Three years ago was when we visited Orlando and Universal for the first time. Whilst out there we made close friends with the tour guide that we spent two whole days with whilst on a VIP tour. We had been blown away by it all and desperate to return.
Day six of our 2019 Orlando adventures was the day we finally got to reunite with not only the theme parks but also Dawn, our guide. I won’t lie when I say that Eva asked after Dawn each and every day. Day six was very longed for. I was also really excited to take my mum around and let her experience it for herself too.
Universal had kindly gifted us another tour experience. I’d asked Dawn privately if she could make sure she was our guide which definitely didn’t take much persuading. Considering this entire trip was a surprise for the girls, it was a real struggle not to blurt out that we would eventually be reunited.
Our tour didn’t official start until 9am, but anybody who knows my family will know that we are always early for everything. Let’s be honest, we couldn’t wait any longer so we hopped on the water taxi from Sapphire Falls (we were staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort) and headed for the City Walk.
The VIP Tour experience Reception is located through the arches of the Universal Studios park, and to the right in the buildings. You just need to give your name and your guide comes and meets you.
Seeing Dawn rush down the stairs was definitely one of those slow motion moments. Eva embraced her in a cuddle which I captured in my video from that day. It was a really sweet moment that I’ll cherish forever.
After being reunited we headed off for our breakfast. As part of a VIP tour experience you are able to book breakfast and lunch. The VIP Tours have exclusive access to Cafe La Bamba Restaurant which is in Universal Studios, however you can eat your lunch wherever you fancy.
This was our first experience of the breakfast at Cafe La Bamba. It’s set in a buffet style manor just like the lunch time. There was so many choices to pick from – bacon, sausages, potato, pastries, fruit salad and cereals. The list was pretty endless.
We all had a really good sized breakfast ready to fuel our theme park adventures for the day. The tour guide sits with you at this point and can ask you what you hope for the day ahead. Dawn obviously already knew what we wanted and didn’t want. For us, we wanted to focus on the rides rather than the children’s play areas or splash areas.
Universal Orlando Resort has two main theme parks and a water park. The main theme parks are Universal Studios and Islands Of Adventure. You can buy separate park tickets and if you wish to ride the Hogwarts Express you do need the two park ticket.
We decided to kick start our day with Islands Of Adventure. That park is much hotter than Universal Studios most likely due to the water rides over there and trees, so it’s always good to get that side done in the earlier part of the day. So we hopped onto the Hogwarts Express.
When we visited three years ago, Freya had no idea what Harry Potter was but was intrigued. It also opened our eyes that she was probably old enough and that’s where her complete passion for the wizarding world began. The Hogwarts Express (that runs between Universal Studios and Islands Of Adventure) made sense to Freya for the first time and it was cute seeing her face and hearing her explain everything.
The Hogwarts Express arrives into Hogsmeade in Islands Of Adventure. There’s lots of different Harry Potter shops, places to eat and things to see. There’s two big rides over there – Forbidden Journey and Flight of The Hippogriff. Forbidden Journey is quite intense 4D ride and Hubby and I decided not to do it this time as we’d done it before. Instead Dawn, Hubby and I took Eva on the Flight of the Hippogriff. It’s a rollercoaster and was a great way to kick off our day.
We then took a wander round to Jurassic Park area of Islands Of Adventure. Despite it being morning time, it was sizzling hot already. A lot of the greenery in the Jurassic area had been destroyed in a storm so it wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as it was before.
Universal offer Express Passes to certain hotel guests and also if you pay extra to have them. This allows you to queue in the Express lane for rides which is obviously quicker than the standard lane. When you are on a Universal VIP Tour, the tour guide takes you up the exit and pretty much straight on the rides. If you are restricted for time during your Orlando visit or if you are brand new to Universal, then I’d highly recommend booking a VIP tour as you really get the most out of your day.
Whilst in Jurassic Park we hopped on Pteranodon Flyers. This ride is suitable for anybody over 91cm tall. I was so happy that Elsa was tall enough this time and willing to ride. Freya sadly didn’t fancy it so Dawn went on with Eva, Hubby and Elsa and then I got to go with Eva once she was round again. You sit in a swing style seat and it’s a rollercoaster. It’s a great ride.
Hubby, Eva, Dawn and I then went on Jurassic Park River Adventure. It was Eva’s first time on this one and she was very excited. It’s a river raft and you do have the potential of getting a little bit wet. Dawn had also got us in to see Blue the raptor in the Raptor Encounter. Elsa was terrified and I can’t stop giggling at the little clip I’ve got from our encounter.
Hubby, Dawn and Eva also went on the Skull Island: Reign Of Kong ride. Elsa was tall enough and willing to ride until she realised how dark the queuing area was. So I took her back out to wait in the shade with my Mum and Freya.
Toon Lagoon is home to a few water rides. Despite Eva being a little daredevil, she’s not so keen on having her face splashed so Hubby and I braved the Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls for the very first time. Dawn gave us some ponchos which I’m very thankful for because we got absolutely soaked! My suncream dripped into my eyes and I could barely see for most of the ride. It was absolutely hilarious and great fun!
Toon Lagoon has a cool rapids ride, a children’s play area and some air conditioned restaurants too. The girls were actually waiting in Comic Strip Cafe whilst we did the ride. They were very happy and enjoyed looking at all the bright decorative interiors.
