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2 Days, 3 Parks: Our Orlando Adventures at Universal

By Charlotte Rick

After spending five days in Miami, we travelled upstate to spend the end of the holiday in Orlando exploring the Universal parks – and we literally had the BEST time. We got a 6am coach from South Beach which got us to Orlando for 10am on the Thursday, and we headed straight to Volcano Bay, Universal’s Water Park.

I didn’t have my camera at the waterpark so the pictures I’ve included from Volcano Bay are not my own, and I have put credits in the captions.

Day 1: Universal’s Volcano Bay

Photo Credit: Destinations In Florida – Youtube Channel

Ask any of my friends, I’m a bit obsessed with swimming, waterparks and anything like that. Any hot country I go to, I make it my mission to find a waterpark of some kind. So as you can imagine, I was really excited to visit Volcano Bay.Volcano bay opened less than a year ago in May 2017 to replace Wet ‘n’ Wild as Universal Orlando Resort’s water park, with 27 acres of Polynesian themed fun. The main feature (you may have guessed from the name… ) is a 200 ft tall volcano, named the ‘Krakatau’, which has impressive waterfalls during the day and flowing lava at night.

We arrived straight from Miami, and therefore had all our suitcases and luggage with us. We called Universal who told us we could take our luggage with us, and leave it with guest services to collect at the end of the day for free. This is something I literally googled for ages and found nothing about, so if you are going with luggage, don’t panic!

Volcano Bay has a cool wristband system, where you are given what they call a Tapu-Tapu. These are useful for a few reasons – you can use them to lock/unlock your locker with a tap (lockers were $12 for the day and you could assign multiple wristbands to one). You could also connect the Tapu-Tapu to your apple pay for use around the park. This isn’t something we realised till we were there and would’ve been useful as we weren’t carrying money around with us, so if you’re going try and set this up before! The main use of these wristbands though is you can avoid actually waiting in line for the rides, by tapping them at a ride to enter a ‘virtual queue’, then the wristband would tell you when it was your turn to ride and you’d only have to queue for around 10 minutes. This means rather than standing around you can enjoy the parks queue-less attractions until you needed to go. This isn’t something that we needed however, as we were super lucky with the fact it wasn’t at all busy when we went and the queues weren’t bad at all!

You can see a list of all the rides here, but I’m going to go into a bit of detail about our favourites!

I think our best was the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. This isn’t a water slide like the rest of the rides but somewhere between that and a rollercoaster (as I’m sure you can guess from the name). This goes through the volcano in a boat of 5, with lots of drops and tight corners. I think we enjoyed this one so much we went on it about 4 times!

We also loved the Honu of the Honu ika Moana. This is a raft slide that goes up two giant walls before speeding down the flume. Whilst queuing for this one, two girls behind us asked if we wanted to go in a raft together as the heavier it was, the faster we’d go. We agreed and they were definitely right! I felt like we were going to fly up the wall and over the top. If you go here, I’d definitely recommend getting as many of you as possible on the raft. We went again just the two of us which was still really fun, but we didn’t go as high as when there was four of us.

Photo Credit:

The Ko’okiri Body Plunge is obviously the main slide you see, as it runs the whole way through the Volcano from the top to the bottom. It looks terrifying (or to me, really fun), but it’s really not as bad as it seems! You step inside a capsule where you stand before falling through a drop door at a 70 degree angle (so yeah, pretty much upright) for 125 feet! It may sound scary, but it’s over before you even realise as it only lasts 6 seconds. Don’t miss being able to say you’ve been on the tallest body slide in America!

Similar to the Ko’okiri Body Plunge are the Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides. These again feature the drop door capsules but rather than go straight down, they twist and turn as the two slides intertwine until plunging you into the pool below. With these it’s important to keep your arms and legs crossed though, as you don’t want to hit yourself whilst going so fast! It was a bit disorientating coming out the slide into the pool and it took me a while to work out which way was up to breathe.. but other than that this one was a lot of fun!

Lastly, I can’t not mention TeAwa The Fearless River, seeing as we probably spent half of our day going around these rapids! This one was a lot of fun, so much so I think we ended up doing it about 20 times? You wear a lifejacket and just float along with where the river takes you, through rapids and waves, underneath the other slides and through the centre of the volcano. It was also really warm, so when we got a bit cold walking around this was where we went to heat up!

We didn’t take towels, and we didn’t really need them either. We went on every ride, so it was a lot easier for us to not actually have any belongings with us or we’d have had to go and find them each time. If the weather was a bit colder then we may have hired some, but it was so warm that the sun dried us off whilst we walked around and at the end of the day we just lay in the sun for 20 minutes until we were completely dry.

We ate at the Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club which was really good – I had the delicious Mango BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich and it was exactly what I needed, I’d built up quite an appetite! We ate outside and I had a bit of an incident with the birds… There are a lot of ducks/pigeons walking around which is probably not an issue to any normal person but this meant a few screams and moving tables three times for me.. I was convinced they were targeting me and my food! I’m okay with birds but when you’re wearing nothing but a swimsuit, I felt a bit vulnerable to attack. Beaks and my bare skin? No thank you! This was all a bit embarrassing and led to a little American girl asking ‘Mommy, what is wrong with that lady?’ but hey, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

We got the free shuttle back to the main Universal Studios where the taxi pick up/drop off bit is and got an Uber to our hotel to check in. We went for dinner at Red Lobster where we had amazing food but totally over ordered and nearly fell asleep in the booth walking back to the hotel! After all the steps climbed to the top of all of the slides, we were absolutely knackered so got an early night before Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure the next day!

