Are you planning to visit Universal Orlando through Make-A-Wish?
My family had the opportunity to visit Universal Orlando Resort as part of my son's Make-A-Wish trip to Walt Disney World in June 2013. My son had Burkitt's Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. We took his Make-A-Wish trip after the end of his treatment, so it was a celebration for our family. Today, he is a healthy and happy seven-year-old.
Our trip included two-day park-to-park admission at Universal Orlando Resort. We were just as excited to visit Universal Orlando as we were to visit Disney World.
Especially for Make-A-Wish Families
You will receive a special Guest Assistance Pass for Universal Orlando through Give Kids the World Village. Be sure to take it with you to the park, along with your child's Give Kids the World button and your letter with instructions to print your tickets at the kiosk.
Your Guest Assistance Pass includes:
- Free parking in a preferred section of the parking lot
- Front of line privileges on all rides
- Free wheelchair or stroller rental
- One free printed photo of your family
We felt that Universal Orlando was even better at helping Make-a-Wish families feel special than Walt Disney World. That's saying something because Disney does a great job of making every visitor's experience magical.
Universal Orlando Resort has two theme parks: Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. There is one huge parking garage for both parks and the entrances are within walking distance from one another, so park hopping is easier at Universal than at Disney World. However, both parks are large enough that we spent one full day in each.
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is the original Universal Orlando theme park, and it was the last park we visited on our Make-A-Wish trip. Universal Studios was less crowded than Disney World and Islands of Adventure, and it was nice to have a more relaxed experience on our last day in the parks.
At Universal Studios, there are different “lands,” but they don't feel as defined as those at Islands of Adventure or Disney World. Most of the big rides are based on a movie or TV show. Our favorites included:
- Transformers: The Ride 3-D
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- Men in Black Alien Attack
- The Simpsons Ride
Universal Studios also has an entertaining selection of shows. Disaster is a fun combination of show and ride that shouldn't be missed. Shrek 4-D and Terminator 2: 3-D were also fun. Twister was an interesting display of movie magic that the older members of my family enjoyed, but that my six-year-old thought was too realistic and scary.
Diagon Alley opened in Universal Studios in Summer 2014. We visited this new section of the park on a later trip, and it's a must for Harry Potter fans!
Universal's Islands of Adventure
The highlight of Islands of Adventure is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, though we found a lot to love about the rest of the park too. Like Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Islands of Adventure has a different theme for every section: Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, Marvel comics, Jurassic Park and others.
Even with our Guest Assistance Pass, the crowds in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter were overwhelming. However, it's a dream come true for Harry Potter fans. I felt like we had stepped into the books. We started at the Forbidden Journey ride, and were escorted to the front of the line. By not waiting in the hour-long line, we missed the back story for the ride, but that was OK with us.
We also saw the wand choose the wizard at Ollivander's and bought wands for our children afterward in the shop. Dress your child in his or her Make-A-Wish shirt if you want to improve the chances of getting picked for the wand demonstration.
Skip the lines for butter beer and pumpkin juice at the carts. Go in the back door of The Three Broomsticks instead and order from the bar. Our family tried butter beer, iced butter beer and pumpkin juice and we all liked the iced butter beer best. If you're ready for lunch, traditional English fare is available there as well.
The rest of Islands of Adventure was not nearly as crowded as Harry Potter, and with our Guest Assistance Pass, we found our way through our priority attractions easily. Seuss Landing was delightful and may be a favorite part of the park for families with younger children.
Other favorite rides included The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Jurassic Park River Adventure. My six-year-old loved both those rides. However, he hated The Revenge of the Mummy indoor coaster at Universal Studios because it was too dark and scary. We skipped the big coasters at both parks because they looked too intense for him.
Dress for water rides at Islands of Adventure. There is hardly an attraction there that will not at least mist you. You'll be soaked on rides like Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges and if you visit on a hot day, that will be exactly what you want. For children, there are three play areas with water features in the park.
Thank you to Universal Orlando Resort, Give Kids the World Village and Make-A-Wish Utah for giving us something to look forward to during a difficult time, and for helping us create special family memories!