling ill to his stomach (motion sickness?)during this special effects guided tour, so I left the tour early to sit outside with him while Steve and the other boys finished up the show.

By this time we had seen just about all we wanted to see, plus rain started to POUR DOWN.  We tried to stay dry, but by the time we made it to our cars we were all pretty wet.  We drove back to the camper to get into dry clothes, then met Grandma at the local IHOP (International House of Pancakes) for the boys' birthday dinner.

After a nice family birthday dinner of all-you-can-eat pancakes, we said goodbye to Grandma so she could head back to Tampa while we headed back to Fort Wilderness.

What a fun-filled day, and a great 18th birthday for my babies - er, I mean, young men!