Another really colourful area at Islands Of Adventure is the Marvel Super Hero Island. It’s so bright and lots going on to ignite the senses. Hubby, Eva and I went on The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man whilst the others browsed the different shops. The Spider-Man ride is definitely not suitable for anybody who suffers with motion sickness, I felt a little queasy on this one.
Marvel Super Hero Island has the big Hulk ride which Eva still isn’t big enough for but desperately wants to ride. There’s also one of those “leave your stomach in the air” drop rides which none of us are brave enough for. There’s also good chances of bumping into a super hero as you wander around. M
Universal Islands Of Adventure lands or areas, are all situated around a huge man made lake. It’s a great idea to use your day in a circular motion, so you do all the rides in each area as you walk around. This way you’re not walking back on yourself or missing anything.
As we like to ride the Hogwarts Express, we walked past the actual entrance to Islands Of Adventure and straight into Seuss Landing. This has got to be my favourite area in this park. It’s so bright and uplifting.
Seuss Landing has loads of things going on for younger visitors. There’s an interactive playground, character meet and greets including mini shows and story telling. The little food shops sell Seuss themed items too.
Elsa wasn’t tall enough for The High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride the last time we visited but this time she was. It’s a little monorail that goes around Seuss Landing. It’s incredible seeing it from above and although it’s a very gentle, slow ride it’s still so good! We also did the Caro-Seuss-El and The Cat In The Hat. All very good and child friendly rides.
The next section was The Lost Continent. If I’m honest there’s not much going on in that area. There’s a guide tour of Poseidon’s Fury and a Mystic Fountain. This area does have some restaurants to stop by but we just walked straight towards the Hogwarts Express so that we could head to Universal Studios for some lunch.
As I said earlier, we decided to have our lunch back at Cafe La Bamba Restaurant. You are able to book and eat lunch wherever I believe but we love the VIP restaurant. It’s much quieter, they serve bits of food from most of the restaurants in the parks and it’s a great bit of luxury.
We all got tucked in to choosing our different foods from the buffet. There was a staff member waiting on us for drinks too. We all ate really well and the restaurant staff even organised for us to have some Dippin’ Dots ice cream. Also a quick note, you must try the cookies from here as they are the best cookies ever!
Elsa had actually fallen asleep on our walk from Hogwarts Express to the restaurant so she completely missed lunch time. I was able to take a little box of chicken goujons, chips and cookies for when she woke up.
After lunch we headed up towards Diagon Alley. We had hoped to get on Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts. This ride seems to always have technical difficulties and was sadly shut at the time we got there. We had a quick wander, all of the shops are actual shops, and then we headed for Men in Black Alien Attack.
Elsa was still fast asleep so the rest of our gang did the Men in Black ride which is a laser shooting style ride. It can make you feel a little motion sick so be warned. Hubby, Eva and Dawn then rode Woody Woodpeckers Nuthouse Coaster.
I wanted to quickly say here, that although our main focus for our tour day was to get the rides done, there’s actually loads going on for smaller children. There’s lots of splash areas, play areas, interactive zones and character meets. This Woody Woodpecker area is a great place for children. There’s also a Barney land with indoor play area too.
Elsa had finally completed her snooze and was busy munching her cookie. We decided to head for one of our favourite rides – E.T Adventure. Three years ago Freya had experienced panic attacks when we tried to get her on the ride and therefore didn’t do it. This time we’d prepared her with watching videos of what to expect and Dawn had talked through it all too.
As you can see, she was very anxious about the ride. She almost didn’t go on but somehow we managed to coax her on. Freya was definitely on edge the entire ride but she actually loved it. During other days at the parks, this was her highly requested ride of choice. It made us chuckle.
There are a few live shows that happen daily at Universal. Our favourite of course was the Animal Actors On Location. It’s a very sweet showcase of some of the amazing animal actors from real Universal movies. The show hasn’t changed in three years but it was still so cute! Dawn, our guide, had organised for us to have a meet and greet with one of the dogs. Eva was obviously in her element!
Universal Studios has a lot of simulator, 4D style rides. Freya isn’t too keen on them but thankfully lots have the non-moving seats so she can still experience it but without the motion. We had some time to watch the Despicable Me one before we made our way to watch the parade. We even bumped into a minion on our way out!
I love the parade at Universal. It’s a great chance to see all your favourite characters dancing in front of your eyes. Definitely grab a spot in the shade for the Universal’s Superstar Parade or take something to sit on because the floor is scorching! The girls had definitely got a bit grumpy by this point of our day but soon calmed down when they saw the floats coming by. We had explore of the different areas in Universal Studios before heading for the parade.
The end of the day parade is usually when your tour ends and your guide leaves you. We had promised the girls a visit in the merchandise shop to end our tour day. When you are on your tour day you receive a discount in shops and restaurants. We obviously made good use of that in the shop, coming home with the new Secret Life Of Pets plush characters, play sets, an E.T teddy and two hedwig owls, plus a top for Hubby and I. Yup, we spent a small fortune.
Dawn had popped back after she got changed to say some proper goodbyes, although we knew we would see her in a day or so but it still felt really emotional. We’d had another amazing day in the parks and they were made special thanks to our guide.
I honestly couldn’t recommend the VIP experience anymore than I do both online and to people in person. Although the tour will cost you in the thousands, it is highly worth it and you can do both of the parks when you have a guide. Not only can you skip the queues, you can also learn so much from your guide about the parks and Universal as a brand. It’s just awesome!
I tried my best to film as much as we could during our tour. I hope you will enjoy watching it and learning more yourself. Our next blog post in our adventures is going to be of our Volcano Bay day, Universals newest park.