Day 2: Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure

On our second day we headed to Universal Studios, where we upgraded our original ticket to a multi-park ticket including Islands of Adventure – I’d booked it without realizing that the two parks are separate and require their own tickets even though they are next door to each other.Unlike the previous day at Volcano Bay, we knew we wouldn’t have time to go on every single ride, so decided which ones we did want to go on & then made a little plan. We’d downloaded the app so we could keep an eye on wait times which made life a lot easier!We started in Universal Studios for the morning before heading across to Islands of Adventure for the afternoon. We got the Hogwarts Express between the two parks, but only realized afterward that it’s only a really short walk between the two! I’ve written a bit about all our favourite rides we went on. I’d definitely recommend getting the app if you’re going, as it’s really useful to work out your route and know what the wait times are before getting somewhere with a crazy long queue. 

Universal Studios

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

This was the first ride we went on as it had like a 5 min wait time, though we hadn’t planned to go on it. We weren’t really sure what it was, but were pleasantly surprised! It was a 4D journey through New York which was full of twists and turns, and was a lot of fun! Definitely a good ride to start with too as it eased us in for what was in store.

Revenge of The Mummy

This was the first proper ride we went on and was so good, it’s not one for the faint hearted though! 

Men In Black – Alien Attack

This one you shoot monsters. Which I was really bad at. It was fun though, but maybe a bit outdated now!

The Simpsons Ride

This was another we didn’t plan on going on but you have to go and see all The Simpsons stuff, as it’s basically like being in Springtown – you’ve got Moe’s and everything! There was only a small wait so we went on, and again it was a fun 4D one. 

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

So this one is the first one we saw (as it’s outdoors) and it’s literally a huge drop and lots of loops etc. We went on it when the queue had gone down, and it was so much fun. When you get in your seat you pick a song to listen to for the duration of the ride, then it plays loudly in your ears. The best thing about this was it actually films you the whole way round from a little camera in the seat in front of you, which was hilarious to watch back! You can buy these for crazy prices (which we didn’t) but definitely make sure to watch it! I love big rides like these but if you’re not a rollercoaster person, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Hogwarts Express

To get from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure we boarded the Hogwarts Express! This made us laugh a lot, as you listen to them ‘calling out the next trains’, but they pronounce all the English stations wrong! There is a little shop in the queue selling English drinks and snacks (we got ourselves a Strongbow), then you all queue up to get on the train! The train itself was amazing, but the journey was a bit of an anticlimax as its just a little film on the window.. But hey, at least we can say we rode on the Hogwarts Express! 

Islands of Adventure

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

This was the only ride we properly queued for, I think it was just over an hour – but it was so worth it! It’s literally over so quickly, but definitely worth the wait. With a really accelerated start and loop de loops, this was one of my favourites.

Jurassic Park River Adventure

We loved this one so much, we went on it twice! It was getting towards the end of the day, so there wasn’t a queue and we ran back round. This ride was amazing – you are in a boat as you enter Jurassic Park (yep – theme song playing and all!). Your boat calmly goes through past some nice dinosaurs, before ‘accidentally’ taking a wrong turn and heading into a ‘no enter zone’. Here are the ‘not-nice’ dinosaurs(?), and then the boat goes inside a building and up a track. There’s a little drop before the huge drop, at which you come outside again and get absolutely SOAKED. I’d maybe save this one till last, or buy a poncho! 

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

As we were absolutely drenched after Jurassic Park, we decided we may as well go on all the water rides. This one was like a log flume, except it had lots of turns and twists rather than just one! It was fun, but there was nothing dry left of us afterwards.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

This was another amazing 4D ride, where you moved as a bus but then came into different sections that were totally 4D. You honestly feel like your bus is falling down a cliff sideways, getting caught by King Kong! The best bit of this ride was the fake King Kong head at the end which you go past, which is huge and looks incredibly real. You can tell this is one of the newer rides, as the graphics were great.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

I think this was the best ride of the day! Which we also saved till last, purely because it had a long queue time all day. You sit down in a row and the ride goes around on a track from above like you’re on a broom stick. This one is great as it moves as an actual ride but also has parts which are 4D and make you think you’re in a real game of Quidditch. I’m not one of those crazy Harry Potter fans but honestly it’s insane, it’s literally magical. We got home and watched all the films…

Universal City Walk

After our exciting day the rides were all closing, but it didn’t mean it was time to go home just yet! Universal City Walk is completely a buzz at night, with plenty of restaurants, bars and shops (they’ve even got a tattoo parlour) so there is still lots left to explore.  

We decided to eat in The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar – we love sushi and burgers so this strange combo was something we had to try! We got the bento boxes, which have a selection of sushi of your choice alongside a mini burger, edamame beans, sweet potato fries and some salad. It may sound like a strange choice, but it was really good!

After eating we hit a wall with tiredness and got an Uber back to our hotel to pack (cry) before getting our coach back to Miami airport in the morning. We’d had such an incredible time – I think we probably enjoyed it more than most kids do!

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