There’s a lot more to Orlando than just Disney World. I wish we had the time to explore the local malls and outlet stores, but the theme parks took up most of our time. Not that I’m complaining.
We didn’t want the hassle of packing and unpacking, so we continued to stay at our Disney resort, and took an hour long bus journey to get to Universal Studios. TIP: Bus tickets, like all other tickets, should be booked in advance, ideally once you get your dates sorted out.
There are two parks: Universal Studios Florida, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. (Actually there’s also Wet ‘n Wild, but I consider waterparks another category altogether.) We went to Islands of Adventure first, and made a beeline for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Giving the Disney magic a run for its money is the magic at Hogwarts. From the time you board the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9¾, you know something wicked is coming your way. What you’re looking now at is just a prop, but by the summer of 2014, there will actually be a train that travels between parks! Yes, the theme park people are making it happen.
The Hogwarts Castle houses one of the most popular rides, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Without FASTPASS (which is a Disney thing), we had to rely on smart planning to make the most of our time in Universal. Since we arrived fairly early, we only had to queue for about 20 minutes. Sometime after we took the ride, the estimated waiting period was over an hour!
The queue takes you through various parts of the castle, so you better bring your camera along! It’s also recommended that you wear something with pockets you can safely store your belongings in. It’s a shaky, bumpy ride!
To be honest, I did get scared during one part of the Harry Potter ride. It was our first ride of the day, and I didn’t know what to expect. Overall, it’s still an awesome ride that managed to pack elements of all seven stories. So if you’re a fan, then buckle up, and remember your spells!
In Universal, it’s blockbuster after blockbuster, so it’s no surprise that their rides are larger than life as well. Unlike Disney, which is mostly tame, family-friendly fun, Universal has a go-all-out, no-holds-barred approach. Everything’s bigger and scarier, and the special effects are insane. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then just about everything’s a must-try.
“Don’t poke T-Rex in the nostril, honey. He won’t like that.”
“Now look what you’ve done.”
(By the way, the Jurassic Park theme is playing in my head as I’m typing this.)
This is what I look like when I’m hungry. Give. Me. Food. NOW.
We’ve left the land of princesses behind, and quite literally stepped into a world of superheroes. And all I can say is… hello, boys.
The nefarious Dr Doom approaches! Help!
As if on cue, the heroes arrive to save the day!
Brawny and big-hearted, Captain America is the stuff of dreams. This is how our story began:
“Hi! Where are you from?”
“We’re from Singapore.”
“There are no bad guys there. It’s the safest place in the world!”
So this dude actually knows where Singapore is. He started to chit chat and talk about the flyer, but the other staff had to cut him off because a queue was forming behind us! Aww…
Ah… Cheerful, chatty, and chivalrous, what more could a girl ask?
After days of theme park touring, the fatigue was finally kicking in. We didn’t take as many pictures on Day 2, and channelled our energy towards surviving the rides. But first, back to Downtown Disney for dinner at Portobello!
We didn’t make a reservation for this restaurant. Halfway through our Disney madness, I found out that we still had unused dining credits and we decided to try our luck with Portobello. It certainly didn’t disappoint!
Mozzarella stuffed rice balls. If it’s crispy on the outside and cheesy on the inside… EAT IT.
Complimentary bread basket with olive oil and roasted garlic. If I had a steady supply of roasted garlic, I may never touch butter again… Okay who am I kidding here.
Grilled pork tenderloin with olive oil, poached Tuscan beans, and farmer’s mixed vegetables.
Linguine vongole. I love how they’re so generous with the clams and cheese!
Fantasia di Meringata. The name itself just oozes deliciousness. It’s gelato and sorbet with Italian meringue.
Fragole con Saba. Marinated strawberries and berry sorbet. Another lovely dessert.
With our batteries recharged, we hit up Universal Studios Florida the next day!
Let’s get minion-ised!
“Bello! Luk-at-tu! We’ve become minions!”
Big goofy minion and mini mini minion. Can’t get enough!
Attack of the monster… dog?
IT’S SO FLUFFY!!
Both parks had so much to offer, it’s impossible to pick just one. Anyway, here is a list of my must-dos (not in any particular order):
Islands of Adventure
1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man (rode this twice!)
3. Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
4. The Incredible Hulk Coaster
5. Flight of the Hippogriff
The Spider-man ride, like the Harry Potter one, also features amazing special effects. Universal wasn’t kidding about you being in the middle of the action. The Spider-man ride was full-on thrilling from start to end, and I swear it’s not the kool-aid talking.
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall is for those who love vertical drops. It’s a simple up-and-down ride, except it’s much faster than other vertical rides I’ve taken before. And better. The Incredible Hulk Coaster was smashing good fun, pun intended. I don’t really like roller coasters that feature loops, but there’s a surprise in this ride which you’ll never see coming, and that was worth it.
One of the downsides of Universal is that there aren’t many family-friendly rides. The aforementioned rides would probably rattle the little kids in more ways than one. Flight of the Hippogriff (next to Hogwarts castle), is a safe option and a good beginner coaster that still has a kick. Like garlic chilli sauce.
Universal Studios Florida
1. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
2. Men in Black Alien Attack (a shooting ride which we took twice too!)
3. Revenge of the Mummy
4. The Simpsons Ride
The minion ride is a 3D motion simulator. It’s quite bumpy but still kid-friendly. Alien Attack is an interactive shooting ride which really brought out our competitive nature. The Mummy ride is similar to the one in Singapore, except it’s bigger and scarier. The real surprise here is the Simpsons Ride. Just like the show, it’s wacky, hilarious, and very creative.
And with that, folks, we’ve come to the end of my gushing about the wonders of theme parks. I really hope to wrap up the honeymoon series by mid-April, as Edwin and I will be heading to Taipei with his parents over the Easter long weekend! After that, summer is just round the corner! Edwin’s sister’s wedding is in June, and we’ll definitely be back for her big day. I’ll also want to celebrate my birthday with family and friends. Aaaah… so much to look forward to!
But first, let’s squeeze in a little chapter about a big, big city…