I’m back after a few weeks abroad. Hopefully, you’ve gone through my previous posts regarding Fan2Sea and I’ll see you there next year for round 2! That being said, that wasn’t the only geeky thing I did while in the United States. Given that we were already in Florida, my wife and I, along with two friends, decided to spend a few days at Universal Studios Orlando. I thought I would share with you readers this quick travel guide.
So initially, there was a discussion between my wife and I about where we were going to go, Disney World or Universal Studios. In the end, Universal won out partly due to cost but mainly due to content. Disney is very good if you have kids or you are a Disney fanatic. But if you are in your 30’s and without kids, Universal is a bit more appealing. We basically boiled it down to the idea that Disney is not done working on a Star Wars area and we are going to be back at a later date with kids (either our own or nieces and nephews), so we might as well set Disney aside for now.
Where we stayed: Cabana Bay
Cabana Bay is a retro 50s style hotel near Universal. It had a great price for the off season, looked fun and had a bowling alley! More importantly, it also had a shuttle that ran to and from the park every few minutes. No rent-a-cars needed. Just jump on the bus and head to the park. Now the downside of this is if you want to eat outside of the hotel and Universal Citywalk (we’ll get to that in a bit), you had a twenty to thirty minute walk at the very least to reach outside food. Food in the hotel was fairly expensive for what you get and the choices are limited. You could take a cab but it’s about a twelve to fifteen dollar ride to decent food.
Universal Studios: Heaven for Geeks of All Types
Our main objective at Universal Studios was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal spent a lot of money on Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and it shows. It looks and feels like Harry Potter. You can even buy a wand and activate “magic” at certain parts of the attraction.
The two big rides of Harry Potter world are Escape from Gringotts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. While both are great, Escape from Gringotts is the superior of the two and absolutely amazing. What they have managed to pull off with the 3D and effects is incredible. It’s a ride that I really wanted to go through slowly with the lights on just to see how it was put together.
The other major piece of geek real estate in Universal Studios Orlando is Marvel Islands of Adventure. Yes, it’s still there and still very much up and running in thanks to the deal Universal made when Marvel wasn’t owned by Disney (which until Universal decides to do something else in that space, they will have the rights to Marvel in Florida theme parks). With three Marvel themed rides to choose from (Spider-Man, Doom’s Drop and The Hulk Coaster), it’s kind of amazing to walk around. Adam Kubert helped do all of the art for the area which has a spectacular feel to it. That being said, it’s also pretty dated. I know Universal did a bit of an overhaul on The Hulk recently but the rest of the area could use a update. It’s very late 90’s early 2000’s Marvel and doesn’t look like the marvel we know today (but that could be part of the contract).
Due to wait times, we only managed to get into Spider-Man, which still holds up despite it’s slightly dated look.
There are tons of other geeky things to gawk at as well. There is a whole miniature version of The Simpsons hometown of Springfield complete with Moe’s and Lard Lad Donuts. There’s also a Krustyland ride but unfortunately, it was down for maintenance the entire time we were at the park. I did however get a Flaming Moe (orange soda in a cup that had dry ice in the bottom that made the drink bubble) and split a Lard Lad doughnut which was surprisingly good and huge.
There are a number of movie rides. The Kong Skull Island ride was decent but had a huge wait time and ultimately wasn’t as good as many of the other rides we went on. The Mummy ride might be the forgotten gem of the park as it rivals top spot on the rides I went on. Men in Black: Alien Attack is a fun, arcade-style ride and I’m proud to say, my team kicked ass each time we went on it.
Being a Terminator fan, I had to hit up the T2 in 3D show. Twelve year old me was jumping up and down in anticipation. Unfortunately, it’s an attraction that needs a bit of work. The 3D is not very good, especially when compared to the rest of the park.
Things to remember: Like most theme parks, everything inside the park is expensive. To complete our adventure in Harry Potter land, we ate at The Three Broomsticks. The food was okay at best and cost an arm and a leg. Souvenirs are also expensive so be prepared. While Florida considers it cold in January, it’s still warm by Canadian standards so buying and wearing a set of black wizard robes may not be the greatest of ideas half way through the day.
Just outside of Universal Studios, there is an area called Universal Citywalk. It’s a collection of bars, restaurants and shops. If you are staying at one of the local hotels and don’t want to eat there or within the park itself, your best bet is this area as the food is a bit better priced.
We dined at three different places. The first was a place called The Cowfish, a restaurant that serves burgers up in sushi form and sushi up in burger form. The food was decent but not amazing and as our friend Taylor put it, “it’s the type of restaurant that wouldn’t survive outside of this sort of setting”. The second restaurant we tried was a Mexican place called Antojitos. Really good food at decent prices. They even had a mariachi band.
The third stop is for nerds who love awesome food. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is built around a steampunk theme. Most of the waitresses look like central casting for Firefly extras and there is a guy walking around the restaurant dressed like a steampunk robot. What makes this place great is not only is the decor and nerdy and awesome, but the food is also the food is amazing. Our order of tater tots with nacho toppings was just killer. We then followed it up with milkshakes that were amazing. I can’t recommend this place enough.
Some last minute tips:
When eating at the City Walk, try to go for dinner before the park lets out.
Getting early admission to the park is worth it, especially during busy periods.
Must rides are: Escape from Gringotts, Revenge of the Mummy, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!